How to Install a Shower Tile Wall

Update your bathroom by installing tile in the shower.

Photo by: Wade Works Creative

Wade Works Creative

By: Chip Wade

Materials and Tools:

  • scrap piece of wood (as level guide)
  • construction adhesive
  • concrete backer board
  • backer board screws
  • fiber tape
  • thinset mortar mix
  • grout mix
  • tile spacers
  • wet saw or tile cutter
  • mild soap
  • sponges
  • level
  • tile nippers
  • mortar mixer
  • (2) large plastic buckets
  • drill and bit
  • notched trowel
  • tile float
  • cement board cutter
  • towels
  • disposable gloves
  • chalk line
  • caulk gun

Check Temperature

Ensure temperature of the room, adhesive and tiling materials are between 50 to 70 degrees F for 24 hours before and after installation.

Photo by: Wade Works Creative

Wade Works Creative

Clean Surface

Be sure your surface is flat, dry and structurally sound.  Clean walls with mild soap and a sponge before installation.

Photo by: Wade Works Creative

Wade Works Creative

Waterproof Area

Attach a waterproof board (a GreenBoard or cement board) with a drill and screws. Apply fiber tape to cover all seams. For more protection, apply a waterproof sealer to the concrete backer board (Images 1 and 2).


Prep for First Row

For your first row of tile, use a long board (just shorter than the length of the wall you are tiling) as a temporary guide and rest. Ensure the board is level, within one tile height of the wall base. 

Photo by: Wade Works Creative

Wade Works Creative

Prep Mortar

Prep mortar in a large bucket, and combine thinset mortar and water according to package instructions. Only mix what you can use in 20 minutes time.

Photo by: Wade Works Creative

Wade Works Creative

Apply Mortar

Apply thinset mortar mix to the waterproof board along the temporary guide board using a notched trowel. Only apply two to three horizontal rows at a time. 

Photo by: Wade Works Creative

Wade Works Creative

Install Tile

Before applying your tile to the wall, decide on the layout and orientation of your tile by positioning the tiles on the floor. Install full-piece tiles first, and fill in with cut pieces as you go or install them at the end. If you wait to install the cut pieces, use a notched trowel to scrape the thinset from the wall so it doesn't dry before installation. When installing cut pieces, apply the thinset to the back of each tile.

Photo by: Wade Works Creative

Wade Works Creative

Evenly Space Tiles

Continue installing tile in horizontal rows, placing spacers of choice in between tiles. Once the thinset dries (at least 12 hours), remove the temporary wood board, and install tile on the bottom row. Let dry for 24 hours, and remove spacers. 

Photo by: Wade Works Creative

Wade Works Creative

Apply Grout


Mix grout in a large bucket according to package instructions. Apply grout with a rubber float at a 45-degree angle. Use pressure to push the grout evenly and fully into all joints. 

Photo by: Wade Works Creative

Wade Works Creative

Wipe Away Excess

Before grout stiffens, use a wet sponge to wipe away excess grout off tiles. Don't wipe in the direction of the grout lines, but instead at an angle to avoid wiping away the grout between the tiles. Once dry, buff tile surface with a dry towel.    

Photo by: Wade Works Creative

Wade Works Creative

Photo by: Wade Works Creative

Wade Works Creative

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