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Old 08-06-2010, 01:18 PM   #1
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Where to Start Wall Tile (Shower)

Hi All, back again in a new house from my previous kitchen floor project. Now on to a bathroom remodel. I've gutted it, installed the new tub, and shower walls, and I'm getting ready to tile them. I've got 6mm plastic behind Durock cement board. Still need to mud and tape the joints on that.

So my question is about actually tiling the walls. We're using 15 3/4" x 4" subway tiles, with a break somewhere near the middle for a change - using 1"x various" mixed bag of white, grey and black on a mesh sheet. They actually will be separated out into 4" strips to match the width of the other wall tiles, or we may make that accent a bit thicker. We're tiling from tub to ceiling; about 76" in height.

After finding centre lines, etc...
Do we just start from the bottom of the wall/tub and work our way up row after row?
or work in "quadrants" doing full top to bottom, quadrant by quadrant?
or nail in a 2x4 brace and start in the middle and go up, then take that off and work down?
Do we have to tape every tile together for support until dry?

I've done backsplashes, but never a shower (tall) wall, and have seen different things on the net and on this forum. A search brings in way too may hits to get a decent guide on that. Or, I'm just not seeing the obvious.
Any help or suggestions would be appreciated!
Andrew - Rookie DIYer!
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Old 08-06-2010, 02:08 PM   #2
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You need to determine how many full tile you'll end up with in your stack, then see if one would end up being less than 1/2 of a tile. Also note that your ceiling may not be level (hopefully, your tub deck is!), and the distance from the tub deck to the ceiling may not be consistent. On mine, it varies close to an inch from one end to the other! You don't want a sliver at the top. To prevent that, you could cut a little off the top and bottom row of tiles.

Some people find that putting up a ledger board, one row up works, then after that sets up, taking the ledger off, and setting the bottow row. This is especially helpful if you are going to cut the bottom row to fit, not as much if it is going to be a full tile. If the tub is quite level, you can start right there. Spacers can help, but avoid the semi-soft rubber ones, as the weight of the tile above can compress them and you'll have uneven grout lines. The guys here rave about tile spikes - these are notched wedges. you can adjust the tile exactly where you want them which is especially helpful if the tile aren't rectified (i.e., all made exactly the same). it is normal for tile to have a little variation, and a solid, flat spacer won't account for that while the spikes can. You need a space at the tile/tub juntion which should be (eventually) filled with caulk. If you have some non-compressable material, you can use that as a spacer to start your first row. It is imperative that the first row is as straight as you can get it, since you build of of that.

There are advantages for going around, then up, but either method would work. Keep in mind that some tiles have a variation in pattern, and possibly color variations from box to box (or even within the box). So, it is often good to be setting from multiple boxes to avoid blocking all of one box in the same area, which may end up being noticeable. It's also good to step back and get a distance view to catch any glitch before things set up and it's a big pain to remove and reset an errant tile, whether for postion, or color, or pattern.
Jim DeBruycker
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Old 08-06-2010, 02:08 PM   #3
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You first need to figure out how level your tub is, if its perfectly level you can start laying off of your tub with 1/8 inch spacer. im betting thats not the case though. Depending how out of level your are will dictate your next move. If the tub is less than an 1/8 out of level you can start at the high spot with a tile on the tub and draw a level line all the way around the tub and shim tiles up accordingly. If your more than an 1/8 out of level you need to find the low spot draw a level line around the tub and cut in the bottom row of tiles. After you draw your center line you need to double check the measurements at the top of the wall near the ceiling to make sure your not shrinking or growing this will help prevent slivers.Either start with a full tile off of your center line or you may have to mark the center of a tile and start with that on the center line your just trying to prevent slivers at the walls. start tiling on the back wall i like to go up two or three courses and then do the same on the short walls . Hope that helps. George
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Old 08-06-2010, 03:33 PM   #4
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Maybe someone should write a subway tile tutorial and get the other pro's to add bunches of comments and pictures.....

For when DIY isn't such a good idea...
Houston TX area Kitchen & Bath Remodeling

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Old 08-06-2010, 07:28 PM   #5
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Thanks very much, guys! You all gave me some food for thought. I think I'm going to have to start 1 row up from the bottom as it looks like my tub install is about 1/4" higher at the back. When I installed it, I didn't think that'd be a problem - flow to the drain would be good, eh? Didn't think of the tiling! Now to find something straight and skinny....
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Old 08-06-2010, 07:57 PM   #6
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For straight & skinny, you can rip some 1x boards or use some square aluminum tubing. Use a few screws to attach to walls.

"the road to hell is paved with osb, mastic, pre-mixed latex 'grout' or 'thinset', "
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