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Shower Tile Installation: Step by Step Guide

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Learning how to install wall tile in your shower can be a great way to add beauty and style to your bathroom. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, but shower tile installation also offers long-lasting durability that will withstand years of use. When done correctly, shower tile installation can make all the difference in giving your bathroom a polished, professional look.

Let’s take a look at how to install bathroom wall tile at our lake house using large 12×24 porcelain tile.

Prior to installing the bathroom tile, was small, dark and dated so we decided to remove the old cast iron bathtub and surrounding subway tile and install white horizontal tile to create a modern walk in shower with black frameless glass doors.

Here is the dated bathroom before with a shower/tub unit.

1970s lake house log cabin bathroom
1960s dated bathroom with dark wall paneling

We added planks over the existing wall tiles (I’ll share that tutorial soon), a new vanity, painted the ceiling white, new interior door and hardware, a new vinyl window and installed a full walk in tiled shower with glass sliding doors.

Wait until you see the new bathroom below! It looks so good!

shower tiling installation with new wide wall tiles with gray veins
shower tiling installation with large white wall tiles

Shower Tile Installation materials needed:

  1. We purchased 70 square feet of Kolassas White 12×24 tile (see tile here) which was under $2 a square foot for the shower walls.
  2. We purchased a 30 in. x 60 in. Single Threshold Right-Hand Shower Base in White for the floor (see shower base here)
  3. Shower Doors – 56-60″W X 76″ H double sliding glass shower door bypass with shatterproof clear glass with grid pattern. The grid pattern is out of stock currently but this door set is the similar
  4. Tile mortar/thinset – we used Flexbond tile mortar
  5. Polyblend in Platinum (sanded) tile grout (this is a light gray / silver looking grout)
  6. Durock Cement Board & galvanized screws 
  7. Grout sealant
  8. Shower floor sealant (you need to seal where the shower pan meets the floor)
  9. New vinyl window with vinyl trim 
  10. Schluter System Jolly Tile Edge Protection Profile (for the 2 outer edges of the shower)
  11. QEP Lash Flat Floor and wall tile leveling clip system (to keep wall tiles level until they dry and they are very easy to use!) & tile spacers. This tile leveling kit comes with the tool as wel.

We had the following tiling installation supplies on hand:

  • Notched Trowel – we used 1/4″
  • Impact Driver and Mixing Arm/paddle – this reminds me of a cake beater when baking! You can rent these at Home Depot or Lowes by the day.
  • Tile Spacers (1/8″)
  • 1/8″ Self leveling tile clips and wedges
  • Tile Cutter – Tile Saw (we have the one with the table attached)
  • Bucket for mixing mortar, sponge and clean cloths
  • Grout float

How To Tile A Shower Wall – Step by Step

Step 1: Remove old shower tile from the wall

We removed all the old shower tile, old window and cast iron tub exposing the original studs. This step was a full day of demo as the new window needed to be resized and installed. 

Jess and Jim marriage proposal -2

Behind The Scenes: When we bought the lake house last October, the old bathroom wood window, wood trim and blinds were the first thing that needed to go. I remember Jim saying, “what is the first thing you want to change in the house?” and my response was, “that window and blind scenario in the bathroom!” -ha. Needless to say, it was the first project we tackled, that and the kitchen!


dated brown 1960 bathroom with brown ceiling, vintage lighting, white vanity

I was not crazy about having a window in the shower but we didn’t really have a choice because the bathroom was already dark and if we closed up the window, the outside of the house would have looked funny. So for curb appeal reasons and functional purposes inside, we left the window.

Honestly, the new vinyl crank out window with vinyl trim is clean, modern and sleek and much to my surprise, I like it!

The window adds a lot of light in the bathroom and due to the material being vinyl, it repels any water or moisture. 

As you can see below, the water had gotten behind the tiles at some point making for a big mess!

Step 2: Install shower floor pan

1. Place the shower floor pan in its desired location and make sure it is level.
2. Secure the shower floor pan to the floor using thinset mortar and fasteners, then tile over it with any desired tiles.

I do not have any pictures of Jim installing the shower floor pan but you will notice below, it was installed after the full demo of the walls.

Step 3: Install Cement Board

The next step was to install Durock cement board and attach it to the studs. I don’t have any pictures of the tub being removed and studs showing as Jim demoed before I got to the house and didn’t take any pictures.

I said, “hello, I need pictures of these amazing happenings!” Jim gets so wrapped up in the project, he forgets my business is all about sharing pictures and “how to” blog posts. -ha.

Can You Tile Over Drywall In Shower?

The short answer is NO, do not put tile over drywall. Keep in mind that drywall is not typically moisture resistant and you will need material like, cement board, that keeps the moisture (steam) from creating mold and moisture build up. Cement board is moisture resistant! You should always adhere tile to cement board especially in bathrooms or any spaces that could hold moisture or get wet.

Durock cement board shower tile installation

We used galvanized screws (they don’t rust) to attach the new cement board to the existing studs.

Cement board is recommended to prepare shower walls for tile. It creates the “base” as it is porous and the thinset will adhere to it as well as help the tile and wall cavities from moisture penetration.

Basically, if you are installing tile especially in a wet area, use a cement board as a base.

Step 4: Install tile Schluter trim

The metal trim piece on the edge below is called Schluter System Jolly Tile Edge Protection Profile.

schlutter profile trim in a shower installation project

You will notice that we picked a finished white metal edge. As you can see below, the tile abuts (and overs the round holes on the metal trim piece) white finished edge.

Tiling Shower Walls: Where To Start

Step 5: Start installing shower tile in center of wall

Once the cement board was installed on the shower wall, we started tiling at the center point of the bottom (window wall) and worked our way to each end staggering the tile joints creating a brick pattern.

If you have a large space, you can plan your tile layout first but our space was fairly simple which didn’t involve a lot of preplanning where tiles would lay.

Step 6: Add mortar to back of shower tile

We used a trowel with 1/4 grooves to apply the mortar to the back of the tile.

Press the tile onto the cement board using the spacers to create your grout line.

shower tile installation
Mortar is a very messy part of a shower tile installation project!

Shower Tile Installation Spacers!

We used flat self leveling tile clips (the flat clips below with yellow wedges – see clips here) which worked perfectly to keep the tiles tight and straight.

shower tile installation with white 12x24 wall tiles
Great tip in this shower tile installation with “time saving” self leveling spacers

Shower Tile Installation Tip!

When mixing your mortar, you want the consistency to be thick (like a peanut butter consistency) and not liquidy. You do not want the mortar to run off the tile.

Once the mortar is applied to the back of the tile,

how to install shower tile
shower tile installation with large wall tiles

When installing the tile on the side walls (the niche wall and shower head wall), we started from the edge and worked towards the window wall corners.

Step 7: Grout the shower tile

1. To begin grouting shower tile, mix the grout according to the manufacturer’s instructions in a bucket or tray.
2. Use a rubber float to press the grout into the spaces between the tiles and scrape off excess using a putty knife.
3. Wipe down tile with a damp sponge to remove any residue and allow grout to dry completely before applying sealer.

Step 8: Install Shower Fixtures

After the tiling is complete, installing shower fixtures completes the shower tile installation project.

The previous owner had recently installed the new black shower valve and shower head so we kept those in place as they coordinated perfectly with the black track glass sliding door unit.

Bathroom Wall Tile Installation Cost

According to Angi’s List, the average cost to tile a shower is around $900 which is fairly low for our area of the country. However, there are several factors that can affect the project cost in addition to labor rates, such as size of the shower, type of tile used, and additional features like shower doors or benches. If you plan to do it yourself, some basic materials can be purchased for as little as $200. DIY projects may seem intimidating but with some research and guidance from experienced professionals, tiling a shower can be a successful and satisfying experience.

How much did our new shower tile installation cost?

The overall cost to install the bathroom wall tile (materials) and create a new walk in shower was under $2200. Keep in mind though, a large portion of that cost was the shower doors and window.

Jim did 95% of the work himself saving thousands in labor cost and we also had some materials leftover from a previous job. We also did not move any of the plumbing so the layout stayed the same which also saved a lot of money. The black shower valve and shower head were fairly new so we kept those. 

shower tile installation with white 12x24 wall tiles, shiplap ceiling with glass shower bypass doors
love this easy shower tile installation project

Shower Tile Installation With A Window

Doesn’t the white vinyl window look so much better?

Like I said earlier, I’m not crazy about a window in the shower but this little window space has come a long way from the original wood window. It’s also high enough where privacy is not an issue.

How to Tile a Bathroom Wall with Large Tiles

The question, should I install large wall tiles vertical or horizontal” is a common question and typically if you are trying to make a space feel larger, you would install the tiles vertically to draw the eye “up.”

BUT in our case, the ceiling had original pine planks which ran horizontal so we decided to run the large tiles the same way – horizontal.

Show Tile Installation Accessories: Optional

Shower Niche

Jim made a cute shower niche below for shampoo bottles and soap storage which came out great! Click through this post, how to build a shower niche to see the full tutorial.

shower tile installation with white 12x24 wall tiles and 2 level shower niche
shower tiling installation with niche

I love how the white tile has gray veins that run through it providing a fresh clean modern look. This tile is perfect in so many ways. It looks great and gives you that high end custom result without costing thousands of dollars.

This tile is $1.99 a square foot and it’s competitors (with a similar design) start at $9 a square foot! This bathroom shower tile installation project is a perfect example of getting a high-end look on budget.

If you are stuck with a window in your shower, be sure to use vinyl trim and a vinyl window which are both water resistant.

shower tile installation with white 12x24 wall tiles
shower tile installation with white 12×24 wall tiles

Learning to tile a walk-in shower isn’t very difficult, it just takes patience and proper planning. It’s a fairly time consuming project if you are working alone. Having a helper to cut the tiles is a huge time saver!

I don’t have any pictures of the grouting process or shower floor pan being installed either as I was not at the house when Jim completed that project. Stay tuned, I will be sharing the before and after small bathroom remodel featuring the new shower doors, new white planks on the wall and the ceiling painted white! Want to see the rest of our lake house remodel, click through to this page, lake house remodeling for all the projects.

Meet Jessica

What started as a hobby, Jessica’s blog now has millions of people visit yearly and while many of the projects and posts look and sound perfect, life hasn’t always been easy. Read Jessica’s story and how overcoming death, divorce and dementia was one of her biggest life lessons to date.

diy fire pit

Come Enjoy a Stay at our Lake House

Our newly renovated waterfront lake house retreat with 1500 SF (7 beds), 3BR, 2BA, open concept living room + kitchen + lower level w/ arcade game is the perfect destination for your next getaway.

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