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DIY Bathroom Tiling: A Step-by-Step Guide for Complete Beginners

So you’ve taken the plunge and decided to do some DIY tiling - well done! Sometimes the hardest part can be gaining the confidence to actually give DIY a go, and trust me you’re doing the right thing by doing some proper research.


Like most practical tasks there is a lot of skill and process involved. Tiling is a skill, just like any other trade, some people spend their entire lives doing it to become experts - but that shouldn’t put you off.


Tiling is enjoyable and fulfilling, you just have to take your time and accept the learning process. (Don’t be afraid of failing, when I first tried it I chose the wrong grout and then had to rip it all out and start again!) but that won’t happen to you, hopefully you can learn from my experience and be a pro by the end of it.

DIY bathroom tiling for complete beginners

Safety Tips for Tiling your Bathroom

Before we get into it, it’s important to mention that you’re going to want to take some safety precautions prior to starting on your DIY bathroom tiling. Tiling is a pretty safe task overall, but like any kind of DIY, it’s better to be over cautious than under prepared.


Some safety equipment I’d recommend:

  • Safety Goggles - You’re going to be cutting and chipping tiles, so eye protection is a good idea.

  • Gloves - As well as cutting the tiles, you’ll want to clear up tile fragments that break off as you work, so I’d recommend wearing some safety gloves (I sliced my finger so many times clearing up tile fragments and definitely should have worn gloves!) You’re also going to be working with some sharp tools, so hand protection is a smart idea.

  • Dust Mask - This may be a good idea if you’re worried about breathing in any dust or fumes.

It may also be a good idea to switch off any water or electricity supplies, as well as work out where any pipes or cables are located in your bathroom walls. This will not only help prevent you from accidentally damaging them, but may prevent you from hurting yourself.


What Tools & Equipment Will I Need for DIY Bathroom Tiling?


Tape Measure

Undoubtedly the most important piece of equipment you’re going to need, a tape measure will help you measure your tiles up accurately, plan how many tiles to order, and generally help you get your layout just right.


Tile Cutter

If you are tiling your own bathroom, then investing in a tile cutter is a must. I would strongly recommend investing in a good one. Most standard tile cutters include a scribe wheel with a breaking arm and rail cutters are available in a variety of different sizes. You can also opt for a mechanical tile saw, which is a bit more heavy duty and expensive.


When I did my tiling I used a tile scribe and snapper (rudimental option) , see image below:

You use the scribe to score an accurate line down where you need a cut, then with the hand held snapper you clamp it down on the score line and the tile will (hopefully) snap along the score line. This is a rudimentary way of cutting a tile and it generally only works with thin flat tiles, however it is cost effective and simple to learn. If you’re going to be doing a large amount of tiling I wouldn't recommend this method.


Tile Spacers

Tile spacers are small pieces of cross shaped plastic that you will use during the DIY tiling to create consistent even spacing between the tiles. Watch out for these as they come in lots of different sizes (my preferred size is around 2mm). Don’t accidentally buy the wrong size halfway through like I did!

tile spacers

Tile Nipper

A tile nipper is designed to help you make circular cuts around a tile, you can also make small cuts with it. This isn’t a completely essential tool for bathroom tiling, but a tile nipper can come in fairly handy if you have a more complex tile cut to carry out. For example, if you need to cut your tiles to fit around pipes or a fixed sink.

Adhesive

Adhesive is the actual substance you are going to stick your tiles onto the wall with. When shopping for adhesive, you will notice that there are different types of adhesive which fall into different classes. For tiling a bathroom, you will probably need class D2TE adhesive. You will find most store bought adhesives will say on the packaging where they can be used.


Grout

Grout is what you will use to fill in the gaps between the tiles to add extra reinforcement to your bathroom tiling and to give your design a clean and professional finish. It will also help with waterproofing the tiles and water ingress from behind.


There are a few different types of grout to choose from and many different colours. The main three are typically cementitious, epoxy and furan. The type of grout you decide to go with will often be dictated by the type of tile you choose.


Make sure to pick your grout wisely. I went for jet black originally and grouted half the bathroom and then hated it. Don't make that mistake, it's a nightmare to get off!


Once you’ve chosen your grout, I would recommend applying a small amount to a localised area, come back when it's dry and assess whether you like it.


Bucket (or 2)

You will be mixing the adhesive to fix the tiles to the wall and grout to fill the gaps between the tiles, so a bucket or two for mixing these will be essential. The size of the bucket you will need will depend on the size of your bathroom, the number of tiles and therefore the volume of each liquid you’re going to need.


Mixing Paddle

This is a tool you can use to mix the grout and adhesive, I personally didn't have one and did it by hand but it can be very useful when making big batches. It goes into your drill and spins round, its basically a glorified whisk!


Notched Trowel

The notched trowel will be used to spread your adhesive onto your wall and back of the tiles. It is possible to buy different trowels that have different notches, but it’s best to carry out some research on this to work out exactly what you need for your bathroom.


Hawk

Think of a hawk like an art palette. It is a simple board with a handle which is used to carry adhesive or grout from the mixing area over to the area that is being worked on. In this case, a hawk will be used to bring the adhesive over to the bathroom wall or floor so that you can use your trowel to apply the adhesive without having to move back and forth between your mixing area.


Grout Float

A grout float is designed to help you apply grout in the spaces between your bathroom tiles. The grout is not only to protect your tiles, but also gives your tiling job a neat and clean finish.


Spirit Level

This will come in very handy when it comes to planning your bathroom tiling layout.


Sponge

Having a wet sponge to hand when carrying out your tiling means that you can easily remove any grout that gets onto your bathroom tiles during the application process. It is also crucial in levelling out of all of the grout once you have thoroughly applied it on the tiles with the Float.


Step 1: Plan your Bathroom Tiling Layout

Planning the layout of your bathroom is a very important part of your bathroom tiling journey. Putting plans in place prior to carrying the work out will help inform you on what tiles and equipment you’re going to need and will help you identify problems early on.


Choosing your tiles is an important part of the layout. You will want to measure up your bathroom so you know the exact surface area you’re going to be covering. This will come in handy when it comes to ordering the exact number of tiles, usually in msq.


The other consideration is choosing the tile pattern. There are a huge number of different tile types available and they can be fitted in various patterns, such as Herringbone, Chevron and Stack. This is the point where you’ll want to spend time looking for inspiration images to get a real feel for whether or not you think your desired tiling look is achievable for your bathroom/space. As a rule of thumb, the more complicated the tiling pattern looks, the harder it will be to achieve the desired finish.

Another key consideration for tiles is to make sure they are appropriate for domestic bathroom use. Some tile types lend themselves better to bathrooms than others, so you really want to make sure you do your research.


Once you have made your decision on the tiles, this will help to inform the equipment you’re going to need to buy. Most tiling websites have msq calculators that will help you order the right amount. I would say to always order 15% more than what you need, for cuts and mistakes.


Step 2: Prepare the Walls and Floors for Tiling

I know you’ve heard it all before, but preparation really is key! The next step once you have all your safety and tiling equipment is to prepare your walls and floors for tiling.


One of the most important things to check for is that the wall or floor is clean, dry and flat. If it has been previously tiled, you should set aside some time to make sure it has a flat and clean finish prior to applying tiles. If the wall undulates dramatically, this can cause issues when it comes to tiling. Therefore, use your spirit level to check how flat your walls are before continuing.


It’s worth drawing out where your tiles are going to be placed and make some markings on your walls for levels and floors to help guide you. Setting tiles on top of leftover building materials such as grout or paint is bad practice and will cause you issues later down the line.


Top Tip - If your tiles are being applied above your bath or some boxing in that you haven't completed yet, you will need to apply a timber batten to the wall. This will allow you to start your tiles at any desired vertical dimension providing a support for you to tile up from, see image below:




A batten on the vertical dimension also allows you to manipulate where your your cuts are vertically, these are preferably at the top and bottom and edges of the wall, see image below, P= Cut:




Later on in the tiling process once the tile adhesive has set (usually around 12 hours) you can remove the batten and add in the final cut tile at the bottom. Using a batten can also be very useful if you have hidden areas like behind boxing in or a bath as you don't need to tile all the way down where it wont be seen you can start from an desired vertical line.




Step 3: Prepare Your Adhesive

Before you get started, you’re going to want to prepare your adhesive. Tile adhesive is made specifically to bond tiles to the floor or the walls, and there are plenty of options available for various retailers. Brands such as Mapei, BAL and Dulux offer good adhesives that are ideal for most standard domestic bathrooms.


Furthermore, in house offerings such as Wickes and Screwfix are fairly affordable and decent. When I did my bathroom I used a standard quick drying adhesive from Wickes, it was cheap and did the job just fine.


Depending on the adhesive you choose, there should be step-by-step instructions on the preparation of the adhesive on the product you buy. You’ll want to have your bucket and mixing paddle handy for this step. But generally speaking it should be about the consistency of a thick yogurt once mixed making it stick well to the walls and easy to apply, if you put your hawk upside down and the adhesive doesn't run off its a good mix.


Tip: Always apply adhesive to water and never the other way around.


Step 4: Applying the Tiles

Before you apply the tiles make sure to take some measurements again.


Remember - Measure Twice, Cut Once!


When you begin to apply your tiles, you will need to ensure that you apply the tiles from the middle first and work your way out to the edges. This ensures your tile cuts are at the wall edges rather than the middle.


I always set the first line of tiles out without any adhesive to see where my cut tiles are landing. This should help ensure that you don't end up with any tiny cuts, you can move the mid point accordingly to ensure you have reasonable sized cuts.


Once you have done this, start by applying a generous amount of adhesive to the back of the tile using your notched trowel with strokes at a 45 degree angle for a consistent spread (this is also known as buttering the tile). You will also want to apply some adhesive to the wall where the tile is going to be placed to ensure a solid hold.


Line the tile up with your wall markings, press it firmly against the wall and hold for a few seconds to ensure the tile adheres.


The most methodical way to apply the tile is one horizontal row at a time. Do each tile one by one and remember to place your tile spaces between each one to achieve equal spacing. You will also want to make sure nothing is protruding from the spaces as you’ll be grouting over them.



It’s worth noting that with certain tile patterns, you won’t be able to use standard tile spacers and will need to source one that suits your chosen design.


Your adhesive should take around 24-48 hours to dry completely. You will want to make sure your adhesive is completely dry before you move onto grouting.



Step 5: Cut your Bathroom Tiles

When it comes to the edges and corners in your bathroom, you’re going to need to cut your bathroom tiles to size. To do this, the most important part is to measure.


For this you can either use your tape measure, work out what size the tile needs to be by measuring against the edge of the wall. Or you can hold the tile up to where the cut is going and mark onto the tile directly using a pencil, doing this method will ensure you always get the most accurate measurement.

DIY bathroom tile cutting

If you are using a manual tile cutter, you will want to first score the tile with your tile cutting before making the final cut. Apply a moderate amount of pressure to cut the tile, but not too much as this could result in the tile shattering.


If you are using a mechanical tile saw, you will want to line your markings up within the saw and slowly cut from one side to the other.


I used a manual tile scribe and clamp cutter when I carried out my own bathroom tiling, but I do think buying a proper mechanical tile cutting saw would be a better option if you have a large area to complete.


Step 6: Grouting

Ensure that all your adhesive is dry before you start grouting. The grout you have chosen should have instructions on how to prepare it on the packaging, but the general process is to add water to your bucket and then add the grout bit by bit, mixing it to a thick consistency, similar to the tile adhesive.


Once the grout is prepared, you can start applying to the tile spaces with the grout float. Hold your float at a 45 degree angle and work the grout into the spaces between the tiles. Consistent coverage is important for both appearance and sealing.





If you have flat tiles, the grouting process should be relatively straightforward and methodical. However, if you have chosen tiles with bevelled edges (as I have in the past), such as metro tiles, it is a little more tricky to apply your grout. This is because the float is flat and it’s more difficult to get into the grout lines. In this case, you can use the corner of the float to push the grout into the space. You will need to be patient with it but in the end, taking your time with it will certainly pay off.


Once you have finished pushing the grout into the lines, you will need to use a sponge to clean off all the excess grout from the tile surfaces.



Grouting is a fairly messy job that starts off as good fun, but does become quite time consuming and feels like a bit of a chore. Just stick with it - once you see the end result you’ll be so pleased you took your time!


Top Tip - You can also buy tools to scrape along the grout lines before it dries, which sets the grout back from the tile edge a bit, if you prefer this kind of finish. Personally, I prefer the grout to be flush with the tile.


Additional Tips for Tiling Bathroom Showers

When tiling your bathroom shower, a key consideration is to make sure all the products you choose are waterproof, including the tiles themselves. As mentioned earlier in the article, some tiles lend themselves better to showers than others, so make sure to pick wisely.


Furthermore, when boxing in loo pipes or creating any sort of feature in the bathroom, ensure you use a waterproof board such as Wedi board. This is essentially a bathroom friendly and waterproof backing board similar to plasterboard, which is made from plastic and can be tiled onto.


Step 7: Clean Up & Finish!

And there you have it - DIY bathroom tiling for complete beginners. Hopefully, this article will come in handy when you come to do your first bathroom tiling project.


Doing it yourself takes patience and dedication, but it can really pay off to learn these skills yourself and save you thousands of pounds in the long run.


See some images of my recently completed bathroom below:


Bathroom Tiling FAQs


How much money can you actually save by tiling your bathroom yourself?

I saved thousands renovating my own bathroom, the entire suite cost me around £900 from Victorian Plumbing and the tiles were £120 from Tiles Direct for materials. If I had paid for a plumber and tiler to finish my bathroom it could have cost upwards of £3000.


Doing it yourself is an absolute money saver. It may take longer, but you will need to learn new skills but it's so worth it!


Is it better to tile or paint your bathroom?

Tiling is a good idea for wet areas of the bathroom like the shower and floor, but you can always opt for partial tiling if you prefer.


Should you fit a new toilet and sink before or after tiling?

You will need to know where your fittings are before you start tiling, otherwise it will be difficult to picture the layout and the pattern. However, if you know the size of your fittings, it shouldn’t matter too much either way.





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