How To Tile a Shower

Updated: Jun. 14, 2024

Build a high-end shower enclosure with this DIY project.

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Need to know how to tile a shower? This step-by-step guide will walk you through the entire process, from prep to beautiful finished shower.

Tools Required

  • 1/8-in. tile spacers
  • 3/16" x 5/32" V-notch trowel
  • Backerboard scoring knife
  • Buckets
  • Canvas drop cloth
  • Clamps
  • Cordless drill
  • Diamond hole saw
  • Grout float
  • Grout haze remover
  • Level
  • Mud mixer attachment
  • Mud pan
  • Paint mixer drill attachment
  • Paintbrush
  • Sponge
  • Terry cloths/rags
  • Utility knife
  • Wet saw

Materials Required

  • 1-1/4" screws. Shower tiles
  • 1-5/8" cement board screws
  • 1/2" cement board
  • Cement board mesh tape
  • Flexible adhesive caulk
  • Grout
  • Thin-set mortar
  • Tile/grout sealer
  • Two 1x4s both six feet long
  • Waterproofing membrane

There’s no getting around it: Tiling a shower is a big, messy project. But an updated surround can transform the look and feel of your bathroom.

For this shower project, I chose colored subway tile for the walls, sliced pebble tile for the base and dark gray grout. But there are a wide range of colors, patterns and types of tile and grout available in stores or online to complement the design of any bathroom.

If this is your first time shopping for shower tiles, go with porcelain or ceramic. They’re durable and more stain resistant than other tile types.

Before you start, take the time to plan the tile layout of your shower. This way, you avoid stopping to cut a piece of tile every time you apply mortar, streamlining installation.

I also suggest putting down a canvas dropcloth before you begin tiling. No matter how careful I was, blobs of thin-set mortar occasionally fell from the trowel as I tiled the shower walls. Luckily, they landed on the cloth instead of the tiled shower pan, saving me a lot of extra cleaning.

And change into clothes you have no problem possibly ruining.

When to call a pro

Tiling a shower is a messy, finicky job, especially if you have to demolish the existing shower. If you’re not comfortable with that step, let a professional tile installer handle it. An experienced, capable pro will ensure the tiling is done correctly, which is crucial in a moisture-prone area like a shower.

But it you’re willing to put in the time and effort and follow the process we outline here, you can DIY it.

Project step-by-step (15)

Step 1

Take measurements for cement board

Measure each shower wall to obtain the dimensions for installing the cement board. Be sure to note the location of the shower valve, showerhead and additional accessories that you’re installing.

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Step 2

Cut cement board

With a backerboard scoring knife, score the cement board multiple times. Use a straight edge and secure with clamps to keep a straight cut. Run over the scored line with a utility knife, then gently bend the board to break it off.

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Step 3

Cement board installation

Screw each panel of cement board to the studs with 1-5/8-in. screws. I used a level to mark a straight line on the cement board so I could see where the studs were as I put up the panels.

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Step 4

Tape and seal gaps

Apply flexible adhesive caulk to the gaps between the cement panels to provide a seal. In the seams and corners, I added cement board mesh tape.

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Step 5

Apply waterproofing membrane

Put down your dropcloth. Apply a waterproofing membrane to the cement boards with a paintbrush or roller.

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Step 6

Tile shower pan

Mix the thin-set mortar and water in a bucket using a mud mixer attachment for your drill. Spread a thin layer of mortar in the corner of the shower pan with the flat side of the trowel, then run over the mortar with the notches on the trowel.

Place the tile on the mortar and use your hands or a grout float to push the tile into the mortar with even pressure. Continue tiling until you have finished covering the surface of the pan. Clean off any excess mortar that oozes up between tiles with a damp sponge.

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Step 7

Create center point on shower walls

Based on your tile shape and dimensions, it may be helpful to create a center point on each shower wall as a place to start tiling.

First, measure the width of the back wall. Use a level and mark a vertical line at the center point. Next, mark the height of one tile resting on the shower pan. Using this measurement, take a level and mark a horizontal line on the wall. Repeat for the remaining two walls.

Using the horizontal lines as a guide, fasten 1x4s to the walls with 1-1/4-in. screws. These will act as supports as you begin installing tile. Shower pans are not always level, so this prevents you from depending on major first-row tile cuts to get a level first row.

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Step 8

Apply mortar to walls

Apply mortar to the shower walls using the technique described in Step 6. Be sure to lay down a dropcloth.

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Step 9

Install row of tiles

The secured board acts as a support and straight level for the first row of tiles. Push each tile into the mortar to avoid empty space between the tile and mortar. Place spacers between the tiles as you go, cleaning excess mortar with a damp sponge.

When you reach the corners of the first row, you may need to measure and cut the tiles with a wet saw. Finish tiling the first row around the shower walls. Once the first row of tiles dries (about 24 hours), you can remove the board and continue tiling above and below.

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Step 10

Tile around shower valve

Mark the tiles where you will make your cuts with a wet or a diamond hole saw. I used a diamond hole saw when tiling around the hand-held shower arm because it was easier than notching out with a wet saw.

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Step 11

Remove tile spacers

Once all the tiles are in place and cured for 24 hours, remove the tile spacers. Clean off any dried mortar on the face of the tiles with a damp sponge.

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Step 12

Grout the tiles

In a bucket, mix the grout with a paint mixer attachment. Grout the tile with a grout float, applying it to the tile gaps. Add pressure while applying to avoid missing spaces between the tiles.

With a damp sponge, wipe off the excess grout and continue the process until all the gaps between the tiles are filled.

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Step 13

Remove grout haze

There will likely be a haze on your tile after the grout cures. Apply a grout haze remover solution, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

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Step 14

Seal the tile and grout

Once the tiles are clean, apply a tile/grout sealer. Follow the directions on the package.

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Step 15


Do you tile the shower floor or wall first?
Most people start with the floor so there’s a place to lay the wall tiles as you install them.

What’s the best type of grout to use for a shower?
An epoxy grout, because it’s durable and water resistant.

What type of shower pan do I need?
It depends on your shower requirements and budget. Some acrylic/fiberglass shower pans can’t be tiled. Be sure to purchase on that’s made to be tiled.