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My experience tiling a shower for the first time

See my experience of tiling a shower for the first time, there are lots of tips included and the process to help you complete your own tiling project.

Tiling for your very first time can be very nerve-racking. But guess what, you can do it! The key to having a successful tiling experience is taking your time plus a couple of other things but we will talk about them inside this post. This is not a how-to tile tutorial but my experience tiling a shower for the first time and the tip/tricks that I learned while tiling.

downstairs bathroom

 

TILING A SHOWER FOR THE FIRST TIME

Disclosure: This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience, click here to read my full disclosure policy

Do you need help planning out how to makeover your shower? See my Start a DIY project workbook to help you get started!

STEP 1: Do your research

This part you are doing right now, congrats you are already starting the process!

Before jumping into any project you need to have your plan in place and this is what you are figuring out in this step your plan. Here are some things you need to decide:

  • What size of shower?
    • You need to know what you’re working with.
  • How are you going to prep the shower before tile?
  • What materials would you like to use?
    • what tile for the floor?
    • the tile for the walls?
    • any trim?
    • any niches?
    • what shower faucet you want?
      • This one may seem silly right now but you need to know because the shower valve needs to be installed before the walls (backer board) are installed.
  • What tools do you need?
    • tile saw
    • trowels
      • I will have a list of tools I used below!
  • learn the best technique for you to install tile

All of this information will help you in the next steps!

STEP 2: Prep the shower for tile

This is a very important step to help you have a waterproof shower and make the shower function properly. See more on how I prepped our shower by clicking this link!

install Schluter Kerdi shower system

STEP 3: Purchase materials and tools

Now for the fun part, picking the tiles!!

TIP: Before going to the store make sure you know the sqft of tile you need.

Here is the list of supplies I used.

SUPPLIES:

TOOLS:

Find the list of tools we use.

We found a lot of our supplies from our local Floor and Decor store but Home Depot & Lowes has a very similar supply.

STEP 4: Installing the tiles

TIP: This step will take longer than you plan, so plan on at least a week but maybe more (depending on the time you have and size of the shower).

  • CREATE A TILE LAYOUT

Before you can start cutting any tiles you need to plan out the layout of your wall tiles. TIP: You do not want small cuts (I did not want a tile smaller than 2″ for an end) so use this time to plan out your layout. Also, use spacers so you know the exact measurement!

layout for tile shower

  • INSTALL THE TILE FLOOR

Next was installing the tile floor (this can be installed a little later if you use a board to level the tiles) but I did not so I installed the floor before the wall tiles. Plus I installed the niche tile (now I wish I would have used the same tiles as the floor but it still looks good). SIDE NOTE: I share more information on how to install the tiles below. 

tiling a shower floor

I also install the Kerdi drain too.

installing tile floor

After installing, clean off the excess mortar with the sponge and let everything dry for 24 hours before stepping on the tiles.

  • INSTALL THE WALL TILES

Before doing anything cut a cardboard box or heavy paper to fit the shower floor (you will want a 1/2″ gap on all sides). This will help keep unwanted mortar off the floor tiles.

Now to level the tiles. The first layer of tiles on the wall that hit the floor needs to be cut because you cannot guarantee the floor is level. So you can use a board to level the 2nd layer of tile.

SIDE NOTE: You have to screws the board to the wall which will affect your waterproofing, so make sure to fix that before installing any tiles.

OR

You can create a level line on the wall for where the top of the first tile would be. I decided I did not want to affect my waterproofing so I decided to do it this way. Then I cut each tile to fit within the space below the level line to the floor minus the spacer size. For example: if your measurement from the floor to the level line was 3″, I would subtract 1/8″ (my spacer size) giving me 2-7/8″ for my tile size.

TIP: Measure both ends of where a tile should be because they could be different, meaning you need an angle cut (which is not as hard as it seems).

Once all the bottom tiles are cut you can start installing your tiles.

Here are the basics of installing tiles on a shower wall.

  1. Mix your mortar according to its instructions, the paddle mixer helps!
    • TIP: Only mix a little, you want only enough mortar for about 20 minutes, less is better in this case!mix mortar for shower
  2. Trowel the mortar onto the wall. I am using a 1/4″x1/4″ for my 4″x16″ tiles, be sure you are using the correct trowel for your tile.add mortar to wall for tile
  3. Install a tile with spacers. Test how your mortar is covering the tile by removing it and checking the coverage on the tile back, it should be everywhere.
    • TIP: Have most of your tile cuts made before mixing the mortar for the section. This will save you time from going back and forth to the saw.tile spacers
  4. After installing your batch of mortar, wipe the tiles with a damp sponge and clean between the tiles if needed (this will save time later). SIDE NOTE: You will notice that I am messing when tiling, in other words, my tiles are not the cleanest. But they did clean up nicely later. 
  5. Move to your next mortar batch and install more tiles.tile shower

SIDE NOTE: I used the 6″ marble threshold across the shower curb. This was installed in the same way as the tile. BUT make sure you have it slightly slope toward the shower, this way water does not sit on the tile but runs toward the drain. 

  • FOR AROUND THE FAUCET

You can use a tile saw to cut tile around a faucet by marking the tile for where it needs to be cut. Then cut lots of straight lines to the markings and brake those cuts away from the tile. Tilt the saw blade up to help!

tile around shower faucet

You can also purchase a diamond drill bit hole to cut through the tile.

  • FOR PVC TILE EDGING

cutting pvc trim for tile

tile around shower niche

tiling shower

STEP 5: GROUTING THE TILES

After all the tiles have been installed, let them dry for at least 24 hours (you don’t want your tiles moving and not adhering to the wall because you touched them). Once the mortar has dried its time for grout. Grouting is actually my favorite part of tiling.

tile after cleaning mortar away

TIP: About picking sanded or not sanded grout. If you have a space of 1/8″ or less use unsanded grout or if the tiles you are using will scratch because of the sand.

bathroom shower after tiling

BEFORE adding any grout, clean the spacing out around your tiles to remove any mortar. You can use a flat head screwdriver, razor knife, or a grout remover tool.

clean grout lines for tile

  1. Mix the grout according to the brand instructions, use the paddle mixer to mix the grout. Again only mix a small amount…
    • TIP: Use the grout liquid to help the grout from staining over time.mixed grout for tiles
  2. Apply the grout to the gaps. This is done by using a grout float at a 45-degree angle. This helps the grout get into the grooves plus it helps to remove the extra grout.placing grout on tiles applying grout to tiles
  3. Using a damp sponge, wipe the tiles to remove the extra grout. You will have two water buckets one to wash the dirty sponge and the other is clean water to clean the tiles.water to clean tiles

MAJOR TIP: To start applying the grout, apply to an area for 15-20 minutes. Then stop and clean the first half of the area with a damp sponge (remember the two buckets). After washing the first half of the tiles, apply more grout but only for 10 minutes. Then go back and wash the rest of the first tiles. Once those are washed, apply more grout (again only 10 minutes). Then wash the tiles that were grouted during the last 10 minutes. Continue this process until you need to either create more grout or you have finished grouting. 

WHY I RECOMMEND GROUTING THIS WAY

After applying grout it needs to sit for about 15 minutes before cleaning (see your brand for instructions on the exact time). But please learn from my experience and DO NOT apply more grout then you can clean in 5 minutes.

If it takes more time then 10 minutes, the grout starts to harden and becomes very VERY hard to clean.

I found that applying the grout as I explained above was the easiest way to keep the project moving smoothly, please follow the MAJOR tip!

TIP: I used a timer when applying the grout to make sure I did not apply too much.

Once all the grout is installed and cleaned, let it sit for at least 24 hours. You may notice after letting it dry that there is a haze on the tiles. Take a microfiber cloth and wipe the tiles. This will remove the haze (you might have to go over the tiles a couple of times).

tiled shower

STEP 6: SEALING THE TILES AND GROUT

I would recommend that you seal the tiles and grout with a sealer. This will help protect both the tile and grout. Apply according to the package instructions.

Another thing I would recommend is caulking all the corners and edge of the shower, use a caulk that is the same brand and color as your grout. Use painters tape to give you two straight lines and apply the caulk between the two.

This will only help seal your shower!

STEP 7: FINISHING TOUCHES

Now it’s time to install the shower faucet and the shower door/curtain. We decided on a glass door and did have a professional company install the glass.

downstairs bathroom makeover

And that was my experience tiling a shower for the first time. I hope that this will help you tile your shower too!

shower in basement bathroom updated bathroom in basement

my experience tiling a shower for the first time