How to Set Tile Around a Tub – Bathroom Remodel

This video will show you how to set tile around a tub. I cover some of the specifics of how to layout and set up a tub to install tile around it.

I’m using thin set as my adhesive for the tile. When installing tile on walls, always remember that you want to create level lines to install your tile on. If you remember that one thing, you’re well on your way to having a good looking final installation.

Now, the tub is not necessarily going to be level. It will also have places where it may have a ridge that turns up underneath the wallboard. So, start by finding the lowest point where the tile will be installed against the tub and you can do that with a level.

At that spot, take a full piece of tile and place it against the wall and make a mark on the top of the tile. It is at or below that mark that you want to draw a level line all the way around the 3 sides of the tub.

You are shooting for about 1/8 of an inch gap between your tub and the first row of tile. This gives you a good joint for caulk that will be applied in the corner later.

There are many factors such as bows in the wall and slight variations in the size of tiles that can start causing your tiles to get off-line. So, use your spacers to help keep your tile on track. I also continue to add level reference lines as I move up the wall until I get near the top of the tile installation.

In order to keep tile aligned in the corners, make sure to install all 3 walls of tile as you move up. Don’t make the mistake of installing 6 feet of tile up one wall and then coming back and trying to line up another 6 foot section of wall with the first.

In many installations like this, you will see that the edge of the tile is left square and grout is applied between the wall and the edge of the tile to build out a grout joint that just rests against the edge of the tile. Over time and, in fact. in a relatively short period of time this grout will crack and begin falling off.

In cases like this, I back cut the edge of the tile which means I’m cutting about a 45° angle off the exposed edge in order to create an area to pack grout into. By taking masking tape and applying it to the wall next to the tile you can tightly pack grout into that space and after washing it down, remove the tape and get a very defined grout joint that will also have good durability.

Grouting is grouting, and is not one of my favorite parts of the job although it is one of the most important. You mix grout to allow it to be easily worked into the joints. In most cases, that’s about the consistency of a half melted bowl of ice cream.

Different types of tile will soak up the moisture in the grout at different speeds. So, you need to experiment a little bit with your tile in order to get the mixture that works best. About five minutes after grouting an area, you should be able to come back and wash down the joints to see that the grout is beginning to firm up in the joints.

I don’t worry about the corners too much when applying grout. I’m ultimately going to come back with a matching sanded or un-sanded caulk depending on the installation and apply that in the corners.

The flexibility of the caulk will keep the corners sealed when there is movement between the two walls at the corner. Grout in place of caulk in the corners will always crack and not provide a waterproof seal in the corner over the long-term.

The secret to caulking is to not get more caulk into the corners than you need. This means that when you cut the tip off of the tube of caulk, start with a small hole maybe the size of the matchstick. Then depending on how firmly you are squeezing the caulk gun adjust the speed of your movement to leave a consistent bead of caulk in the corner.

When installing accessories like soap dishes, mix really stiff thin set and apply it to the back of the dish. There may be holes in the back and you want to make sure to squeeze some thin set into those holes.

Then press the dish into the slot cut out in the tile and push it in until it is begins to come in contact with the surface of the tile. Take a sponge and your finger again much like when you’re caulking and remove the excess thin set that is squeezing out.

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  1. Tura mash
    May 2, 2017

    Good job mate!!

  2. Patricia Garrison-Metzger
    May 20, 2017

    Very good instructions. just what I needed.

  3. Barry Lab
    June 10, 2017

    There is always an edger available for every size of tile. Check your home hardware or the manufacture of the tiles for more info.

  4. Ken MacDonald
    June 24, 2017

    You're the first person I've seen put thinset on the tile, instead of on the wall. Is there a reason for that?

    Also, can you go into more detail about the 45 cut on the edge? The type of tile I am about to install does not have bullnose tiles to finish it.

  5. 17zipporah
    July 13, 2017

    What to I do to correct a botched tile job around my tub. Installer did not have the first row level and did no bring the hardy board down to the tub leaving a large gap which he covered by cutting tile pieces to put over the tile to hide gap which are now falling off. help!

  6. Nathan
    July 29, 2017

    Four bathroom tiles fell off from the wall at the bathtub.What can
    type of glue can I use to reinstalle the wall tile back on the wall

  7. Karl smith
    August 9, 2017

    I know this may be a silly question but what's the rest of the wall? Drywall or backer board.

  8. Best Access Doors
    August 14, 2017

    Fantastic explanation! Will you be doing more videos like this soon?

  9. doxop
    August 18, 2017

    2 problems with your install: you left an unsealed hole a few inches up in the corner of the backer and you did zero sealing between your backer and the tub. Yes it's supposed to no touch to prevent soaking up moisture that makes its way behind the tile/grout, but you left the most at-risk area entirely vulnerable to penetration

  10. J Bellfield
    September 1, 2017

    If that is the same backer board as I used you can cut it with a stanley knife and then snap it like plaster board which creates much less dust, mine was a magnesium based tile backing board called Moistsure or something, looks very similar.

  11. wsvitak
    September 18, 2017

    What kind of laser level is that? Looks nice and straight

  12. Justin Link
    October 6, 2017

    Nice looking job and you cover a lot of good points. I would recommend applying the waterproofing to the whole surface (backerboard) behind the tile though – backerboard is not impermeable.

  13. Naomi the Dogsitter
    October 19, 2017

    Hey, quick question: if the tub isn't level, should the tiles be set perfectly level to the same level as the tub (meaning at the same angle relative to perfect level as the tub)?

    Thanks so much! Best vid I've seen!

  14. PBS #007
    October 22, 2017

    please explain  the spacing on the first row of tile

  15. PBS #007
    October 23, 2017

    i understand you explain it well on the second half of the statement thanks

  16. PBS #007
    October 25, 2017

    you made no mention of the screws and the bit you used to screw the wall in place ?

  17. PBS #007
    October 25, 2017


  18. kbzphd
    November 22, 2017

    My installer suggested corner shelves that are just glued on with silicon glue. My feeling is that the ones that are inset like the tiles would hold up better. What's your opinion? Thanks!

  19. Non Ya
    December 6, 2017

    What's the difference between hardiebacker and cement board? Is the fiberglass strips and the Hydro ban all that's needed to protect the joints and corners?

  20. Shotgun Matt
    January 28, 2018

    Great work!

  21. 6857100
    February 2, 2018

    I just did this for a client.  Very old house that they are slowly rehabbing.  It's funny, I put in a tile almost identical to what you used.

  22. 6857100
    February 3, 2018

    Okay so why not use tile edging?  There is plenty of choices in plastic and aluminum.

  23. Johnny Juillet
    February 7, 2018

    What size of tiles are you using. Thanks

  24. Paul Mayo
    February 21, 2018

    I have a 13"x13" tile piece that has 2"x2" squares. Would it be best to apply the thinset to the tile first or to the wall? The wall is rock board. I'm in the process of fixing a lovely cheap patch job that was done previously and fixed all the old iron plumbing.

  25. Kc Moua
    March 4, 2018

    great voice! create narrative!

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