Shower Tile Installation Tips & Tricks

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If you’re going to be doing DIY shower tile installation, you need to read this post. It’s full of tips and tricks of how to tile a shower, including how to waterproof a shower and apply shower caulk!


Let’s start out by chatting about…

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How to Waterproof a Bathtub?

During your shower tile installation, be sure you water proof your shower. You can accomplish it by stapling a visqueen barrier directly onto the studs underneath the cement backer board. As an additional safety net to waterproof a shower, you can also add DAP Silicone Max over the screws on the backer board.


Why do you use cement backer board when doing shower tile installation?

When installing tile, you need a backer that is going to accept the thinset mortar, which is how your tile will adhere to the wall.

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How do you attach the concrete backer board?

After you get your visqueen barrier stapled to the studs, you can attach the cement board using cement board screws where the studs are located and space them out every 6-8 inches. Start your first cement board screw within 1/2” – 2 1/2” from the edge of the backer board (per manufacturer instructions on the Wonderboard we used).

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How do you handle the seams of cement board when doing shower tile installation?

Cover all of the corners and seams of the cement board in the shower with cement board tape and then cover with thinset mortar using the flat side of the trowel. 

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Shower Tile Installation Tips & Tricks

-Select the right tile size. Your shower tile size correlates directly with how intense your shower tile installation process will be

- If you have your heart set on a smaller sized tile look, consider purchasing the tile in mosaics – which means that they will be grouped together on a mat, which makes it a little faster to install. 

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- Make sure all things are nice and level.

- The bottom row of tile needs to be perfectly level, take your time on this one.

- Continue working way up the shower with the tile.

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We used a prefabricated shower niche insert that was pretty easy to install. All you do is place in between your studs and screw in. 

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Grouting Shower Tile

After the shower tile is being installed, wait for 24 hours to dry before you grout. Spread the grout over the tile and push it down using a rubber float held at 45 degrees so it gets in all of the gaps in between the tile. Then wipe clean with a wet sponge.

**Be sure you read the manufacturer’s instructions for how long you should let the grout set before wiping with a wet sponge.** 

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What to do if your grout hardens too quickly before you wipe it off?

It comes handy to have a grout removal tool to just scrape the hardened grout off the tile and clean up the grout lines, then razor blade.


At this point, you want to take a look at your grout lines and make sure they are nice and clean. Fix anything as necessary, then wait at least 2 hours and wash the grout haze off of the tile with a grout haze cleaner.

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How to Caulk a Shower?

- Make sure the area you’re going to seal is clean and dry. 

-It’s a good idea to add painter’s tape to both sides of the seam before adding the shower caulk.

-Cut the nozzle of the Kwik Seal Ultra caulk at a 45 degree angle and load into your caulk gun.

-Hold the caulk gun at a 45 degree angle to the joint and gently squeeze the trigger with steady pressure to apply an even and consistent bead of sealant.

-Move the caulk gun slowly and steadily, filling the joint with sealant.

-Immediately after adding the caulk, smooth the bead of shower caulk with your finger slightly wet or you can grab a caulk finishing tool.

-Be sure to remove the tape while the shower caulk is still wet.

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Where do you add the shower caulk?

When adding shower caulk, be sure to get any joints or corners. Where the bathtub meets the tile wall, where the bath tub meets the tile flooring, all corners, ceiling and in all corners of a shower niche.


Shower tile installation is a pretty labor intensive home improvement project, you can definitely save a TON of money by doing this yourself if you’re willing to take your time and do your research.


If you love these DIY shower tile installation tips and want to learn more like it, be sure to check out all of my DIY tutorials in the archives here!

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Chelsea @ Making Manzanita

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Have a question about this project?

1 question
  • Robyn Garner
    on Apr 22, 2019

    A question about the niche - where does it fall with regard to the waterproof membrane and the concrete board? It looks as though you cut away the cement board to install it. Is that correct? And is it also correct that the prefab niche itself is waterproof and able to accept thin set mortar for tile so the backer board is unnecessary?

    Thanks!

    • Chelsea @ Making Manzanita
      on Apr 22, 2019

      Hi Robyn. Yes we cut the backer board around the niche, which is prefab. Per the installation instructions of the niche, we applied silicone to the edges and all screw holes on the niche. It is made to have the mortar applied directly to it so no need to line the niche with backer. :)

Join the conversation

2 comments
  • William
    on Apr 17, 2019

    Lots of good tips. On thing is NOT to use a barrier under the backer board. Any moisture can get trapped there and start to promote mold and rot over time. Even a little condensation can start the damage. An in wall faucet or shower drip. Waterproofing is done on the surface of the backer board. Other wise it's a job well done.

  • Becky
    on Apr 20, 2019

    I am not a fan of subway tile but love your insert and the job done looks fantastic!

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