How to tile a bathroom wall around the bath tub

Woman relaxes in a marble tiled bath tub. image by Andy Dean from

A tile tub surround is a terrific option to install in your bathroom. Tile looks nicer than the abundant varieties of plastic tub surrounds, and it comes in many different colours, finishes and price ranges, making it ideal for almost any house.

Remove the existing tub surround. If it's tile, chip the tiles away. Place a chisel at the edge of a tile and tap the end of the chisel with the mallet to drive the point between the wall and the tile. The tile will pull away from the wall. Continue until all the tiles are removed. If the current tub surround is plastic, remove the caulk from one edge with your finger or a plastic caulk remover and peel the plastic away from the wall. If the plastic breaks at any point, slide a scraper or any long-edged thin tool between the plastic and the wall until you have loosened enough plastic to pull again.

Find the centre of the walls you want to tile using a measuring tape, and mark the centres with the chalk line. Lay out tiles from the centre (or mark their locations using a pencil, being sure to account for grout lines) to make sure that the tiles along the edges aren't an awkward size. If one side ends up having a line of 1-inch tile, for example, adjust the centre line until all the edges are reasonable sizes.

Cut or snap the tiles to fit, as needed on the edges of the wall. To determine what size cuts to make, place the end of a tape measure against one edge of the wall and measure across to the centerline you determined. Then measure the actual size of a whole tile. Starting at the centerline, mark off the location of each tile including grout line with a pencil. For example, if your tiles are 6 inches and you're using a 1/4-inch grout line, make a mark every 6 1/4 inches. If you don't have room between your final line and the edge to fit a full tile, measure what space remains. Use this measurement for your tile cuts.

If your tiles are 6 inches and you have room for 4 inches on an edge, lay out a tile with the measuring tape set at one end, and mark the 4-inch line near the top of the tile. Repeat on the bottom. If you're using a snapper, score the tile along the marks you made at the 4-inch line with the scoring bit, then lower the handle and apply pressure to snap the tile.

If you're using a tile saw, line up the 4-inch marks with the blade and make your cut.

Prepare the thin set according to the directions on the package. Smear thin set on the wall using the notched trowel and place a tile against the wall ensuring a good hold with the thin set. Place spacers along the edge of the tile and butt the next tile against the spacer.

Cut and lay tile until the desired amount of wall space is covered. Remove excess thin set on or between tiles. Allow tiles to cure for the amount of time designated on the thin set directions.

Remove tile spacers from between tiles. Prepare grout as directed and apply with the straight trowel, forcing it into the spaces between the tiles.

Sponge away excess grout, making sure tile is free of grout haze. Allow grout to cure for amount of time designated in the directions.

Apply a grout sealer to the grout so that water from the bath and shower cannot penetrate.

Caulk along the edges of the tile to prevent moisture from seeping to the wall. Place tube of caulk into the caulk gun with the nozzle fitted into the opening opposite the trigger. Cut the tip and gently squeeze the trigger to start the flow of caulk. Run a line of caulk between the tile, tub and walls, then smooth with a wet finger. Allow caulk to dry before using bathtub.

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