How To Install Tiles In Your Shower

Many of us have found ourselves living with a bathroom that feels worn and dated. We’ve tried a different paint colour on the walls and cabinets, lights above the vanity, or even plumbing fixtures, but nothing can distract from bad tiles. 

Whether they are damaged, boring, or just plain ugly, the bathroom shower tile that we see everyday has a lasting impact on our mood, and a great shower or bathroom space can give us the best start to our day or become a much-needed retreat from the world. 

So how do we change the tile in our shower or bath surround to become your favourite place to take anyone who visits you home? With the correct planning, right tools and the right help you can have a successful tile project of your own. Let's take a look at some essential steps to get your started and that much closer to loving your bathroom. 


Make a Plan 

Make a Plan! It will be the most important part of your project overall. You will want to make most of your decisions before you touch your walls or even purchase any tools or materials.This step will not only determine how much time and money that your new tiled shower will take, but also allow you to plan on the areas and steps where you will need to call in a professional to help. 

Let's take a look at some questions that will help you get started.

Is my current shower layout working?

Removing tile from your shower opens up your walls and is a great time to relocate your plumbing to better work for your space. It can be as simple as moving your shower head up for a taller person, or something bigger like changing from a bath/shower combination to a walk-in shower. This is also a great opportunity to fix any leaky taps or change your tapware to mixers and get your bathroom up to modern building standards. If you are changing any plumbing fixtures, you will need a professional plumber, make sure to checkout our how to find the right tradesman guide to find the right tradesman for your job. 

How much work do I want to do myself?

If you are moving plumbing around, you will definitely want to hire a licensed plumber. They will only work on your pipes and fixtures, however, you may want to consider hiring a professional plumber tile installer. Most tile installers or “tilers” are also licensed Waterproofers as well. So not only will they make your shower/bathroom look beautiful and clean with your new tiles installed, they will also create a waterproof system that won't leak. Water is sneaky and will find a weak point, so the cost of an experienced licensed plumber and tiler/waterproofer is not much compared to water damage that you don't see until it is too late.

How much do I want to spend?

Tiling your shower/bathroom is not just about the tile. Plumbing, fixtures, waterproofing, accessories and finding great help all add to the cost of your project depending on how far you want to take it. It's always a great idea to create a budget and see how much you can expect to spend. Need advice on how to find the trades for your job?

Which tile is the perfect tile for my shower?

Browsing through shower tile ideas can start off fun but quickly become overwhelming. Typically, shower walls can be a wide variety of different tiles, as long as they are practical and easy to clean. Shower and bathroom floors, on the other hand, need to be slip resistant as well as practical and easy to clean.

Check out some of our past clients projects for some inspiration 


Lets Get Tiling!

Once you have a plan and are ready to start, you will need to get your shower ready for tile. This can involve some major work, so let's run through some typical steps that you can expect.

1) Protect yourself and the project area.

Ensure that you are wearing enclosed shoes or steel capped boots, long pants, safety glasses, gloves, dust mask or respirator (it's going to get dusty in there) and if you are using power tools ear protection like ear plugs or muffs. Now you are ready. 

Start by protecting the floors and walls and other areas in the immediate space by covering with drop sheets and removing all loose items. 

2) Remove your old tile 

Use a hammer, chisel and crowbar to remove the tile and walls. You will also be removing the drywall, backboard and plaster that the tile is attached to, so get ready for some major muscle movement! Once this is complete, make sure to remove any nails or screws that remain. Your timber frame should now be exposed. Inspect the timber carefully, if you find any mould or damp you should treat the areas to ensure it does not spread.

Use a small jackhammer or a hammer and chisel to remove the floor tile, tile bedding and any existing waterproofing membrane. Again check the ear for damp or mould and treat accordingly. 

3) Relocate or replace plumbing

This should involve a licensed and insured plumber to make sure all building codes are followed, and everything is fitted properly. You should also make sure to coordinate any fixtures and drains with your tile layout and accessories so that there are no bad surprises when it comes to installing your new tiles. 

4) Install new wall board

It's time now to install a new wall board onto your studs in your shower area. We recommend using a Fibre Cement board. You will need to screed this into your studs using anodised screws to ensure that they do not rust out over time. This will be your first defense in your waterproofing system - did we say waterproofing? Absolutely! 

5) Install Waterproofing

It is a big misconception that tile and grout are “waterproof” While the tiles themselves can be in some instances, the grout lines and joints are not! You must create a system where the water on the walls and floor makes it to the strain and nowhere else in your space.

6) Create the slope to your drain

Now that everything is watertight, it is time to create a sloping floor to your drain. This is where an expert tile installer comes in handy, experience really matters when installing shower bases as it's the most common problem area in a bathroom.

7) Installing your shower tile

The moment has come! All of your planning and preparations are paying off and you finally have a beautifully smooth and waterproof area on which to instal your new tile that you love. Lets see what it takes to make it happen. We advise you to use a professional tile installer if you have it in your budget.


8) Create a Cutting Plan / Set out Plan

You need another plan - a cutting plan. Measure your walls and floors, using the general golden rule of no tile cut should be smaller than half the actual size of the tile. Be sure to check for niche heights, window or door openings and or shelves, to ensure you do not leave small pieces. Also take into account if you have a tile with a pattern you plan for where the pattern will intersect with walls and ensure you have the pattern lining up with the centre or an important object, start with these areas and work around them.

9) Mix Your Tile Adhesive / Thinset

Tile adhesive typically is a mixture of cement and sand that you combine with water in a bucket and then mix using a mixing drill with a long paddle attachment. It is important to follow the instructions so that you get the correct consistency for your tiles to stick properly. We can supply you with manufacturers instructions on request or you can find them on the product page. 

It is important to select the correct thinset tile adhesive for your project. As technology advances so do tile adhesives making it easier to meet specific demands of a variety of jobs. However a thinset adhesive is only as good as the installer, and forgetting installation fundamentals can result in callbacks and job failures. Help avoid costly mishaps and check out our How to Avoid Costly Adhesive Mishaps article.

10) Your Ready to Start Laying Your Tiles

Use your trowel to apply the thinset to your wall or floor area, always follow the application instructions set out by manufacturers. Installation videos can make this step look very easy, but rest assured that it will take a few tiles before you really get the hang of it. Work your adhesive in a smooth and deliberate manner to ensure you achieve the required coverage on the tile, place your tile on the wall or floor giving it a little push and left to right movement, this will help the adhesive evenly spread. Using tile spacers to create uniform grout lines work your tiles into position, remember tile adhesive dries quickly. 

11) Check Your Work

Even the best tile installers check their work, stand back and ensure your lines are straight, tiles are square to each other and your wall or floor looks as you imagined. Now is the time to make changes before the adhesive cures and dries your tiles in place. You should also use a damp sponge to clean the tile surface of any thinset and also ensure your grout joints are clean and free of thinset. 

12) Let It Dry

It's now time to wait and let your thinset dry according to the manufacturer's instructions. This is usually 24 hours. It is a great time to be dreaming about how fabulous your new bathroom or shower will look, or even what you may want to tile next!

13) Time to Grout

Prepare your grout as recommended by the manufacturer in small quantities and use a grout float to push it between the tiles in a diagonal motion. You can then wipe it with a clean, wet sponge after about ten minutes to remove any excess grout on the tile face and to even out your grout joints. A trick to ensure a perfect finish, have two buckets. One bucket for your first wipe and a second bucket for a final clean wipe. A quick note; leave all internal joints free from grout as these will be filled with silicone. All wall/wall joints and floor/floor joints as well as transitions for niches, seats or accessories. 

Grout Makes All the Difference

Grout may seem like an afterthought in the tiling process, but it plays an important role in both how your finished tile will look and perform. Along with colour there are also many types of grout to choose from with the two most popular being sanitized sanded grout, which is typically stronger and is used with tile that have a more durable finish and are perfect for showers and bathrooms. There is also non sanded grout which does not scratch glass or special finishes tiles. There are also several specialty grouts available to help with maintenance, cleanability and or other needs like commercial or hospitality uses. 

Check out our extensive range of grouts.

14) Lets Install The Silicone Joints

Did you know that movement happens with tile installations? Your walls, floor and the tile material itself can expand and contract so it is important to leave vertical and any transitions at niches, seats and accessories free of grout so that color-matching silicone can be installed.

Installing silicone can be tricky, you will need paper towel, a paddle pop stick, soapy water in a spray bottle. After cutting the end of the silicone tube off to open the cartridge, cut the zozzle tip on a 45’ angle and screw the nozzle in place. Using a silicone gun or applicator, squeeze the trigger and apply in a smooth action in one direction along the joint, once applied spray with soapy water and remove excess silicone with a paddle pop stick. You can clean the stick with a paper towel. 

If You Need Help

If you have any questions, issues or concerns during your tile project, it is always best to stop and seek professional advice before continuing. Tile and Bath Co is always available to help with any questions you may have about your project so feel free to reach out. We can also recommend Tile and Bath Co approved trusted trade partners in your area.