Installing Shower Tiles Properly

Preparing for your tile shower installation is the most important step of the entire process. Every ounce of preparation you do in the beginning will ultimately affect your final results. As the man said "If you fail to prepare then prepare to fail". No home improvement project should ever be started without each step of the process being planned in advance.’ll need the following tools and materials in the quantity required to complete any standard tiling or bathroom redecorating project. An important tip for when you order anything breakable is to order 5% - 8% more of that product to allow for breakage (which will defnitely happen) during shipping and handling.

The Tools

• Tape Measure
• Tile cutter
• Tile nippers
• Combination square
• Framing square
• Notched trowel
• Level
• Hammer
• Rubber mallet
• Floor scraper
• Caulking gun and caulk
• Chalk line
• Screwdriver or can opener
• Putty knife
• Utility knife
• Large sponge
• Grout mixing tray

The Materials

• Tile
• Backer board
• Grout
• Roofing nails for backer board
• Mastic
• Spacers, if necessary
• Wood for battens, if necessary
• Grout sealer
• Grout fortifier

When you order your tiles, make sure your measurements are accurate. A plan drawn out on graph paper can be very helpful. The color of glazing will vary shipment to shipment, so if you have to go back later to get more tile you may find that the tile does not match exactly.You'll also need to select the grout you'll need. If you decide to use a colored grout, be sure that it won't stain the particular tile you've selected - you can imagine what the end result there would be.

Surface Preparation:

Before you start, clear away anything that will get in the way or get wet: rugs, towels, glass bathroom shelves, and all other items in the work area. Be sure to cover the drain with some tape so that debris won't fall inside and cause it to clog. Line the tub or shower with cardboard so as not to scratch them. Remove the baseboards and door and window trims by using a pry bar. Remove the faucet handles, escutcheons, shower heads, and spigots. If the walls to be tiled are wall papered, that needs to be scraped off because you’ll be preparing a better surface for your tiles.

Installing Backer Board:

If you are tiling an area with direct exposure to water, "greenrock" or moisture resistant drywall should be applied over the studs as a basic wall surface. A mortar based backer board should be installed over the "greenrock" for the best tiling surface. Backer board was developed several years ago as a clean and simple method and compares very well to the traditional, yet difficult route of laying a mortar bed. It is applied very similarly to hanging sheetrock. The height of the backer board will pretty much determine the height of the tile job. Once the tile has been laid, a line of quarter-round tiles will cover up the rough edge of the backer board.

Make a level lay-out line at the correct height for the backer board. When laying out these lines, make sure that there will be at least one row of tiles above the shower head. Use a level to establish an accurate level line all the way around the surface to be tiled. Measure carefully so that the spacing of the tiles will be exact enough to eliminate any need to cut the tile along the top row. Remember to also check the level of the tub. If you are working around a tub or shower pan that is not level and cannot be adjusted, cut your backer board so that the cut edge is along the lip of the tub or shower pan and is at the same angle as the tub. If possible, though, make sure the tub or shower pan is level before proceeding. If you are installing a shower, use a ready-made shower pan and set it by following the manufacturer's instructions.

Start with the backer board that goes on the back wall since it requires the fewest cuts. Find and mark the location of the studs at the top and bottom of the wall. Later, when putting the backer board up you can snap a chalk line from point to point and know exactly where to nail. The backer board should be nailed to studs that are a minimum of 16" on center. If you are going to be using a floor and wall tile adhesive, install the backer board with the smooth side out. For an epoxy or acrylic mortar, install with the textured side out. When using epoxy or acrylic, be sure the room is well ventilated as the fumes can be toxic.

Cutting the backer board is easy. With a straight edge, score along your chalk line. The backer board will then crack along that scored line when it is bent, just like drywall. Turn the piece over and score the back to cut through the mesh on the other side.

Use 1 1/2" galvanized roofing nails so that the nails penetrate into the studs adequately, nailing at 6" intervals around the edges and in the center over the studs. Longer nails will be needed if you must penetrate both the backer board and sheetrock. Nail heads should be flush with the surface, but not countersunk as it can cause the backer board to crack or break. Joints should be close together but not tight. Some backer board manufacturers require a nail and a large washer used at the edge for better holding. Check the manufacturer’s instructions.

Position a 1/4" spacer along the rim of the tub to hold the backer board up slightly. Once all the backer board is up, but before you lay the tile, fill the gap with silicone caulk to form a water tight seal. When making the holes for the faucets and shower head, measure very accurately. Remember the rule: Measure Twice, Cut Once. Cut outs and holes for plumbing pipes and fixtures can be made by cutting with a saber saw with a carbide blade or a masonry hole saw attachment for a drill.