How to Tile Around a Tub
Step-by-step instructions for installing wall tile around a bathtub
Tile is the most popular choice for walls in new and remodeled baths because it's impervious to water, extremely stain-resistant, easy to clean, and available in dozens of colors, sizes and styles. With the right tools and materials —and the patience to lay out the tiles properly—tiling a bath or shower surround is a job that most homeowners can pull off.
For the project shown here, we enlisted the help of tile contractor Joe Ferrante, who has been laying tile for This Old House projects since 1986. The first and most important step for tiling bathroom walls, insists Ferrante, is to start with a clean, stable substrate. He then fills the backer board seams with thinset mortar and embeds fiberglass-mesh joint tape int he mortar. Finally, to ensure a strong, long-lasting bond for the new tiles, Ferrante goes one step further and trowels thinset mortar over the entire wall.
For this installation, Ferrante used 4¼-inch-square ceramic tiles,the most common and easiest-to-install bath tiles. However, the methods shown here work on any wall tiles, including stone and glass. Ferrante glued the tiles to the backer board with latex tile mastic, not thinset mortar. Mastic is much stickier than mortar, so you won't have to worry about the tiles sliding down the wall.