Tiling is probably the most practical option for a bathroom. Not only is tiling a bathroom cost-effective at the application stage, it's also cost-effective to maintain. On top of that, ceramic and porcelain tiles are excellent barriers against water and offer a smart, stylish finish for your bathroom or en-suite.
Another tick in the plus column for tiling your bathroom is that it is relatively straightforward for anyone with reasonable DIY skills to do themselves, rather than having to hire a professional.
If you feel confident and would rather put that money to good use elsewhere in your project, follow our beginner’s step-by-step guide to tiling a bathroom wall and floor. You’ll have a great-looking bathroom and a bit of pride to boot.
Staying safe while tiling your bathroom
- Wear safety goggles, gloves and a dust mask when cutting tiles in case of splintering, and clear up any tile fragments that break off.
- Wear a dust mask and safety glasses if using a powder adhesive
- Whilst not essential, it’s a good idea to wear knee pads as a lot of kneeling is involved
How to tile a bathroom wall
- The first and most crucial step in tiling a bathroom wall is preparation. Work out how many tiles you need to buy to cover your wall space and add 10 per cent to that, to allow for any breakages and spares, should you need them in future. Try to buy tiles from the same batch to achieve colour matching – you can find the batch number on the packaging.
- Prepare your walls for tiling, making sure they are sanded, flat and clean. You might have to score the plaster with a notch trowel to help the adhesive stick.
- If using tiles made from porous material, they may need to be sealed before tiling begins.
- To achieve a symmetrical design, make a gauging stick by getting a length of timber just longer than half the wall you’re tiling. Laying it on the floor and place tiles and spacers length-ways along its length, using a pencil to mark their spacing on the wood.
- Repeat this with another stick, except place the tiles width-ways this time, to work out the width of the tiles.
- Measure the width of the wall and use a pencil and spirit level to draw a vertical line at the midway point. Do the same for the height of the wall. You should now have horizontal and vertical lines that intersect in the middle.
- Use your gauging sticks to work out where each tile will start and end and mark these in pencil until you have a grid for the tiles marked out on your walls. Make sure the first and last tiles at the top, bottom, left and right are all the same size.
- Place your first tile – with spacers – at the bottom and mark where it needs to be cut to fit into the space allowed, then cut the tile to size.
- Use a notched trowel to apply adhesive to the back of the tile and press it into place.
- Repeat this for all the tiles, placing tile spacers between them to allow room for grouting.
- Once all the tiles are in place, leave them to dry before grouting.
- Use a spreader or grout float to apply grout and apply to walls, making sure to get it right into the spaces between the tiles without leaving any air bubbles. Wipe away excess grout.
- Leave for 15 minutes, then wipe the tiles with a damp cloth.
- Spray with grout protector to stop water or limescale from penetrating the grout.
How to tile a bathroom floor:
- Before tiling a bathroom floor, make sure the floor is clean, dry and completely level. If your floor is concrete, you can tile directly onto it. Timber floors will need to be covered with primed plywood before tiling.
- Work out the midpoints in the same way as you did with your wall.
- Start from the middle and dry lay your tiles, with spacers, working out towards the walls or the first bathroom object you come across (bath, toilet, sink pedestal).
- Mark the end point of the last whole tile before the wall or object. If you are working on a concrete floor, draw a line from one wall to the other at this point. If you are working on plywood, drill a batten in at this point, making sure to check for hidden pipes and cables beforehand.
- Repeat this step, now working perpendicularly to the previous direction.
- You should now have two battens or straight lines creating a space which can be completely filled by whole tiles.
- Using adhesive, apply the tiles to the floor in a neat pattern, checking as you go that the tiles are totally flat and straight.
- If using battens, remove them now.
- Use paper to create templates to fit around toilet and sink pedestals. Then cut tiles to this template using tile clippers and sand them smooth. Use adhesive to apply.
- Now to apply the tiles around the edges. Measure the distance between the last whole tile in each row and the wall as it might not be uniform. Cut the tile to this size and apply with adhesive.
- Grout as in the directions for walls.
- Take care not to apply pressure or walk on your floor tiles until the adhesive has completely dried.
- Use a grout protector spray to make grout easier to clean and extend the lifespan of the grout. This will prevent you from having to regrout your bathroom too often.
- When cleaning tiles, only use products that are suitable for the tile material, as using the wrong product could cause permanent damage to the surface of the tiles.
- Take care not to use a steam cleaner on tiles that have had a sealer applied to them.
For an easy and useful alternative to tiling your shower walls, consider installing wall panels. These are even more waterproof than tiles, simple to install, are easily cut to size and can even greatly reduce the amount of bacteria in your bathroom. They can also be used as splashbacks for behind your basin and bath.
Use our online bathroom design tool for inspiration for your bathroom tiling.