How to Tile Shower Enclosures

Updated February 21, 2017

Tiling is one of the most common methods of finishing a shower enclosure, providing an attractive, easy-clean and watertight surface for the shower recess. Tiling is usually a job left to professional tilers, but it is actually not a difficult job. It's time consuming and fiddly but doable for a homeowner or avid do-it-yourselfer. Leave at least a week to complete the tiling job and make other arrangements for the bathroom while tiling is going on.

Stretch waterproof membrane over the walls and floor, stapling it to the subfloor or wall studs. Tuck and trim the corners to leave clean 90 degree angles.

Lay cement backer board over the floor and walls, staggering the joints of the backer board pieces. Use a Stanley knife to resize the backer board and to cut holes for the plumbing fixtures. Secure the backer board pieces with backer board screws every 15 to 20 cm (6 to 8 inches) on centre.

Snap a level chalk line horizontally along the wall, one tile's height from the floor. Tack lengths of 1-by-2 lumber under the horizontal line with finishing nails as a ledge for the first row of wall tiles. The tiles between the floor and wall will be set last.

Spread thinset mortar in a 6 mm (1/8 inch) thick layer above the 1-by-2 ledge, enough for six to eight tiles. Use the notches on the trowel to comb the thinset into ridges.

Set the tiles into the thinset, with the lower edge resting on the ledge, ensuring even installation. Use tile spacers between tiles to achieve uniform tile joints.

Continue spreading thinset and laying tiles, working up the walls of the shower enclosure. Leave any tiles that need cutting to last.

Remove the 1-by-2 ledge and set the floor-wall row of tiles. Use tile cutters or nippers to resize any tiles that won't fit into the tile pattern whole.

Wear eye protection while cutting tiles and use the cutters to make straight cuts and nippers to make curved cuts. Butter the backs of the cut tiles with thinset and set them into position on the wall.

Snap a chalk line dividing the floor of the shower enclosure into four equal quadrants. Begin tiling in the same manner you did the walls, starting from one side of the enclosure and working your way across, with the chalk lines as references. Leave the enclosure overnight so the thinset can dry.

Remove all the tile spacers from between the tiles and sweep grout into the joints of the tiles, working in small areas on the wall first and then on the floor. As you go, wipe off excess grout before it has time to dry using a damp sponge. Leave the joints between the wall and floor, the corners of the shower enclosure and the joints between tile and any plumbing fixtures ungrouted.

Squeeze a line of caulk into all the ungrouted joints and use a finger to smooth over the caulk. If necessary, dampen your finger to achieve a smooth seal on the caulk. Leave the grout and caulk for three days to cure.

Apply two coats of tile sealer as the sealer packaging directs, leaving the appropriate amount of drying time before finishing the plumbing installation and using the shower enclosure.

Things You'll Need

  • Waterproof membrane
  • Staple gun
  • Scissors
  • Cement backer board
  • Backer board screws
  • Drill
  • Stanley knife
  • Chalk snap line
  • Level
  • "1-by-2" lumber 2.5 cm x 5 cm (1 x 2 inch)
  • Finishing nails
  • Saw
  • Hammer
  • Thinset mortar
  • Notched trowel
  • Tiles
  • Tile spacers
  • Tile cutters and nippers
  • Eye goggles
  • Grout
  • Rubber grout float
  • Sponge
  • Caulk
  • Tile sealer
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About the Author

B.T. Alo is media director, chief writer and editor for a U.S.-based marketing and consulting firm. He holds a bachelor's degree in business and communications. Alo's interests include business, investments, electronics, personal finance, health, communication, popular trends and travel.