Thin Set Mortar
Tile Cutters and Tile Saws
Choose the tile for your project. Wall tile comes in a variety of materials, sizes, and colors. When it comes to color, you have lots of choices to fit your bathroom. Don't be afraid to get creative. Mix your tile color for a unique look.
Determine how much tile you’ll need. Measure each wall area, length times height. Add up the areas and add 10 percent for extra.
When buying tile, try to find boxes with the same dye lot number. If you can’t find matching numbers, mix tiles from different boxes when you’re installing so any color difference won’t be as noticeable.
Start with the horizontal layout. In a shower surround, center the tile horizontally along the length of the wall. Behind a sink, center the tile with a fixture, such as a faucet. When you determine the center, mark a vertical line on the wall.
Next check the vertical layout. Plan on having full tiles at the top, and cut tiles at the bottom because the shower base, floor, or countertop might not be perfectly level. Since you’ll most likely need to cut the tile at the bottom, it’s best to start the installation at the SECOND row. To mark the starting line, first use a level to find the lowest spot. Hold a full tile there with a 1/4 inch gap at the bottom and a spacer at the top. Mark this height on the wall. This will be your temporary starting line.
The tile pattern is a running bond. Start the installation at the second row up because the shower base might be uneven, and tile must be cut to fit. The bottom row is last.
Attach a straight board for a starting line and to help keep the tile level and in place.
Apply the tile
Mix the thinset according to the directions. It will typically be a paste-like or peanut butter consistency.
Spread thinset along the guidelines in a small work area. Don't cover too much. With the notched side of the trowel, comb over the thinset in one direction, and put the excess back in the bucket. Take a tile and gently press it onto the mortar, lined up with your guides. Then add the next piece using spacers.
When you get to a corner, you'll probably need to cut the tile to fit. Just mark and cut.
Finish the row and move up to the next one. It's a good idea to periodically check that the tiles are level and straight. Take one off to see if the thinset is sticking. If not, use a larger notched trowel. If you need to cut the tile to fit around plumbing, use nippers or a hole-saw designed for tile. Continue setting the tile. For exposed edges, use bull-nosed edge tiles if available, or finish off with trim pieces.
When you've installed the tile, remove the support board. Then install the bottom row. You'll most likely have to cut the pieces to fit. Leave room for expansion. Keep placing the tile until you're done.
After the thinset has dried for 24 hours, remove the spacers and get ready to grout. Use a grout recommended by your tile manufacturer.
Mix enough to work in a small area. Apply the grout with a rubber float. Work it into the joints by dragging the float in a diagonal motion. After about ten minutes, wipe away the excess with a wet sponge. Try not to wipe the grout out of the joints. Continue grouting in small sections until the entire wall is done.
When the grout has dried there might be a slight haze on the surface. A haze remover will take that off.
After a few days, apply a grout sealer and silicone sealant to the corners, edges, tub, and floor joints.
How to prep:
How to tile a shower wall: