How to Correctly Set Out a Bathroom for Tiling

By Grover Koelpin 34 comments

MIKE EDWARDS: Hi my name is Mike Edwards the website is Home Improvement Doctor – part of the DIY Doctor Group and this is the second in our series of
ceramic tiling videos the first one being how to repair holes and cracks in walls with one coat, or patching plaster after you’ve taken the old tiles of, so having done that one we can put that stuff aside there now I have to say apologies
first of all DIY Doctor likes to to keep things real But sometimes especially during the summer we don’t book many bathrooms in we prefer to be outdoors uh… so sometimes we can’t be on site but we
have built a proper film studio so that we can mock up these videos to show you – so quite clearly this isn’t a real bathroom real bathroom but we’ve got everything fitted so that
it will replicate the the stuff that
you’re gonna try and do your bathroom So this video is called setting
out for ceramic tiles and it’s a very important part of the
tiling process You need to know where every
single tile is going to go on your wall before you start and one of the things to remember
is that before you start tiling and before you choose your tiles, it’s a
really good idea to check just how level and flat your walls are now you can do that simply by using a spirit level and moving that about over the wall
and if it’s touching in most places you’ve got fairly flat and level walls which means that you can use bigger
ceramic tiles the more bumpy the walls the more undulating the smaller the tiles you will need to use or you will need to have your bathroom re-skimmed to get them flat because if you use very big ceramic tiles
on a surface that is really uneven quite clearly not all of the tile is
going to be stuck to the wall That is quite important that all
of the tile is stuck to the wall okay so Choose your tiles after you have checked your walls and if you’ve got a five hundred year
old wattle and daub cottage and the walls are all over the place like
the Himalayas and you try and stick two foot square Travertine tiles on there, you’re gonna have problems Either skim the walls to
get them flat or choose smaller tiles to go with the undulations on the wall That’s the first thing The second thing is to (we are going to be tiling this wall here) the most difficult wall in the bathroom this one’s got the bath on it and the toilet We’ve taken the toilet pan out for ease because realistically you don’t actually tile around any part of the toilet pan All you tile around is the pipe that goes into the walls and
sometimes even that goes into the floor so We’ve taken the toilet out so you can see what we’re doing so the very first thing that we need to
do is to establish which is the widest part of this wall – is it the floor where the skirting board is or is it the ceiling that is the widest part of the wall Now we can do that either with a tape measure We can simply measure the bottom, the
middle and the top from side to side or we can do that in conjunction
with the spirit level and see which way the walls are away from perpendicular In pretty much every house we’ve ever
worked in the walls are leaning over one way or another. Not
necessarily by a great deal but we can simply put the spirit level on the wall uh… and by moving the bottom or the top uh… to get it level to get it upright we can see at the bottom here there’s a gap of somewhere between quarter and half an inch so that would be somewhere between
six and ten millimeters perhaps so we know the the wall it’s actually leaning over at the top Which means that the bottom is the widest part of the bathroom – so we need to check the walls both sides to make sure that’s the case Check it with a tape measure but once we’ve established the widest
part of the bathroom which in this instance is the floor we can then start to set out our tiles. First of all work out which is the widest part of the wall
that you’re gonna work on and as I’ve said it’s the bottom in this instance, okay now the reason that we’re going to do that is
because the very last thing that we put on the wall when we’re ceramic tiling are the cuts around the perimeter we cut the last tile into the wall so if it’s sloping inwards, as this wall is, as we go up the cuts will get smaller and we know we’ve got a neat joint all the way up, rather than starting at a wall with a full tile uh… we would be in of great deal of
difficulty because we know the wall is sloping over at the top which means effectively the tiles if we started at that wall these tiles will be coming down at an angle and they will look awful so we need to make sure that all of the
tiles we get on this wall independently of the shape of the floor the ceiling and the walls on either side we need to know that every tile we put
on there is completely square and then we can put the cuts in to suit the shape of the walls on the perimeter and the way we’re gonna do that is we are going to use a stick It’s actually what is called a gauging batten and we’re going gauge where our tiles go using using this baton rather than keep holding tiles onto the wall and marking them and potentially making a mistake that way we simply get a piece of timber – in this case about an inch and and an inch and a half – about thirty millimeters by ten millimeters a piece of batten and we mark on the batten as you can see we always start with a joint in this particular case there I’ve done the joints in orange so they show up quite well Put a tile on mark the joint move the tile over, mark the joint again and continue all the way along the baton it doesn’t
matter in this case we’ve actually cut the batten off at the end of the joint
so we can use it on either end but it doesn’t particular matter – you’ll see why later You will also notice and I will point this out to you straight away that these joints are quite a bit bigger than the 2 mm joints that tilers, domestic tilers, DIY tilers home improvers tend to use the two millimeter spacer We use five millimeter spacers simply because when the tiles are fitted absolutely square to each other on the walls then the spacers themselves, the joints
themselves make a much better job. The joints form
part of the walls so don’t try to disguise them uh… Make the the joints part of the job it’s a lot neater The second reason for using slightly bigger spacers is that the most important part of this tiling that we are going to do isn’t the tiles themselves because they are waterproof to all intents and purposes –
although they have got something like a three to five percent water absorption rate – they are waterproof not water-resistant, waterproof The joints however are the vulnerable part The most important part when we finish this –
and that will be the final video grouting a wall will be the Getting the grout in the joints and to make that
easier, to ensure that we’ve got those joints watertight we open the joints up
a little bit. It’s a myth to think that the smaller the joints, the more watertight your wall is. That’s not the case at all because sometimes that doesn’t allow you to force the grout into the joint. If one little lump of grout gets stuck in the joint, it looks like
it’s full, but of course it’s not. There is a void behind it So by increasing the joints a little bit and absolutely filling the joints with grout you can ensure you have got a watertight wall. Okay now we’re gonna set out, so we’ve established that the widest part of the wall is at the bottom we will start our tiling with a joint. We will put a joint against the wall. Hold the stick onto the wall – the batten onto the wall and if the cameraman can pan along there you can see that we’ve got joint tile joint tile etc, so we know that using this batten here that at the end of this batten I’ve put a pencil mark on the wall, which I will point to in a moment and if we started tiling along there from that corner this would be the end of the joint of a tile. Now we can see quite clearly or by measuring or holding a tile up or even using our gauge rod That leaves us with about three quarters
of a tile, that’s not a bad cut to have three quarters of a tile what we don’t want to end up with is tiny slivers of tile at either end or whatever but what we prefer is because this is a finished edge – or will be a finished edge by the time we’ve finished tiling this wall I’d prefer that three-quarters of a tile to be over on that wall We can actually do it the other way around
so we know that if we start with a full tile or around about a full tile going up this end nearest me we’re going to end up with about three
quarters of a tile at that end okay so we’re going to set this wall out now that
we’ve established that. We’re going to set this wall out so that we know we can start with almost a full tile here this wall itself this edge itself is sloping over exactly the same way there’s going to be a little bit of cutting involved here and but it’s going to look a lot neater because this is more
exposed in the corner it’s going to look neater to have a bigger cut there and move the 3/4 of a tile over to that corner and that’s where we’ll start tiling so
the first thing that we need to do is establish a mark on the wall, At around three-quarters of a tile – we will go back over to this corner We can say that these tiles here These are six-inch tiles, including a joint so three quarters of that is going to be four-and-a-half inches so we can mark that on the tile which is there or we can just measure it off the wall then we can make sure we out a mark on the wall to show but that’s the cut we’re going to have into the corner We know from that point onwards That’s the cut tile- so after the cut tile we are going to start with a joint and then we can look across the wall and we know that the tiles will fall there we are going to look for the first vertical line that will go without any obstructions that’s what we’re gonna look for and it turns out to be this one here at the end of the joint that going to be our vertical line Don’t forget what we’re trying to do is set out a perfectly square part of this wall so that we can tile independently of what the walls either side are doing So we’ll put the spirit level on that line we know that to be perfectly upright having got the level one hundred-percent upright (I hope the camera can see that?) we can draw a line on the wall down to the skirting board So we know our first column of tiles is going to be along this line, because we know that to
be perfectly vertical We know that if we start laying there when we lay back that way we know for a fact that we’ve got a three-quarter cut there and when we lay back this way we know that we have almost a full tile. There is going to be a little tile uh… little cut at the bottom and its going to get a little bit bigger – its going to be a bit bigger at this end going into the bead that we are going to put on this wall – I have a bead here which I’ll demonstrate for you. We are going to cut that tile into that bead so we have hidden the cut edge and we know that is going to be virtually a full tile there and at the same time we’ve got a fairly decent three-quarter cut at that side by starting on this line. Now similarly the ceiling is gonna be out of parallel very likely with the floor is not going to be level – so what we’ve
got to do is do the whole thing the other way around as well. So
what we’re gonna do is put our stick, or our gauging baton on the skirting and we’re gonna work up the wall again we’ve going to mark that there so that we know that as a full tile and a joint at the end and then we’re gonna move it up to the ceiling as close as we can get to the ceiling so by putting our gauge on the mark that I made there online
there we can see that if we started off at the skirting with a full tile we would end up with a silly little cut at the ceiling I hoe that makes sense? So if we started off from the skirting board with a full tile and we worked our way up we would end up with a tiny little
sliver of a cut at the ceiling which is going to look horrible, and it’s going to make
life very difficult for us so the best thing to do three would be to enlarge that cut to about half a tile or three-quarters of a tile which would of course reduce the size of the starting tile – which would
then go down to about three quarters of a tile so that’s pretty much the same as the width and that’s what we are going to achieve with the width And you will very often find that bathrooms are quite square along those lines anyway so the cuts are fairly similar so as we’re going to do from side to side we are going to do the same from the skirting here Now I’ve cheated a little bit – I’ve already done this excise as I said before, if we start with around about three-quarters of a tile down at the bottom, This isn’t this doesn’t have to be precise because uh… if we move that down a quarter of an inch all it will do is make the top a quarter of an inch bigger so we have a little bit to play with which is important when we come to tile on the bath because now we’ve put this line on the wall our level line, where we’re going to
start from so we can see quite clearly the intersection of these lines our first tile is going to go there and then what we need to see then is where that comes in relation to the bath so we’ll put that on there, remembering that
we’ve got a joint and we can see that the top if we tile up there with full tiles, we can
see that in this instance the top of the the third tile is sixty seventy milimeters above the level of the bath. That’s absolutely fine because what we’re gonna do well leave that – as we tile up the wall with our first row, we know that when we finished with the bath and we will talk about that in a moment but we know we’ve set out an area – a gap seventy millimeters above the bath so we mark a level line along there when we lay our third tile and then we can set out around the bath knowing that when everything’s tiled, it’s all level and square and then we come back and cut those last tiles down into the bath. So that’s how we set out for tiling a bathroom and ordinarily what we would do now – everybody in the in the trade uses then, a little piece of batten and simply having marked the lines on the wall as to where the tiles are going to go we used to – and I explain that term in a moment – we simply tack that batten to our line and that supports our first row of tile So that’s our first tile that goes there we carry on tiling up the wall we cut around the pipes – which is something
that we will talk about later on I have another piece of batten just here and this goes the other side of the toilet pipe so we simply fix that Tap that in a couple of millimeters – it doesn’t have to be a lot put that onto the line and that’s where our first row of tiles goes along there and then we carry on up that line to our next course and continue going, cutting around the cistern as we go Tile cutting we will deal with in another video That’s how we set out a bathroom to make sure that every tile that we put on this wall is absolutely square with the one next to it and then when we get to the edges the bottom and the top – the skirting board and the ceiling we simply cut those bits in last and we have a perfectly square wall when we have tiled up three tiles we can then fit a batten we can cut another batten, just like this tack it to the wall at that sort of height so that our tile can carry on the along the batten and then we put the cuts in afterwards – now battens are something that have been used for years and years by tradesmen to get their first row of tiles laid out properly in the video a little later on – in fact the next in the series – we’ll be introducing erm something called Tile Tracker Now Tile Tracker is an adjustable very lightweight aluminium bar which replaces the baton – it takes away the need for putting nails in the wall – takes away the need for the for the batons entirely because this simply goes against the wall and can be adjusted to the line we put on there That’s a separate video altogether that’s coming that’s coming on to be the next in the series That’s how we set out a bathroom to make absolutely sure that regardless of the shape of the floor the walls the ceiling every tile on that wall is square to the one next to it which
gives us the perfect joints – which as I said we kept at five millimeters to make sure that we can fill it with grout and and then we know when we come to the
tiling everything’s gonna be just right That’s how to set out a bathroom wall for ceramic tiling and that’s Home Improvement Doctor



Mar 3, 2013, 7:42 pm Reply

The same method is used in Greece, with the difference that instead of wooden sticks use metal rod 20mm by 40mm!!! Nice job.

James Wong

Jun 6, 2013, 10:31 pm Reply

Tiling around the cistern??


Jul 7, 2013, 6:16 pm Reply

Lost interest after 12 minutes. Please stop repeating everything…

DIY Doctor

Jul 7, 2013, 10:47 am Reply

Apologies if you think we are repeating ourselves a bit, we are only trying to hammer home the point that the end result will only be as good as the preparation that you put in at the beginning.


Jul 7, 2013, 8:58 am Reply

your walls are plumb not level…..just saying


Aug 8, 2013, 4:24 am Reply

Good video. Very clear.


Aug 8, 2013, 12:50 pm Reply

Vey informative.

Thea Bryant

Aug 8, 2013, 1:22 pm Reply

I've done quite a few tile jobs and I still felt that this was very helpful. I liked the way the presenter patiently gave explanations and explained why things were preferable.


Sep 9, 2013, 9:27 am Reply

5mm joint on a wall is a poor idea to make the wall more water resistant. aesthetically not the best as the grout would discolour over time. 5 to 6 mm is for floors. use 2 mm for walls and "make sure you have good grout penetration"

verticals are plumb and horizontals are level and never cut around pottery or fitted items. thats a poor job. always try and use a full length batten and no two piece as depicted as you will never get them both "LEVEL" you will end up with column drift. not bad diy

Gary Hiscutt

Sep 9, 2013, 9:50 pm Reply

I am, and have been looking to take up tiling, and am looking for a course in "tiling" can you maybe recommend someone that can give me some tips or any courses

David J Wiseman

Sep 9, 2013, 6:30 pm Reply

Christ on a bike!! Ive not seen a staff stick in about 20 years….


Sep 9, 2013, 12:41 pm Reply

this is an excellent and informative video. thank you for the in depth explainations as i will need them because i have uneven and out of plumb walls in my shower.

Andreas Scherer

Nov 11, 2013, 9:36 am Reply

Hi is it recommended to start on tiling the floor or walls first or doesnt it matter???

Phill Bernier

Nov 11, 2013, 6:29 pm Reply

Great video – as a complete novice I found this video extremely comprehensive – I certainly didn't find it repetitive. I especially liked the tips on filling the bath, using white spirit and masking tape – all tricks of the trade that I would never have thought of. Now off to rip the existing silicone from the bath and redo it – wish me luck!!!


Dec 12, 2013, 6:38 pm Reply

why tile round the cistern ?????

Brian Hicks

Feb 2, 2014, 3:47 pm Reply

Good video but wouldn't it be better to tile behind the edges of the bath and wash basin before they are fitted rather than tile to the edges?

James Knight

Feb 2, 2014, 11:17 pm Reply

Where you have that vertical pencil line so close to the bath, aren't you going to have a skinny column of tiles next to the bath?

Makram Grassa

Apr 4, 2014, 3:50 pm Reply

Great video, very good explanations and tutorial. I have learned quite few new things. Thanks a lot.

graham robb

Jun 6, 2014, 8:25 pm Reply


james o keeffe

Jul 7, 2014, 1:13 pm Reply

tile floor first make sure it is level first wall tile goes on top , this guy is mad  

lee clawson

Aug 8, 2014, 10:59 am Reply

Hi everyone,I was thinking of doing my bathroom in tiles so thought I would try do it myself.watched lots of vids and this one did me best for the information it gave me,it's also good to see other people's take on things.thank you.

Sharna Grant

Oct 10, 2014, 3:26 pm Reply

didnt agree with alot of his methods but hey tiling isnt for everybody

Jamie 2503

Nov 11, 2014, 5:48 pm Reply

Wtf. Why on earth is he using a staff stick to set out a wee bathroom?? Pmsl

Jamie 2503

Nov 11, 2014, 6:06 pm Reply

Never heard of a tape measure then? Last time i used a staff stick was when i was serving my time. Who did you serve your time with then?

DIY Doctor

Jan 1, 2015, 3:17 pm Reply

How to Correctly Set Out a Bathroom for Tiling: via YouTube

JN 2013

Feb 2, 2015, 10:52 pm Reply

Setting out for tiling 3 walls in a kitchen worktop to ceiling would you recommend to center the tiling on the box for the fan in the corner of the room or would you center the tiling on that box and let that rule the placement of the tiling on the 2 walls connected to that corner built out?


Feb 2, 2015, 10:15 am Reply

Fantastic video Im a painter decorated by trade and was asked by a customer if I tile I said nope she asked did I wanted to try I said sure so 46 boxes later she's extremely happy with the end result just wouldn't recommend using glass tiles as a border if its your first time but thanks for this video it helped greatly.

Nathan Bishop

Mar 3, 2015, 12:22 am Reply

Theres more to it than that…you also got to think about ur top and bottom of window,top of ur door frames, any boxing that mite be in ur bathroom,ceiling and floor,shower outlets.etc ..take a little more time also to think of these to get ur tiles to look even more better..trick is to try and av no little cuts for best look

Linda Robinson

Oct 10, 2015, 3:17 pm Reply

When tiling floor and walls in bathroom do you tile walls first and then floor or floor then walls

tom stanley

Oct 10, 2015, 4:05 pm Reply

Guys, you have to remember that these vids are for newbies in the game, we all had to learn once, I've been a tiler for many years and still look at how 'others' do it, don't be so proud to believe that you know best, we live and learn every day, that's what make us good. to the presenter – carry on the good work, its informative and as accurate as it needs to be at this level.

Gary Speed

Dec 12, 2015, 9:25 am Reply

As an architect it is good to see the issues tradesmen face in their work so we can adjust our designs accordingly – so remember although I'm not doing any tiling, I am setting out tiles so practical knowledge helps us all.

Ady Simm

Apr 4, 2016, 11:09 pm Reply

comments off tradesmen who know it all so predictable I think this is a great video and I like to stay open to learning new things I have worked with some people and they never had one good thing to say about anyone's work, yet there own wasn't that good, you don't wanna do it like that yer wanna do it like this good clear video this for anyone who fancies having a go at it it gives them.a good chance at success I like the vid


Jun 6, 2016, 12:36 am Reply

Great video. Pretty much the way I do it as well. Have not used a gauge rod before, but used a tape marked the same way. Gauge rods for different size tiles will make the job a lot easier. Always good to learn things. I have also made templates out of plastic shim to fit most door frames here in Australia which makes marking a floor tile for cutting a lot easier.

Derick Clarke

Oct 10, 2016, 2:27 am Reply

how do you get the line straight, going through the pipe of the toilet accurate as this could throw the tiling off

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