Installing ceramic tile can make a bathroom shine

August 14, 2009|By PAT LOGAN / Creators Syndicate

Dear Pat: We built our house on a tight budget years ago. Now that I am divorced, I would like to remodel and install ceramic tile in the bathroom. How do I prepare the new shower walls and add tile? -- Robin T.

Dear Robin: Ceramic tile is clearly the wall-finishing material of choice for bathrooms. It is attractive, durable and offers a wide variety of colors, patterns and textures. When properly installed and maintained, ceramic bathroom tile should last as long as the home.

The first thing to do is let your remodeler know you want to install the ceramic tile yourself. This is important because ceramic tiles are rectangular, flat and rigid. Your remodeler should make every effort to ensure the walls are square and plumb. If the walls are not square, you will have to cut and hand fit a lot more tiles than expected.

Install cement backer board on the walls instead of standard drywall or water-resistant drywall. The cement board is more resistance to moisture and will create a better surface upon which to apply ceramic tile. Once the cement board is installed, all you have to do is fit and apply the tile.


First figure out how much tile you will need. Your home center store may have a computerized tile calculator. If not, plan on a grout line between tiles of about 1/16 inch to 3/32 inch. Tiles can be applied as much as 1/8 inch apart, but narrower grout lines will yield a more professional appearance. The tiles are identical in size to create uniform lines.

Most likely, you will need to cut the final tile to make it fit on the wall. If you have ever cut glass, you should have no problem cutting tile. Just make a score line with a tile cutter, a tool with a hardened cutting edge, and bend the tile. It should snap along the line. Always score the glazed side so the break is crisp on the side that will be seen.

When making narrow pieces, use a hacksaw with a hardened carbide blade to saw through the tile. If you try the first method, the narrow piece could break in several pieces. When notching a corner out of a piece of tile, saw it in one direction, score it in the other direction before snapping off the corner.

If you have checked the walls and they are actually square, you can start at one wall and lay the tiles out along the longest edge. Generally, though, it is best to start in the middle of a wall and work out toward the ends. This will require cutting more tiles to fit each end, but it looks better in cases where the walls were not perfectly square to begin with.

Once you have all the tiles installed on the walls, all that is left to do is to add the grout. Don't try to carefully put it in each of the gaps or you will be there for weeks. Cover an area and use a grout sponge to wipe it off the tiles so the grout remains just in the gaps.


o Hacksaw with special carbide blades

o Tile cutter

o Notched trowel

o Grout float

o Grout sponge

o Several buckets

o Framing square

o 4-foot level

o Grout

o Tile

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