You are currently viewing How to Tile a Shower Wall: Tips for Beginners

May 1, 2024

Whether you’re a total novice or just looking to refine your skills, this blog post is your ultimate beginners guide to tile a shower wall.

This post is sponsored by Dovoh Laser Levels all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Embarking on a bathroom renovation can be daunting, especially if you’re new to tiling.

But fear not!

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll show you that tiling a shower wall or bathroom wall is a DIY project anyone can tackle, regardless of experience.

Whether you’re a first-time DIYer or just looking to hone your skills, we’ve got you covered with step-by-step instructions and invaluable tips for success.

One of the tools that will help give you professional results when you tile a shower wall is the Dovoh H3 360g laser level.

We’ve been using the Dovoh 360 laser lever for about a year now and it’s our go to tool to get the best outcomes.

It’s the perfect tool for installing a DIY board and batten wall to hanging art evenly on a wall.

Get ready to unleash your inner handyman and achieve professional-looking results in your own home!

Welcome to week 5 of the One Room Challenge!

We’re more than half way through this challenge and we’re excited to share our progress this week in our bathroom renovation!

As a reminder you can easily navigate through each week of this master bathroom renovation by clicking on the links below.

Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3  | Week 4  | Week 5 you’re hereWeek 6 | Week 7 | Week 8


Master Bathroom Remodel Progress

No question, it feels so good to have completed the tiling of the bathroom and shower wall.

This was a huge undertaking since we were tiling the entire wall.

While we’ve tiled my main bathroom and Steph’s basement bathroom, we still consider ourselves a novice.

In fact, we spent 4 long days tiling and grouting this bathroom.

But I’m happy to report that we were also able to get the bathroom primed and painted.

I believe it’s really coming along.

And now we’re ready to start installing the flooring.


Bathroom Remodel To Do List

Let’s take a look at what still needs to happen in the next couple of weeks.

  • demo bathroom
  • move closet wall
  • rough in plumbing and electrical
  • change swing of door
  • repair walls and ceiling
  • install shiplap ceiling, paint
  • paint doors
  • install shower pan
  • paint walls
  • install vanity
  • prime and paint baseboards
  • install crown moulding
  • install cement backer board
  • install shower niche
  • waterproof shower
  • tiling & grout
  • install waterproof luxury vinyl plank floors
  • install soaker tub
  • install plumbing fixtures
  • install toilet
  • shower enclosure
  • recessed shelves
  • install lighting
  • mirrors
  • curtains
  • towel hooks
  • art and decor

To me this list still seems long…

Do you think we’ll be able to wrap this bathroom remodel up in 3 weeks?

We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Create a Tile Layout for Shower Wall

Creating a tile layout is like piecing together a puzzle to achieve a beautiful and balanced design on your shower walls.

Start by envisioning how you want your tiles to look – do you prefer a classic grid or brick pattern, or a more modern stacked layout?

Tile layout is planned on graph paper before tiling begins.

Measure your wall space and map out your wall on graph paper.

Then, lay out your tiles on the floor to experiment with different arrangements until you find the perfect configuration.

Next take your plan to your graph paper.

First you’ll want to make sure that you’ll have even spacing around the shower niche and along the wall.

Remember to account for any plumbing pipes or obstacles and make necessary adjustments.

Once you’re satisfied with the layout, you’re ready to begin to tile a shower wall.

For our tile wall, we will begin in the center of the wall and work our way out to each side.

We also determined that we’d place a full tile starting at the shower pan base, so we will add a ledger board on the left side of our tile bathroom wall to keep it even.

With careful planning and attention to detail, you’ll create a stunning tile layout that enhances the beauty of your bathroom.

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Selecting Tile

When it comes to selecting tile for your shower and bathroom walls, consider factors like durability, maintenance requirements, and water resistance.

While natural stone makes a statement, it will cost you more.

On the other hand, ceramic and porcelain tiles are more affordable and can give you the look of natural stone.

Ceramic tiles are made from clay that is fired at lower temperatures, making them less dense and more porous than porcelain tiles.

Porcelain tiles, on the other hand, are made from a finer clay that is fired at higher temperatures, resulting in a denser, less porous tile that is more resistant to water and stains.

This makes porcelain tiles an ideal choice for high-moisture areas like bathrooms and kitchens.

Additionally, porcelain tiles are harder and more durable than ceramic tiles, making them suitable for both indoor and outdoor use.

While ceramic tiles come in a wide range of colors and patterns, porcelain tiles can have a very realistic look of natural stone or wood.

However, porcelain tiles are typically more expensive than ceramic tiles due to their superior quality and durability.

Ultimately, the choice between ceramic and porcelain tiles depends on your budget, aesthetic preferences, and the specific requirements of your project.

Next, think about the size and shape of the tiles – larger tiles can make a small space feel bigger, while smaller tiles can add texture and visual interest.

Don’t forget about color and pattern, as these can significantly impact the overall look of your bathroom.

Neutral tones like white, beige, gray or black are timeless and versatile, while bold colors or intricate patterns can make a statement.

Tile a Shower Wall Supplies

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Welcome to Our Site

If you’re new here, welcome! We’re so glad you’re here.

Let us introduce ourselves, we’re Michelle and Steph, a mom and daughter team who love to DIY and decorate our homes.

Not only are we passionate about making our homes warm, comfortable and unique, but it’s our mission to help you create that same feeling in your own home.

You’ll find ideas for repurposing, creating, decorating and making your home truly yours, while always mindful of a tight budget.

Undoubtedly we love finding ways to make your home look high-end on a small budget.

Plus you’ll also find a recipe or two as we share our family favorites with you.

We’d love it if you’d join our community of doers so you won’t miss any inspiration for your home.

We love new friends.

Tile a Shower Wall

Before tiling a shower wall, proper preparation is crucial to ensure a successful and long-lasting installation.

Prep Walls

The first step is to thoroughly clean and remove any existing tile, adhesive, or debris from the wall surface.

More than likely you’ll need to add new water resistant drywall or a cement backer board, like we did.

In our bathroom we opted to install cement backer board.

This is a beastly job, as each 4×8 piece weighs about 75 lbs.

We recruited my hubby, Steve to help us with this one.

After all of the backer boards are installed each seam is taped with a mold resistant fiber tape and then coated with mortar.

Green mold resistant fiber tape is applied to the seams to cement backer board before tile a shower wall.
Mortar is spread over the fiber tape on all of the seams before tile a shower wall.

Next you’ll want to add a waterproof membrane (Redgard or Aqua Defense) to the backer board or water resistant drywall.

This is applied with a brush or roller over the entire shower area.

This will create a stable and moisture-resistant substrate for the tiles.

By taking the time to properly prepare the shower wall, you’ll set the stage for a successful tiling project with beautiful and durable results.

Setting First Row of Tile

Installing the first row of tiles is a critical step in achieving a professional and visually pleasing finish for your tiled shower wall.

This initial row serves as the foundation for the entire tiling project, setting the stage for the rest of the installation.

It’s essential to ensure that this row is installed level and centered on the wall.

Laser Level

The Dovoh H3 360g laser level is the one tool you need to make this happen.

A laser level is used to mark the center of the bathroom wall to be tiled. Level is also marked and a stringer board is secured to the wall for the first row of tiles.

First let me tell you, we love the fact that this laser level can be mounted on a tripod.

It frees up your hands so you can actually focus on accurately placing tile on the bathroom wall.

In the past, other levels we’ve used have been handheld, so you have to recruit another set of hands to help out and the beam was not very bright.

As you can see the Dovoh 360g shoots a bright beam, plus it can shoot vertical and horizontal lines simultaneously.

Plus it’s super easy to use and it’s on sale now.

Just flip the switch on the side to turn it on and press the function keys located on the top.

For our tile project, we’ve activated both the horizontal and vertical lasers.

That way we can make sure we are centered on the wall as well as keeping the tile level.

A laser level is used to mark the center of the bathroom wall to be tiled. Level is also marked and a stringer board is secured to the wall for the first row of tiles.

Clearly it’s important that the first row is level and ensures that subsequent rows of tiles will also be level.

For our tile shower wall layout, we plan to have a full tile at the base of the shower pan and we will continue placing our tiles to the left of the shower pan at that same level.

Tip: Leave an 1/8″ gap at the bottom of the first row of tile at the shower pan base. This area will be caulked when the tiling is completed. To keep an even 1/8″ gap we taped paint stir sticks to the base or a 1/8″ tile spacer will also work.

Ledger board

To ensure that the tiles to the left of the shower pan are supported until the mortar dries, we installed a ledger board for those tiles to rest on.

After the wall is tiled, the ledger board will be removed and we’ll cut tiles to fit in that space.

In addition, centering the tiles on the bathroom wall creates a balanced and symmetrical layout, which enhances the overall aesthetic appeal when you tile a shower wall.

When setting tile in a shower wall, always tile the back wall first so that you can hide the grout joints on the sides.

Also it’s best to start tiling a shower wall from the bottom and work your way to the top.

By taking the time to install the first row of tiles accurately, you’ll lay the groundwork for a successful tiling project with professional results that you can be proud of.

Tips for Setting Tile

When setting tiles on a shower wall, it’s essential to follow a few key tips to ensure a smooth and successful installation.

First, you’ll want to select the correct mortar for your tile.

In a wet or damp location like a bathroom you’ll need to use mortar or thinset to set your tiles.

Second, choose the correct size notched trowel for your size or type of tile.

For smaller tiles like subway tile typically a 1/4-inch notched trowel is recommended for shower wall tiles.

This size helps to ensure proper adhesive coverage while minimizing the risk of excess adhesive squeezing out from beneath the tiles.

However it you’re using a large format tile (anything larger than 15″ on one side) like we are, you’ll need an 1/2″ notched trowel.

Using an 1/2" notched trowel, spread mortar on the wall. Black marble tile, laser level to mark center and level of tile shower wall.

There are a couple different methods of spreading the mortar.

First you can spread the mortar directly on the shower wall and then tilt the trowel to a 45° angle and pull the notched end through the mortar.

Or another method is called back butter, where you apply the mortar directly to the back of the tile and then tilt the trowel and notch the mortar.

When pressing the tiles into place, it’s important to apply firm and even pressure to ensure good adhesion to the wall surface.

A slight wiggle or twist as you press the tile can help to ensure that it’s fully bedded in the adhesive and properly bonded to the wall.

This technique helps to minimize air pockets and ensure a strong bond between the tile and the substrate.

By following these tips and techniques, you’ll achieve a professional-looking finish for your shower wall tiles that will withstand the test of time.

Tile Spacers

Tile spacers are essential tools for ensuring consistent spacing and alignment between tiles during installation, helping to create a professional-looking finish.

These small, plastic or rubber devices are placed between tiles at each corner to maintain uniform grout lines.

We’ve had a love – hate relationship with spacers until we found the leave in spacers.

Before the spacers would constantly fall out when we were working on walls and then the tiles would shift.

But with leave in spacers you put them in, they stay in position and you grout over the top.

When working with large format tiles, such as those commonly used on shower walls, leveling tile spacers become particularly important.

Large tiles are more prone to lippage, where one edge of a tile is higher than the adjacent tiles, creating an uneven surface.

Leveling tile spacers feature an innovative design that allows them to be adjusted to ensure that tiles are perfectly aligned and level with each other.

First, place tile spacer once a tile is set and the mortar is spread on the wall.

We found it helpful to place 1 on the vertical gap and 3 along the horizontal gap.

Then set the next row of tile and insert the wedge into the loop of the spacer.

Next take the leveling pliers and tighten the wedge into the loop.

Tile a shower wall, large format tiles will require leveling spacers. Spacers and wedges are placed in the gaps of the black marble tile.

This will level up the adjacent tiles.

By using leveling tile spacers you can achieve a flawless installation with minimal lippage, resulting in a stunning and professional-looking tiled surface.

I was a little nervous when the glass company came to measure for my shower enclosure, that my tile shower wall would not be straight.

But I was pleased to learn that our tiling job was great and plumb.

Cutting Tile

At some point you’ll need to cut a tile and cutting tile accurately is essential for achieving a professional-looking finish.

First and foremost, using the right tools is key.

A manual tile cutter is ideal for straight cuts on ceramic and porcelain tiles, however a wet saw is necessary for more intricate cuts or for cutting natural stone tiles.

A wet saw is similar to a table saw only it has a diamond blade and a tray or hose that keeps water on the blade to keep it cool.

Tile a shower wall: a tile wet saw is used to cut black and white basketweave tile.

When cutting tiles, always measure twice and cut once to avoid costly mistakes.

Additionally, make sure to wear safety goggles and mask to protect yourself from flying tile shards.

When using a wet saw, apply steady pressure and move the tile slowly through the blade to ensure a clean and precise cut.

If you saw last weeks post about making a shower niche you know that we bought a new tile saw.

I said last week I felt like we have died and gone to tile saw heaven.

Our new tile saw has a laser guide to ensure the cuts are strait, a sliding tray to glide the tile through the blade and best of all it has a splash guard!

No more getting soaked and covered in mucky wet tile gunk.

If you don’t want to invest in a tile saw, you can easily rent one.

The only draw back is that if you’re slow like we are, you may need it for several days and it may be cheaper to just buy a tile saw.

Intricate Tile Cuts

When setting tile in a shower wall, you’re bound to need to make cuts for plumbing pipes.

Clearly the easiest way is with a diamond tip tile hole saw.

They will fit in a standard drill, you’ll just want to spray the tile constantly with water as you make the cut to keep the bit cool.

For small adjustments, a tile nipper or tile file can be used to trim the tile to fit perfectly into place.

Lastly, practice on scrap tiles before cutting your project tiles to ensure confidence and accuracy in your cutting technique.

With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to tackle any cutting task with ease and precision, resulting in a beautifully tiled space.

Edge Finishes

Edge finishes for tile play a crucial role in the overall look and functionality of a tiled shower wall.

There are several options available for finishing the edges of tiles, depending on the desired look and type of tile being used.

Bullnose tiles feature a rounded edge that provides a smooth and polished finish, making them ideal for exposed edges or corners.

Another option is using trim pieces such as metal, ceramic, or natural stone borders, which can add visual interest and complement the tile design.

Schluter trims, also known as tile edge trims, are metal or PVC that provide a clean and crisp edge.

For our tile shower wall we are using Schluter trim like we used on Steph’s tub surround.

Metal trim is placed into the mortar around the shower niche, when tile a shower wall.

For the shower niche we measured the length of each trim piece and cut them at a 45° angle.

The Schluter trim is placed on the outside of the shower niche, aligned with the niche side walls and set into the mortar.

Then the tiles are cut to fit the area and placed on top of the Schluter trim.

Schluter trim is also used to finish off the edge of the narrow shower wall.

A laser level is used to mark the placement for the tile and metal trim at the edge of the shower base.

To align the trim piece with the shower pan, we set up the Dovoh H3 360g laser level, aligning it with the outer edge of the shower pan.

First we taped the Schluter trim into position and then lifted it, placing mortar under the trim as we worked our way up the wall.

Metal trim edge is placed at the edge of the shower tile wall and the greenboard drywall.

The Schluter trim is easy to work with and gives you a neat modern edge to your tile.

When selecting an edge finish for your tile project, consider both the aesthetic and practical aspects to ensure a cohesive and durable result that enhances the overall look of the space.


The final step in the process of tiling a shower wall is to fill the gaps between the tiles with grout.

Allow the mortar to set a full 24 hours before grouting.

Choose a grout color that complements your tile and desired aesthetic, whether it’s a contrasting hue for a bold statement or a neutral shade for a seamless appearance.

Grout is available in a powder that you’ll mix up like the mortar or premixed.

If you’re a beginner, I’d strongly recommend using a premixed grout.

It’s a little more expensive, but not only will it save the hassle of mixing small batches of grout over and over, but you’ll also get better results.

That’s what we used.

If you prefer the powder you’ll find our tips for grouting here.

Tile a shower wall: The final step is to apply grout with a grout float to all of the gaps in the tile. Black and white marble tile in shower niche.

Apply it to the tile surface using a grout float, ensuring that all joints are completely filled.

After grout has set. for 10 minutes, take a damp sponge and remove excess grout from tiles. Shower niche area with black and white Carrara marble basketweave tile, shower wall tile black marble.

After allowing the grout to set for 10-15 minutes, then use a damp sponge to remove excess grout from the tile surface.

Be careful not to remove too much from the joints.

Once the grout has fully cured, typically after 24-48 hours, polish the tile surface with a dry cloth to remove any remaining haze.

After the grout is fully cured it’s important to seal any corner joints with silicone caulk to prevent water penetration and potential moisture damage.

Choose a silicone caulk that is the same brand and color as your grout and is specifically formulated for use in wet areas.

Run a strip of tape on each side of each corner and run a bead of caulk, smooth with a caulk tool or a wet finger.

Once that’s cured, it’s wise to apply a grout and tile sealer to your entire shower surface.

FAQ Tile a Shower Wall

When tiling a shower wall do you start at the top or bottom?

When tiling a shower wall, it’s generally recommended to start tiling from the bottom and work your way up. This method ensures that the weight of the tiles above helps to hold the lower tiles in place as the adhesive sets, reducing the risk of slippage or shifting.

How do you prep a bathroom wall for tile?

Install a backer board or moisture resistant drywall, tape and mortar seams. Then apply 2 coats of a liquid waterproofing membrane, such as: Redgard or Aqua Defense.

Can you tile over drywall?

Yes, you can tile over drywall, but it’s important to take certain precautions and ensure proper preparation to ensure a successful and long-lasting installation.

  1. Surface preparation: Before tiling over drywall, make sure the surface is clean, smooth, and free of any dust, dirt, or grease. If the drywall has any imperfections or damage, repair them with a suitable patching compound and sand the surface smooth and prime if not in a wet area.
  2. Waterproofing: In wet areas such as showers or tub surrounds, it’s essential to waterproof the drywall to prevent moisture damage behind the tiles. Apply a waterproofing membrane (Redgard or Aqua Defense)or sealer according to the manufacturer’s instructions, ensuring that all seams and corners are properly sealed.

Can you tile a bathroom wall by yourself?

Yes, you can absolutely tile a bathroom wall by yourself! Tiling a bathroom wall is a manageable DIY project with the right preparation, tools, and patience. Just pace yourself and take your time.

How do you waterproof drywall before tiling?

Apply a waterproofing membrane (Redgard or Aqua Defense) to the surface. Follow the manufacturers directions.

Do I need backer board for wall tile?

If your tiled wall will be exposed to moisture regularly, such as in a shower or bathroom, a backer board is highly recommended to prevent water damage behind the tiles. Backer boards, such as cement board or waterproof gypsum board, are designed to withstand moisture and provide a suitable surface for tile installation in wet areas. In some cases, such as when installing heavy or large-format tiles, a backer board may be necessary to provide additional support and stability for the tiles.

How long does it take to tile a small bathroom?

The time it takes to tile a small bathroom can vary depending on several factors. Which include the size of the bathroom, the complexity of the tiling design, your level of experience, and any additional prep work required. However, as a rough estimate, tiling a small bathroom could take anywhere from a few days to a week or more to complete. In our case we spent 4 solid days to tile a shower wall.

What size tile makes a small bathroom look bigger?

In general, using larger tiles in a small bathroom can create the illusion of more space and make the room appear bigger. Larger tiles have fewer grout lines, which can visually expand the space by creating a more continuous and open surface.

Do I need to waterproof cement board before tiling?

Cement board itself is not waterproof, but it is moisture-resistant. While it can withstand exposure to moisture, it is not impervious to water penetration. Therefore, you should waterproof cement board before tiling in wet areas such as showers or tub surrounds to provide an extra layer of protection against water damage. To waterproof cement board before tiling, you can apply a liquid waterproofing membrane. (Redgard or Aqua Defense)

Final Thoughts

Tiling a bathroom or shower wall is a rewarding project that can transform the look and feel of your space.

Completed tile wall, with black marble tile and shower niche, beginner tips to tile a shower wall.

With careful planning, proper preparation, and attention to detail, you can achieve professional-looking results that enhance the beauty and functionality of your bathroom.

Whether you’re a seasoned DIY enthusiast or tackling your first tiling project, taking the time to follow these tips will ensure a successful outcome.

Tiled shower niche with Carrara marble basket weave tile and black marble shower wall tile. Styled with pink marble soap, black and white pump bottles, and a plant.

So roll up your sleeves, gather your tools, and get ready to enjoy the satisfaction of a beautifully tiled bathroom wall that reflects your personal style and craftsmanship.

Features of the Laser Level

Dovoh laser level is extremely helpful in making sure your tile shower wall is installed level and centered.

It really took a lot of stress out of our project.

With its user-friendly design, the DOVOH Laser Level 360g provides a stress-free installation experience.

Its mounting base fits on my camera tripod and keeps hands free for easy adjustments and measurements.

Dovoh 360g laser level. in carrying case with rechargeable batteries.

Plus, its compact size and portability allows you to easily carry it from one project to another.

In addition, it comes in a handy carrying case with two rechargeable batteries and charger, glasses to enhance the beam when outdoors, magnetic bracket and target plate.

Whether you’re a seasoned DIYer or a beginner looking to create a professional finish, the DOVOH Laser Level 360g is your secret weapon for achieving professional results.

Completed tile wall, with black marble tile and shower niche, beginner tips to tile a shower wall.

Do you now feel confident to tile a shower wall?

We’re thrilled with the way our shower tile wall turned out.

Don’t forget to check out the many other room transformations taking place on the One Room Challenge blog this season.

I believe you’ll be inspired with countless design styles and creative ideas.

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