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Do it yourself

How to build a ceramic tile shower

A tiled shower offers many advantages: a myriad of designs and colours, durability and sturdiness, not to mention ease of maintenance.

Before you start

  • To build a ceramic shower stall, make sure you choose wall tiles and appropriate adhesive.
  • Before you start, shut off the water supply. You can also inspect the plumbing.
  • This project starts with an acrylic shower base already installed. To learn how to install a preformed shower base, read our guide Install a prefabricated shower stalls.

Prepare the fiber cement panels

  • 1.1 - Mark the measurements of the shower walls and cut the cement boards to size.
  • 1.2 - Draw openings for the pipes and cut holes.

Buying the right number of tiles

Calculate the number of tiles necessary to cover the area and buy more than needed to account for cuts. Add 5% for tiles laid out in straight lines and 10 to 15% for a diagonal layout.
Tiles calculator

Install the fiber cement panels

  • 2.1 - Place the boards with the rough side facing the inside of the shower stall.
  • 2.2 - Screw them to the wall studs and base structure with treated-wood screws or 1 ½ in galvanized roofing nails.
  • 2.3 - Let harden for 24 to 48 hours.

Cover the panel joints

  • 3.1 - Cover all the joints with fibreglass joint tape.
  • 3.2 - Coat well with polymer adhesive.
  • 3.3 - Generously cover corners and junctions, then let dry.

Pro tip

If your tiling layout is more complex than a straight layout, includes special patterns or borders, or if your walls are not completely straight, draw a tiling plan.

Draw the reference lines

Next, draw reference lines on the walls to help lay up the tiles.
  • 4.1 - Snap a vertical chalk line in the centre of the wall, at joints or on the outside edge, depending on the desired pattern.
  • 4.2 - At the bottom of the walls, snap a horizontal line, perpendicular to the first line, to indicate the top edge of the first row of tiles. Make sure that this line is level and square, and that the tiles won't be touching the floor.

Install finishing trims

  • 5.1 - Install tile finishing trims on the outside edges along the shower walls, using flat head nails.

Apply tile mortar

  • 6.1 - Using a notched trowel, spread the thinset over a small section of the wall, to one side of the vertical line. Hold the trowel at a 45° angle.
  • 6.2 - Using the notched side of the trowel, make horizontal grooves in the adhesive. Dampen the adhesive if it starts to harden.
  • 6.3 - Cover an area of three to four linear feet at a time.

Pro tip

For large tiles, use fast setting mortar. Because this type of adhesive dries very quickly, tiles must be installed without delay.

For 4 in × 4 in tiles, 4in × 6in tiles and 6in × 6in tiles, use a 3/16 in trowel. For 8 in × 8 in tiles or more, choose a ¼ in trowel.

Start installing tiles

  • 7.1 - Apply adhesive to the back of the first tile as well, and place it at the base of the wall, twisting it slightly to make sure it adheres well.
  • 7.2 - Use the reference lines as a guide to make sure the tile is positioned correctly.
  • 7.3 - Check the tile for level and adjust as needed.
  • 7.4 - If you want, use tile spacers at the bottom of the first row of tiles so they don't encroach further on the shower base.

Pro tip

Place as many full tiles as possible in the most visible areas and locate cut tiles in the least noticeable places.

Continue to install tiles

  • 8.1 - With the same technique, lay the rest of the tiles, starting from the centre and working outwards in a pyramid or step-like arrangement. Always follow the reference lines.
  • 8.2 - Use tile spacers to keep even gaps between each tile. Don't push the spacers in too deep.
  • 8.3 - Leave spacers in place while the adhesive dries.

Cut the tiles around the faucet and shower head location

  • 9.1 - During this time, cut the tiles as necessary to fit around the faucet and shower head and lay them up.

Prepare for grouting

  • 10.1 - When all tiles are set, wipe off the excess adhesive with a damp sponge.
  • 10.2 - Let dry 24 to 48 hours before grouting.
  • 10.3 - Remove the spacers.

Moistening tiles

  • 11.1 - Before grouting, dampen the tiles with clean water. The mixture will be easier to apply and will have less tendency to stick to the surface of the tiles, which will make them easier to wipe clean afterwards.

Mix grout

  • 12.1 - Mix the grout according to the manufacturer's instructions. The grout should be a uniform colour and the consistency of toothpaste

Apply grout

Apply the grout section by section, covering an area no bigger than 10 sq. ft. at a time. Hold the float at a 45° angle.
  • 13.1 - Pour some of the grout directly onto the tiles and work it into the joints using a rubber float.
  • 13.2 - Don't grout gaps separating the tiles from other types of material, from the shower curb or from or faucets. These gaps must act as expansion joints and will be sealed later.
  • 13.3 - Since grout dries fairly quickly, wipe off the excess as quickly as possible. Use the float to remove the excess grout from the entire tiled surface.

Remove grout from the tiles

  • 14.1 - When tiling is done, clean the surface with a damp sponge, working diagonally.
  • 14.2 - Rinse the sponge often, using as little water as possible to prevent the grout from diluting.
  • 14.3 - Remove as much milky residue as you can.

Apply grout sealer

  • 15.1 - After 24 hours, when the grout is completely dry, apply grout sealer to the joints.
  • 15.2 - Wait 30 minutes, then apply another layer.

Install the faucet, shower head and doors, and finalize

  • 16.2 - Fasten the door frame and panels according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  • 16.3 - Apply silicone caulk to seal the gaps around plumbing fittings and along the door frame and walls.

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