Refinishing Floors and Walls

Home | Wiring | Plumbing | Kitchen/Bath

The floor and walls of a bathroom face a daily challenge from water and humidity unequaled in any other room. The following pages show how to seal the bathing area against leaks and seepage with a variety of new wall treatments—from prefabricated panels to ceramic tiles—as well as how to repair rotted areas in a bath room floor and lay a new finish floor of tiles.

Putting in a New Tub Surround

  • Snapping in Prefabricated Panels
  • Installing Solid-Surface Walls

Smoothing the Way for a New Floor

  • Preparing an Undamaged Floor for Ceramic Tile
  • Patching Old Underlayment
  • Working around a Toilet Flange
  • Replacing Damaged Subfloor

Installing Ceramic Floor Tiles

  • Laying Whole Tiles
  • Cutting and Setting Partial Tiles
  • Grouting and Sealing
  • Adding a Threshold

Tiling the Walls around a Tub

  • Plotting Guidelines
  • Setting Tiles in Place
  • Finishing the Job


Filling tile around a pipe.


Putting in a New Tub Surround

The walls surrounding a tub or shower must be durable, moisture resistant, and easy to clean. A variety of specially designed wall treatments, many in kit form, can meet these requirements handily as well as dress up an existing bath room or complement a new one.

-- A Choice of Materials: Molded units of fiberglass, plastic, or acrylic are lightweight, economical, flexible, and easy to handle. Many come in three- or five-panel kits that adjust to fit standard 5-foot or smaller tubs. Extension panels sometimes are available to fit longer tubs.

The nonporous polyester and acrylic products known as solid-surface materials are heavier, more rigid, and more expensive. These walls are composed of the same material throughout, so they are very sturdy and easy to maintain. You can install both types over nearly any clean, dry, structurally sound subsurface, Including tile, plaster, wallboard, and cement.

-- Preparing the Area: Turn off the water supply and remove the faucet handles, tub spout, shower- head, soap dish, towel bars, and any other fittings on walls to be covered. Remove or reattach loose ceramic tiles or peeling wallpaper.

Wash the subsurface and let it dry. For wallboard, plaster, and cement walls, first seal with primer; alternatively, replace or cover these surfaces with moisture-resistant wallboard and then seal.

To avoid cracking or chipping the tub during the job, pad it with blankets or cardboard. Keep the bathroom well ventilated when working with adhesives or caulk.


  • Level
  • Circular saw
  • Coarse file
  • Orbital sander
  • Caulking gun


  • Primer
  • Panel adhesive
  • Silicone caulk (color-matched or clear)
  • Masking tape
  • Electric drill with hole saw or spade bit
  • Jigsaw
  • Hot melt glue gun
  • 120-grit sandpaper
  • 1/16-inch-thick laminate shims
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Hot melt glue sticks
  • Clean white rags

= = = = = =


1. Preparing to install a molded tub surround.


A typical molded tub surround consists of five pieces: two corner panels, a back panel, and two side panels. Some kits, like the one at left, also include apron strips for installation on the walls in front of the tub.

• First, trial fit each panel. Level the top of each panel and, if the bottom edge does not meet the tub’s rim evenly, draw a line across the panel marking the excess below the tub rim.

• With a circular saw or coarse file, trim the panel bottoms along the marked lines. Sand any rough edges.

2. Creating outlets for plumbing.


• It you are using apron strips, remove their backing and affix them to the wall in front of the tub.

• Measuring from the front edge of the tub or of the apron strip and the top of the tub, make a cardboard template of the plumbing outlets. Transfer the measurements to the correct side panel.

• Drilling from the finished side of the panel with a hole saw or a spade bit, cut holes in the panel that are slightly larger than the pipe diameters.

3. Setting corner panels.


• With a caulking gun, apply a 0.25-inch bead of adhesive to the back of a corner panel, about 1 inch from both the panel edges and any factory-installed tape strips. Follow the pattern of straight lines around the edges and curved lines in the middle (above). Put extra adhesive around shelf areas.

• Remove backing from the tape strips, if any, and press the corner pan el into position, making sure all of it makes contact with the wall.

• Install the other corner panel in the same way.

4. Attaching the back and side panels.

• Apply adhesive to the back panel as directed in Step 3.

• Rest the back panel on the edge of the tub, center it between the corner panels, and press it firmly against the wall.

• Apply adhesive to the side panel that attaches opposite the wall with the plumbing.

• Line up the panel’s outside edge with the front of the tub or with the front of the apron strip, overlap the corner panel, and press it firmly onto the wall.

• Apply adhesive to the plumbing-wall panel and an extra ring of adhesive 0.25 inch away from the edges of the cutouts. Firmly attach the panel to the wall.

• Caulk the top and bottom edges of the tub surround, as well as the overlapping edges of the panels.


1. Preparing for installation.


A solid-surface tub wall kit usually contains two back and two side panels, corner pieces, and matching T molding and mitered trim strips.

• To provide a gap for caulking, tape 1/16-inch-thick laminate shims around the perimeter of the tub edge, setting them where the ends of the panels, corners, and trim pieces will rest. Place the shims for the outside edges of the side panels 2.5 inches in from the point known as the radius, where the edge of the tub begins to curve down.

• Trial fit all panels and trim the bottom edges, if necessary, with a circular saw or jigsaw. Smooth rough edges, using an orbital sander or sandpaper.

• Clean the walls and the backs of the panels, corners, and trim pieces with denatured alcohol and clean white rags.

• Mark the center of the back wall.

2. Attaching the panels.


• Apply a 1/4-inch bead of silicone caulk 0.5 inch from the bottom edge of a back panel and a bead of adhesive 1 inch above the caulk. Apply additional adhesive as in Step 3 (see “Setting corner panels” above).

• Resting the bottom edge on the shims, position the back panel about inch to one side of the marked centerline, and press it onto the wall.

• Pull the top of the panel out slightly, apply a dab of hot melt glue to the wall at each corner, then press the panel back into position and hold it in place for 10 to 15 seconds.

• Attach the second back panel in the same way, thus leaving a gap of about inch between the two panels.

• Attach the side panel opposite the plumbing wall, its outside edge 2.5 inches from the tub radius.

• Starting from a line drawn 2.5 inches from the tub radius on the plumbing wall, measure and cut outlet holes in the remaining side panel as in Step 2. Apply extra adhesive 0.25 inch from the edges of the cutouts and attach the panel to the wall.

3. Fitting corners and trim strips.


• On the back of a corner piece, apply silicone caulk 0.5 inch from the bottom and side edges and hot melt glue at the top edge; press the corner piece into place.

• Install the other corner panel.

• Measure and cut the back wall top trim to fit between the corner pieces. Attach it with a bead of caulk applied 0.25 inch from each edge. Align the top edge of the trim with the top edge of the corner pieces, press the trim into position, and secure it with masking tape.

• To position the side trim, mark a level, horizontal line from the top of one corner piece to about 0.5 inches beyond the side panel edge. Place the trim piece next to the side panel, check it for plumb, and draw a vertical line along its outside edge to about 0.5 inches above the horizontal line.

• Rest the mitered end of the trim piece on the shim located between the side panel and the tub radius. Mark, then squarely cut off, the portion of the trim piece that extends above the horizontal line. Sand the cut edge.

• Similarly fit the side wall’s top trim piece by resting its mitered end against the edge of the corner piece; mark and squarely cut off the portion extending past the plumb line.

• Attach the trim pieces by applying a bead of caulk 0.25 inch from all edges. Secure the trim with masking tape.

• Repeat for the other side.

4. Finishing the lob.

• Rest the vertical trim piece called the T molding on its shim and position it between the back panels. On the T molding, mark the length from the shim to the top trim piece and cut the molding to fit.

• Apply a bead of caulk about 0.25 inch from the edges of the T molding, press it into place and se cure it with masking tape.

• Mount shampoo shelves and soap dishes in the corners with caulk and small dabs of hot melt glue. Secure them with masking tape.

• Wait 8 to 10 hours for the adhesives to partially set. Then, remove the shims and masking tape, and caulk the gap around the tub, all of the vertical edges, and the tops of the trim and corners. Also caulk around shelves and plumbing openings.

• Wait 24 hours before using the tub.


Smoothing the Way for a New Floor

The first step in replacing a bath room floor is to examine the condition of the existing one. Damage and rot are not always visible, since the floor actually consists of three layers—the surface, or finish flooring; an underlayment of particle board or plywood; and the subfloor, which is nailed or screwed directly to the joists.

--Inspecting Below the Surface: Before beginning your survey, re move the toilet. If the floor feels suspiciously soft or yielding in places, take up a section of finish flooring and probe for rot with a screwdriver. The damage may be confined to the underlayment or it may extend through to the subfloor.

Also check for lifted seams, buckling in the finish flooring, dampness, odors, discoloration, or other signs of water seepage around sinks, tubs, and toilets. The toilet flange presents special problems in patching the underlayment and sub-floor.

--Preparing the Surface: Once the damage is repaired—or if the three existing layers are solid to begin with—the next step depends on your choice of replacement material. Resilient vinyl—either sheet or square tiles—can be laid over the old flooring. Makers of vinyl flooring sell a variety of products to level and smooth the existing surface.

Laying a ceramic tile floor over vinyl requires a new underlayment for support. Exterior- grade i-inch plywood or particle board is preferred because of its water resistance. You may need to trim door bottoms to add this layer—plus the tile—to the floor. Do not tile over an existing ceramic tile floor unless it is structurally sound—no cracks or water damage.

= = !!! CAUTION !!! = = Asbestos = =

If your resilient bathroom floor was installed before 1986, the flooring and the adhesive underneath may contain asbestos. When disturbed, these materials can release microscopic asbestos fibers into the air, creating severe long- term health risks. Unless you know for certain that your floor does not contain asbestos, assume that it does and follow these precautions when making any repairs:

• Always wear a dual-cartridge respirator. Asbestos fibers will pass right through an ordinary dust mask.

• Never sand resilient flooring or the underlying adhesive.

Try to remove the damaged flooring in one piece. If it looks likely to break or crumble, wet it before removal to reduce the chance of raising dust.

• When scraping off old adhesive, always use a heat gun to keep it tacky or a .spray bottle to keep it wet.

• If vacuuming is necessary rent or buy a wet/dry shop vac with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filtration system.

• Place the damaged flooring, adhesive, and HEPA filter in a polyethylene trash bag at least 6 mils (.006 inch) thick, and seal it immediately.

• Contact your local environmental protection office for guidance as to proper disposal.

= = = =


  • Electric drill with screwdriver bit
  • Utility or linoleum knife
  • Heat gun
  • Putty knife or stiff-bladed scraper
  • Chisel
  • Screwdriver
  • Circular saw
  • Pry bar


  • Vinyl-tile adhesive
  • Latex patching compound
  • 5/8-inch plywood or particle board
  • 2.25-inch dry-wall screws
  • Construction adhesive


1. Leveling the finish flooring.


• Remove the shoe molding and base board as described.

• Clean the floor thoroughly, removing all dirt and old wax.

• For a vinyl tile floor, re-bond any loose tiles by using a hot iron, protecting the surface with an old towel. If heat fails to activate the adhesive, lift the tile, scrape off the old adhesive, and reset the tile with new adhesive.

• Fill any spaces that are left with a latex patching compound available from flooring retailers.

2. Installing new underlayment.

• Arrange plywood or particle board sheets in a staggered pattern. The sheets should span any joints in the existing floor. To allow for expansion, leave about 1/32 inch between the sheets and about 1/8-inch between the outside edges and the walls.

• With an electric drill and a screw driver bit, secure each sheet with dry wall screws set 3/8-inch in from the edges and spaced 6 inches apart over the whole surface of the sheet.


1. Removing the finish flooring.


• For sheet vinyl, make several parallel cuts from wall to wall with a utility or linoleum knife.

• Use a heat gun to soften the adhesive along the cuts or, in the case of tiles, along the joints between them. Hold the nozzle a few inches above the floor and sweep it back and forth for about 15 seconds. Then work a putty knife blade under the flooring and gently pry it loose.

• Continue until the entire strip or tile comes off, then soften and scrape any remaining adhesive off the underlayment with the heat gun and putty knife.

2. Cutting out the damaged area.


• Poke a chisel or screwdriver through a soft spot in the underlayment to determine its thickness and set your circular saw to that depth.

• Cut out and remove a rectangular section of underlayment around the damaged area.

• Fit an underlayment patch to the opening; make the patch the same thickness as the original. Attach the patch to the subfloor with a construction adhesive and dry-wall screws.


1. Lifting out the underlayment.


• Stuff the toilet drain hole with rags to prevent odors and possible loss of small tools.

• With a circular saw, cut a rectangular section of underlayment around the damaged area . Then cut the section in half, sawing as close as possible to the flange.

• Remove any screws that are attaching the toilet flange to the floor, and pull the nails out of the underlayment cutout. Ease each side of the underlayment out from under the toilet flange with out putting upward pressure on the flange that would disturb the seal between the flange and the drain beneath.

2. Inserting a patch.


• Cut a patch of 5/8-inch plywood or particle board that is the size and shape of the hole in the underlayment.

• Saw the patch in two so that the seam will not coincide with any subflooring joint, then notch both pieces to fit around the flange.

• Apply a bead of construction adhesive to the underside of both pieces of the patch, and slip them into place under the flange. Attach them to the subfloor with dry-wall screws.


1. Cutting out the damaged area.


• First, increase the size of the cutout in the underlayment so it is larger than the proposed patch to the subfloor.

• For a plywood subfloor, cut out and remove the damaged area in the same way you removed the underlayment in Step 1.

• For a lumber subfloor (above), re move the nails or screws from the joists on either side of the damaged area. Saw above the centerline of the joists through the empty nail or screw holes, then lift out the boards.

2. Patching the subfloor.


• Cut a plywood patch to fit the cutout in the subfloor.

• Mark the center of the toilet drain hole on an edge of the patch that will be parallel to the joists when installed.

• Saw the patch in two at that point, then cut a notch in each piece to fit the flange.

• Run a bead of construction adhesive along the tops of the exposed joists, then slip the two pieces under the lip of the flange and anchor them to the joists with dry-wall screws.


Installing Ceramic Floor Tiles

The challenge of laying a floor in a bathroom depends in part on the material chosen. Laying sheet flooring, for example, is more demanding than installing tiles because of the multiple cutouts required. An error can ruin an entire sheet of material but may spoil only a single tile.

Either vinyl tile or ceramic tile— shown below —is suitable for a bathroom floor. Both are installed in much the same way, beginning with sound subflooring and underlayment.

Ceramic tile, which is the more durable of the two materials, also requires the extra step of grouting to fill the seams between the rows.

Both jobs begin with dividing the room into four roughly equal quadrants (below). Work proceeds by quadrant, with the quadrant next to the bathroom door tiled last. Tiles may be laid in rows as shown here or diagonally in an adaptation of the method for walls. In either case, you have the option of not laying partial tiles around the perimeter of the room until you have laid all the whole tiles.

-- Tiles and Thresholds: Most ceramic tiles have spacer lugs on their edges that assure joints of equal width. If you use tiles without lugs, buy spacers separately. Choose tiles no thicker than will come flush with the toilet flange. Always buy a few extra tiles to allow for breakage, and save fragments to practice cutting.

For the threshold at the bathroom door, you can use real or synthetic marble if the tiles are flush with the floor outside the bathroom. If not, shape the underside of a wood threshold to bridge the two different levels.

-- Adhesive and Grout: When laying ceramic tile on any surface but particle board or concrete, the strongest bonding agent is thin-set latex adhesive, a powder that is mixed with water. Use mastic with particle board, and on concrete, lay an isolation membrane—thin fiberglass backed by rubber—to prevent small cracks in the slab from shifting the tiles. Affix the membrane with mastic, and then use thin-set latex adhesive for the tile. Grout for tile joints is available with sand or without, for a smoother look.



• Mark the center of the rectangular area to be tiled, ignoring encroachments such as a vanity. Draw two guidelines through the center, perpendicular to each other and parallel to the walls.

• Position a tile with one corner at the center point, then add tiles to make a cross at the center of the area . Use spacers between tiles without lugs.

• If a gap narrower than half a tile remains at the ends of either row, shift the guidelines , widening these spaces to eliminate awkward cuts on tiny pieces of tile. Reposition the tiles on the floor to check your work.

• Pick up all the tiles except for the one at the center of the cross. With a chalk line, establish new guidelines along adjacent edges of the tile.


  • Ceramic floor tiles
  • Grout
  • 2-by-4
  • Silicone caulk
  • Silicone grout sealant
  • Sandpaper, 80-grit
  • Tile adhesive
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Solvent


  • Notched trowel
  • Rod saw
  • Hammer
  • Grout float
  • Chalk line
  • Caulk gun
  • Tile cutter
  • Small brush
  • Tile flippers
  • Small saw

SAFETY TIPS---When cutting tile, wear safety goggles and work gloves to protect yourself against chips and sharp edges. Put on rubber gloves to work with adhesive or grout.



1. Preparing the surface.

• Spread a thin layer of adhesive on the entire floor with the unnotched side of a trowel. Work one quadrant at a time, ending at the area by the door.

Avoid obscuring the guidelines.

• Allow this preliminary coat to dry for about 2 hours.

2. Applying adhesive.


• Pour about a cup of adhesive onto one quadrant. Pull the notched edge of the trowel through the adhesive at a 45-degree angle, assuring that the teeth penetrate to the floor.

• Use sweeping strokes to spread the adhesive evenly in the corner of the quadrant.

3. Setting tiles.


• Starting at the center of the room, set a row of tiles along the guideline, toward the wall. Work carefully; these tiles determine the alignment of all that follow. Place tiles lug to lug, pressing each into the adhesive with a slight twisting of your fingertips.

• Complete the quadrant in the same manner. Take care to align the first tile in each new row precisely with the tile next to it. Avoid kneeling directly on freshly laid tiles. If you can’t reach across them to continue, either stop work for 24 hours while the adhesive cures or lay plywood on the tiles to protect them.

Lay mosaic tile sheets in rows, unrolling each sheet onto the surface in turn, leaving the same space between sheets as between individual tiles.

4. Beating in the tiles.


Cushion a straight 2-by-4 with cloth and set it on the tiles you have laid. Move the board around, gently tapping it with a hammer to force protruding tiles into the adhesive. Wipe away excess adhesive with a solvent recommended by the manufacturer.


Marking edge tiles.


• To make filler pieces for gaps at walls, cabinets, and bathtubs, tape a tile on top of a tile that borders the gap. This second tile will be come the filler piece.

• Set a third tile on top of the second and slide it to the wall.

• One joint width from the edge of the topmost tile, mark the filler piece for cutting as shown at left (blue line).

For mosaic tile, cut tiles from a sheet, trim them as needed, and set them individually.

Cutting perimeter tiles.


• Position the cut line under the tile cutter’s scoring wheel and set the adjustable fence to hold the tile in place.

• Score the tile with the wheel, then press down firmly with the lever to snap the tile along the line.

CAUTION---Cut tiles are sharp. Dull the edges with 80-grit sandpaper.

Making irregular cuts.


Use flippers to fit tiles to corners, doorjambs, or a toilet flange.

• First, make a paper pattern for the cut, then transfer the outline to the glazed side of the tile. Hold the glazed side up and break tiny pieces from the tile—less than 1/8 inch at a time—to avoid splitting it.

• Smooth and dull the cut edges of the tile with 80-grit sandpaper.

===TRICKS of the TRADE===

An Alternative to Nippers

Nibbling at the edge of a tile with flippers sometimes fractures tiles and nearly always leaves a ragged edge. A rod saw solves both problems.

A variety of hacksaw blade, a rod saw is a wire coated with carbide, an abrasive that cuts quickly through ceramic. The cylindrical blade allows abrupt changes in direction to make cutting a square corner as easy as shaping a wide curve.

To cut a tile, rest it on a low work surface such as a bench or a stool with the cut line near the edge. Saw vertically, repositioning the tile as needed to keep the blade close to the supporting edge.

Sandpaper the cut edge.


Setting partial tiles.


• Position each partial tile in line with its row as you did with whole tiles and press it into the adhesive.

• If the tile is to fit under a molding at the wall, slide the cut edge under the trim, then press the tile in place.

• Let tile adhesive cure for at least 24 hours before grouting the joints.


1. Grouting.


• Temporarily stuff perimeter joints with rolled paper towels to prevent grout from entering.

• Pour a cup or two of grout onto the tiles and drag it diagonally across the joints with a rubber grout float. Work in an area of 5 square feet or so, pressing grout to the bottoms of joints. Wait 15 minutes, then wipe up excess grout with a damp sponge.

• Grout the rest of the floor in the same manner.

• Keep the grout damp as it cures by mopping the floor twice daily for 3 days. Then wipe any haze of grout from the tiles with a soft cloth.

2. Caulking perimeter joints.


• Load a caulk gun with a tube of silicone caulk, its tip cut at a 45-degree angle, to lay a bead of caulk in each perimeter joint. Pushing the caulk ahead of the gun, as shown at right, fill the joints to the same depth as the grout between the tiles.

• When the silicone is tacky, dampen a rag with denatured alcohol and clean excess caulk from around the joints.

3. Sealing grout.


• Brush grout sealant on the joints only after the grout has fully cured. The curing period varies among sealants; check the manufacturer’s instructions. Apply sealant liberally, wiping up the excess with a soft cloth.

• Allow the sealant to dry completely before letting the floor get wet.


1. Cutting the doorstop.


• Position one end of the threshold against the doorstop to mark the doorstop for trimming.

• Lay a pencil flat on the threshold arid drag the point across the doorstop to make a cutting line slightly higher than the threshold.

• Repeat this procedure for the other side of the doorway, then use a small saw to trim both doorstops (left).

2. Positioning the threshold.


• Apply tile adhesive to the bottom of the threshold with the notched edge of a trowel.

• Hold the threshold as shown at right. Without allowing the adhesive to touch the floor, slide the threshold under the doorstops to the edge of the tiles and press it into place.

• Wipe away excess adhesive with a damp sponge.


Tiling the Walls around a Tub

Few improvements add as much life and sparkle to an older bathroom as a newly tiled tub alcove, which can also provide the classic finishing touch to a renovation or new bath room. Tile offers the practical ad vantage of a waterproof, durable, and easy-to-clean surface. Moreover, by replacing old, cracked tiles you may also prevent water damage to the walls and floor.

--A Solid Backing: For a tiling job that will last, cement board is the best choice of backing material. In an old bathroom, strip the surrounding walls to the studs and nail cement board to them. During a renovation, install cement board on any wall that is in tended for tiling.

--Selecting Materials: For best results with tub walls, choose full-size or field tiles that are 4.25 inches square with spacer lugs on each side. Such tiles are easier to handle than larger specimens and are less likely to shift under their own weight during installation; the lugs ensure even spacing for the grout lines between tiles.

Tub surrounds are commonly tiled to a height of 72 inches above the floor—just below the shower arm, which is normally placed between 74 and 76 inches above the floor. Estimate how many field tiles you will need to cover your surround, then add extras to allow for imperfections, breakage, and cut ting mistakes. Also purchase trim tiles as edging. Trim tiles usually lack spacer lugs; establish the correct spacing between them and the field tiles with 2-inch finishing nails.

When practical, buy soap dishes and other ceramic accessories from the wall-tile manufacturer. They are often the size of one or two field tiles; leave the space open as you tile, then add the accessory as shown.

Choose a Type 1 organic or mastic tile adhesive formulated for wet areas. Follow the directions on the container to select the right trowel to properly spread the adhesive. Serrated trowels—rather than the notched trowels used for floors— are common for wall tiling. To fill spaces between tiles, look for a grout with a latex additive. It is stronger, more flexible, and more water resistant than other grouts.

--Final Preparations: Before beginning any work in the bathtub, pad the bottom with cardboard and old blankets to prevent shoes, tools, or falling tiles from chipping the finish. Cover the drain and overflow openings with masking tape to keep out dust, adhesive, and other materials.


  • Level
  • Chalk line
  • Hammer
  • Serrated trowel
  • Tile cutter
  • Tile flippers
  • Grout float
  • Caulk gun


  • 1-by-2 lumber
  • Dry-wall nails
  • Adhesive
  • 4.25-inch field tiles with spacer lugs
  • Ceramic accessories
  • Trim tiles 2-inch finishing nails
  • Latex grout
  • Silicone caulk
  • Grout sealant

SAFETY TIPS---Protect your eyes with safety goggles and hands with work gloves while cutting or nipping tiles. Wear rubber gloves when mixing or applying tile adhesive and grout.

Trim tiles for a finished edge.


Although square field tiles cover most of the walls above a tub, two kinds of trim tiles are needed to complete the installation. The first are 2- by 6-inch bullnose tiles, which run along the top and ends of the tiled area. Where the end walls of a tub alcove meet the back wall, the bullnoses butt together as the field tiles do—the edge of one against the glossy face of the other. As shown in the photograph above, the second kind of trim—called a down-corner tile the square where vertical and horizontal courses of bullnose meet.


1. Making a layout stick.


• Cut a piece of straight 1 -by-2 lumber to a length of between 36 and 42 inches.

• Working on a level surface, set out a row of tiles, lug to lug, and place the 1 -by-2 alongside them, one end aligned with the lugs of the first tile.

• Mark the width of each tile on the stick.

For wider grout lines or when working with tiles that have no lugs, take care to space the tiles evenly, then mark the layout stick accordingly.

2. Checking the tub slope.

• Where each corner of the tub meets an end wall, draw a vertical line on the wall to the showerhead height, using a level to keep the lines plumb. Similarly draw vertical lines on the back wall from the inside tub corner. On each line, mark the planned height of the tiles, measured from the tub rim.

• On each tub wall, draw level lines inward from the marks on the two vertical lines. If the lines meet, the tub is level along that side.

• Where the lines do not meet, the higher line indicates the high side of the tub. Measure the distance between them.

3. Marking a level starting line.

• If he distance between the level lines drawn on the back wall in Step 2 is less than 1/8-inch, set a field tile at the high end of the bathtub’s back rim. Otherwise, place the tile at the low end of the rim.

• In either case, place a level on top of the tile and draw a horizontal guideline across the wall.

• If tub rim and guideline converge to less than a tile width, tiles must be trimmed to fit. When the distance between the tub rim and the guideline becomes slightly greater than the width of a tile, plan to fill the extra space with grout.

4. Selecting a center point.


• Mark the center of the guideline. Then hold the layout stick under the line so that it touches the end wall.

• If the center mark aligns with a joint space on the stick, the wall can be completed without cut ting end tiles.

• If a tile would cover the center mark, slide the stick to center a joint space on the mark. Measure the distance between the stick and the end wall.

• If the gap is 2 inches or more, draw a vertical guideline at the center mark. For a gap that is narrower than 2 inches, mark the wall half a tile width farther from the corner and draw the vertical line there.

5. Guidelines for end walls.


• Mark a horizontal guideline on each end wall as in Step 3.

• At an outside corner, hold a tile against the guideline where it intersects the corner, lithe tile edge and corner do not coincide, tack a chalk line at the inside corner, align the tile with the outside corner, and snap a new guideline along the bottom of the tile. Mark a vertical guideline 2 1/8-inches from the corner.

• For an end wall with no corner nearby, extend the horizontal guideline one tile width past the tub and mark for a vertical guideline.

• In both cases, plan for uncut field tiles at the outer edge and check with the layout stick whether this layout will create tile slivers at the inside corner. If so, either lengthen the guideline half a tile width or set half-tiles at the outer edge.


1. Applying adhesive.


• Using dry-wall nails, tack a 1-by-2 board to the back wall with the top edge at the horizontal guideline; this batten will support tiles while the adhesive sets.

• With the straight edge of a serrated trowel, scoop up about a cupful of adhesive and smear it on the wall near the intersection of the horizontal and vertical guidelines.

• Hold the trowel’s serrated edge at a 45-degree angle to the wall to spread a thin, even coat of mastic over about 3 square feet of wall space.

2. Placing the tiles.


• Set the first tile on the batten, side lugs against the vertical guideline. Press the tile against the adhesive with your fingertips, jiggling it slightly to help it stick.

• Add tiles according to the numbered sequence at left to form a pyramid. Continue the pattern upward and outward, coating the wall with adhesive as you go.

• Place tiles on the end walls in a half-pyramid, working from the outer edge toward the inside corner.

• Finish by removing the battens and filling in each bottom row. Allow the adhesive to cure for a few minutes before setting the tiles to keep them from sagging.

3. Accommodating the tub plumbing.


• If a pipe falls entirely within a tile, hold the tile below the pipe and mark its center on the edge of the tile. Cut the tile along the mark with a tile cutter.

• Mark the width of the pipe on the cut edge of each piece.

• Holding each piece glazed side up, use tile nippers to make a notch for the pipe.

• For a pipe that falls at a joint, notch the edges of whole tiles to fit.

4. Adding the trim tiles.


• Measure the length in inches of the top row of tile on the back wall; divide by 6 to get a rough count of the number of bullnoses required. Allow 1/8-inch more for each bullnose. Based on the result, plan to place the bullnoses along the top so that any partial bullnoses at the corners are about the same length.

• Spread enough adhesive for a few trim tiles at a time, then tap 2-inch finishing nails beside the field tiles between the spacer lugs to allow room for grout. Set the bluenoses in the adhesive.

• On each end wall, begin at the outside corner. Set a bullnose above the top outermost field tile, flush with the edge and spaced away with a nail. Then set a bullnose vertically beside the field tile in the same way. Place a down- corner tile between the bullnoses. Extend the bullnose tile rows along both sides of the wall, cutting as needed at the inside corner.


1. Applying grout.


• Let the adhesive cure for 24 hours, then remove the trim- spacing nails.

• Wearing rubber gloves and safety goggles, prepare a batch of grout according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

• Trowel the mixture onto the tile surface with a rubber- faced grout float, forcing the grout into the joints with crisscrossing diagonal strokes of the float edge. Be sure to fill the corner joints and the joint above the tub rim.

• Allow the grout to dry for 10 to 12 minutes. Then clean and polish the tiles as described earlier.

2. Caulking the tub.

• Wait 24 hours for the grout to cure; it will also shrink enough to form a shallow channel for a bead of caulk. Fill the bathtub with water to widen the tub-rim joint, which must be completely dry and free from dirt.

• Load a cartridge of silicone caulk, approved for bath tub use, into a caulking gun and cut the cartridge tip at a 45-degree angle.

• Place the tip at the joint and apply steady pressure on the trigger as you push the gun along the joint.

• To finish the bead, smooth it with a wet finger.

• Let the caulk cure for 24 hours before emptying the tub.

A few weeks later, apply sealant to the grout.

Monday, December 26, 2016 9:18 PST