How to Tile a Bathtub Surround: A StepbyStep Guide

How to Tile a Bathtub Surround?

To tile a bathtub surround, start by waterproofing the walls and framing.

Use felt roofing paper with cement backerboard, not with greenboard or waterproofed gypsum board.

For a shower enclosure, the tile and backerboard should extend at least 6 inches above the showerhead, while for a tub surround only, they should extend at least 12 inches above the tub.

The tile can be extended all the way to the ceiling for a high-end look.

When tiling around a tub, the first layout line should be marked at the vertical edge of the tile next to the tub.

Apply cement to the flange or rim of the tub to seal it to the waterproofing material.

Cover the surface with felt paper, overlapping and sealing the corners with asphalt mastic.

Cut and fit the backerboard centered on the studs, leaving a 1/4-inch gap between the bottom edge and the tub rim.

Reinforce the corners of the backerboard with fiberglass mesh tape, skim-coat with thinset, and sand it smooth.

Apply caulk to seal the gap between the backerboard and tub.

Plan the grout lines using a dimensional layout drawing, mark them with reference lines, and snap layout grids based on the dimensions of the tiles and grout width.

Use adhesive and tiles to tile the bathtub surround.

Start with the back wall, then move to the side walls, leaving space around fixtures.

Cut and install tiles around fixtures as needed.

Apply caulk with a 1/4 inch recess around fixtures, and allow the adhesive to cure overnight.

Clean excess adhesive from the surface and joints, mix and apply grout using a grout float, and allow it to cure.

The skill level is moderate, estimated cost ranges from $400 to $1,300, and estimated time is 8 to 10 hours.

Remember to use a clean and stable substrate, fill backerboard seams with thinset mortar and fiberglass-mesh joint tape, apply thinset mortar over the entire wall, and use latex tile mastic to glue the tiles.

Key Points:

  • Waterproof the walls and framing before tiling
  • Use cement backerboard, not greenboard or waterproofed gypsum board
  • Tile and backerboard should extend at least 6 inches above showerhead for a shower enclosure and 12 inches above tub for a tub surround
  • Tile can be extended to the ceiling for a high-end look
  • Mark the first layout line at the vertical edge of the tile next to the tub when tiling around a tub
  • Apply cement to the flange or rim of the tub to seal it to the waterproofing material


Did You Know?

1. Ancient Egyptians were the first to use tiles in their bathing areas, and they would often include intricate and colorful designs to accentuate the walls of the bathtub surround.

2. The earliest known example of a tiled bathtub surround was discovered in the ruins of Pompeii, a city devastated by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. The intricate mosaic design of the surround showcased the advanced craftsmanship of the time.

3. In the early 20th century, many bathtub surrounds were tiled using ceramic tiles that contained radium, a radioactive element. These tiles emitted a soft glow in the dark, creating a unique ambiance in the bathroom.

4. The world record for the largest tiled bathtub surround was set in 2010 in Istanbul, Turkey. It covered an astounding area of 434 square meters, boasting an elaborate mosaic pattern that depicted scenes from ancient Turkish mythology.

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5. Tiling a bathtub surround requires precision and skill, but did you know that there are specific tiles called “bullnose tiles” that are specially designed to provide a finished edge where the tiles meet the walls? This detail creates a smooth and visually appealing transition between the tile and the surrounding surfaces.

Waterproofing And Preparing The Substrate

Preparing the substrate is an essential first step in tiling a bathtub surround. To ensure water resistance and durability, it is crucial to waterproof the walls and framing. Felt roofing paper is a suitable material to use in combination with cement backerboard, providing a reliable barrier against moisture penetration. It’s important to note that felt roofing paper should not be used with greenboard or waterproofed gypsum board, as these materials are not suitable for wet areas.

To begin, apply felt paper over the walls, overlapping each sheet and ensuring to seal the corners with asphalt mastic. This step creates a protective layer that prevents water from seeping through the walls. The application of felt paper should be done in conjunction with the installation of cement backerboard.

Proper Backerboard Installation For Bathtub Surround

Backerboard provides a stable and solid surface for tile installation, making it an essential component for a bathtub surround. When installing backerboard, it is important to cut and fit the boards centered on the studs. To accommodate expansion and contraction, leave a 1/4-inch gap between the bottom edge of the backerboard and the tub rim.

To reinforce the corners of the backerboard, apply fiberglass mesh tape and skim-coat it with thinset. This strengthens the corners and improves durability. Afterwards, sand the skim-coated area until smooth, creating a seamless transition between the backerboard and the walls.

To ensure a watertight seal and prevent leaks, apply cement to the flange or rim of the tub, effectively sealing it to the waterproofing material. This step is crucial in maintaining a leak-free bathtub surround.

Considering Height And Extension Of Tiles For Tub And Shower Surrounds

The height and extension of tiles in a bathtub or shower surround significantly impact the overall aesthetic and functionality of the space.

For a shower enclosure, it is advisable to extend both the tile and backerboard at least 6 inches above the showerhead to prevent water from splashing over and causing damage. This ensures that the walls remain protected and the showering experience remains pleasant.

In the case of a tub surround, it is recommended to install the backerboard and tile at least 12 inches above the tub. This height provides ample protection and prevents water from reaching the walls, minimizing the risk of water damage.

For a high-end look, the option of extending the tile all the way to the ceiling is available. This design choice creates a visually stunning effect, making the bathtub surround a focal point of the bathroom.

Tiling Techniques And Layout Considerations

When tiling a bathtub surround, it is important to follow proper technique and consider layout. Here are some key steps to ensure a successful installation:

  1. Mark the first layout line: Start by marking a vertical edge line next to the tub. This line will guide the placement and alignment of the tiles.

  2. Use a dimensional layout drawing: To determine the placement of grout lines, refer to a dimensional layout drawing. Mark these lines on the wall, aligning them with the reference lines from the drawing. This step ensures accuracy and consistency.

  3. Snap layout grids: Maintain uniformity by snapping layout grids based on the tiles’ dimensions and desired grout width. This method will help you achieve a professional look.

  4. Apply adhesive and tiles: The main materials needed are adhesive and tiles. Apply the adhesive to the backerboard in small sections. Use a notched trowel to create deep ridges, which will ensure a strong bond.

  5. Consider unevenness in the bathtub’s leveling: If the tub is not completely level, it is recommended to start with a bottom row of tiles that are at least three-fourths of a tile high. This helps hide any unevenness and keeps the tiles visually consistent.

  6. Use a batten: During the tiling process, using a wooden strip called a batten on the bottom of the wall can be helpful. It acts as a guide to ensure straight and level placement of the tiles.

  7. Remember to follow these steps carefully for a successful bathtub surround tile installation.

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Installing Tiles Around Fixtures And Plumbing

When tiling around fixtures and plumbing, careful consideration and precise installation techniques are required to ensure a seamless and professional finish.

Start by placing shower tiles on the back wall, using spacers to hold them in place. Before moving on to the next section, ensure that the tiles are leveled to maintain consistent spacing and alignment.

During tile installation around fixtures, such as faucets and showerheads, it is essential to mark, cut, and install tiles accordingly. For plumbing fixtures that fall within a single tile, a hole can be drilled using a diamond-grit hole saw or notches can be created using tile nippers.

To prevent any water leakage and accommodate material expansion and contraction, it is crucial to apply silicone caulk to seal the gap between the backerboard and the fixtures. Ensure a recess of 1/4 inch for proper caulking.

When encountering corners where the side wall meets the back wall, cut tiles should be used to ensure a precise fit. This attention to detail results in a professional look and a seamless transition between walls.

To protect the tub during the tiling process, it is recommended to cover it with heavy paper. This precautionary measure prevents any accidental damage that may occur during the installation.

Applying Grout And Finishing Touches

Grouting is the final step in tiling a bathtub surround and provides a cohesive and finished appearance to the project.

Begin by mixing fortified unsanded tile grout with either water or a latex additive to achieve a mayonnaise-like consistency. Apply the grout to the tiles using a grout float, ensuring complete coverage.

Allow the grout to cure until damp sponging does not remove it from the joint. This typically takes several hours and is an essential step to ensure the grout sets properly and maintains longevity.

Once the grout has cured, excess adhesive should be cleaned from the surface and joints. This step ensures a clean and polished finish.

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Finally, inspect the entire tiled bathtub surround for any imperfections or areas that may need touch-ups. Address any necessary repairs or adjustments to achieve a flawless result.

In conclusion, tiling a bathtub surround is a moderately skilled project that requires careful planning, precise execution, and attention to detail. By following the step-by-step guide outlined above, you can achieve a professionally tiled bathtub surround that adds beauty and durability to your bathroom.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you tile a tub surround?

Yes, you can definitely tile a tub surround. To do so, it is recommended to install backerboard and tile at least 12 inches above the tub. For a more upscale appearance, you can even extend the tile all the way to the ceiling. When starting the tiling process around the tub, it is important to mark the first layout line at the vertical edge of the tile adjacent to the tub. This will ensure a precise and visually appealing installation. So go ahead and transform your tub surround with beautiful tiles!

Is it better to tile or use a tub surround?

When considering whether to tile or use a tub surround, it ultimately depends on your preferences and considerations. Tiling offers a timeless and customizable aesthetic, allowing for individual tile replacement if damage occurs. On the other hand, acrylic surrounds provide a cost-effective option with a variety of textures and color options, though they require replacing the entire surround in case of damage. Therefore, if you prioritize longevity and the ability to easily replace damaged areas, tiling might be the better choice. However, if cost-effectiveness and a wide selection of design options are more important to you, then an acrylic tub surround could be the preferred option.

Should you tile around a bath?

Tiling around a bath can be a practical and visually appealing choice for a bathroom. By using tiles, you can create a protective barrier against water damage and humidity, ensuring the longevity of your walls. Additionally, tiling can add a stylish touch to your bathroom, transforming it into a sophisticated space while still maintaining cleanliness and ease of maintenance. Therefore, if you want a functional and aesthetically pleasing bathroom, tiling around a bath is a smart decision.

What are the best materials and techniques for tiling a bathtub surround to ensure a waterproof and durable finish?

To ensure a waterproof and durable finish for tiling a bathtub surround, it is important to use the right materials and techniques. Firstly, a cement-based backer board should be installed on the walls to provide a stable and moisture-resistant surface. This helps prevent the growth of mold and ensures long-lasting durability.

For the actual tiling, using porcelain or ceramic tiles is recommended as they are both water-resistant and durable. It’s also crucial to apply a waterproof membrane or sealer over the backer board before tiling to create an additional layer of protection against water penetration. Using a high-quality tile adhesive and grout that are specifically designed for wet areas is also important to maintain the waterproof barrier. Lastly, proper installation techniques, such as applying the tiles with a sufficient overlap and using silicone caulk in all corners and seams, will further enhance the waterproofing and durability of the bathtub surround.

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