Showers & Bathrooms


Bathroom Tiles – Basic Tiling Tips

Tiling all your bathroom walls from floor to ceiling is a good way to provide a waterproof, durable surface.  The only part that can be susceptible to moisture damage is the grouting between the joints and the sealant, but this can be prevented by keeping the bathroom ventilated.  The obvious disadvantages of tiling all the walls, are that it will be costly and take up a lot of time, and there will be awkward shapes to cut to fit around all the fixtures and fittings.  For those who are new to tiling, tiling just halfway up the walls is a simpler option, as is tiling just around the bath and sink, which is where most water damage would occur. 

As long as it’s done methodically and carefully, tiling can be done successfully by most DIY enthusiasts.  As with many home improvement tasks, planning is crucial.  Tiling bathrooms can be tricky because of the number of fixtures and fittings that you need to work around, which will involve cutting tiles to the right shape.  A key rule is to always begin at the bottom and work up, using the lower tiles to support the upper ones.  Don’t rely on your skirting board to be level.  Instead, a good tip is to use a spirit level to fix a wooden batten to the wall to support the first row of tiles and ensure that subsequent rows are level.

It can be helpful to make yourself a tile gauge to help you plan your tiling design so that your tiles are central to your bathroom fixtures, and to help you decide on the best starting points for each section.  To do this, cut a length of batten to the length of 4 or 5 tiles.  Line up your tiles along the edge of the batten, using spacers between them to achieve neat gaps.  With a pencil, mark where the tiles meet on the batten.  You can then use it to measure on your walls where the tiles will need to be cut and to help you work out the best starting points.  Try to work out a plan that avoids cutting tiles unnecessarily, and especially avoid having to cut very thin bits of tiles, as these are very hard to cut accurately.

Applying Tiles
To begin tiling, screw or nail a horizontal batten to the wall at your starting point, using a spirit level to ensure it’s exactly level.  You could also attach a vertical batten as well, if this would make it easier for you.  Using a spreader, apply tile adhesive to the area where your first row of tiles will go.  Press the first tile firmly into place, lining it up with the edges of the battens.  Put the second tile into position and stick a couple of spacers in the join.  If you insert them at right angles, you can easily remove them before you grout.

Continue to methodically build up the rows, a row at a time.  Lastly, remove your supporting batten from the bottom and cut tiles to fit the remaining space, and stick them in.  On some walls, particularly in older houses, the walls might not be completely flat, which can cause the tiles to stick out or sink back from the level of the surrounding tiles.  If this happens, remove the tile before the adhesive dries and adjust the amount of adhesive accordingly.  This may take more time, but it will be worth it to get a tidier result.  Tiling can be a messy job, so have a damp sponge to hand and try to wipe off any excess adhesive as you go – it’s much easier to remove adhesive before it hardens.

Cutting Tiles
To work out where you need to cut a tile, either measure the space and transfer these measurements to the tile, or holding it up to the space and marking on it where it needs to be cut.  Put your tile into your tile cutter so your mark is lined up under the cutting wheel.  Pressing down slightly, push the wheel over the tile to score a line.  Push the wheel off the edge of the tile and apply a firm downward pressure to snap the tile along the scored line. 

Tile cutters are great for straight edges, but for curves you’ll need to use a tile saw, which can take a while to do accurately.  If you need to cut a section out of the edge of a tile, to fit around a pipe for instance, use a tile saw to cut into the tile on each side of the section you’re removing.  Then use tile nibblers to snap off the section.

For thicker tiles, such as floor tiles, it may be necessary to use an electric tile cutter.  These are cheaper than they used to be and many home improvement enthusiasts buy their own to use for all tiling jobs, as an electric cutter does make cutting tiles quicker.  Most electric tile cutters have a reservoir of water to cool the cutting wheel.  Check that this is filled to the required level before beginning.  Then feed your tile into the cutting wheel as you would with a manual tile cutter, to cut a straight edge.  Some electric tile cutting machines also have the facility to create mitred cuts for internal corners.

You’ll need to leave your tiles overnight to allow the adhesive to dry before applying the grout.  Grouting is essential to ensure you have a waterproof surface.  Mix up your grout according to the manufacturer instructions, or use an all-in-one grout and tile adhesive if you prefer.  Remember that a small amount goes a long way!  Using a spreader, push grout into all the joints, moving it in all directions to make sure the joints are sufficiently filled.  Use a damp sponge to remove excess grout before it dries.  This can be a messy job, so make sure you are able to rinse out your sponge as required.  Lastly, to achieve a neat finish, run a grout shaper or tool along the joints.

The aim of tiling is to create a watertight surface.  If there are any joints between your tiles and fixtures such as your bath or sink, you’ll need to use a sealant gun to apply silicone sealant to fill the joins.  To avoid mess and to get a tidy finish, stick masking tape along each edge of the join you’re filling, which you can remove once you’ve applied the sealant.  Read the instructions on your sealant to check how long you need to leave it to dry before you can use your bath or sink.