How to Tile a Shower Wall…Subway Tile Tips on Plumbing Wall — by Home Repair Tutor

By Grover Koelpin 12 comments

In this video, we’re going to give you tips
on how to tile a shower wall, specifically the plumbing wall in a curbless shower that
used 3×6 subway tile. In addition, we’re going to discuss the different tools that
make this a lot easier. By the way, before I forget, if you’re building
a curbless shower and you want to see how we built the one in this video, we have a
series of tutorials right here for you. What we’re going to do on here is basically
end our subway tile at the end of our shower area, and then allow this bullnose to be outside
the shower area. The main reason I want to do that is: one, my waterproofing ends at
the end of my shower, so I have all this stuff that I don’t want to sand down or try to
fix—some of the sealant sticking out here and, like I said, the backer board’s ending
at the end of my shower. So it’s always kind of nice to be able to bring or the edge
of your tile a couple of inches outside the shower. And not only that, but my shower door’s
going to be sitting directly on the middle of this transition. So it’s nice to have
a couple of inches outside of that where the fixed panel goes into.
So that being said, with subway tile, our total dimension’s 32 inches. That works
out pretty well with subway tile because we’ll have… what I usually like to do is just
start out my full tile and half tile stacked at the edge of the shower, and then scribe
cut and fit my corner. So we’ll basically have, if we start out
at the full tile, about a 5 ½” piece. So we’re just cutting a half inch off of each
side over here, which will look pretty good. As you saw, we set the first row of tile using
a laser level. This is an older Bosch laser level, but we like it because it has three
different settings. The first setting is for your crosshair. This laser is definitely bright
enough. It’s about three or four feet away from the tile. As the batteries die, so will
the laser brightness. The second setting is a horizontal laser.
And the third setting is your plumb laser line.
We also use the vertical laser to install Schluter-RONDEC and make sure that it’s
perfectly plumb with the tile. This Bosch laser level also has an adaptor
on the bottom that allows you to use it with a standard tri-pod.
Very much like with the main shower wall, we had to cut down these first tiles to fit
the contour of the shower pan. Then we applied our Ardex 77 with the flat side of the trowel,
and then use directional troweling upwards so all the trowel ridges face the same direction.
We did back-butter these tiles because, remember, these tiles need to have a sold bond to the
backer board. And then we also aligned them with our laser level. So again, it’s very
important to have that laser level aligned with the first row of tile on the main shower
wall. And then add your horseshoe shim underneath these for an expansion and contraction joint.
We had to scribe cut the first row of tile to fit the contour of this curbless shower
pan, and we used an angle grinder for that. This is the Fein WSG 7. It’s a 4 ½” angle
grinder. There are actually two variations: normal switch on the side here; or you can
get the WSG 7 with a paddle switch—so that’s more of an elongated switch on the side.
We also used the diamond blade with the WSG 7. This is DeWalt’s XP4; it’s a continuous
rim diamond blade. We also used the Montolit CGX115.
We always recommend trying to be as safe as possible when cutting tile, and one of the
best purchases you can make is a silica dust respirator. This is the Sundtröm silica dust
respirator. We’ve been using this for a while now. We got it on Amazon for about $50,
and they work really well. Notice the shim between that tile and the
main shower wall tile. So that’s a sixteenth inch expansion and contraction joint.
So now we aligned our laser level to be plumb with the right side of that first tile, and
that allowed us to set these tiles easily and quickly on the second row.
Now, we’re getting the mark for around the mixing valve, and we’re using the angle
grinder and diamond blade to make this cut. Again, be very careful. Wear all the safety
gear for this. But having a good angle grinder and a good diamond blade will help you out
tremendously. Now, we’re also taking our time with this
because you want this tile to fit as closely as possible to the mixing valve. In this case,
we’re cutting these tiles such that they’re about 1/16 of an inch away from that Grohe
mixing valve. And the reason why is because you want the escutcheon to cover up the gap
between the tile and mixing valve. So it’s not a bad idea—if you didn’t
cut very nicely around here and whether you should make sure to cut a little bit closer—just
to get your escutcheon plate on here and try to evaluate whether it’s going to cover.
And I’m very close over here. I got a little bit too much of a cut over here, so I’m
actually going to take this off and re-cut this.
If you’re going to be grinding down ceramic of porcelain tile, we highly recommend Montolit’s
STL diamond blade. This is diamonds on both sides of the blade, and it’ll spin onto
a 5/8” arbor on an angle grinder. As you can see, the STL is great at grinding
down ceramic or porcelain tile. I’m doing it to within a fraction of an inch.
Now, we got lucky here, and we were just able to make a little square cut in our subway
tile with the angle grinder. Again, if you need to make a hole in the center
of the tile, you can use a diamond hole saw. But in this case, we just needed to make a
little square cut, and the escutcheon for that shower arm will definitely cover that.
One of our favorite diamond hole saws is the Mondrillo Wave from Montolit. The reason why
we like this is because of its endurance; it lasts a long, long time. This hole saw
will also work with an angle grinder with the 5/8” arbor. Simply just screw it onto
the arbor like so. So here we’re just maintaining our expansion
and contraction joint between the ceiling and the last row of tile. We got lucky; there
was only about 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch. And again, we’ll be covering that joint with
a siliconized acrylic latex sealant. Give us a thumbs up if you like the tips in
this video. Also, we’re going to put links to all the tools that we used down in the
description. So that way, if you want to check them out, you can do that. Also, if you have
your own tool suggestion, please add that down in the comments because maybe we should
be making a video about something that we don’t know about.
So thanks for watching this tutorial, and we’ll definitely see you in the next one.
Take care!



Feb 2, 2019, 12:46 pm Reply


Gabe Lumby

Feb 2, 2019, 2:23 pm Reply

Great video again guys. I asked the same question on another video – Do you see any issues with using Wedi Ligno with Goboard for the walls? There is a big difference in expense between Wedi and Goboard.


Feb 2, 2019, 6:05 pm Reply

How did Steve get that smooth transition between the hydro-ban board and the drywall? Did he use sealant on the seam then drywall mud and tape? Great tips.


Feb 2, 2019, 8:54 pm Reply

Rent a wet saw!

Mark Bidwell

Feb 2, 2019, 9:59 pm Reply

love the hole saw and other tools you showed,nice work Steve n jeff

rana t

Feb 2, 2019, 2:46 am Reply

@4.46 I would consider wearing some type of wrist protector/gloves on that left arm, as not matter how good you are with free hand grinding one slip and….

John p

Feb 2, 2019, 6:05 pm Reply


Nicki L

Feb 2, 2019, 8:04 pm Reply

At what size of tile would you recommend using seam clips? I watched another video where you used them, but not here. I REALLY like your videos BTW…. very helpful in gathering information for my first tile job.

Ann Shr

Feb 2, 2019, 11:57 pm Reply

What kind of mortar or adhesive and brand do you recommend to use with 18×30” tiles? Much appreciate your reply.

Ann Shr

Feb 2, 2019, 12:03 am Reply

Another question, when using the tile levelling system, do I still need to use the horseshoe spacer?


Mar 3, 2019, 7:04 pm Reply

Really good video! I'm fan of your channel. Quick question. I installed wedi boards on my bathtub surround im planning to use subway tile as well (3×6). what kind of mortar would you recommend for my project and what kind of trowel?? Thanks in advance!! Cheers!!

Robert Martinez

Apr 4, 2019, 5:18 am Reply

Great video. But do you place the tiles on the shower pan first or the walls first?

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