How to Tile a Wall Step-by-Step

Updated February 21, 2017

Tile, whether in the bathroom or kitchen, is an attractive and practical finish for a wall, providing protection as well as a watertight surface. Installing wall tile yourself is not much more difficult than installing floor tiles, but it requires precision and at least four or five days to complete. If you are putting in floor tile as well as wall tile, do the walls first; otherwise, you risk damaging the newly installed floor tile while mounting the wall tile.

Snap a level horizontal chalk line one tile's height up from the floor along the wall. Snap a vertical chalk line through the centre of the wall.

Tack the 1-inch by 2-inch lumber under the horizontal line on the wall, checking that the lumber is level. Use finishing nails every 5 inches or so. The lumber will act as a ledge for the wall tile to rest on, and ensure that the rows are level and straight. The floor/wall row of tiles will be installed last.

Mix thin-set mortar according to the manufacturer's instructions. Spread the thin-set onto the wall in an 1/8-inch layer, enough for around six to seven tiles. Start from the centre line of the wall and work outward.

Comb the thin-set with the notches of the trowel to make furrows in the surface. Set the tiles into the thin-set, spacing them with tile spacers. The first row of tiles should be resting on the 1-inch by 2-inch ledge to ensure they're level.

Continue spreading thin-set and laying tiles, mixing more thin-set as needed. If the thin-set on the wall ever develops a skin, scrape it down and reapply; otherwise, it may compromise the bonding ability of the thin-set.

Remove the lumber ledge and install the floor/wall row of tiles. Cut any tiles that need to be resized to fit the wall, using tile nippers, after all the whole tiles are installed. Cover the backs of the cut tiles with thin-set and set them in place. Leave the tiles overnight for the thin-set to cure.

Remove the tile spacers, and then mix a batch of grout according to the manufacturer's mixing instructions.

Push the grout into the joints between the tiles, using a grout float held at an angle to the tile joints. As you work, wipe off the excess grout with a grout sponge. Don't grout the space between the last row of tile and the floor.

Apply a line of caulk to the ungrouted joint between the tile and the floor. Use a damp finger to smooth over the caulk. Leave the caulk and grout for three days to cure before resuming normal use of the room.


Wear eye protection when cutting tiles.

Things You'll Need

  • Level
  • Chalk snap line
  • 1-inch by 2-inch lumber
  • Finishing nails
  • Hammer
  • Thin-set mortar
  • Notched trowel
  • Tiles
  • Tile spacers
  • Tile nippers
  • Grout
  • Grout float
  • Grout sponge
  • Caulk
  • Eye protection
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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.