Ceramic Tile Shower Installation



How to effectively set up your layout and apply to get a professional finish for a custom built tiled shower the way you want.


Ceramic Tile Shower Installation


At this stage, we are going to continue from the “Schluter Shower Installation” and carry on with the actual application of the ceramic tiles themselves.

photograph of ceramic tile shower installation

At this point before you start actually to plan your layout and start cementing in your tiles, there are a few tips I would like to mention that will make this process easier, faster and practical.


  • Cement the tiles on the wall first.
  • If the walls are not flat, use thin-set to flatten them out.
  • Try to use border tiles the same thickness as wall tile.
  • If border tiles have profiles, add returns before the perimeter.


Cement the tiles on the wall first will make your job quicker and easier. If you can use the tray with no modification, you will be starting with a level row of tiles all around your perimeter. The problem is with most custom jobs the showers have a different size base than the actual measurements of the tray. Once you modify the difference to create the proper grade for water drainage, the first course of tiles will have some cut for the slope. It is easier to cut the certain angles on these tiles then when you cement the thickness of the floor tiles in later; they will cover up the gap between wall and shower floor.


It is always easier and faster to cut straight floor tiles than curved wall tiles. The second biggest bonus is while your spreading thin-set on your walls and tiles, any thin-set that falls to the floor is easier to wipe up than trying to clean out between the floor tiles where the grout goes in later. Some tile setters will tape off the floor, then do their walls, but I’ve still seen them raking out thin-set that still got into the floor tile joints.


If the walls are not flat, use thin-set to flatten them out before you start your tiling. It is always faster and easier to lay tile on a flat surface. If you were not the one to build your shower walls nice and flat and you have bowed wall studs behind the wallboard, then it’s best to fix them first. When you take 2′, 4′ and 6′ foot levels to check the walls for flatness, you will be able to see where you need to build them out with thin-set. Trying to correct for wall imperfections with tiles can be very time-consuming and challenging. If you are using mosaic tiles on part or all of the wall, this step is even more critical than with large format tiles.


The reason mosaic tiles are so critical of needing as perfect a wall as you can get is if you have too thick a mortar base when you go to press the tiles into the wall for proper contact the thin-set will start to ooze out between the tiles. With that happening to you, you’re going to be spending some serious time raking out all this excess mortar from between all these little tiles, not fun!



Try to use border tiles the same thickness as wall tile whenever possible. There are a few reasons, and I’ll mention two of the most important ones here now.


Thin mosaic border with thicker wall or floor tile


  • If you have chosen a thinner mosaic tile than your wall or floor tile that you are using on your wall, then you would run into the problems we just discuss up above. To get around that because you just have to have that thinner tile with the thicker one, this is what you can do. Take strips of detra matting that you can cut to fit, for the same size area where your mosaic needs to go. The detra comes in two different thickness so you can make up the difference to what is required by cementing in one layer or combination of two to have the mosaic set flush with the rest of the wall.


Thicker border tile to wall tile


  • In this reverse set up where you could have a thicker border tile with a thinner wall tile again, there are two main ways you can deal with this scenario. First would be the cheaper method of using Schluter size based on the border thickness. Then use a larger trowel for a thicker thin set bed to raise the wall tile farther from the wall to match the thickness of the border tile. The second option would cost more where you would buy and use detra on the wall other than the border area. This way the wall tile would match up with the border tile thickness.


If border tiles have profiles, add returns before the perimeter to get a professional look. With different borders you can use, they have a 3D profile that is more like trim than flat surface tiles. When using these types of borders, it is always best to add returns to them by using two 45 degree cuts used with wood trim. Then to use a piece of regular wall tile to be scrolled around the profile and terminate at the edge with the Schluter. That way if you are having glass doors installed, your dealing with a flat plum wall ready to have any door system work properly with no custom cuts or scrolling work done on the glass itself.


Tiling Your Shower


By taking the information from above into consideration, you are all set for tiling your shower. For this part, we will pretend the shower you are getting done will be like the one I’ll explain below. Here are the steps in the sequence you can follow to do your project or know what the course of events required in accomplishing the shower install.

photograph of ceramic tile shower installation stage 1

  • Either you are going to use a laser to set your level or manually use a handheld level to mark the top of your first-course row to be tiled. These particular tiles are a rectangular 8″ x 10″ inch wall tile to be cemented in a vertical offset pattern.
  • Centre the tile on the back wall and cement in place. Now do each tile till you get into the corner where you can do the final almost full tile.
  • From each side going into the corner, you will run your full tiles ending up with almost a full tile into the corner. If you were only tiling these three walls, you would also cement in the two Schluter peace on the left and right vertical sides with the wall tile. Because we are also doing the front face as well, no Schluter strips yet.

photograph of ceramic tile shower installation stage 2

  • Cement in two tiles side by side so the grout line is in the centre of the wall now work your way to the corner where you’ll have you’re almost half tile.
  • From each side start with a half tile and run to the inside corner ending up with close to a half tile going into the corner.
  • Repeat the pattern as you work up the walls row by row. Cut and drill holes for the roughed in plumbing fixtures when required.
  • The border has a small profile so cement in a small wall tile at each outer edge from Schluter to where the border will begin on one side and end at the other.
  • Continue tiling the three walls to the finished height. For this example, we will go to the ceiling.
  • Also for this example we will tile the ceiling as well with the offset pattern continued and holes drilled out for ceiling shower heads and shower pot lights.
  • This example will require the tiles on three sides from floor to ceiling and across the top to be tiled. Here we will also cement in the Schluter up the walls from the floor to ceiling and across the top.

photograph of ceramic tile shower installation stage 3

  • Now I would tile the floor of the shower in place. The drain grill that gets cemented on top of the flange has some room to move around for centering in the mosaic floor tiles.
  • Finally, the curb tiles and Schluter strips can now be cemented in to complete the tiling job.
  • The very last thing now is to grout the entire shower from ceiling to floor and clean up.

photograph of ceramic tile shower installation stage 4

That is a full step by step quick breakdown of a ceramic tile shower installation. Some showers are obviously smaller without the quadruple controls, and some are a lot more elaborate in shape and function than this that I usually do. This shower install was done with wall tile where most of what I do is usually floor tiles 1′ x 2′ feet or stone but the principals are the same.


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  1. Hi Smithers,
    You have very informational content. Seems like very good information for people in this field of work. My husband is a general contractor. This will be helpful information because we are trying to build a 2nd bath with a shower. Do you work in the field of this business? Your website provides much helpful information.

    • Travis Smithers

      At present I am a contractor and all the images are a small sample of what I’ve been doing in the home renovations for my area. I have a lot of people who want to do some of the work themselves so I let them know what needs to be done and guide them through. This is why I decided to put this site together the way it is and keep adding more information as time passes.

  2. Have been thinking about remodeling my bathroom and trying to figure out the costs associated with me doing it or someone else doing it…you helped me decide rather quickly that I donot have the skills needed.Thanks for that! Also just one comment your pictures were great and anyone needing to do their own work will benefit by your pictures and detailed instructions.I just don’t need to get on my wife’s bad side by ruining our master bath!

    • Travis Smithers

      Hi Mac and I can certainly understand not wanting to get on the bad side of your wife. When it comes to renovations you only want to do what your capable of doing when it comes to key rooms of your home. To be able to learn what you need to know is the key so you’ll be able to make an informed decision on what you can or can not do.

      The great thing about knowing about renovations is it makes your choices much easier to figure out when you understand what is required. So whether you do them yourself or have somebody else do the renovations its just good to know how and what is being done.

  3. Travis,

    Where were yo about 9 months ago when I had to tile the bathroom. Oh well – it is done now and looks good. Thankfully the guy helping me knew what to do, so I let him take the lead and became a “helper” (I think gopher is a better word – go for this and go for that) Anyway – thanks for the tips


    • No problem Scott and it sounds like you made the better choice. It doesn’t matter who among you knows what to do just so long as you have somebody that has the knowledge to accomplish the renovation job you are doing such as tiling your bathroom. It all works out in the end when your working together and you can feel good about your accomplishment at the end of the day.

      Nothing ventured nothing gained, after doing that job with someone else now you know and knowing is half the battle. If you ever decide to do another you have more knowledge of what to do now.

  4. Hi Travis, It is not easy to describe tiling techniques, but you have done a good job here with the help of your images, which are great by the way.

    You have shared some very useful tips that once people know can prevent them getting into trouble and lead to a far better job, thanks


    • Hi Rob glad my post was of some informational help. Over the course of time I plan to have a lot more renovation tips and tricks to have more turnover on how to do renovations better. Things always run smoother when you know what to expect.

  5. Thanks for explaining how to tile. It can be a daunting task for the DIY person to tackle. However with your explanation and photos I am sure that even I could have a go at it.

    When I need to tile my shower room I am certainly going to refer to this article.

    • I get a lot of people wanting to know how it is done with the different steps, so it makes it easier for them to decide if they want to do the work or hire somebody else.

  6. Hi
    I like your website and this post regarding the laying of time will prove to be helpful. My husband and I are always wanting to do as much on our own as possible to cut down on the cost but some jobs seem to be a bit out of our league.

    My son’s shower was leaking and we took out a couple of tiles to replace the faucet and discovered dampness and what appeared to be mold. It is a total mess. I assume tearing out is a lot easier than actually replacing. Anything we should know before pulling it out?

    Thank you for your assistance.

    • Hi Kellie and it sounds like if water has gotten behind the shower faucet and you have mold there is a chance you can do a patch fix and be good, but for me I would open up the wall to make sure all wet and mold is removed. I do not take chances with water and would say the shower has had its day and it’s time to install a new one. You could check with some local contractors to see if a patch will work but at least if you replace it you can have the whole shower water proofed.

      If you feel you want to do it yourself or hirer a tile setter I have enough information at this time for you to check out to help with that decision. Wish you luck in what you decide.

  7. I really like your article. I am an avid Do It Yourself woman. I have always wanted to know how to remodel a bathroom. This article will really come in handy for me because I’m looking to purchase a fixer upper home very soon. Do you have any other article recommendations that might help me along?

    • When your looking to purchase and do some remodeling then most of my site will have information on different aspects that you may require. Every month I will be adding more information but it will take time as I’m not in a position to work full time online yet.

      I have many books and videos that go into explaining just about everything you may need at varying prices in the different stores I link to, so you could look into something there if I have not covered the topic yet that your looking for.

  8. I really like your site, and the information that you have is great.I like how you take it step by step and explain everything so a person has some idea what they are doing. I was impressed by the way you told how to get the walls level, in old houses like mine, most walls are not level. And your explaining how to cut the tile, I do not think I would want to try cutting them myself.

  9. Hi Harry and glad you liked the article. One of the biggest things I find by showing people some of these procedures step by step, is it makes it a lot easier for home owners to know if this is the type of DIY they want to take on or just pass it on to a local contractor. Not everybody knows there limits but at least if you know what the job entails there will be less surprises.

  10. Thanks for sharing this, I only wish I found this site a few months back, as I have just had my bathrooms done but would have tried it myself if I had seen this. Your step by step guide for tiling your shower is descriptive but written in a simplified way so that people of all abilities can do it!

  11. Hi Travis,

    This is a great article on how to DIY ceramic tiles shower. Always wondered how you did it exactly, thank you for showing me how. Now when I want to show off to my wife I have the perfect thing to do.Do you have any recommendations on where to purchase items for the project?

    Yours Truly,

    • For the average person who does not get contractors discount I would suggest you either go to a big box store such as Home Depot or the type of store that gets the end of stock products that they sell at a clearence pricing. Either of these two methods will reduce your material cost or allow you to get more for your money to have a higher end shower.

      Just you doing you’re own shower will save you big money, just make sure you get the waterproofing stage 100% and have a plumber do the connections if you never done it before.

  12. Hey there,

    You have very informational & quality content. Seems like detailed information for people in this line of work.

    I have friends who are working in this line but could actually use this information. I am also renovating my place in a few weeks’ time. Do you work in the field of this business? Your website provides much helpful information.

    • I have well over 30 years experience in the renovations industry. A lot of my clients like to know how to do some of the renovations themselves to either save money or have more money for better materials being used or get more done. That is why I now have converted my website from just showing some pictures of what I have done to helping others do more DIY or at least know what to expect when they get renovations done.

  13. Thank you for this helpful post – I will be showing my boyfriend this when he gets in from work. Last night we spent over two hours debating over this very subject.Neither of us have installed our own shower etc before so we are complete amateurs and I must say it is so stressful when you have spend time and money picking out the perfect tiles and then having all these issues!!! Thank you – so incredibly grateful for this article.

    • Glad my post could be of some help for you, but before you do your own shower, you want to make sure your ready by knowing just what needs to be done and that you’re able to do what is required, otherwise you’d be better off hiring someone if you’re both amateurs as you mentioned.

  14. Hey Travis,

    Great article. I don’t know the first thing about tiling a shower but I learned a lot and knowing the right way will definitely save me a lot of time. I think a lot of the time spent is just redoing things because you did something wrong or just wasting time because you tiled the floor first before the wall or buying the wrong tile.

    • There certainly are many things to consider that can cause a job to go sideways but the more you know about how things are done then at least it makes the job easier.

      Also, you’ll discover the more you start to do the different types of renovations the faster you’ll get as well. Even in the beginning when you are slower at least when you do it correctly it still ends up better and faster than if mistakes were made.

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