October Checkatrade.com ‘how to’ – tiling a bathroom wall

Monthly ‘How to’ from Checkatrade.com and A Passion for Homes

Our very successful monthly ‘How to’ blogs from Checkatrade.com continue, with October featuring advice on how to tile a bathroom from Peter Vice, owner of Jonique bathrooms and kitchens.

A well-tiled bathroom looks the business but a poorly-tiled bathroom appears tacky and can detract from the value of a home. Tiling is a precise job and requires a lot of patience and planning. It is not easy, so it should only be undertaken by those confident of their DIY abilities. Try a small simple job first rather than tackling a complicated bathroom, because the cost of retiling a poorly laid wall can be high.

1. Preparation

First, plan the bathroom on paper taking into account fixtures and fittings and work out how many tiles are needed. Suppliers sell tiles in square metres worth not individually, so multiply the height of the area to be tiled by the width. If the wall measures 2 metres high by 5.5 metres wide it would need 11 square metres.

tops tiles teal

Topps Tiles

Before starting, be sure to have all the required tools. These include:

  • Tile cutters (there are different cutters to suit different tiles, such as those made of ceramics or stone)
  • Trowels/floats to apply the adhesives and grout to the walls/tile joints
  • Spirit level
  • Stanley knife
  • Sponges
  • Sealer gun
  • Tile nippers for trimming edges and going around corners
  • Tape measure
  • Eye protection
  • Tile File
  • Assorted screwdrivers
  • China pencils\marker pens

Next, prepare the wall surface for tiling. It needs to be clean, dry and flat. Use a suitable filler to repair any holes or cracks and allow plenty of time for it to dry before tiling. Use a spirit level or straight edge to check for bumps. If it is necessary to strip old tiles from a plaster wall be careful, it is easy to ruin the plaster and if this needs redoing it could be both time consuming and expensive.

marksandspencer_982012090961953 (2)

Marks and Spencer

2. Setting out the tiles

Make two gauge rods using straight 2 x 1 pieces of offcut wood. Lay out several tiles on the floor spaced with plastic spacers, matchsticks or the lugs on the tiles themselves to allow for grouting. This should match how the tiles will be spaced on the wall. Lay the gauge rod alongside these and mark the line of each join to make it suitable for marking out tile positions.

Decide how far up the wall you wish to tile (e.g. if the wall is adjacent to a bath this is usually about halfway up) and mark this height on the wall. Use the gauge to lightly mark the tile joins from this point down to the bottom. If this means the size of the last tile will be less than half a tile move the original starting point down by half a tile and start again. If the last tile is bigger than half this is fine. Repeat this process to mark the tile joins vertically.

topps tiles slate tiles

Topps Tiles

3. Adhesive

Buy a good quality tile adhesive and be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions. Start in one corner and work across the wall, using the trowel at an angle of 45 degrees to spread an even layer of adhesive. Adhesive sets quickly so spread over one square metre then tile over it.

4. Laying tiles

It is essential that the first tile is laid correctly as it will set the position of all the other tiles. Start in the top corner, use spacers to create a uniform grout line and press each tile firmly into the adhesive, using a twisting/sliding motion to ensure good contact. Work across the wall, ensuring that the tiles that need to be custom cut are in less visible places.

Quickly wipe away excess adhesive before it sets and use the spirit level after placing each row to ensure the tiles are level. When a few rows of tiles are in place, use a rubber mallet to tap them into place. This will help them set properly. Leave the tiles to set for 24 hours before removing the spacers.

topps tiles honeycomb mosaics

Topps Tiles

5. Cutting tiles

The next job is to cut the custom fit tiles and lay them around the edges. When cutting tiles it is important to use safety goggles as it can be dangerous. Use the correct cutting tools (e.g. tile cutter, tile nippers or a tile saw) and be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Use a cardboard template if the shape is complicated. When laying custom fit tiles apply the adhesive directly to the tiles and place them on the wall. Allow 24 hours for the adhesive to dry before grouting.

topps tiles chic metal

Topps Tiles

6. Grouting

First, mix the grout to a thick paste according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Use a sharp rubber grout float and long, upward diagonal strokes to work the paste into the joints until completely filled. Pack all of the joints firmly, making sure the paste is not just sitting on top or ‘bridging the joint’. Use the edge of the float to remove excess grout from the face of the tiles.

Finally, use a damp sponge or towel to remove any remaining grout with diagonal strokes to avoid pulling grout out of the joints. Wait 20 minutes for the grout to set and repeat this process. Let the grout set for 24 hours then use a clean, dry cloth to buff the tiles.


To find genuine tradespeople in your local area, visit www.checktrade.com

Checkatrade helps combat the UK’s rogue trader problem by continuously vetting and monitoring local tradespeople such as builders, plumbers and electricians as well as service providers.

Checkatrade now has over 11,000 genuine trade members, growing by an average of 300 new members every month. Over the past 12 months, Checkatrade-certified tradesmen carried out a combined total of £1.4b worth of work, with complaints at just one in 215, compared to the national average of one in four.

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