How to Build a Tile Wall

Tile can be used to dress up any wall while protecting the wall structure from moisture and damage. Tiling a wall isn't difficult as long as you start with a good, solid backing. Drywall or flat plaster is fine for "dry'' rooms, as long as the wall is in good shape; `"wet'' rooms like bathrooms or kitchens should start with moisture-resistant wetrock or cement board. By starting at the middle of the wall, rather than the edges, you'll ensure that the cuts you may have to make at the edges are the same on both sides.

  • Level
  • Pencil
  • Tape measure
  • Tile adhesive
  • Notched trowel
  • Wall tiles (with nubs on the sides for spacing)
  • Flat 1-by-6 board, two feet long
  • Rubber mallet
  • Tile cutter
  • Grout
  • Grout float
  • Sponge
Measure the wall to find the middle. Use your level and pencil to mark a vertical line down the center of the wall, from top to bottom.

Spread tile adhesive around a few square feet at the bottom of the wall, including over the center line. Press two tiles into place starting on either side of the line at the bottom.

Add tiles up and out from there, adding more adhesive and pressing additional pieces to the wall. (The spacing nubs on the tiles will set a consistent space between them.) Stop after every few square feet to even out the surfaces of the tiles by pressing the wide side of a 1-by-6 board over several of them and gently tapping the board with a mallet.

Continue until the whole wall is tiled. Cut the pieces at the far ends, as necessary, on a tile cutter. Let the tiles set for 24 hours.

Mix your grout according to packaging instructions. Scoop up a trowel full of it on your grout float and apply it to the top part of the wall. Work your way across and down, spreading the grout across the tiles and pressing into the spaces between them. For each section of 4 to 6 square feet, let the grout sit in the lines for 5 or 10 minutes, then wipe down the surface with a damp sponge to take up the excess grout from the face of the tiles.

Tips and Warnings

  • If the wall is in a bathroom or other high-moisture area, you should apply grout sealant over the grout lines using a small brush. Let the grout cure for a week or more before applying grout sealant.

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