How to tile a bathroom

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Project overview

Tiles are easy to clean, don’t require too much maintenance but still let you express your individuality. They’re also an effective way to waterproof your bathroom and help to keep mould at bay. In this guide we’ll tell you how to remove tiles, how to tile a wall and how to look after your tiles. This is applicable to any room in your house, not just your bathroom.

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What size tiles for small bathroom

There’s a common misconception that small bathrooms shouldn’t use small tiles. While too many small tiles can create a boxed in feeling, they’re fine to use sparingly for emphasis. Really though, if you like a particular design then go for it! We’ve put together a guide for you that’s full of advice on choosing the right tiles and designs.

To figure out how many tiles you will need, you need to know the size of each individual tile and the size of the space you’re tiling.

The place you bought your tiles from should be able to tell you the coverage in square meters per order or box. To work out how many you need, take the square meters of your wall (measure the length and width and multiple the two together to get the square meter) and divide this by the coverage of the tiles. You should account for breakages or cracks by ordering another 10%. Multiply the number of boxes you need by 1.1 to figure this out.

So: wall square meter/tile coverage x 1.1 = number of boxes of tiles required.

A lot of tile retailers have coverage calculators that will help you figure out the exact amount you need.

How to remove bathroom tiles

Removing tiles can be a messy job so wear some googles and a pair of gloves to protect against flying shards of tile.

Cover your shower tray, bath, and sink so they don’t get scratched or chipped.

You also need a hammer and a chisel or sharp pointed flat headed screwdriver.

1. Remove the first tile

This is often the hardest part as there’s no easy point of access. Try to find a loose tile and pry it out with the chisel. If you can’t find a loose tile, place the chisel in the middle of a tile and hit it with the hammer. This should crack it and make it easier to remove the pieces.

2. Remove the rest of the tiles

Once you’ve removed the first tile, the rest should be easy. Position your chisel against the wall with the point sitting slightly behind the tile and tap with the hammer so it slides behind the tile. Then gently pull the chisel towards you to pry the tile away from the wall.

Keep going until you’ve successfully removed all the tiles.

3. Tidy up

Your new tiles will need to be applied to a clean and fresh surface, so you need to remove all the dried adhesive. It should easily peel or scrape away with the chisel.

How to tile a bathroom

If you’ve got the time and know-how, tiling a bathroom yourself can be a rewarding project. It takes some precise planning but once you’ve got past that, it’s a quicker job than you may think.

1. Work out the positions

A gauge stick helps you figure out the position and spacing of your tiles and helps you avoid constantly cutting tiles down to size. It also shows you how many tiles are needed per row and how to best position them.

Place your tiles in a horizontal row with tile dividers in place. Take a piece of timber that’s and position it along the width of the tiles. The timber doesn’t need to be the same width or length as your wall, but long enough for several tiles to fit. Mark the start and finish point of each tile as well as the gaps for the spacers. Repeat this process until you’ve filled the length of timber. Saw off any awkward excess bits at the end.

Use another length of time to repeat the process for the length of tiles places vertically. This will show you where to position the tiles.

2. Mark your wall

To make sure your tiling is even, you need to plan out on the wall where they’ll be positioned. To do this you need a pencil, your gauge stick, and a spirit level.
Measure the width of the wall you want to tile and find the centre point. Mark the wall where the centre point is.

Hold your gauge stick against the wall, making sure the end of the rod or one of the tile lines aligns with the centre mark.

If the area you’re tiling is wider than your gauge rod, you will need to move it across until it reaches the end of the wall. To do this, mark where the rod ends when it’s aligned with the centre line. Then move the end (or one of the tile marks if it’s not two rods wide) of the gauge stick against the new mark and keep going until you reach the end of the room.

If your gauge stick perfectly reaches the edge of the area, your tiles will fit neatly from the centre line to the edge, so you won’t have to cut any to size.

However if they don’t fit nicely, you may find that you have a narrow gap at the end. Ideally, this should be half a tile wide or more so you can easily cut to size.

If it’s smaller than half a tile, move the starting point so you have a bigger gap to fill. The stick should be aligned with the centre point like it was before. This time, make a new mark that falls halfway between the end of the gauge stick and the start of the next tile line. This will be the new starting point for your tiling and makes sure the end section is more than half a tile wide.

Hold your gauge stick vertically against the centre wall mark and use a spirit level to check it’s straight. Draw a pencil line from top to bottom. This will give you the starting point for the vertical tiles.

Place your gauge stick against the vertical line and make a mark on the wall against each tile line. Move the stick up and make the marks until you reach the top of the area you’re tiling. Remember if the final space is less than half a tile long you will need to adjust the starting point.

Revisit the centre point and place your gauge stick horizontal against the point and draw a line across the wall. Make sure it’s straight with a spirit level.

Mark the horizontal tile lines onto the wall. Again, if the end tile is less than half a tile wide, adjust your starting point. Use the tile marks on the rod to position tiles on the wall and make a mark.

You should now a grid-like pattern and a clear idea of where every tile should be positioned.

3. Cut tiles to size

You should already know if you have tiles that you need to cut to size – whether it’s to fit around a bath or shower, or for the edges of the wall.

Position the tiles against the wall and mark off the point you need to cut. This should be in line with the pencil marks you’ve already made on your wall.

Cut your tile to size using a tile scribe. A tile scribe is the easiest way to cut a tile in two. Simply line up a ruler with the mark you’ve made on your tile where you need to cut. Hold it in place and run a tile scribe along the tile, applying enough pressure to cut through the glaze.

Place a pencil underneath the tile and push down on either side. The tile should snap in two.

Alternatively you can use a tile scorer and snapper which should make snapping it in two easier.

If you need to make a curved cut, make a template out of a piece of paper or card. Place this on your tile and then draw the outline of the cut onto the tile.

Clamp the tile in place and use a tile saw to cut the shape you need. You can smooth it down and make any necessary adjustments with a tile file.

4. Lay the tiles

When you lay tiles you should start from the bottom and work your way upwards. Place your first tile against the wall with the spacers in place to allow for grout to ensure it fits.

Mix up your adhesive and spread it on the wall with a notched trowel. Set your tile against the wall and press firmly. Repeat this process for each tile. Remember to use horizontal and vertical.

For tiles that will be placed around a bath or shower tray, apply tile adhesive to the back of the tile and not the wall as this will give you greater control when it comes to positioning.

For adjoining walls start at the bottom and work your way up.

5. Leave your tiles to dry

You need to let your tiles set in place and dry before grouting.

Follow our steps below to get the perfect grouting finish.

How to grout tile

Grout seals your tiles and prevents water from seeping into the plaster and damaging it. There are a few different types of grout you can use for tiles.

  • Unsanded or non-sanded grout is used for very fine grout lines because it shrinks up when it’s dried. It’s made by mixing cement, water and non-sand particles together and can be used on natural stone flooring and wall tiles.
  • Sanded grout can be used for larger grout lines as it doesn’t shrink. It’s very durable so keeps your ceramic or stone tiles looking better for longer. Sanded grout is very absorbent and can attract dirt so to keep it looking pristine, seal it after you’ve applied it.
  • Epoxy grout can be used for many different jobs and is very durable. It combines epoxy resins with hardener for a grout that’s waterproof and doesn’t necessarily need sealing. You can use it in any area that comes into contact with water like a splashback, bathroom walls and floors. It shouldn’t scratch natural stones, but test it on a small patch first just to be sure.

How to apply grout

Some grouts come ready-made so you can apply them straight away. If not, check the manufacturer’s instructions for how to mix it properly.

If you’re grouting walls and floors, do the walls first. For this job you will need grout and a trowel, spreader, or squeegee.

Before applying the grout, always check the manufacturer’s instructions first to make sure you’re doing it properly.

  1. Clean the joints and use a scraping tool to remove any lumpy or protruding bits of grout. You don’t have to completely remove all the old grout.
  2. Use a grout spreader to spread the grout between the tiles. Apply it at a 45 degree angle starting from the bottom corner. Don’t worry if you get grout on the tiles, you can clean it off later. It’s actually an easier job if you go in gung-ho and aren’t too careful.
  3. Use your spreader (without any grout on it) to clear away the bulk of the excess. Angle it again at 45 degrees and work in across the tiles, then up and across again to systematically get rid of the remainder. This will also help to ensure your grout is evenly distributed without damaging the grout.
  4. Once the grout starting to harden, use a damp sponge to wipe across the tiles. Some of your grout lines may be uneven and raised, so press lightly on your sponge as you wipe to smooth them out.
  5. When the grout has dried you may still have a light dusting on the face of your tiles. Use a microfiber cloth to wipe away the rest of the grout.
  6. For the sections where you tiles meet in the corner, at the ceiling, or against a bath or shower, you need to use caulk. Like grout, this helps to seal against water getting down the back of your bath or shower. Caulk often comes in a squeezy tube so application is really easy. Just make sure you don’t overfill the gap.

If your grout gets dirty, you can always touch it up with a cleaner or a grout pen which redefines the lines. 

How to paint tiles

Painting tiles is a quick and affordable way to change the look of your bathroom. However it doesn’t always leave the best finish so you should definitely do a test run first to make sure you’re happy.

There are specific tile paints that you can buy which should do a good job.

  1. Your tiles needs to be clean before you paint them. See our advice on that in the next section. Make sure you use a lint-free cloth for this as you don’t want to get bits in your paint.
  2. Stir the paint so the colour pigment is mixed together. Apply one coat of paint, making sure you work it into the grout line. Complete each tile with a vertical stroke so they all look the same.
  3. If the colour you’re covering is very different to your new colour, you will need to wait 24 hours for the first coat to dry and then apply another.
  4. After 24 hours, your final coat will be dry and you can use a grout pen to define the grout.

How to clean bathroom tiles

Dirty bathroom tiles can ruin the design of your bathroom and can quickly look really grubby.

Bleach can take care of filthy grout however it’s not ideal if you have dark grout as it can ruin the finish. So if you want to clean dirty dark grout, mix together baking soda and vinegar into a paste. Use a toothbrush to scrub this into the grout and leave it for half an hour to work its magic. All you need to do then is simply rinse it off.
If your grout isn’t coming clean, you can touch it up with a grout pen. This will brighten it up.

For tiles, plain ceramic tiles can be scrubbed with a scouring pad. Tiles with a pattern can be cleaned with a microfiber cloth and a specialist cleaning product.

If your tiles are made of marble, you should never use scratchy cloths or vinegar to clean as this can cause more damage.

Baking soda and vinegar is fine to use on ceramic tiles applied with a gentle wiping motion should be enough. Leave it alone for a few minutes and then rinse it off with fresh water.

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