12 Easy Steps to Re-Tiling Your Shower

If you’re a fan of HGTV, then you know how incredibly easy it is to re-tile your shower, your bathroom, your kitchen, your basement, and your bedroom. In fact, tiling is so easy for homeowners to do themselves, it’s amazing there are actually experts in business for themselves who will come and do tiling for you.

I’m going to offer 12 easy steps for re-tiling your shower.

STEP 1 – Don’t do it! Save yourself! Stop thinking about re-tiling your shower. You need to take a shower every day and you won’t be able to if you start this project.

STEP 2 – If you decide to move ahead with your idea of re-tiling the shower, plan to hurt yourself. How bad you’re injured will depend on the strength in your arms and the thickness of your gloves.

The joke in our family is, “If dad is bleeding, the project is going to turn out great.” I usually bleed within the first hour of any big job. While many of the tiles fell off the wall like dominoes, some required more persuasion. The previous re-tiler used a paper-thin layer of liquid nails, not a good idea, so the tiles were beginning to fall off by themselves.

While chiseling difficult tiles off I peeled my left thumbnail back twice within ten minutes.

STEP 3 – Call the insurance company. After all, this problem is a result of something beyond your control. It is happening to you. You are the victim. Someone else should pay. Tell the agent the previous re-tiler used liquid nails and the tiles are falling off the wall. Prepare yourself to respond calmly when the agent says, “We usually only cover sudden damages.”

STEP 4 – Realize you are in this for the long haul. It’s too late to turn back now. You cannot leave the studs exposed. You cannot staple a plastic sheet up and call it good. It’s time to turn on the music. Get a clean mask. Put on a face shield. Think happy thoughts.

STEP 5 – Find thick wire mesh in the corners and the top of the walls. Spend an hour or two trying to decide what to do next. Should you pull on the mesh? No, it might rip out the ceiling. Cut it off at the top. Leave the wire mesh in place along the top of the wall. Don’t disturb the ceiling.

STEP 6 – Think about how easy it would have been to use an insert. Quickly reject that thought and return to happy thoughts. Thoughts of taking a walk on the beach, thoughts of mowing the lawn, thoughts of going to the dentist for a root canal, thoughts of having cataracts removed, or having a colonoscopy.

STEP 7 – Overcome thoughts of having to shower away from home until Christmas. Finally reach the place of securing cement board to the studs. Be proud of yourself. It looks pretty darn good. Maybe those HGTV people are right.

STEP 8 – Use thinset mortar to fill in all the seams and cover all the screw holes. Be a little more proud of yourself. It’s actually starting to look like you know what you’re doing.

STEP 9 – Watch more YouTube videos to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything. Then, cover the shower walls with Red Guard. By the way, one gallon is $44.00. Allow it to dry 24 hours, then do it again. Since the walls are now waterproof, think about stopping at this point and having the only red shower in the county, or maybe the state.

STEP 10 – Use at least twice as much white thinset mortar than you need to secure the tile mesh to the wall. Realize the tiling is going to take at least another month while you scrape the oozing mortar from between the hexagonal tiles. After placing ten squares of tile mesh, watch another YouTube video that says you should be using a 3/16″ diagonal trowel instead of a 3/8″ square trowel. Discover how much quicker the tile goes up without gobs of mortar ooze to clean up. Be pleased with yourself.

STEP 11 – Use 6″ subway tile as an edge around the bottom and the top. Realize the tiling job is going to look fantastic.

STEP 12 – Finish the job. After waiting at least 48 hours (I waited 72) for the mortar to dry, spread unsanded Silverado Gray premixed grout using a rubber trowel. Don’t try to do more than ten square feet at a time or it will get away from you. It’s easier to remove the grout residue and smooth it in place if you don’t try to do too much at once.

After allowing the grout to dry for two days, I used 6″ quarter-round pieces to finish the corners. These are the same pieces I used for the vertical edges against the original tile.

As a matter of fact, the tile is beautiful. I am very proud of it. It didn’t take three months, but it did take me three weeks. As most do-it-yourself tasks go, the job got bigger with each step. I’m amazed.

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