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How to Install Bathroom Wall Tile at Lake House

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Sharing how to install bathroom wall tile at the lake house today using large 12×24 porcelain tile. The bathroom 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. This post contains affiliate links for shopping convenience. See disclosure here.

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

1970s lake house log cabin bathroom

The original bathroom was dated and dark so we opted to essentially remove everything except the ceiling planks.

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! It looks so good!

Bathroom Wall Tile Installation Cost

How much did our new bathroom wall tile installation cost?

Tile Shower project 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 same  with no grids.
  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!)

We had the following tiling installation supplies on hand so we did not need to purchase them.

  • 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
  • Bucket for mixing mortar, sponge and clean cloths
  • Grout float

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 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. 

How to Tile a Shower Wall From the Studs

The first step was to remove 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. 

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 suprise, 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!

The next step was to install Durock cement board and attach 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! 🤪”

Can you put tile on drywall in bathroom? You should always adhere tile to cement board especially in bathrooms or any spaces that could hold moisture or get wet.

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

Cement board is recommended under any tile as a “base” as it is porous and thinset will adhere to it as well as helping 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.

Tiling a Bathroom Wall & Where To Start

Once the cement board was installed on the shower wall, we started tiling at the center 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.

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. 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.

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,

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.

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

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

I don’t have any pictures of the grouting process 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.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

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