Installing tile is a great way of stepping up your shower or tub game. It helps wash away the bland while adding some bling to your bathroom.

Share story

Q: Our shower lacks a certain … well, everything. What can we do, short of just gutting the whole thing, to spruce it up?

A: Bland is boring. It’s even worse when it’s the first thing your weary eyes wake up with each morning. Shower and bathing areas should be steamy, soothing portals to the waking world, not cold, dingy downers.

Installing tile is a great way of stepping up your shower or tub game, because it helps wash away the bland while adding some bling. Quick, easy and relatively cheap (depending on how gung-ho you go), you can even install your own tile for a chic, personalized look and feel.

Follow these six steps for a more blissful bathing experience.

Prep. Remove old tile (if any) and install a backer board if you don’t have one already, or if the existing board needs replacing. You’ll also want to cover the board with a waterproof membrane to prevent water damage.

Design. Measure the space you’ll be covering to ensure you have enough (or a bit more) of your chosen tile. Lay out the tile on the ground before application, just to be sure. After finding your starting point, attach a level board (vertically and/or horizontally) to use as a base for keeping tile level and in its proper place. Keep in mind, if you’re going down to the shower floor or another bordering area, you’ll likely have to cut the tile for it to fit properly.

Cut. After laying out the tile and figuring out what needs to be cut (don’t forget about plumbing), measure and mark the tiles with a grease pencil and then go for the tile cutters.

Apply. Thinset, an adhesive mortar, is necessary for tile application. Mix it to a peanut-buttery consistency, preparing enough for around 30 minutes of work. When ready, spread it in small areas so that it doesn’t start to set before laying tile down. When applying, use spacers between tile pieces. Periodically check your applied tile with a measure to ensure each row is doing what it is supposed to. When you reach your level board, remove it and replace with tile. After all tile is placed, wait 24 hours.

Grout. Choose a grout as recommended by your tile manufacturer. Remove any spacers before grouting. Mix the grout and then apply to small areas using a rubber float, working it into the joints in a sweeping, diagonal motion. Ten minutes after application, remove excess grout using a sponge — just be sure not to remove grout from the joints.

Seal. After waiting for a few days (typically three to seven days), add protective grout sealer and silicone sealant to corners, edges and floor joints.

HomeWork is written by Cameron Poague and contributing member professionals of the Master Builders Association (MBA) of King and Snohomish Counties. If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBA’s more than 2,800 members, write to homework@mbaks.com.