How to Tile a Shower Wall…Stacked Subway Tile Tips — by Home Repair Tutor

In this video we’re going to give you tips
on how to tile a shower, specifically how to use stacked subway tile in a tub/shower
combo. These are really awesome tips, so let’s dive in.
Tip #1 is to plan your layout; this is very important.
Layout is always the first thing you want to do before you start tiling. So basically,
in this feature, you always have a niche that goes the full length of the shower. And we’re
going to buy best tile saw for the money be using some Schluter edging for that. Basically, there’s two obstacles that
we want to make sure that we don’t have slivers, and one is obviously up towards the
niche. You want to have, you know, hopefully at least we’re using 4×8 tile. So ideally,
it would be nice to have either a full tile or something above half. That usually looks
a little bit nicer, if you can. Basically just staying away from being less than an
inch. Less than an inch looks kind of forced. We want to be able to lay this out so that
we have a large piece here and obviously making sure that this piece is going to be large
because this is all going to be the 4×8 subway tile on this wall, so you want to make sure
that this isn’t going to be a sliver either. And then obviously you have the ceiling joint
you have to consider as well. Tip #2 is also very important; it’s to measure
the mortar and the water for the water. As you can see here, we’re pouring the water
into a separate measuring bucket; you can grab these at your local home store. Definitely
get them. So for this, the wall application, we’re
going to use the 4-XLT made by Laticrete. This is a non-sag thinset. It’s a little
bit stickier. It’ll allow that subway tile to really stay on the wall and not sag. So
there’s two different amount of water ratios that they have on here. This would be for
a thin bed floor, so like if you were doing a mosaic floor on a shower floor or something,
you want to mix it a little bit wetter. But for walls and large heavy tile, you’re going
to want to go between 4 ½ and 4.75 quarts. So we’re going to do the 4.75 quart ratio
on this. I’m actually going to mix a half a bag, so I’m just doing half of this for
right now. We mixed the 4-XLT per the directions. Always
follow the directions, and mix it for the specified amount of time.
Tip #3 is to leave a gap between the first row of tile and the bathtub.
You always want to have a spacer of some sort between the tub and your first row of tile.
A couple of reasons for that is: for one, you need a little bit of room for expansion
and contraction; the other is when you fill this tub up with warm water, normally things
flex a little bit. You really want to get a nice caulking joint at the tub. And if you
have a space there, that silicone going into that joint will create a nice, good grip for
the silicone. If you just went flat to the tub, you’re basically just smearing silicone
against the tile on the wall, and there isn’t a lot in the corners. So you end up having
separation of it. But the main reason for having any type of space here is for expansion
and contraction because, believe it or not, either cold or hot weather, the tile will
actually expand and contract. Just slightly; not a lot. But enough that you want to have
a little bit of room. So I just like to use these horseshoe shims. I think these things
are really so much easier than those rubber ones that you get at home stores, and they’re
all really very consistent. And it’s just really easy to be able to shim them up. Like
if I were, say slightly off level here—but you can see I’m pretty level—but if I
was off level, I can just easily add another one and get the height. Horseshoe shims are
definitely something, especially with subway tile. It really helps out a lot.
Tip #4 is to use a laser level, one of our favorite tile setting tools. As you can see
here, we have a laser level that has both a horizontal line and a vertical line. This
is just a personal preference, but it definitely helps us out with not only subway tile, but
large format tile. And you can adjust the laser and move it over to the edge of the
tile so that you know you’re getting a really nice level pattern for the first row, which
is critical for your tile setting. Tip #5 is to use the right size trowel, and
this depends on the size of the tile, its thickness, and how heavy it is.
For the subway tile, we’re actually just using a ¼” x ¼” square notch trowel
for it. And with the flat side of the trowel, I’m just going to burn the thinset into
the substrate here. Use directional troweling with all the ridges going in the same direction.
Tip #6 is to take a coffee break. Coffee is very, very important on cold days in Pittsburgh.
Tip #7 is to back butter tile using the flat side of the trowel.
And then since these are larger subway tile, we’re going to actually back butter each
one just to ensure that we have a nice coverage on it. And just basically go with our laser.
Tip #8 is to leave a gap in the corner between the tile and the adjacent wall, typically
about 1/8 of an inch. And you also want to have a gap in the corner
for expansion and contraction. As you could see, we used these 1/16 inch
horseshoe shims to not only provide gaps between the tile and the tub, but between themselves
and in the corner. Tip #9 is to get between 95% to 100% thinset
coverage between the tile and the backer board. The reason why we back butter the tiles, even
these 4×12 subway tiles, is because that does allow us to get the 95% to 100% coverage that
the TCNA, the Tile Council of North America, recommends for wet areas. Because this is
a shower, it’s considered to be a wet area. So having that much thinset coverage provides
you with a strong bond between the tile and, in this case, the HYDRO-BAN Board.
Before I forget, we have a video that shows you how to waterproof the walls in the shower.
We used HYDRO-BAN Board. It’s super easy to use, easy to cut, and light. So if you
want to see that video, it’s right here. So you can check that out for yourself.
Tip #10 is to check for lippage between the tiles. You can always use a tile leveling
system. But for 4×12 tiles, we typically don’t use one. As we set tiles, we immediately checked
them to see if there’s one tile that’s higher or lower than the other. And if there
is, we immediately correct that problem. Tip #11 is to use a Schluter metal profile
if the tiles that you’re using don’t have a bullnose or a pencil trim. We chose to use
Schluter’s metal profile RONDEC on the bottom of the shower niche and also on the top. You
can embed it first, or you can slide it behind the tiles. We actually have it capping the
plumbing wall and the wall opposite the plumbing wall, too, in this particular case. And you
just butt tile directly up against the RONDEC. You don’t have to worry about a gap between
it and the tile. Tip #12 is to pitch the niche. As you can
see, we’re back buttering these sill plate tiles. These are the tiles that go directly
on top of the tile saws shower niche—the shelf that is—and the reason why we do that, it’s
easier for us to pitch the downward toward the bathtub or shower. That way water will
drain properly from the shower niche. Tip #13 is to clean the grout joints as you’re
setting tile. One of the little tools we love using is a linoleum knife. This is perfect
for cleaning the joints, and then you just sponge off the top of the tile.
And just look at your grout joints because this is going to be a real easy place to kind
of look straight down to see whether these are aligned.
You can use a paintbrush just to get this thinset behind the tile. It kind of makes
it a little bit easier to clean out rather than scraping each joint. And you don’t
have to get all the thinset out. You just have to get it obviously below powdery.
Tip #14 is to create a radius for the tile that’s going to be wrapping around a tub
edge. We first create an L-cut in this subway tile using the wet saw. You can also do it
using an angle grinder, but a wet saw’s a bit more accurate.
So we’re cutting this short so that we can make this little radius that fits around the
tub nicely. So we just snapped out that little piece of
tile, then we used an angle grinder with a diamond blade, in this case, Montolit’s
CGX115 to cut out this radius. So the main thing is be very careful when you’re doing
it, but this is one of the best methods for creating that radius for around the tub. And
then just clean off the thinset that oozes out and then add your spacers.
Tip #15 is to cut the hole for your mixing valve. So we’re just tracing the outline
of the mixing valve hole onto the tile, and then we’re using our angle grinder with
the CGX115 diamond blade to cut that out. Again, be very careful. Wear a Silica Dust
respirator when you’re doing this. And this is just one method for cutting that hole out
for the mixing valve. Tip $16 is to tune up and of the holes that
you cut for the mixing valve or for your shower valve. This is called the Mondrillo milling
bit by Montolit, and we used this to clean up the mixing valve hole or any kind of shower
valve hole. We didn’t necessarily have an issue with this—it was covered by the escutcheon—but
we wanted to make it look nicer. So as you can see here, we have a nice circular shape
using that bit. And then Tip #17 is to leave a gap between
the last row of tile and the ceiling. We have about 1/8 to 1/16 inch of a gap between the
tile and the ceiling for expansion and contraction. So this is on all three walls in this tub/shower
combo, and the reason why is the house is going to have expansion and contraction, and
we’re going to fill that gap with sealant. Give us a thumbs up if you like the tips in
today’s video. If you want more tips, we’ve got a great short guide. It’s like a 2-page
guide over on Home Repair Tutor. You can click right here to get that. You’ll also get
early access to our online course that’ll show you how to remodel a basement tub/shower
combo. Thanks for watching the video today. If you
got any questions, ask them down in the comments, and we’re more than happy to help you out.
Take care!

11 comments on “How to Tile a Shower Wall…Stacked Subway Tile Tips — by Home Repair Tutor”

  1. Mallard 5 Farmhouse says:

    We will be using this video for our 100 year old farmhouse renovation! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Tomorrow's Tools says:

    Great video, lots of great info and tips! 🔵👍🔵

  3. teh60 says:

    Great tips, a laser level and horseshoe spacers are a definite must for installing wall tile.

  4. John p says:


  5. markprice46 says:

    Any reason not to use ledger board? I know you are using the laser and don’t really need it.

  6. Chill Robinson says:

    I’ve never tile before but I need to do my bathroom so thanks for the tips and video

  7. Anthony Flores says:

    You should really add a photo of the end product (bathroom) at the end of the video. Cheers!

  8. Cousin Justin says:

    did you guys leave a 1/16 gap above the tub, or 1/8th? Thanks

  9. Carlos Sanchez says:

    On the back wall you talked of expansion in the corners. When you installed the side walls did you cut tile flush or leave a gap for expansion?

  10. Traci S. says:

    Do you find the center on each wall and work your way out and in or just on the main wall, making sure the length of the tiles in the corners equal the length of a single tile?

  11. tng w says:

    A great tutorial. Not enough tiling videos mention the need for the expansion gaps.

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