How to Properly Tile a Bath Tub Surround

First, you want to prep the area by ripping down the sheetrock to the studs. This is very simple and can be done with a hammer. It will only take an hour or so for the demolition. After you have your work area all prepped ,you want to go and purchase/round up your materials. You will need your wall tile, thin set mortar, tile spacers, grout saw, sponge, bucket, grout float, fiber mesh tape, grout, notched trowel, 1/4" Hardibacker or Durarock, a hardbacker scorer/knife, hardibacker screws, tile nippers, wet tile saw (most hardware stores will rent one) insulation (optional), 3 mil plastic, small pack of shims and a niche if you desire to install one.

Now is a good time to insulate the wall if you choose to do so. I recommend doing this if you have a living area directly next to the bathroom. It will keep all the bathroom noises out of the living area.

After this process, take your 3 mill plastic and staple it into all the studs on the wall. A lot of people do not do this, but I highly recommend it; It keeps moisture out of the wall!

We can now start our Hardibacker install! Measure the wall on the shower surround and cut your piece of Hardibacker to fit. Be sure to place shims under the piece that meets the tub surround keeping the backer board off the surround about an 1/8 of an inch. When in place screw the backer board into the studs.

At this point you can now cut in your shower niche, if you choose to do one. It is personal preference where you want to install it, but it must be in between two studs so you can screw it in. After the niche is installed, apply some thin set mortar and fiber mesh tape to all of your seams. This will keep moisture out from behind the wall.

We are almost ready to tile! Make sure you really think you design through. Try to keep all your cuts away from the closest visible wall and hide them in the corner. Start mixing your mortar to a nice peanut butter consistency. Using your notched trowel ,apply mortar to the wall in one direction.Then, apply mortar to your tile in the opposite direction. This is called back buttering and I highly recommend it! When you start applying your tile to the wall make sure you firmly press the tiles into the wall mortar! When using your spacers, space them tight to the abutting tile so there is an even gap in all tiles. This will result in a much better end result! If your gaps aren't perfect, or your tiles aren't perfectly level don't stress too much, you will be surprised how much grout can cover! If you make a mess like I do, just use hot water on the tile surface or the tub and the mortar will easily wipe off.

When you get to the shower valve this will be your biggest challenge. Mark out the valve, on the tile and use your tile saw to score the lines. After you do this you can than chip away at it with tile nippers. It does not have to be perfect just make sure the shower trims will cover any of your cuts! You are smooth sailing from here!

A niche is a great way to accent your shower and really make it pop. You can choose different colors or patterns that match other items in your bathroom. For our niche we went with white glass subway tiles and common marble bathroom thresholds for the base of the niche. You can also just stick with the same pattern and tile the niche exactly as you were tiling the walls. When you are finished tiling, let the mortar dry for 24 hours. Remove your spacers and examine your grout lines for any high spots. If you have any high spots remove them with the grout saw.

Now you can mix up your grout and apply it using a grout float. You really want to pack grout into your lines from all different directions to ensure you are completely filling the lines with grout. While your are grouting, you will need to take a damp sponge and wipe away excess grout. Wring out your sponge and repeat this process over and over again. The next day when all is dry, you may have to clean off the haze one last time.

Now caulk where the tub and tile meet, add your shower trims, and enjoy your newly remodeled shower!

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