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How to Retile a Bathroom: A Step-by-Step Guide

There’s no doubt that the quarantine has changed everything – especially the way we see our homes. Our residence now needs to function as our office, school, movie theater and much more. In fact, as we start spending more time indoors, many of us are fighting another battle in our home – the battle against boredom! If you’ve been inside for days or weeks, you might be getting a little stir-crazy- or at very least, feeling bored and uninspired. When quarantine times start to become bleak and depressing for you, it’s time to work on some home improvement projects that keep getting pushed to the side to help your home continue feeling like your refuge.

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Have you been planning to beautify your bath? Don’t let your quarantine time go to waste. Plus, retiling a bathroom is a good way to make the space look polished without doing a major overhaul. If your bathroom is feeling dated and in need of an upgrade, this is a great opportunity to transform its look and keep yourself occupied. And don’t worry if DIY isn’t your thing! This step-by-step guide will teach you how to retile a bathroom and turn it into an oasis you’ve always wanted. Ready? Let’s learn how to use this unique time wisely and get creative.

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Must Have Tools 

Before you start working, make sure you have the right tools for success (we get that not everyone has been quarantined with these items, but just like we’re shipping during this time, there are lots of online retailers for home improvement odds and ends to complete these projects)!

-Measuring Tape

-Gloves, Protective Glasses

-New Tiles 

-Utility knife, Hammer, Putty Knife

-backer board

-Circular Saw

-Grout

-Grout Trowel

-Mortar Mix

-Notched Trowel

-Sponge

-Tile Spacers

-Wet Saw Tile Cutter 

-Caulk

 

How to Retile a Bathroom: A Step-by-Step Guide

 

1. Determine How Many Tiles You Need

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First things first, it’s essential to measure your surface carefully before you begin. Once you determine which area you want to retile in your bathroom, measure out your square footage by multiplying the length and width. Once you have your footage, we recommend ordering at least 10% more tiles than you think you will need to ensure full coverage. Measuring will also help you determine how much mortar, grout and backing board you will need – which we will cover in the following steps. 

  • Need a little help to measure out and order your tiles? Our product pages offer a calculator to determine how many pieces or sheets you will need to cover 
  • 2. Remove the Old Tiles
  • Whether you are retiling your shower or your bathroom floor, the first and probably the most tedious part of your project will be removing the old tiles. Keep in mind that you need to remove the shower head and shower handles with a drill or screwdriver if you’re redoing a shower wall. All you need is your hammer and a utility knife or putty knife, and we do recommend covering the shower floors with towels or cardboards to prevent damage from falling tiles. Start by gently placing your prying tool against the side of the old tiles and pushing them out. Be careful not to dig into the drywall or floor as you go, and continue the process until all tiles have been removed. Once all tiles have been removed, use your utility knife to take off any remaining mortar as well. 

     

  • 3. Clean & Prepare the Surface
  • You must get all your surfaces smooth and flat before you start adding your beautiful new tiles!  Make sure there is not even a small piece of mortar left as it will lead to non-proper retiling. It’s always better to invest some extra time in this part of the project since fixing any mistakes afterwards can be very expensive.

     

  • 4. Prepare Underlayment & Attach Backer Board
  • When retiling a shower, you need a special substrate (a base layer) which is also called a cement board or a backer board. Because bathrooms are wet areas, this substrate will create a sturdy, dry surface that will protect your tiles against moisture and cracks. 

    For bathroom floors, attaching an underlayment of cement board (backer board) to your sub-flooring will also provide a level and sturdy surface for your tiles to adhere to. Using a circular saw can help you cut panels that will fit your bathroom floor and cut holes as needed to accommodate the toilet and other bath fixtures. Use your drill to attach your backer board to your subfloor, spacing screws approximately 6 inches apart. 

    Backer board is also used when retiling your shower walls as well as tub surrounds. Fasten your backer board to your shower framing with a screw or nail about every 8 to 12 inches. 

    How to Retile a Bathroom: A Step-by-Step Guide

  • 5. Determine Your Tile Layout
  • Once your underlayment is ready, our team recommends laying your tiles out ahead of time so that you figure out how they will fit together. Aligning them and determining the layout will help you make any necessary adjustments before you apply any adhesive and start to retile your bathroom.

     

  • 6. Install New Tiles
  • Now that you’ve completed the prep steps, it’s time to get to the main portion of retiling a bathroom! For walls, you should start by covering half of the wall with mortar mix and spreading it with a notched trowel. Use spacers between the tiles to ensure you leave room for grout later. Use the same steps until you reach the top of the wall. The process is similar for bathroom floors as well, where you need to comb out a bed of mortar mix using a notched trowel. Once you reach the ends, you might need to cut your tiles to fit perfectly using your wet saw. You may also consider trim tiles near cabinets, around shower niches or near doorways and flooring stops. Use your wet saw, if necessary, to cut these trims as well. Once tiles are installed, take a rest since the mortar should be set overnight.

    How to Retile a Bathroom: A Step-by-Step Guide

    Arrange your tiles with spacers to leave room for grout.

  • 7. Add Grout Between the Tiles & Caulk
  • Celebrate at this point, because you’re almost done! After the mortar has dried overnight, start your next day by removing spacers from the mortar. Spread the grout over the tiles and press between the tiles with a trowel. You may also want to use a sponge to remove any excess grout afterwards. However, make sure you do complete this step quickly since the grout will harden and glue to the tile. Once the grout is completed, leave the grout for 24 hours and do not use your shower. For floors, avoid heavy traffic for at least 72 hours to allow grout to dry. 

    How to Retile a Bathroom: A Step-by-Step Guide

    Don’t forget to caulk the vertical lines along the wall and the horizontal lines along the floor. Let the caulk set for 48 hours while the grout is drying as well. 

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    Some Useful Tips:

    Retiling a shower or bathroom floor is often easier than you think - it requires a methodical approach but the process isn’t actually very complicated. To make it even easier, we’re sharing a few extra tips and tricks. Be sure to check these out!

    • Consider your safety first. Protective gloves and glasses are important. We strongly recommend using them, especially while removing old tiles and cutting any tiles to fit, as broken tile pieces can chip off.
    • As mentioned earlier, removing old mortar is one of the most important steps for a successful install. The rule of thumb is that the better you remove the mortar, the better new mortar will stick on the surface. 
    • When installing new tiles, measure the height and draw a chalk line above each tile. The new mortar must be applied below that chalk line so that it helps the next layer of mortar hold tiles properly.
    • Grout should be applied evenly and thoroughly as the final step - lack of proper grouting can result in eroding from water and ruining your work.

     

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    While retiling a bathroom is by no means a short process, it is a great DIY project for any motivated homeowner who wants to upgrade their bathroom while at the same time exploring their creativity in a way they may not always have time to! Don’t let your bathroom be the only space for practicing good hygiene these days. Use this quarantine time as an opportunity to tackle your long-avoided bathroom project and turn it into a more pleasant space. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you need any help or have any questions with your project!

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