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How to Tile a Bathroom Wall

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Easy step-by-step instructions on how to tile your bathroom walls
Large-format wall tiles

You will need:
Tiles & tile spacers
Tile adhesive
Notched trowel
Bucket trowel
Putty knife
Tile cutter & nippers
Tile saw & hole saw
Set square
Pencil
Tape measure
Drill
Sponge
Spirit level
Tile trim
Grout
Grout squeegee
Mixing bucket
Length of timber

Tiling is a practical and attractive option in a bathroom or en suite, offering a cost-effective way to create a low-maintenance finish. Professionals will charge upwards of £20 per m2 for most wall tiling jobs, and if you're pushed for time and need a high-quality finish, this can be money well spent. But if you're looking to pinch the pennies on your self build or renovation, then it's well worth considering taking on the tiling as a DIY project.

Even a novice can make a good job of tiling; and the key to success lies in careful planning and preparation. The first step is to calculate the number of tiles you need (including an excess for 'wastage' - in other words breakages and cuts). Most manufacturers and suppliers offer guides on their websites as to how many square metres of wall each pack of tiles can cover - so match your requirements up with this, then add around 10% for wastage and spares.

New walls should already be suitably prepared to accept tiles (you may need to score plaster with your notch trowel to make a good 'key' for the adhesive to stick to). Existing walls mightneed some remedial work to provide a sound and level base for the adhesive and tiles.

In this guide, our seasoned expert has simply pushed the tiles into position by hand, ensuring they're flush by eye. You may prefer to lightly press a straight-edged baton diagonally across several tiles to help you achieve a flush surface throughout.

Project guide: Tiling a wall

Make a gauging stickStep 1:

To help you determine where you need to set out your tiles, start by making a gauging stick. Take a length of timber and lay it on the floor. Place a tile on it lengthways, flush with one end of the stick, and mark the timber where this tile finishes

 

Measure up for lengths of tiles

Step 2:

Place another tile in sequence with the first (separated with tile spacers) and mark where this tile ends. Repeat the process until you fill up all the space available on the stick. Saw off any excess timber, then make up another stick for the width of the tiles

 

Find centre point of wallStep 3:

Measure the width of the first wall you'll be tiling. Halve this to find the centre of the wall. Use a spirit level and pencil to mark a vertical line at this point from floor to ceiling, before finding and marking the horizontal centre line

 

Use gauging stickStep 4:

Determine where the tiles will start and end by offering your home made gauging stick up to the lines you've drawn on the wall. Mark out tile locations and cuts accordingly. Aim for even cuts at the extremes of the wall (top and bottom; left and right) for a good finish

 

Prop up first tileStep 5:

Starting at floor level, prop your first tile up with spacers to allow for a grouting gap. Hold the tile against the line on your wall and mark up for the first cut. Place the tile in your cutter, ensuring the blade lines up perfectly with the marked line

 

How to use a tile cutterStep 6:

To make the cut, draw the blade along the front of the tile using a single stroke of the scoring wheel. Apply just enough pressure to score all the way along the surface. Move the wheel to the centre of the tile and pull down the handle to snap along your scored line

 

Spread tile adhesiveStep 7:

Spread adhesive on the back of the cut tile using a notched trowel. Set the tile into position on the wall and press gently but firmly. In this project, the wall includes cuts around a bath, so we've fixed a single column of tiles vertically with spacers between each one

 

Mark tile locations on wallStep 8:

At the point where the top of the tiles is higher than the top of the bath, take your spirit level and draw a horizontal line above the tub. Any tiles laid below this line will need to be cut to size, as per steps 5 and 6

 

Mark for shaped tile cuttingStep 9:

Where the tiles meet the lip of the bath, you may need to make a shaped cut. Offer the tile up to the area dn market the position of the lip and the depth of the cut. Use a square to extend these guides and create the template of the cut

 

Use a diamond wheel cutterStep 10:

Wearing safety goggles and gloves, use the tile saw to cut the tile down both sides of the lip you've marked out. Keep making cuts 10mm apart through the section, then nibble these 'fingers' off using tile cutters. File down any rough edges

 

Use tile spacersStep 11:

Spread adhesive onto the back fo the cut tile and push it into position, using spacers along the top of the bath to make room for the sealant. cut the rest of the tiles to size and fix them to the wall along the top of the bath; again using spacers

 

Spread adhesive on wallStep 12:

With the complicated cuts done, you can now spread adhesive directly onto the wall. Tackle around one square metre at a time. Position the tiles carefully, using spacers both horizontally and vertically. Complete the wall, cutting in any tiles at the perimeters

 

Use a spirit levelStep 13:

On the adjacent wall, continue the line of the lowest cut using a spirit level. Set out as in steps 3 and 4, then cut and fix the first tile along the top of the bath, with its centre at the vertical line. Cut in the remaining tiles

 

Bed in the wall trimsStep 14:

Wall trims are required at external corners, for safety and a good finish. Cut to length, spread a thin line of adhesive on the wall and embed the trim into it. Scrape off any excess adhesive and clean up the front of the trim with a damp sponge

 

Cut around soil pipeStep 15:

To cut in tiles around pipes, mark the height and width of the cut on a square tile. Box out the shape with your square, then use an offcut of the pipe to draw a circle. Mark the centre, drill with the tile hole cutter and file off rough edges

 

Prepare groutStep 16:

Once the walls are tiled, leave them to dry out before grouting. Put some water in a clean bucket, add the grout a little at a time and mix to a creamy consistency. Leave for five minutes before using

 

Apply the groutStep 17:

Using your trowel, scoop some grout onto a squeegee. Apply to the face of the tiles, working the grount into the joints well to avoid air bubbles. Cover a section of wall, then wipe off any exceess and continue

 

Wipe off excess groutStep 18:

Leave for 10-15 minutes, then wipe down with a damp sponge (hold it flat so you don't dig grout out of the joints). Rinse the sponge regularly. Complete the whole wall, leave for five minutes, then repeat. Leave for 30-60 minutes, then polish with a soft dry cloth

 

Top tips

  • Always use flexible sanitary silicone rather than grout in the corners of a bathroom. In a wet environment, the point where walls meet can be subject to differential movement, which may cause grout to crack
  • When sealing around a bath, half fill the tub with water before you start. Apply the silicone and leave overnight to cure, then empty the bath the next morning. This will stop the silicone from splitting in the future

This step by step guide is supplied courtesy of TradesSupermarket

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