Installing Wall Tile

How To Install Wall Tile

wall tile installInstalling wall tiles in a kitchen or bath creates a beautiful and durable wall covering. Wall tile can be installed over many types of wall materials like, cement backer board, drywall, cement blocks, and concrete depending on the use of the room.

This article teaches you how to install wall tiles.






brief how to

In this article, you will find information about:

  1. Prepare The Wall Surface For Tile

  2. Layout The Tile Pattern On The Wall

  3. Installing Wall Tile

  4. Cutting Tiles

  5. Grouting Wall Tile

  6. Sealing Wall Tile

tools and materials

  • Ceramic tile, Travertine tile or Glass tiles
  • Wall mastic or modified thinset mortar
  • 1/8" square notched trowel
  • Green Wallboard or Cement Backer Board
  • Pencil
  • Level
  • Tile Saw or Tile cutter if you are working with ceramic tile
  • Grouting, Rubber float
  • Sponge
  • Water Bucket
  • Grout
  • Caulk colored the same as your grout color
  • Tile Nippers
  • Fiberglass tape
  • Thin set mortar

step 1 Prepare The Wall Surface For Tile

Recommended Wall Substrate Materials: The surface under your tile is as important at the tile on top so you need to be sure to install the correct backer for your new tile. If you are simply installing a tile backsplash over a kitchen or bathroom counter top then you will be fine sticking the tiles to the existing drywall.

These are the most common areas for wall tiles and the recommended substrates:

  • Shower Walls: Cement backer board
  • Shower Ceilings: Cement backer board
  • Bathtub Surround: (no shower) Green board drywall is ok but cement backer board up to the height of your wall tiles is better.
  • Bathroom Backsplash: Drywall
  • Kitchen Backsplash: Drywall

Existing Backsplash Conditions: Another consideration is the possible need to remove the existing 4" backslpash that was installed with the counter tops or a row of wall tiles on a tub surround. If there is an existing backsplash you will probably want to remove it before installing the new wall tile backsplash. If the counter tops are plastic laminate and the splash is formed into the counter top then you will need to keep the back splash in place and start the tile on top of it.

step 2 Layout The Tile Pattern, First On The Counter Top Then On The Wall

Determining where the tiles and tile joints will start and stop on the walls is important, especially if you are installing a tile medallion or simply want a balanced look. There are several ways to pick the perfect tile layout depending on your walls and the design or look you want to achieve.

  • Centering the pattern and work toward the edges: This is most common when installing a mosaic medallion over a kitchen stove or on the floor of a shower or home entry. Draw a vertical line on the wall marking where the center tile will start and work outwards in both directions from that point. When working from the center of a wall to a corner on each side, like in a shower, you may want to center the center tile and then cut the tiles at each end. Make sure it is centered perfectly so the tiles on the ends are the same size.
  • Start with a full tile at the most visible end: This is typically used when starting at the end of a kitchen or bath counter top. You will start at the most visible end and put the cut tiles in the corner under the cabinets. It may be necessary to draw a line with a pencil where the first row of tiles will start, this line will be covered by the caulking before you are finished.
  • Work on the countertop or floor: Lay the tiles on the floor or counter top exactly as they will be installed on the wall. Try to place the tiles directly in front of their location on the wall. It is much easier to place the tiles and lay them out from end to end before they have mastic on them.

step 3 Installing Wall Tile

Where you start sticking the tile to the wall depends on whether you are installing a tile feature like a medallion or you are simply installing a more simple row of tiles that can start at a corner. Make sure you have your tile layout starting point marked well and try to not cover too much of the marks up when you put tile mastic on the wall.

  • Use the notched trowel to put mastic on the wall over a large enough area to be able to set wall tiles before the surface of the mastic dries out.
  • Start at the lowest level, either the floor, tub, or counter top and install a complete row of tiles.
  • Apply mastic to the back side of each tile just before you place it on the wall.
  • Press each tile into the mastic and wiggle it a bit to be sure that it is fully seated.
  • Use tile spacers to make the desired grout joint size, gravity will try to pull the tiles down.

step 4 Cutting Tiles

Have the tile saw set up and make any necessary tile cuts as you set the tiles, like when you bump into a electrical outlet and need to cut the tile around it. There are several tools used to cut tile. To find out a detailed explanation read the article How To Cut Tile. These are the most typical types of cuts to make on ceramic and stone tile and the best tool to cut with.

Make straight cuts: with a manual tile cutter or a wet tile saw.

Curved areas or inside corners on a tile piece like around a electrical outlet are most easily cut with a wet saw.

Cutting small pieces of tile off a larger piece for round cuts are best cut with tile nippers or a wet saw by holding the tile at an angle against the saw blade.

step 5 Grouting Wall Tile

Wait over night and then get ready to grout the tile. Grout comes in two flavors, sanded or non sanded. The sand in the grout helps strengthen the grout when it needs to span larger grout joints, just like stones in concrete.

  • Sanded Grout: Used for grout joints larger than 1/8"
  • Non Sanded Grout: Used for grout joints 1/8" or smaller

Mixing Grout: Mix the grout according to the manufactures instructions. It should be creamy and pliable like pudding.

Spread Grout Into Tile Joints: Use the rubber trowel to spread the grout across the face of the tiles and into the grout joints. Spread the grout into the tile joints by pushing the grout at a 45 degree angle to the tile joints. Make sure to push the grout in different directions on each joint so that you are sure to embed the grout the full depth of the joint, making sure it is stuck to both sides of the tiles on each side of the joint. Don't worry about some of the grout joints having more grout than others, we will create uniform grout joints in the next step with the wet sponge.

Sponge Work: Use a wet sponge to wipe across the surface of the grout joints. Don't scrub the tiles, rather you should pull the sponge across the surface of the tiles and grout joints in one sweeping motion. After each pass you should rinse the sponge out in water. This grouting trick will create uniform grout joints and a much cleaner tile surface that is easier to clean up.

step 6 Sealing Wall Tile

Clean The Tile: Let the grout dry over night and then use a clean damp rag to wipe down the tile, there will be alot of grout dust on the surface and grout sealer will bond the dust with stone tiles and make it a bit harder to remove from ceramic tiles.

Grout and Tile Sealer: After the tile is clean and the grout joints have dried it is important to apply grout sealer, and /or tile sealer if you are using a stone tile like travertine. If you are using ceramic tile you only need to apply sealer to the grout joints. Grout sealer helps the grout repel water and dirt or food.

Grout sealer should be re-applied yearly to keep the grout joints in good condition.

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