The No-Nonsense DIY Guide: How To Tile A Bathroom

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If you’re keen to keep costs down on your bathroom renovation project while also feeling a huge sense of achievement, you may look to undertake some of the less taxing jobs yourself. 

Take bathroom tiling, for example.

However, before you don your overalls and start gathering up your tools, it’s important to consider if you know how to tile a bathroom. 

While a fresh bathroom tiling update is one of the more profitable home improvement ideas – with the potential to add a whopping 10% to the value of your home – the key is to ensure the work is done correctly and to a high standard. This way, you’ll reap the long-term rewards of tiling your bathroom. 

To DIY or not to DIY? 

With this in mind, before you even begin to tackle tiling the bathroom, ask yourself if you’re really best placed to do the job. 

For one, bathroom tiling can be a messy and disruptive business, not to mention time-consuming if you aren’t 100% sure what you’re doing. Secondly, shoddy workmanship and improper installation can lead to an unsightly finish or worse, long-term issues such as cracked tiles or sealing inefficiencies. 

Both of these crucial factors can end up costing you more money and time in the long run. So unless you’re confident you have the right DIY skills to do the job, we’d suggest leaving bathroom tiling to the professionals. 

How much does it cost to tile a bathroom?

Speaking of costs, this brings us nicely to the question: how much does it cost to tile a bathroom?

The average cost of tiling a medium-sized bathroom (floors and walls) ranges from £900 up to £3,000. Of course, the price varies due to a number of different factors, which include: 

  • Type of tile: prices vary between tiles. Ceramic is typically the cheapest, with porcelain and natural stone tiles costing more depending on the size and material you choose
  • Tile size: if you opt for large expanses of mosaic tiles, they can be more expensive to install by a professional tiler, as installing them is more labour-intensive
  • Bathroom size: naturally, the larger your bathroom tiling job, the higher the price
  • Tiler rates: some tilers will give you a cost per square metre, while others will give you a day rate or a complete job price
  • Location: prices vary from city to city, with areas like London and the south of England tending to have higher rates for tradespeople

Of course, if you’re tiling the bathroom yourself, you can save a decent chunk of money as you won’t need to account for labour costs. 

That’s not to say that your only outlay will be the cost of your tiles, though. Don’t forget to budget for tile adhesive and tile grout, as well as any materials needed to prepare walls and floors like screed, backer boards and underfloor heating mats

You may also need to fork out to buy or hire specialist bathroom tiling equipment and accessories like an electric tile cutter, trowels and grout floats unless you already have them in your arsenal of tools.

Bathroom tiling preparation checklist

Nothing hinders the progress of a tiling project like running out of materials or not having the right tools for the job. So, to make sure you don’t end up in this situation, here’s a checklist of all the essential tools and equipment you’ll need before you begin tiling the bathroom: 

  • Bathroom tiles
  • Tiles adhesive and grout
  • Notched tiling trowel for applying adhesive
  • Rubber grout float for applying grout between the tiles
  • Electric or manual tile cutter 
  • Electric grinder with diamond drill discs and blade (for small fiddly cuts like pipe holes)
  • Electric drill and mixing nozzle (if you don’t want to mix powdered grout by hand)
  • 2 mixing buckets 
  • Sponges and cloths (for wiping excess adhesive and grout off tiles)
  • Tile spacers and plastic tile wedges (positioned between each tile edge for even spacing)
  • Wooden batons and nails or screws
  • Water-resistant tile backer boards (optional)
  • Self-levelling screed (optional)
  • Spirit level
  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil/pen

How to tile bathroom walls and floors

With all your essential tools and tiling accessories primed and ready, you can now start preparing your bathroom for tiling. The step-by-step guide below details each stage of how to tile a bathroom. 

Much of the process is the same for both floors and walls but, where applicable, you’ll find specific details for the different areas, such as surface preparation and fixing them down.

1. Measuring up and choosing tiles

Whether you’re tiling just one wall or the whole bathroom, it’s essential to accurately measure the area before you start and work out how many square metres it is.

If your tiled areas aren’t a uniform square or rectangular shape, use the longest measurements for width and length and multiply them together to get the total square metre of the space. 

Armed with the right measurements, it’s time to pick out your tiles – allowing at least 10% extra for tile cuts and broken tiles. Be sure you’ve purchased the right adhesive and grout for your tiles – tiling onto floorboards requires a different adhesive to concrete, so ask your tile supplier for advice.

Tip: Not all tiles can be used on floors and walls, so make sure to confirm suitability for specific areas. It’s also advisable to lay non-slip bathroom tiles to minimise the risk of slipping.

2. Prepping the area and readying your tools

The next step is to prep the area to be tiled by ensuring it’s clean and dry. The surface also needs to be level, so use a spirit level to check if the surface is even and fill in any sizeable holes and cracks. 

For uneven floors, you can affix tile backer boards or a self-levelling screed and apply an SBR primer for maximum adhesion.

Tiles can be laid directly over existing tiles but, if you’re tiling a bathroom from scratch, you may need to apply water-resistant tile backer boards to walls and floors. 

These will not only add an element of flexibility to the surface to account for any movement such as wooden floorboards contracting and expanding, but they’ll also protect the surface from moisture. 

3. Finding your starting point

Unfortunately, not all walls and floors are straight and level, so when it comes to bathroom tiling, it’s good to measure your ‘datum line’ or starting point. Check the level of the surface with a spirit level rather than using existing walls as your guide.

Plan out your bathroom tile design before you begin, as this will ensure you aren’t left with awkward cuts at the end of each wall or floor. Ideally, you want an even cut at either end if a full tile doesn’t fit before you start attaching them permanently to the surfaces.

For walls, measure one tile height above the floor line and draw a level horizontal line around the entire room or wall area. Next, you need to mark out the vertical datum line using a spirit level  – these batons will ensure your bathroom tiles are laid straight both vertically and horizontally. 

Use a temporary wooden baton screwed into the wall along the ‘datum lines’ to serve as a guide, and to support tiles while they’re drying.

When figuring out how to tile a bathroom floor, you’ll also need to measure your starting point in the centre of the room, working outwards to each corner, one at a time.

For wetrooms and tiled showers, be sure to calculate the ‘fall’ to ensure tiles are laid on a slight slant so that water drains away.

4. Laying your tiles

Next, it’s time to mix your adhesive and begin laying your tiles on the bathroom wall or floor area. 

For walls, spread the adhesive onto the wall (approximately 1 square metre at a time so it doesn’t dry out) above the horizontal wooden baton, using the notched edge of the trowel to create a grooved effect for better surface grip. 

Gently press the tile onto the adhesive and ensure it’s straight using the spirit level. Wipe away excess adhesive and use plastic tile spacers or tile wedges between the baton and tile. 

Continue to the next tile, using tile spacers between each, and repeat with every row – checking each row with a spirit level as you go for a straight finish.

With bathroom floors, spread adhesive directly onto the floor (about 1 square metre at a time), then create grooves using the notched trowel and lay the first full tile at the central point.

Work your way to the edge of the room and into each corner. Use tile spacers between each joint and continually check with a spirit level to ensure the surface is evenly laid.

When it comes to how to tile a bathroom wall with large tiles, the same rules apply for installation, but these hefty tiles should be attached to walls and floors using a strong tile adhesive to ensure they stay in place.

With the full tiles laid, now measure and cut the edge tiles for both floors and walls, using adhesive to put them in place and leave the tiles to set.

Tip: Have a damp cloth or sponge to hand to clean up any adhesive on the tiles as you work through the room – it’s much harder to get off once it’s dry.

5. Sealing the tiles

The last part of your bathroom tiling job involves sealing the tiles from moisture and properly securing them in place with grout. This process should only be carried out once the adhesive has fully dried – check the manufacturer’s instructions for details.

With an extensive range of grout colours available, most are suitable for use on floors and walls and come with antifungal properties. However, for very wet areas like showers, you could opt for epoxy grout for added water resistance.

Start by removing any wedges and tile spacers. Using a rubber grout float, smooth grout over the tiled areas, ensuring joints are completely filled. 

The key here is to swipe over the tile joints diagonally and firmly press the grout all the way into the joint to remove any air bubbles. We’d also recommend regularly wiping the tiles with a damp (not wet) sponge to remove any grout residue before it sets.

Once fully dry, wipe the area again with clean, cold water and a damp cloth (this may need to be done a few times to get rid of all the grout residue). Then use a silicone gun to seal around the edges of the floors, bath, shower and sink.

So, there you have it, our step-by-step guide on tiling a bathroom floor or wall. Taking on your very own DIY bathroom tiling project can definitely be a satisfying achievement and with this guide, plus our expansive range of bathroom tiles and tiling accessories, you should have everything you need to get started. 

If you need a little help nailing down your bathroom tiling project, our blog is packed full of handy hints and tips including bathroom interior design ideas and stylish bathroom colour schemes to help you on your way. 

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