Many of us have found ourselves living with a bathroom that feels worn and dated. We’ve tried a different paint color on the walls or cabinets, lights above the vanity, or even new plumbing fixtures, but nothing can distract from bad tile. Whether it is damaged, boring, or just plain ugly, the bathroom shower tile that we see every day has a lasting impact on our mood, and a great shower space can give us the best start to our day or become a much-needed retreat from the world.

So how do we change the tile in a shower or tub surround to become your favorite place to take anyone who visits your home? With the right planning, right tools, and the right help, you can have a successful tile project of your own. Let’s take a look at some essential steps to get you started and that much closer to loving your bathroom.

Make a Plan

Make a plan! Whether it’s a shower tile floor or wall, it is the most important part of the project overall. You will want to make most of your decisions before you touch your walls or even purchase any tools or materials. This step will not only determine how much time and money that your new tiled shower will take, but also allow you to plan on the areas and steps where you will need to call in a professional to help. Let’s take a look at some questions that will help you get started.

Is my current shower layout working?

Removing tile from your shower opens up your walls and is a great time to relocate plumbing to better work for your space. It can be as simple as moving your shower head up for a taller person, or something bigger like changing from a tub/shower combination to a walk-in shower. This is also a great opportunity to fix any issues like leaky faucets and get your bathroom up to modern building standards. Interested in a walk-in shower?

Check out 4 Things To Know Before Designing A Walk-In Shower to see if this is the right option for you.

How much work do I want to do myself?

If you are moving plumbing around, you will definitely want to hire a licensed plumber. They will only work on the pipes and fixtures, however, so you may want to also consider hiring a professional tile installer. An experienced tile setter will not just make your shower look clean and beautiful, but they will also create a waterproof system that won’t leak. Water is sneaky and will find a weak point, so the cost of an experienced tile installer is not much when compared to water damage that you don’t see until it is too late.

How much do I want to spend?

Tiling a shower is not just about the tile. Plumbing, fixtures, waterproofing, accessories, and finding great help all add to the cost of your project. It is a great idea to create a budget and see how much you can expect to spend.

Which tile is best for my shower?

Browsing through shower tile ideas can start off fun but can quickly become overwhelming. Typically, shower walls can be a wide variety of different tiles, as long as they are cleanable. Shower floor tile, on the other hand, needs to be slip-resistant and can slope down to the drain if you are not using a tub or a pre-made pan, and that is why mosaics are often used in these areas. Beyond this, the most important feature of a tile is that you love it! For more info on selecting a shower tile, take a look at What to Consider When Choosing Shower Tiles.

Also, check out these different looks for inspiration:

  1. Prepare Your Shower Area for Tile

    Once you have a plan and are ready to start, you will need to get your shower ready for tile. This can involve some major work, so let’s run through some typical steps that you can expect.

  2. Protect the Project Area

    Start by protecting the floors, walls, and other areas next to your shower from dust and debris. If you are keeping your bathtub, make sure to protect it as well so you don’t ruin the finish. And most importantly, don’t forget to protect yourself by always wearing the proper safety gear, including a respirator or mask, while working – it’s about to get dusty in here!

  3. Remove Your Old Tile or Fiberglass Shower Wall

    Use a hammer, chisel, and crowbar to remove the tile or shower wall. You will also be removing the drywall, backer board, or lathe and plaster that the tile or shower wall is attached to, so get ready for some major muscle movement! Once this is complete, make sure to remove any nails or screws that remain.

  4. Relocate or Replace Plumbing

    This should involve a licensed plumber to make sure that all building codes are followed, and everything is fitted properly. You should also make sure to coordinate any fixtures or drains with your tile layout and accessories so that there are no bad surprises.

  5. Install New Wall Board

    Time to install new wallboard onto your studs in your shower area. Depending on which waterproofing system you choose, this could be cement board or even wall panels with a built-in waterproof membrane that helps you with your next step. Did we say waterproofing – a lot? Absolutely! Check out the next step for more info.

  6. Install Waterproofing

    It is a big misconception that tile and grout are “waterproof”. While the tiles themselves can be in some instances, the grout lines and joints are not. You must create a system where the water on the walls and floor makes it to the drain and nowhere else in your space. Check out Laticrete’s Hydroban System. Laticrete is incredibly helpful for both knowledge and instruction about waterproofing and its benefits.

  7. Slope to Your Drain

    Now that everything is watertight, it is time to create a sloping floor to your drain. This is where an expert tile installer comes in handy with their sand and cement mixtures, or you can use kits like this one: HYDRO BAN Shower Pan Kit – LATICRETE. If you are looking for shower floor tile ideas, mosaics are a great option thanks to their ability to accommodate this sloping.

Check out some of our favorite tile shower floor styles that are creating a buzz.

Learn how to install your shower tiles next!

If You Need Help

If you have any questions, issues, or problems during your tile project, it is always best to stop and seek professional guidance before continuing. TileBar is always available to help with any questions you may have about your tile from different types to shower floor tile designs, so feel free to reach out or check out our Tileist Learning Center for more like  10 Walk-In Shower Tile Ideas That Will Inspire You.

An Important Note…

Tiling is not a small project, but it is a rewarding one, and we hope that you have a better idea of what to expect when you tile a shower. While we have tried to include the typical steps involved, we know that you will have specific questions and issues about your unique project that goes beyond these helpful hints. You can look at great installation guides like Laticrete’s Shower Installation Systems or find more help at The Tile Council of North America’s website, who literally wrote the book on this stuff. We are happy to help with tile, grout, and setting materials, but always ask your favorite plumber and tile installer for help. Success is a team effort and we are happy to be on yours.