Tiling a bathroom – simple tips and guide

Tiles are probably one of the most important parts of any bathroom design. When you consider how much of your bathroom your walls and floors take up you can see why. You can have designer bathroom suites and furniture but without the right choice of tile you just won’t set it in the right scene.

The perfect tile choice is essential and we can help you with that. We recently blogged about the right choice of tile and how different types and colours affect your bathroom’s look and feel.

Tiling your bathroom tends to throw up a few obstacles and we recommend using a professional tiler. But, if you want to tackle it yourself, here are a few pointers from our experience.


How many tiles will you need?

Even if you’re just buying the tiles for a tiler to fit you’ll need to have a good understanding of this and when you’re looking at your budget you’ll need to know how many tiles you’ll need.

First you’ll need to measure the area that is going to be tiled and calculate the area in square metres. (If it’s been a while since school then that’s the length x height of your wall or length x width of your floor.)

This system works fine with smaller tiles, but with larger tiles you run the risk of a far higher percentage of wastage. In this instance we would measure the wall both vertically and horizontally and then divide by the size of the tile. That way you are counting the tiles required for each wall. You will still need to add in extra tiles for wastage or breakages.

Now you have your square metre area you’ll know how much space you’ll be tiling. When you’re buying your tiles just tell your supplier the size or go by the guide price on the tile. Most tile suppliers will show the price of each tile and/or the price per square metre.


Tools you’ll need

Like any job, having the right tools makes it a lot simpler. There’s no one answer to this but here are the basic tools that you’ll need:

  • Tape measure – you’ll need to measure the walls or floor.
  • Pencil – for marking tiles to be cut. Never use a pen (unless it’s a soft water-based one) as this can stain your tile if it is a porous tile that needs to be sealed.
  • Plumb/chalk line – a simple tool to help you create straight lines to tile to.
  • Spirit level – make sure you start your first line of tiles level!
  • Straight edge – Use a straight-edged baton or a metal one to keep your lines straight and level.
  • Tile scriber – used to score a line in your tile to cut to. Mark of the cut with this first.
  • Tile nippers – an essential tool for cutting around awkward areas.
  • Hand tile cutter – This is a combined tool which will do the job of both the above tools. It’s great for cutting less heavy tiles.
  • Tile cutting machine – if you’re going to do it well this is a good investment. It’s water-cooled and exact.
  • Tile file – for smoothing the edges of newly-cut tiles.
  • Pointing trowel – for spreading grout on tiles and plenty of other jobs.
  • A Notched Floating Towel or an Adhesive Spreader – to apply adhesive to your wall. The notches are important as they give you the grooves in the adhesive need for fixing your tile.
  • Rubber hammer – ideal for floor tiles as it won’t break your new floor!
  • Squeegee and sponge – tiles need grout pushing into the gaps (squeegee) and excess grout washing off (sponge).
  • Spacer pegs – essential to keep all your gaps symmetrical. Small plastic crosses available in bags by the 1000s.


Preparation and surfaces

Your preparation is key and makes the final finish better. Take time to get this right. The area that you’re tiling to is important here as different areas require a different approach. Here’s a quick guide:

  • Concrete – Never tile onto new concrete (allow 6 weeks). Your concrete surface must be level. Ensure it’s clean and free from grit before you start. You will need to seal the concrete with a suitable sealer. This will depend on the adhesive you are using.
  • Wooden floors – You can tile directly onto a wooden floor, however all of the floorboards need to be securely fixed. We prefer to apply a plywood layer onto floorboards before tiling.  That way we can tie all of the floorboards together and make a more stable floor.
  • Screeds – Screeds must be dry and free from dust but also require a primer. Check with your tile supplier as different screeds need a different primer.
  • Underfloor heating – Your underfloor heating membrane must be completely encapsulated before you start. After you’ve tiled your floor ensure that the heating is not used during the ‘curing period’ when the tile grout will set.


Once you’ve assessed the surface that you’re tiling onto you’ll need to make sure it’s level. Tiling to an uneven surface won’t give you a good finish so levelling up your wall or floor is an important part of your prep.


Floor tiles

Start your first line of tiles in the middle of your floor. This should be where your eye naturally falls and where you will base the rest of your tiling from. Pay attention to doors, walls and units that may get in the way of this centre line. The idea is to have this line as perfect and undisturbed as possible.

Work out where the tiles will end up and try to avoid small cuts or slithers in the corners as they’re tricky and look unsightly. Planning this first line is important to the overall finish too.


Wall tiles

With wall tiles you’ll need to assess your area in more detail. Look at the windows and corners and try to avoid thin cuts where the eye can see.

With a window, start from the window and work out so that the complete tile starts at the window and have the cut tiles in the corners on above the skirting board. You will have to have half or quarter tiles, but having them out of sight is better.

You will also find that sometimes you centre the tile to the wall and sometimes you centre a grout joint. Sometimes you will need to do a combination of the two when you consider the vertical and horizontal lines.

  1. Start your first line at the lowest point you’re working to (like a bath top or skirting board) and measure with a spirit level.
  2. Find the centre of your wall by measuring it and starting halfway.
  3. The draw a centre line up with a spirit level from your starting point.
  4. Now you will have a cross which you can tile out from.
  5. Apply your tile adhesive to your wall and tile along the horizontal line.
  6. Use your tile spacers to give you the correct gap in between the tiles (you can push these in after you have pushed the tile into the adhesive).
  7. You may need to add a straight piece of timber along the line to keep larger tiles from slipping down. Just tack the baton to your wall and remove later.
  8. Once you’ve finished your wall, leave your adhesive to set for a little while to allow the adhesive to start to go off before you remove the excess adhesive with a sponge and to remove the tile spacers. Don’t leave it overnight as you will then struggle to get the set adhesive off the tiles.
  9. Then allow your adhesive to set completely (around 24 hours) and then grout the gaps in between the tiles.


… simple, right?


The areas that cause most of the difficulties are the corners or around units and pipes. With the right tools and preparation you will be able to tile your wall or floor, but if you need professional help then come and visit Alan Heath and Sons in our Coventry showroom or give us a call.