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How do you prep plaster walls for ceramic tile?

I want to remodel my ugly bathroom and need help. I own an American foursquare built in 1906. The bathroom walls are plaster on lathe; the previous owner put wallpaper on the upper half, and the lower half has what I believe are thin plastic tiles that were painted-over. I peeled a portion of the wallpaper, and uncovered another coating (paper?) which is glossy and is separating from the plaster. Do I need to remove this coating to get to the bare walls? I want to put ceramic tile over the entire length of the wall in the shower area, but I want to leave the wall intact. What do I need to do to the wall to prepare it for tiling? Do I have to remove the plastic tiles? What is the best product to use? I plan on putting up wainscoting over the plastic tiles on the other areas of the bathroom. Can I do this without removing the plastic tiles?

Re: How do you prep plaster walls for ceramic tile?


Welcome to the forum.

You'll need some sort of waterproofing for the "wet" areas as in the tub surround and shower area. I suggest you head on over to the John Bridge Tile Forum where you can find a great library chock full of information, along with speedy answers to your posts. The JBforum also allows you to post pictures much more easily, which will be a great help in your circumstance.

Re: How do you prep plaster walls for ceramic tile?

Let me add to Houston's remark: not a good idea to attach tiles to paper or plastic, either you remove them or install hardieback. The new tiles will stick to this very well.

Re: How do you prep plaster walls for ceramic tile?

my situation was similar; I had 1907 plaster/lath, with Abitibi board glued on the lower portion with dabs of construction adhesive 20 yrs. earlier, and wallpaper above. It tore all the accretions out, repaired the old plaster, and primed it with oil primer, then tiled over it to 42" ht. with subways. The upper portion of the wall got more significant plaster resurfacing since it got paint. A limited area like a bathroom is not too bad to get really smooth.
A modified thinset sticks perfectly well to fresh clean primer.

Re: How do you prep plaster walls for ceramic tile?

Thanks for the help. For the tub/shower area, I want to put up 1/4 inch Durarock over the entire wall, covering the plastic tiles and the plaster. Can I do this, or do I have to remove the plastic tiles? Other sites I checked say that 1/2 inch Durarock is needed for the walls. Why?

Also, can someone tell me exactly what material is covering the plaster? Do I need to remove this completely or just the areas that are cracked? Is it safe to remove (ie, should I be concerned if there is lead paint or asbestos tiles?).

I appreciate any advice!

Re: How do you prep plaster walls for ceramic tile?

I'd go with 1/2" thick, because of the weight factor.

Just make sure that your durock is screws into the studs. Mark your studs and use those special screws for durock, long enough to go at least an inch into the studs, a screw every 6" or as specified. Don't worry about the plastic.

If your finished tile surface extends out a bit from the wall, you can use a deep trim around it.

Things to watch for:
- make sure your durocks are plumbed.

- pay attention around the faucet and spout, so they're not buried too deep.

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