Unlike painting, tiling isn't as quick and easy as it looks. Tiling is for those who enjoy tedious, repetitive perfectionism. And I can't say that I do, but in the end, the three days that turned into three weeks (seriously) was all worth it. Clean white subway tile transforms spaces — all in such a timeless way. So, before you start mixing the thin-set, check out the lessons I learned about how to tile your bathroom.
What You Need
- Subway tile
- Thin-set mortar adhesive (I used grey, so it's not as noticeable if it shows between the grout lines)
- Sandpaper (optional)
Before you get started, make sure your walls are ready for the tile. For example, if for any reason your walls are wavy and not leveled (like mine), start by leveling them with patches of thin-set. Or, be sure to scrape off any loose wallpaper or paint, or lightly sand glossy finished walls. Lastly, remove any switch/outlet plates.
Tip: Your walls should be clean and dry before you start tiling.
1. Plan your wall out. The main objective is to avoid any small pieces and awkward slivers of tile along the edge of the wall and the floor. In my diagram, I'm only tiling half my wall — 42" from the floor, so my center would be 21".
2. Without any mortar, dry-lay a horizontal row (green) and vertical column (blue) to determine the layout. Place the tiles in front of the wall you are planning to tile. Use spacers in your test lay, so you know exactly where your tiles will end. Reposition rows until you find the best layout.
Tip: You want to end up cutting tile to half its size or larger. Plan your wall to avoid cutting tile less than 2" wide.
3. Mark your layout on the wall. The wall's edge or the floor can be crooked, so never use it as a guide. Use a level instead.
4. Mix your thinset according to the directions.
Tip: You want your thinset to have a smooth peanut butter-like consistency. Too wet and your tiles will droop, but too dry and they won't stick properly. I start with a little bit of water and add the dry thinset powder to it. This also helps prevent lumpy mixtures.