When you’re ready to re-tile your bathroom, then you can avoid a lot of the common tiling problems by planning where to start; how you can tile internal and external corners while ensuring you have the correct tools and materials to hand. There’s rarely a problem if you can’t complete the bathroom tiling in one day but if you have to remove tiles or find that your tiles don’t line up by the time you’ve gone right round the bathroom then it may be expensive and wasteful having to correct an otherwise avoidable tiling problem.
If you’re looking to buy bathroom tiles or just after some general advice to make tiling your own bathroom easier then our series of guides will help you prepare for some of the trickier problems, like tiling round a window or tiling on top of electric underfloor heating elements. OK, now that we have the introduction out of the way let’s look at some of the elements you should consider before starting your bathroom renovation project.
Unless you have experience cutting tiles by hand or have access to an electric tile cutter; then one of the most wasteful and costly elements of home tiling is the cost of broken tiles or cut tiles that don’t fit properly. Both floor and wall tiles are usually arranged to create a symmetrical layout so that any part tiles at both corners of a wall or at opposite edges of the bathroom floor are of equal size. Depending upon the size of the tile you choose; that could lead to fitting narrow pieces of tile that are difficult to handle and easily broken. It is usually best to avoid “slips” that are less than about 1cm wide. Large tiles cover more area but are more likely to need cutting and waste a larger area of tiles. Sheets of mosaics are usually easier to adapt so that corners require the minimum amount of cutting and reduce waste. Creating a layout that mixes standard tiles with mosaics can help add interest and simplify the tiling process.
Bathroom tiles may be supplied individually, by the box or by area and you will need to calculate how many square meters of floor and wall tiles you need as well as how many linear metres of border tiles and tile edging will be necessary to finish the project. The easiest way to make an accurate calculation is to draw a diagram of the walls and prepare a floor plan. Irregular shaped walls and floors can be sub-divided into rectangles so that length-breadth calculations are easier
Draw a diagram of your bathroom floor and measure the “exposed” are of floor. If you have a bath installed with a side panel, you may not need to tile under the bath but if you have a free standing rolltop bath then you may need to remove it before tiling the whole floor. Once you have the bathroom floor plan; it’s time to calculate the floor area in square meters by multiplying the dimensions of the rectangle sides in metres (if you measure your room in centimetres then floor area in cm2 can be converted to m2 by dividing by 10,000)
You need to prepare a sketch of each wall and mark out the area to be tiled and type of tile such as border or standard tiles. If tiling floor to ceiling then you will need the height of your bathroom but if you’re only part tiling to a certain height then that should also be marked on your wall sketch. In this way you should end up with a minimum of 4 sketches for a tiled bathroom. Also mark on your sketches any edges that may require trim. Make a not on each sketch the length of border tile required and the area of tiles. If you’re mixing standard and mosaic tiles then work out the area of each. Use these estimates to work out the total area of standard or mosaic tiles and overall length of border tiles.
Don’t forget to work out tiles for a shower area if you’re fitting an enclosure that provides a waterproof shell ready for tiling
Some tiles will probably need to be cut as very few rooms can be fitted perfectly. Also walls and floors are rarely square with parallel sides, hence some cutting for adjustment will be necessary. This means that calculated tile wall or floor area and useable number of tiles are unlikely to match. You will need to overestimate to allow for this discrepancy. The usual quoted figure can be as low as 5% and as high as 20%. It’s easier to allow a small percentage on very large areas while small areas are prone to higher wastage. A typical allowance would be 5 to 10% for an experienced tiler or skilled diyer and 10 to 20% if this is your first time tiling. As spare tiles are always worth having (just in case); it’s much safer to overestimate than having to buy more tiles
Adhesive and grout coverage are usually approximated per square meter but it’s worth being aware of exceptions. You will need to match your adhesive and grout choice to the type of tile you’re using.
For instance: a heavy stone wall tile will require more adhesive than a thin ceramic tile; similarly, 50mm mosaics will require more grout than large 600mm tiles for the same tile area. Use the manufacturers recommendations to calculate how many bags of powdered adhesive and grout or tubs of pre-mixed material. Ask for an estimate if you are using an unusual tile size otherwise cost-waste will be minimal
Bathroom walls should be tiled before tackling the floor to help avoid damage to the floor. This may not always be practical if the floor needs to be in place ready to fit bathroom units and suite. If you do need to tile the floor before starting the bathroom walls then make sure the floor tiles are thoroughly protected with a hard overlay rather than just a cloth.
If you’re already used to tackling home maintenance projects and diy then you may have a lot of the necessary tools needed for a bathroom tiling project. Family and friends may be able to help with some of the specific tools for tiling but it’s worth investing in a selection of tools that will also help with other projects.
Your choice of bathroom layout and natural focal point will partially dictate where you want to start tiling. Remember that when tiling the whole bathroom; all the tiles need to be aligned at the corners. Don’t assume the walls are square; it’s better to draw a horizontal datum line at the finished height all round the bathroom or choose a level that fits best with a bathroom window, bath top or other key feature. All tile positions can then be gauged from this fixed reference point.
Make sure the walls are in good condition with no surface dust or loose plaster that might prevent adhesion. The adhesive will need time to cure and if it dries too quickly may not adhere properly. Check manufacturers’ recommendations in case walls should be suitably primed first. There are mored detailed articles on equipment and solving specific tiling problems such as window or recess tiling. If you intend fitting a tiled shower cubicle or an over-bath shower then you will need to create a waterproof box. This may involve fitting proprietary waterproof panels ready for tiling, installing a kit system, or preparing a liquid membrane. Each system has its own unique instructions that are beyond the scope of this guide. Hence, we will assume any such systems have been installed ready for tiling.
Choose a suitable length of wood that’s about 1.5m long and can fit horizontally and vertically around your bathroom. Prepare a row of tiles on the floor with tile spacers in place. Line up your blank tile gauge and mark the tile positions starting at one end. For rectangular tiles use the other side of the gauge to mark a second gauge using a column of tiles instead to produce a dual vertical and horizontal gauge
Hopefully you have already prepared a datum line at the finished height. Use the tile gauge to mark down from the datum line to the lowest position that utilises whole tiles. Mark the position and fix a dimensionally accurate unwarped wooden batten to the wall. Measure down from the vertical centre of the wall if you are producing a symmetrical tiling arrangement and use the gauge to find a suitable starting point near the corner of wall. Apply enough adhesive to the wall with a suitable spreader to cover about 1 square metre and start tiling the first row; fitting spacers to ensure a uniform grout width. You may wish to fix a suitable batten vertically to have a starting edge too. Either way, make sure the tiles of your second row rest on spacers and align with the first. Continue your tiling; using light pressure to fix the tiles in place. Check and adjust the tiles so that all tiles are flat and none are raised higher than others
Rather than cut and fit one partial tile at a time; it may be better to measure and cut a number of tiles in advance before fitting into the side gap so that any minor adjustments can be made. Don’t forget to allow for the thickness of the tile spacer. You may also need to compensate for any non-vertical walls and corners
As you continue to develop your tiling, you will need to move onto the remaining bathroom walls. Ensure the tiles stay aligned as you continue tiling round your bathroom. This shouldn’t be a problem if you keep everything relative to your datum line. Once the tiles have been fixed from your starting row upwards and the adhesive has dried; the bottom battens can be removed. You may wish to fill the gap with partial tiles or wait until the floor has been finished. It largely depends on the appearance of the bottom edge where the wall meets the floor. You may prefer to have a skirting board or a grouted edge. If you are tiling to a skirting board then the last row can be fitted before completing the floor.
Coloured plastic and metallic edging strips are available in a quarter rounded internal and external curve as well as rectangular section to help provide a tough, decorative edging that works best with ceramic tiles rather than natural stone tiles such as travertine often used in bathrooms.
If you are fitting an edging strip then it is best to fit it concurrently with the last row of tiles. Push the edging strip into the tile adhesive a few millimetres above the top of the last row. Fix the tiles in place then slide the edging strip into its final position before ensuring the tiles are flat and correctly positioned.
Once the adhesive has dried and the spacers have been removed; make sure there are no dried adhesive “nibs” that may spoil the grout finish. Apply grout into the tile gaps working in different directions so that the gap is filled. Run a length of dowel or similar rod over the grout to create a uniform line and wipe off the excess. Ceramic tiles can be buffed once the grout has dried while stone and porous tiles may need prior preparation before grouting to prevent stains
To prevent water ingress and leaks where the bath and wall join; it’s common to seal the gap with flexible silicone and also fit a flexible plastic coving. A full bath can flex slightly so it is worth applying the silicone sealant with the bath full of water. Once the silicone has cured; the bath can be emptied to provide a long lasting seal.
The gap between the wall and bath can also be sealed in advance with silicone for a more robust seal.
Edging of natural stone is often treated differently to ceramic as many stone tiles have a natural porosity and will need to be sealed with a water repellent sealant. Exposed edges are often chamfered where the edge is lightly ground at a 45 degree angle for a softer finish. This can be achieved by hand or carried out with an abrasive disc and then finish using a series of “wet and dry” papers.
Concrete or screeded floors are the norm in tiled bathrooms although it is possible to tile a timber floor providing a non-flexible floor finish is prepared. This is beyond the scope of this guide and usually involves replacing floors boards with a suitable thickness of marine ply reinforced and prepared to prevent and compensate for flexing
If you are tiling the bathroom floor then it’s worth removing and storing your bathroom door until the tiles are in place in case the new floor height interferes with the door opening and closing. Trim the door as appropriate before refitting.
Tiling symmetry is important. In a small bathroom you may be able to simply lay the tiles out to get a symmetrical centre line otherwise measure and mark a centre lengthwise, bisect this line and mark a second centre line width wise across your bathroom floor. You now have a marked centre and can try various tile arrangements to get the best layout for your floor. Once you have a suitable arrangement; select the furthest complete tile position away from the bathroom door and mark guides running parallel to your datum lines.
Using a suitably notched floor adhesive spreader, prepare an area of about a metre squared and start fixing floor tiles starting at the marked corner position. Work outwards, fixing tiles in place and ensure they are flush at each corner and along the edges using the rubber mallet and block of timber. Don’t walk over the tiles until the adhesive has cured for at least 24 hrs
If the walls are relative square then you may be able to mark a tile to be cut by inverting it and sliding it to the edge of the room into its finished position. Mark where it overlaps the tile below and cut accordingly.
If you’re cutting a tile to fit round a heating pipe or to fit into an uneven space then you may need to make and test a template using thick card before transferring it to the tile to be cut. Straight edges are probably best cut on an electric tile cutter while complex curves will need a carborundum tile saw that works a bit like a coping saw for tiles.
Instead of the plastic bath panel; you could use a panel made from treated marine ply or waterproof mdf that can then be tiled with matching wall tiles
Your bathroom project will be handled better with a little preparation to avoid common pitfalls. You may be interested in reading some of our other general and specific guides
Wet rooms have become a popular option among homeowners. Converting your bathroom into a wet room is actually a logical step to make as these areas require less maintenance, with the hassle of cleaning shower basins and screens being eliminated. It can be a rather difficult task to carry out, particularly on your own, but if you are interested in finding out how to make a wet room there is plenty of advice available. There are two ways in which you can transform your current bathroom into a wet room. We recommend that creating a wet room by building a sloping floor should only be attempted by experienced DIY enthusiasts. It is a labour intensive task which requires accuracy as well as a relatively high skill level in joinery. The alternative to making your own sloping floor is to install readymade wet room products. Although this is likely to prove more expensive it requires far less work and time. Bathroom floor tiles are most commonly chosen for wet rooms.
Wet rooms are a practical choice for wheelchair users. If you are looking in to how to make a wet room for a wheelchair user there area few things to take into consideration. Wet rooms have what is known as a ‘roll in shower’ which provides easy access for a wheelchair user. Wet rooms designed specifically for somebody who requires the use of a wheelchair will include additional products including a chair and arm rest for extra stability. It is also important that the floor materials are suitable. With the added weight of a wheelchair, hard wearing and durable tiles are recommended. Porcelain tiles with a matt finish provide a high level of slip resistance and have a low moisture absorption rate. In the shower area itself mosaics are the best choice as tiles of a standard format are difficult to apply to a sloping floor. Mosaic tiles, in contrast, can be cut accurately and fitted evenly on to a sloping floor.
It is possible to make a wet room surface yourself by building a sloping floor. Alternatively you can use specialist products which can be fitted into your wet room before you can start tiling.
A Fundo is a waterproof base – with a drain hole – upon which you can tile effectively. This will be installed around the drain
Waterproof Tilebacker board is a lightweight, dimensionally stable material which can be fixed to walls or floors as a suitable substrate for tiling upon
Firstly, the drain system must be connected. You may want to acquire the services of a qualified plumber for this. Now cover the flooring area surrounding the drain with waterproof tile adhesive, with enough of it to fit the Fundo over the top.
For extra adhesion cover the back of the Fundo with a layer of adhesive. Then accurately place the Fundo over the drainage outlet before levelling out the Fundo. The Fundo will have sloping sides towards the drain, where the water from the shower will naturally run down.
Level out the rest of the floor with Tilebacker, fixing it down with adhesive. Seal around the Fundo with waterproof sealing tape. You are then ready to tile on top of your waterproof floor. Appropriate cuts to tiles will have to be made to fit floor tiles around the drain. Use waterproof adhesive to fix the tiles down before grouting the gaps between the tiles provided by the tile spacers.
Unlike a shower cubicle and drainage tray designed as a self-contained unit; a wet room has the floor and walls waterproofed and a drain fitted into the floor to handle surface water. To avoid pooling, all points of the floor need to gently slope towards the drain. Although specialist products can be acquired to create the slope it is possible to build a sloping tiled floor in a wet room.
Everything needs to be worked back from the required finished floor level to ensure the floor drain is the lowest point and a suitable slope of say 1:100 or 2:100 for high output showers; this means that for every metre away from the drain point the floor needs to be 10-20mm higher.
The wet room door is the main problem, especially in larger rooms when, incline height added to the finished tile thickness can mean an impractical step up to enter the wet room.
The plumbing for the sub floor drain is beyond the scope of this guide but should be able to handle the maximum flow of water draining from the wet room, have a built in vapour trap and be designed for top opening and cleaning.
The method for creating the slope is essentially a choice between a preformed template or wet room tray.
The tray has a standard slope so that when it is installed with the base horizontal the slope drops to the drain ready for finishing and tiling.
An alternative approach is to apply a self levelling screed and creating a gentle slope from the room edges to the drain by varying the screed thickness.
The choice ultimately depends on the room size and any physical constraints on layout or drain position.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that tiles and water resistant grouting will make the tiled area waterproof as the floor area and walls will need to be primed and sealed using a membrane system or a suitable tanking compound to ensure tiny hairline grout cracks don’t cause dampness.
Apply the edging tape to help seal gaps between floor and walls before sealing the area according to the instructions for your chosen tanking system.
Allow the tanking compound to cure and then tile using your chosen floor tiles.
Dry lay the tiles around the drain to ensure they will fit correctly, you may be better choosing small tiles or mosaics to better fit to the contours of the sloping floor
Use mould resistant grouts for improved hygiene
Use a decorative drain system that is accessible from above for cleaning