How To Lay Bathroom Tiles

Removing an old spa made room for a shower cubicle and new loo. 

The spa in this bathroom was only used as a shower space and was taking up room that could be used more efficiently. 

And while there was a separate toilet in the house, removing the spa from this bathroom created space for an additional loo. 

The tiles on the wall were thick, and in order to remove them it was necessary to take off the plasterboard right back to the studs. 

New insulation and wet-area plasterboard were installed before the waterproofing could be applied.

The slate floor was mostly level, so coating it with a self-levelling compound meant tiles could be laid directly on top, which was much easier than demolishing the slate.

Planning the makeover 

Before starting on the reno, the lighting, heating and colour scheme were worked out in advance. 

LIGHTING The single recessed light over the vanity was not bright enough, so it was replaced with three warm white LED recessed downlights. 

The light bulb hanging from the ceiling and a plastic ventilation fan were both removed and replaced with a combined light, heat light and vent fan in a stainless steel finish. 

HEATING Before the renovation an oil-filled electric heater had been sitting on the floor with its power cord trailing to a socket above the sink. 

It looked untidy and obstructed the vanity drawers. A wall-mounted electric heater was installed to free up floor space and improve safety. 

COLOUR To avoid trendy shades that might date, sand-coloured floor tiles and alabaster wall tiles were installed. 

The other walls hadn’t been tiled, so they were used to inject colour into the room and can be easily repainted to change the look.   

How To Waterproof Wet Areas 

For any wet-area makeover, making sure the surfaces are properly waterproofed is essential. 

Apply the appropriate primer to the walls and floor then a bead of wet-area silicone to all wall and floor joints up to tiling level. 

Protect areas prone to movement like wall and floor joints, drains and pipe outlets by embedding a joint band or mat into the first layer of waterproofing membrane.

TIP Some local councils require waterproofing work to be carried out by licensed professionals, so always check what applies in your area.  

Step 1. Apply waterproofing membrane 

Use a paintbrush to apply a waterproofing membrane to all horizontal and vertical movement joints. Coat the floor and wall joints, waste outlets and floor penetrations with a 1.5mm film of membrane to 75mm wide on either side.

Waterproof wet areas, how to lay bathroom tiles, handyman magazine
Use a paintbrush to apply waterproofing membrane to horizontal and vertical movement joints


Step 2. Set corner bands 

Set corner bands using ready made waterproofing corners to lay banding in tricky areas and ensure a rupture-free seal. Set internal
and external corner bands plus pipe sleeves into the first coat of membrane while it is still wet.

set corner bands, waterproofing the bathroom, how to lay bathroom tiles, handyman magazine,
Set corner bands using ready made waterproofing corners to lay banding in tricky areas 

Step 3. Seal the joints 

Seal the joints with cut lengths of straight waterproof banding, overlapping the corner bands and bedding it into the wet membrane. Apply a coat of membrane to the walls and floor and let dry then apply a second coat to the entire area.

seal the joints, waterproofing the bathroom, how to lay bathroom tiles, handyman magazine,
Seal the joints with cut lengths of straight waterproof banding

How to lay bathroom tiles 

Step 1. Lay base wall tiles

Check the corners for plumb then draw a vertical setout line that reduces corner cutting. Draw a horizontal line on the walls at the top of the base tile. Lay two rows with spacers using the lines as a guide then check for level.

Step 2. Spread wall adhesive

Use an 8mm notched trowel to spread tile adhesive in an upward motion. Follow the plumb line, bedding the tiles with an up and down push to expel any air then align using spacers, laying one row at a time.

Step 3. Grout wall tiles

Mix grout to a creamy consistency and work it into the joints diagonally with a sponge float. When the adhesive starts to set, clean the tiles twice using a sponge and water. Let the grout dry then wash the tiles with warm water.

Step 4. Set out floor tiles

Draw two perpendicular setout lines on the floor using a builder’s square. Here, a line was set at a right angle to the shower drainage channel.
TIP Position the lines to avoid having to make cuts for small tiles at the walls.

Step 5. Spread floor adhesive

Mix the floor adhesive using a drill and mixing screw then use a 10mm notched trowel to spread one square metre of adhesive at a time. Hold the trowel at a 45˚ angle and make circular sweeps to get an even adhesive bed.

Step 6. Lay floor tiles

Position the tiles along the marked setout line, here the drainage channel, setting them 1mm higher than the edge. Lay one row at a time and settle each tile, aligning with spacers. Allow the adhesive to dry then apply grout.

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