Step 1: Prep the Area
Before installing your new tile, you’ll need to remove any existing tile, which can be quite messy! To prepare the area for this project, start by making sure you have a respirator rated for dust.
Cover the floor with a dropcloth, hang plastic over the doorway, and ensure plenty of ventilation in the bathroom. You may also want to put down moving blankets to protect the tub and floors from heavy pieces of falling tile.
Set the room’s temperature between 50°F and 70°F for the duration of this project.
If you don’t have any existing tile to remove, check the surface to make sure that it’s dry, flat, and structurally sound. Then, clean the walls using a sponge and mild soap.
Step 2: Remove the Existing Tile
Before jumping into demolition, you’ll first want to turn off the power to the bathroom and nearby rooms. Then, grab a chisel and hammer and work your way across the wall as you remove the existing tile. If there are any screws, it’s best to cut them with a reciprocating saw.
You’ll most likely damage the backer board behind the tile, which is completely fine–we’ll be installing a new one in the next step.
Step 3: Address Mold and Install Cement Board
After all the old tile has been removed, take a close look at everything behind it. Drywall or a backer board will need to be replaced with cement board, which protects against mold and moisture.
Check out the studs to see if they’re in good condition, and keep a close eye out for mold. If you notice any mold, it’s crucial to stop what you’re doing and contact a professional to remove it.
If and when everything is good to go, it’s time to install a new cement backer board in the shower area. Select one with the same thickness as the drywall so that the transition from drywall to cement board is seamless.
Cut your cement board to fit the work area. It’s best to do this outdoors or with hand tools so that you don’t create too much dust. Once you’re done cutting, secure the board to the studs using concrete backer board screws. (Don’t use drywall screws.)
At the base of the cement board, install shims to create a ¼” expansion gap. It’s helpful to have another person hold the board in place while you attach it.
Step 4: Tape and Seal the Backer Board
At this point, you should have your cement board in place. Now, you’ll want to use cement backer board drywall tape to tape all of the joints, including those between boards and between the wall and the board. Apply a layer of thinset mortar on top of the tape.
Once the thinset mortar has dried, use a paint-on waterproof tile membrane to seal the cement board. It’s best to brush the tile membrane onto the joints and then use a roller on the rest of the cement board. Add a second coat once the first has had plenty of time to dry.
Step 5: Plan the Tile Layout
Before you jump in and start installing your new tile, plan your layout and adjust it as needed to avoid ending up with numerous small pieces on the ends of the rows. It’s smart to dry-fit your tile and see how it looks, factoring in spaces between tiles for grout.
For your vertical layout, start the pattern at the top of the wall. This way, if you need to cut tile to fit, it’ll be at the bottom, where the shower pan or tub may not be level.
If you’re planning to cut the bottom row, begin your installation with the second row. You can do this by measuring and carefully marking the spot for the row, checking this mark to ensure it’s level, and attaching a board to the wall to serve as a temporary guide.
Step 6: Mix and Apply the Thinset Mortar
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to mix your thinset mortar and select the correct trowel notch size. Only mix a small amount of the thinset mortar at a time. This should ideally be an amount you’ll be able to use in 20 to 30 minutes.
The thinset’s consistency after mixing should be similar to creamy peanut butter.
Next, apply the thinset to the cement board with a notched trowel, applying two or three horizontal rows’ worth at a time.
Step 7: Install the Tile
It’s finally time to install your new shower tile! Push each tile firmly into place, using tile spacers to create consistent grout lines. Frequently check that everything is level throughout the process.
Install all of the full-sized tiles first, and then fill in the cut pieces at the end. Use a notched trowel to scrape away the thinset from these areas so that it doesn’t dry before you get to them. Then, when you install the cut pieces, apply thinset to the backs of the tiles, rather than to the cement board.
Next, remove the guide board at the bottom and complete your bottom row of tile. Don’t forget to leave a ¼” gap for expansion at the bottom.
Step 8: Grout the Tile
Give the thinset at least a full day to dry (check the manufacturer’s instructions to determine exactly how long you’ll need to wait). Then remove your spacers and mix a small amount of grout.
Use a rubber grout float to work the grout into the spaces between tiles, moving diagonally at a 45° angle. If you have metal, polished marble, or glass tile, then stick to unsanded grout so that you don’t scratch the tile’s surface.
Step 9: Clean and Seal the Tile
Give the grout about ten minutes to dry before using a slightly damp sponge to wipe the excess from the faces of the tiles. Avoid removing grout from the joints.
After the grout has dried fully, a grout haze remover will do a good job of eliminating grout haze. You may need to complete several applications of the grout haze remover if your haze is particularly stubborn. Buff the surface with a dry towel.
Once you’ve eliminated grout haze, apply grout sealant to the grout lines. Apply silicone sealant to the corners, edges, and joints of the tiled area.
Step 10: Reinstall the Fixtures
All that’s left to do now is replace any plumbing and lighting fixtures that were removed before the tile installation.
Then, it’s time to enjoy your beautiful new shower!
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