How to Tile a Bathtub Surround

By Gene and Katie Hamilton

Tools Required
  • Carpenter's level
  • Tile cutter
  • Notched trowel
  • Rubber float
  • Squeegee
Materials Required
  • Ceramic tile
  • Tile adhesive
  • 1x2 batten
  • Nails
  • Marker
  • Craft stick
  • Plastic spacers
  • Grout
  • Toothbrush
  • Towels
  • Sponge
  • Tub/tile caulk

Before You Begin

Here are directions to tile a tub surround. If you're looking for a Bathroom Contractor to do the work click Home Advisor, a free service that matches homeowners with Bathroom Contractors.

  • Step 1 : Plan the project

    Ceramic tile can be installed directly over wallboard, plaster or existing tile. But tile must be attached to a sound surface that is structurally strong enough to support the weight.

    Plan the tiling project

    At least one vertical and one horizontal line should be marked and extended across the wall using a 4-foot carpenter's level. The horizontal line should be level and indicate the top of the first row of tiles. If you are using a standard 4 1/4-inch square tile, this layout line should be located 4 3/8-inches above the tub. Make the layout line level even though the tub may not be. Make another plumb vertical layout line somewhere near the center of the wall.

    Cut a straight 1x2 batten a few inches shorter than the width of the back wall. Nail the 1x2 in place so that its top edge is level with the horizontal layout above the rim of the tub. This 1x2 batten will temporarily supports the second row of tiles.

    To help visualize the layout, place a row of tiles on the batten. Make adjustment by sliding them back and forth until the end tiles (that must be cut) are about equal. Mark their location on the wall a marker.

  • Step 2 : Lay out the tile

     Layout the tile

    Once you've determined the best layout horizontally and vertically, you need to mark working lines to guide setting the tile. If you are tiling only partway up the wall, mark another horizontal line to indicate where the tiles stop. It's also helpful to divide the wall up into smaller three- or-four-foot sections with additional layout lines. These sections can be covered with adhesive and the tile before it sets up. Be sure to mark the locations of any ceramic accessories, such as soap dishes or towel racks.

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