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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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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