Bathroom And Shower Room Wall Tiling Tips

Having a new bathroom tiled?

The following article is in response to all the people that are actually considering having new tiling for for the first time round and for those of you that want a decent job done.

Read on and you can spare yourself lots of anguish and desperation (and some money too).

It is now quite often when I go to price a tiling job that I have to advise people on some problem on carrying out the work. The typical hotspots are:

  • bath out of level
  • fitted showers
  • shower trays and baths with excessive gap between these and the walls
  • lipped shower trays not set in
  • shower unit/controls at the wrong height
  • radiators, towel rail, basin already fitted, toilet pan height and servicing
  • old tiles still in place after having a new suite installed

How can the above hotspots interfere with the tiling you may ask. Well, it goes like this:

“Bath out of level”

One of the first things that I do when starting a bathroom wall tile installation, is to put my long spirit level on and along the perimeter of the bath. What I found often is that the bath is badly out of level, sometimes dropping towards the plug hole and on fewer occasions dropping opposite to the plug hole. Of all of the baths I have seen to date I have not yet seen a bath that has not got a natural internal fall in order to drain the water, so I cannot see a valid reason for not having the top of the bath level. It must be said though, that occasionally, some baths are simply badly built. No much thought has been given for accommodating the tiles

If the tiles to be installed are a medium to large size and have no strong pattern, then is not a problem for the tiler. He/she would just need to trim the tiles accordingly to the fall but if the level is too much out you can have problem when installing a bath/shower screen onto the bath edge.

if on the other hand you are installing mosaic or tiles with lines or strong patterns, the tiling will look awful as even the smallest level difference along the bath length will be very noticeable. When dealing with mosaic, doing cuts means more time and money.

“Fitted shower”

I is important to have the tiles to go behind the unit as this can avoid water penetration in the wall/s. Some showers have the hot and cold pipes covered with a plate. On these type of shower units tiling must be done before the unit is fitted as the tile can be drilled neatly to accommodate the pipe work; if not, the tiles will need to be cut in a way that will have to show an unsightly finish. If the plumber is fitting a new shower unit ask him/her to allow for the pipe work to protrude from the wall more than it is needed, then to wait for the tiling to be done before final installation. I have had situations where the shower has been fitted, without even allowing for the tile thickness between the cover plates and the wall.

“Shower trays and baths with excessive gap”

When installing baths or trays make sure to have very little gap from them to the walls otherwise you might end up using either too much silicone or having to install a bath trim. I am not in favour of these bath/shower trims or tile beads as I have found the baths and trays can move downwards causing the trim to separate and capillary action allowing water to draw into the walls. If you find that the bath or tray is not fitting tight to the walls it is likely that it is due to the right angled wall not being square to the other or that the wall is bulging. It is standard practice to slightly bed in the bath/tray into the wall; just enough for the gap to close. This also helps “hold” the bath/tray in place. Many times you would only need to channel one wall only. This is when the internal corner of the wall is not square. Again, only set the tray into the wall until the gap closes. Care must be taken not to inset the bath too much as you might have problem with the taps distance to the wall, hence preventing clear access on opening and closing them. Also, pay attention to the shower tray as if you inset this too much, you might have problems later fitting the shower screen.

“Lipped shower trays not set in”

Lipped showers are those trays that have an upstand along 2 or more sides.

These trays are supposed to be containing the water within the tray and avoiding water leakage into the adjoining walls. In theory this is great but I have carried out a number of tiling repairs due to this type of tray. The reason why there has been some problem with this type of tray is because of poor plumbing installation. On a few occasions the tray was placed against the walls (not inset into the wall). On other occasions the fitter did not inset the tray enough into the walls. I have noticed that there usually is a considerable lateral movement once I step on the tray during tile installation. This causes the tray’s upright lip to move (from inside outwards) towards the tile and doing so, de-bonding the first row of tiles and in turn allowing water to penetrate in the wall, causing problems. The only way not to have any problem with this type of tray is to make sure that the tray is set in the wall more than the lateral movement allows. Care must be taken not to go too deep in the wall as the shower screen might not fit inside the tray.

“Shower unit/controls at the wrong height”

A common problem that can be avoided is the placing of the shower controls height onto the walls. As it is important for the user to have the controls at the right height one overlooked situation is the height of the tile border. If there is no border then it’s not a problem but if you are considering installing a tile border, then get the tiler to relay with the plumber as you don’t want to spoil the border being interrupted by the controls. If the border is thicker than the main tiles then you can have more problems with the control’s cover plates not seating flush, also if the border is thicker than the tiles the tiler will need to know where the shower/bath screen will be going exactly as that part of the border where the screen will cover must not be tiled or the screen won’t seat flush.

“Radiators, towel rail, basin already fitted, toilet pan height and servicing”

On situations where basin, towel rail radiators and toilet are fitted, this is where a lot of time will need to be spent as it (unless removed) will require to cut around these items (if possible). Here if planned in advance the tiling would need to be carried out BEFORE the final plumbing installation. Reality is that many plumbers want to get in and out as soon as possible not worrying about the tiling (after all, they are not doing it, are they!). If you are going to have the floor tiled then you MUST have the basin (pedestal), toilet pan and any surface mounted radiator OFF the floor and the plumbing already prepared for the new floor height. If the existing floor is made of wood, then there is a big chance that the floor will go up around 1″ – about 25 mm but can only be assessed during the estimate or quote.

“Old tiles still in place after having a new suite installed”

This is another thing overlooked.

You have planned your project for a long time, the workers get in to replace the old bathroom suite with the one you really wanted for a long time. They remove the first row of tiles abutting the old suite and install the new one. Job done.

It is beyond belief that some people can do this. “The tiler can take the tiles off”.

It must be appreciated that removing tiles after a new bathroom suite has been installed is no easy task and the risk of damage to it can be considerable. Also, at times, some sections of walls may need to be replaced or repaired according to the surface type and adhesive strength. Make sure that the tiles ARE removed prior to the new installation.

The same applies to kitchen installations.