How to Tile a Wall, step by step

Tiles are a durable and low maintenance way of adding an eye-catching addition to your home. It protects your home from moisture damage. As it acts as a waterproof barrier, its durability means it lasts for a very long time and is very easy to clean. However, tiling is an expensive process, and if you have a limited budget, then instead of paying professionals, you can tile by yourself. As a beginner, tiling your wall can be a time-consuming and challenging task. But persistence pays off.

How to Tile a Wall, step by step:

In general, the first step in tiling a wall is gathering all the necessary tools and materials, including thin-set, grout, trowel. Prepare the wall by removing wallpaper, cleaning dust, and filling the damaged areas. Do a dry test before mixing the thin-set by placing the tiles on the wall to reduce any risk of error and establish a layout. Then, mix the thin-set and install the tiles on the wall, one by one, and use plastic spacers to maintain an equal distance between the tiles. After 24 hours, remove the spacers and apply the grout to cover the gaps between the tiles.

In this article, you will learn the complete method of how to tile your walls, step by step. You will learn about all the necessary tools and materials required and how to prepare your wall for tiling.

Steps for an Effective Wall Tiling

If you know what you’re doing, tiling your walls is not difficult, but it requires a lot of time, patience, and precision. Therefore, there are certain tips you must follow for an effective result.

Step 1: Tiling tools and material

As a beginner, the first step when tiling should understand and gather the necessary tools and materials.


When preparing the substrate, underlayment plays an important role. It’s put on the top of the thin-set during preparation before tiling. Backer board is the most common underlayment tool used for this purpose. Similarly, membrane and waterproof underlayment can also be used for this purpose under special conditions. The membrane is used to protect floors from bending or flexing. Also, it prevents the separation of joints.


The thin-set is the adhesive material used to hold the tiles onto the desired spot. The thin-set can be a cement or thin-set mortar. Mix the thin-set according to the instructions given by the manufacturers. The mixing of thin-set should be done very carefully and according to the specifications because this substrate is the only thing that will keep the tiles from falling. After two or three remixing, the thin-set is ready, and you should move to the next step.


The grout is a material used to fill the spacing between the tiles. The type of grout you should use depends upon the type and color of the tiles. The color of grout should resemble the color of the tiles to cover any small mistakes that occur.  Premixed grouts are also available on the market. These eliminate the extra work of mixing. Sanded grout is used as a baseline adhesive, while unsanded grout is used in areas with smaller joints.

Trowel and Other Tools:

When tiling any surface, a trowel is the most important tool required. A trowel can be used to clean the excess grout from the tiles and pop out the tile from the surface. Other than a trowel, the basic tools you will need are a tile cutter, plastic spacers, painter’s tape, and a bucket and sponges to clean the tiles.

Step 2: Safety Precautions

As a beginner, you need to be very careful when tiling, taking all the necessary precautions. When tiling a wall, you must be very careful around pipes. You can accidentally damage or break a pipe during drilling, which can be very problematic, so it’s necessary to identify the position of the pipes and tile around this area extra carefully. Also, it’s a good idea to cut the power and water when tiling for further safety.

Step 3: Preparing the Wall

Preparing the wall before tiling is necessary for an effective result. The wall you are planning to tile must be completely flat for the tiles to stick to it effectively. So firstly, you need to remove all the wallpaper and any old tiles. The adhesive used for the tiles is very strong, so it’s recommended to use a wallpaper steamer to soften the adhesive and then remove the old tiles. Next, you should fill any damaged areas on the wall to make it flat, then wash any dirt from the wall. Use an ammonia-based cleaner or tri-sodium phosphate to remove any remaining dust, grease, and oils from the wall.

Step 4: Tile Selection

Firstly, you must determine the number of tiles you will require to cover the whole wall for selecting tiles. For this purpose, measure the length and width of the wall, then multiply both numbers. This will give you the area of the wall. Then divide the calculated area with the size of tile that you have chosen, and the final result will be the number of tiles you will need to cover the whole wall.

The next step is the tile selection. This depends on the surface you are planning to tile. If the targeted surface is a floor, then the required tiles will have a different quality than wall tiles. The reason is that floor must bear more weight, so they need to be stronger than wall tiles. Usually, tiles with PEI rating of 0 are used on the walls, and tiles with PEI rating of 5 or nearly equal to 5 are used on the floor. When purchasing the tiles, you should always buy more than the calculated tiles if any tiles need replacement.

Step 5: Establishing Layout

After selecting the tiles and gathering all the necessary tools, the next step is establishing the layout of your tiling design. This will give you an idea about where to start your tiling and reduce the risk of error. To start, you need to measure the height of the wall and draw a straight line on the top from where you will start tiling, also draw a centerline. To establish a complete layout on the wall, conduct a dry test to ensure you don’t have to cut very thin pieces of tiles to fit them at the edges of the wall.

Sometimes it becomes impossible to tile the wall from top to bottom because tiles may slip so that you can tile from bottom to top or from the center to the sides. When tiling from the bottom, there’s one thing you should be very careful about, if the floor isn’t balanced and has a little bit of slope, then the joints of the wall tiles can become uneven and look messy. You can solve this problem by tiling the wall with the highest slope and then using the same starting height for all the other walls.

Similarly, when tiling your wall from the center, you must measure the distance from the center to the sides of the wall. Then place the tiles vertically for the dry test and establish the complete layout before mixing the thin-set by marking each tile. This will help you find the number of tiles you need and the number of half tiles required at the end of each row. This will ensure the wall maintains a symmetrical pattern. Repeat the same procedure horizontally as well.

The next step is to make equal quadrants on the wall and complete each quadrant one by one. And if you are planning to tile the whole room, including the floor, then its recommended to start with the walls before the floor, because this will keep the floor clean after tiling and prevent any unnecessary pressure on the floor, which may cause the tiles to shift in the first few hours.

Step 6: Adding Tiles to the Wall

After following the above tips, now it’s time to tile your wall. The first step is to prepare the thin-set. Carefully mix the thin-set according to the instructions and repeat mixing 2-3 times. The thin-set usually takes 30 to 40 minutes until it hardens and is ready to use. After the thin-set is ready, apply it on the back of the tile and the targeted area and gently place the tile on the wall. Move the tile back and forth a bit to ensure that it settles correctly. After placing the first tile, take it off gently using a trowel and check the back of the tile. If there is still 80-90 % of thin-set coverage on the back of the tile, then your thin-set is ready. Otherwise, mix more thin-set to make it hard enough.

Repeat the same procedure and complete the whole row. When placing the tiles, it’s important to maintain an equal distance between all the tiles. To do so, use plastic spacers between the tiles. Sometimes, at the corners or at the end of the row, the general tile size cannot be fitted. Therefore, using a tile cutter, shape the tile to the ideal size. Taping tiles with the painter’s tape is also recommended until the thin-set dries.

The spacers that are placed between the tiles should be removable after the thin-set dries. Be very careful when placing the spacers between the tiles and make sure to clean any excess thin-set from the tiles and in between the tiles, the floor, and walls. It’s much harder to remove when dry and makes the surface uneven or bumpy.

The thin-set usually takes 24 hours to dry, so avoid putting any pressure on the tiles during this time. Otherwise, the tiles can shift. After 24 hours, remove the plastic spacers and painter’s tape from the tiles. Now it’s time to use grout to fill the space between the tiles. Prepare the grout according to the manufacturer’s instructions if your grout is not premixed. After applying the grout between the tiles, wait for an hour so the grout can dry, then clean the front of the tiles with a sponge or mop to remove any excess.

Final Words

Tiling your walls can be a simple task if you follow the steps given in this article. To install the tiles correctly, first, you need to gather all the necessary tools and materials. For effective tiling, establish a layout with a dry test and prepare your wall before mixing the thin-set. This reduces the risk of error and helps you determine the number of tiles required to cover the whole wall. After preparing the surface, you can install the tiles on the wall by applying the thin-set, finishing off with grout. So, as long as you’re prepared, you can successfully tile your walls.

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