Home » How To Tile A Shower Wall The Easy Way

How To Tile A Shower Wall The Easy Way

Published October 9, 2020

This is a high-level guide for those looking to see what it will take to retile a shower. This is not for showers that do not yet exist, and require a shower membrane to be installed. Tiling showers is not a beginner DIY project, so the guidance of someone who is experienced in home remodeling would be a good idea.

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Shower Wall Tiling Setup

Tools & Materials You Will Need:

  • Broom
  • Buckets
  • Electric Screwdriver
  • Fixtures
  • Level
  • Marble Tile
  • Mask
  • Notched Trowel
  • Pencil
  • Rubber Grout Float
  • Safety Glasses
  • Sanded Grout
  • Sanding Block
  • Screws
  • Spacers
  • Sponge
  • Tape Measure
  • Thin-set Mortar
  • Tile Nippers
  • Unsanded Grout
  • Wet Saw

Steps To Retiling Shower Walls

The steps that are in this article.

  1. Remove the old tile – strip the shower
  2. Prep the wall – create a base for the tile
  3. Layer of thinset mortar – 2 coats
  4. Add Tile
  5. Finish Tile
  6. Grout Tile
view of bathroom with new tile in shower and floor

Tiling Shower Walls, Where To Start

  • To start, remove the old tile or fiberglass shower wall. This job is dusty. Use plastic to cover your doorways, wear a respirator that’s rated for dust, cover the floor with a drop cloth, and make sure there’s plenty of ventilation. Tile is heavy, so put down blankets to protect the floors and tub from being damaged by falling pieces.
  • Before you begin removing tile, turn off the power to the entire bathroom and any adjacent rooms. If you’re tiling a wall with outlets or wire fixtures, remove those before beginning demolition.
  • Only cut the depth of the drywall to prevent cutting plumbing.

How To Retile A Shower

Here we describe the listed steps above.

Remove The Old Tile

  • With your hammer and chisel, or crowbar, start removing the tile from the top to the bottom. Use a reciprocating saw to cut nails. 
  • If there is drywall remove that as well.
  • Once the shower wall tile is removed, inspect the condition of the studs. Look for mold and only continue if there is no mold. If there is mold, call a pro to remove it.

Prep The Wall

  • It is possible to not damage the backer board while removing the tile, but just plan on having to replace it because it’s very likely that you’ll damage it.
  • Install backer board that is the same thickness of any remaining drywall. Any cuts for plumbing should be done outside since the cement board is dusty.

Layer Of Thinset Mortar

  • When all of the board is installed use seam tape to tape the joints. Then coat over the tape with thinset mortar. Premixed is fastest and easiest.
  • Apply two coats of water-proofing membrane paint over the entire surface you intend to tile, allowing the paint to dry between coats.
  • Fill in any holes or gaps with silicone caulk.

Add Tile

  • Hopefully the base of the show is even otherwise you’ll have to cut tile. 
  • Plan your pattern.
  • Start the installation with the second row up from the bottom. Draw a line where the bottom of the second row is. Attach a board along the line with the top of the board located where the line is.
  • Apply thinset mortar to the cement backer to install the shower wall tile. 
  • Firmly push the tile into place.
  • Remove a single tile to see if the thinset is sticking to the entire tile.

Finish Tile

  • Remove the guide board and do the bottom row. Leave a ¼ inch expansion gap from the tile and the floor.
  • Let thinset dry for 24 hours.

Grout Tile

  • Tile comes with a recommended grout that will work best with the tile. Use the recommended grout.
  • Mix only a little grout.
  • Apply the grout. Work the shower wall tile grout into the spaces using a diagonal motion. Use unsanded grout with glass, polished, or metal tile as these scratch easily.
  • Wait for grout to dry – about 10 minutes. Wipe away excess with wet sponge without removing grout in the joints.
  • Clean tile surfaces. Once grout is dry, clean the tile faces with a grout haze remover. Will likely have to do this multiple times.
  • Apply grout sealer. After three days, apply a grout sealer to the grout, and apply a silicone sealant to the corners, edges, and joints.

Cost To Retile A Shower

Average is about $25 per square foot, so 6-8 feet of tile would be around $2000.

Shower Tiling FAQs

Tiling A Shower Floor Or Wall First

Start with the shower wall tile first to prevent damage to the floor tile. If you do the wall tile second, the material will fall onto the tile and you have to walk on it to do the wall.

However, most professionals start with the floor tile first.

What do you put behind tile in a shower?

Behind the tile in a shower there should be the metal backing board and the adhesive.

How do you prepare a shower wall for tile?

Install the backer board being sure to cut holes where necessary for plumbing and fixtures. Tape off the spaces, cover with two coats of waterproof membrane.

Do I need to waterproof shower walls before tiling?

Yes, you need to waterproof your shower walls before tiling if you don’t want to retile the shower all of the time.

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