Replacing ceramic tile


Old 10-01-00, 03:16 PM
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I would like to replace the tiles around the bathtub. Never having done this before, how hard would it be for a first-time do-it-yourselfer? How do I remove the old adhesive behind the exisiting tiles? Do I have to put new backer board on? Thanks for any help that's out there!
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Old 10-01-00, 11:20 PM
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I've replaced the ceramic wall tiles in 23 bathrooms so far. Actually, since all the bathrooms (except one) were in the same apartment block and constructed exactly the same, it would be almost as correct to say that I replaced all the wall tiles in the same bathroom 22 times. However, you wouldn't believe the latter statement, would you?

It's not hard provided you know a few tricks which I'm about to tell you:

You throw an old carpet in the tub to protect the finish, and take the old tiles off with cold chisel and hammer.

If you have drywall walls, you may as well take the drywall off with the tiles still glued to it because you'll wreck it taking the tiles off anyway. If you have plaster walls, about 1/2 the tiles will break to pieces taking them off. You can get the old mastic off with a heat gun and a scraper.

Even if you have plaster walls, you might consider cutting the plaster and taking it off the studs. Have a 2 foot by 4 foot handipanel of 1/4 inch plywood ripped into 1 1/2 inch strips and staple those strips to the studs, then attach cement backer board on top of that so that the cement backer board will be close to flush with the original plaster which is usually 3/4 inch thick. The preceding discussion was for a gyproc lath plaster wall. I've got no experience with wood lath plaster walls.

Definitely replace your bathtub faucet. You don't want to have to bash in that new ceramic tiling because the seat is leaking on the old faucet you left in, and you can't get seats like that any more because the company that made the faucet went bankrupt.

Lay out two rows of tiles on the floor starting at a baseboard. One row should be laid out side by side with plastic spacers between the tiles and the other should be laid out end to end with plastic spacers between them.

Mark your starting point on the middle of the wide wall beside the tub. The starting point should be about 1/2 to 1 inch lower than the height of the tiles you intend to use above the tub. Use 6 X 8 inch tiles because any smaller and you have too many grout lines to maintain the grout sealer on and any larger and you can't hold them in one hand easily while you back butter them with the other. So, your starting point should be 7 to 7 1/2 inches above the tub.

Using a carpenter's level, draw a horizontal line through this starting point all around the tub enclosure you want to tile. Then measure up to the ceiling, and using this measurement and the tiles laid end to end on the floor, see how tall a tile you'll end up with at the ceiling. If it's less than 2 inches, then overcome the problem by setting a row of 2 inch tall by 6 inch border tiles. Then, you'll have to trim the top tiles to fit to the ceiling, which is better than having the top row of tiles consisting of small pieces.

Use double sided tape to stick a piece of wood molding on the walls so that the top of the wood molding coincides with the horizontal line through the starting point. Now, pick a starting point near the middle of the wide wall beside the tub. You want the cut tiles on either side of this wall to be of equal width, and that should be more that half the width of a full tile. Once you have a point you think is good, use a carpenter's level to draw a vertical line up from that point. Now, using the tiles laid side to side on the floor, make sure that the tiles WILL have to be cut narrower on either side of the wall. Often walls aren't plumb, and you can't widen a ceramic tile!

It's late, I'm tired and tomorrow already has a 1 hour head start on me. Open the Windows Notepad program, use the Shift key and the arrows to highlight all of the preceding instructions, press Ctrl-C to copy everything to the clipboard, go to the Notepad window and press Ctrl-V to paste it in, then save those instructions with a file name. When you get to that point, let me know, and I'll explain how to start setting the wall tiles.

You put the wood molding lower than the height of the tiles you're using so that if the tub isn't horizontal you won't end up with a 3/4 inch wide bead of silicone somewhere. Normally, the tub won't be out of level by more than 1/2 inch from the highest point on it's top to the lowest point on it's top. That's why your starting point is 1/2 to 1 inch shorter than a full tile, so that you cut the last course of tiles to fit down to the top of the tub.
Old 10-01-00, 11:28 PM
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Left click and hold down your mouse button while moving the mouse to highlight the text in my last post, then use the Ctrl-C key combination to copy.

Laying tile in thin set isn't much harder than setting it in mastic. Normally, you spread mastic on the wall and it takes a long time to skin over. Thin set spread on the wall skins over pretty fast. What I do is spread thin set on the wall, then back butter each tile with thin set, then stick the tile to the wall. The wet thin set on the back of the tile sticks to the thin set on the wall regardless of whether it's skinned over or not.
Old 10-01-00, 11:31 PM
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If the truth be known, all of this would be much easier to explain with a few pictures than with a lot of words.
Old 10-02-00, 12:41 PM
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OK, so now your straight wood molding is up, and you've picked a starting point.

Mark off about a 2 foot by 3 foot area on the wall to tile. The exact measurements will be taken from the tiles you have spaced out on the floor. You want to mark off the wall in rectangular areas, and tile each area separately. Once you mark off the area, Mask it off with 2 inch wide masking tape so that you don't have to be as careful spreading the thin set on the wall. Now trowel the thin set on the wall, then remove the masking tape so that you have the thin set spread exactly over the area to be tiled. Now back butter each tile with that same thin set and press each tile lightly into place.

When marking off the areas, maybe mark the area about 1/8 inch narrower and 1/8 inch shorter than the tiles will be. This will avoid thin set squeezing out and interfering with setting the tiles in the next area. Tile each area first, then mark the next area measuring from the edge of the tiles, not from where the mark was.

When setting tiles DO NOT put the plastic spacers in the corners the way they tell you to use them. Put the tile on the wall, then use two spacers between it and the adjacent tiles on both sides, sticking only one arm of the spacer in so that it's perpendicular to the wall. That way, after the thin set sets up, you can pull all these spacers out. In the books they tell you to leave them in and just grout over them, which is dumb.

Once you have all the full tiles set, cut tiles for the front and back corners and set each one of those in place by back buttering the tile only. Now do the same for the top row of tiles under the ceiling. Finally, remove the wood molding and do the same for the bottom row of tiles. When setting the bottom row, use the spacers above the tiles and at the sides, and use toothpicks as wedges to force the upwards to keep them in place. When cutting all the cut tiles for the top row and corners DO NOT cut them EXACTLY to the width or height required. It's better to cut them 1/8 inch shorter or narrower so that the grout that's going to go in the corner has something to root itself in. Grout won't stick to glass well, so if the tiles meet perfectly in the corner, any grout you use in the corners will just fall out.

Once you have all your tiles up, take a bright light and look for any places where the thin set may have partially oozed up between the tiles. Use jig saw blade to cut the soft thin set out and a small piece of sandpaper folded in half to sand off any that may be on the edges of the tiles.

Next job is grouting. When mixing either thin set or grout, you'd do well to get an old kitchen mixer blade from any place that services small kitchen appliances and stick it in an electric drill.

Mix the grout, then let it sit the required time according to the directions. When that time is up, mix the grout again and start applying it. During this waiting period, the grout will stiffen up in the container, and you may start panicing that you won't be able to use it by the end of the waiting period. Don't worry, during this early period the grout is "thixoplastic" which means it softens up as you work it. Once you actually start working that grout, it'll return to it's former viscosity.

More grout jobs are done poorly because the grout was mixed with too much water than anything else. You want the grout to be mixed with as little water as possible, but still have a smooth consistancy. Any more water than that is going to result in a softer and more porous grout.

The books tell you to grout at a 45 degree angle to the grout joints so you don't trap air. I like to pack a roll of grout on the edge of the float into each joint between each pair of tiles. If I see grout starting to squeeze out from under the float at the ends of the grout line, I know that joint is fully packed.

DO NOT try to grout the whole bathroom all at once. You're a lot better off to do it in pieces, mix up about 2 cups of grout each time.

Time out.

I'll explain more about grouting in the next post.
Old 10-02-00, 06:56 PM
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Grouting is probably the most poorly covered topic in ceramic wall tiling in the TV programs on this issue anyway.

Once you apply about 2 cups of grout to the ceramic tiles, don't start mixing another batch. What you should then do is:

1.) Use a thin tool that will fit into the grout lines and pack the ends of each line. It's possible that the grout at the edges of the area you did is just bridged across the top of the gap and hasn't filled the space fully. Pack the end of every grout line around the perimeter of the area grouted. I use a popsicle stick for this because I use 1/8 inch wide spacers and that's wide enough to accomodate a popsicle stick.

2.) Now scrape down every horizontal and vertical grout line to a uniform depth with some sort of a tool. I use the same popsicle stick because it's got about the right curvature for a 1/8 inch wide joint. Every TV show I've ever seen says that you start wiping down the tile with a damp sponge after grouting. If you scrape the grout down to a uniform depth below the tile before you start with the sponge it's not going to be hard to keep the grout joints uniform. If you start with sponge on grout joints that aren't uniform to begin with, chances are you won't get them uniform.

3.) Now using a damp sponge wipe off the excess grout off the face of the tiles you grouted. Better yet, have two sponges, two buckets of water and a helper. You wipe the excess grout off the tiles while he/she rinses out the used sponges in the dirty bucket first, then the clean bucket and has them ready to switch when your sponge needs rinsing. YOU SHOULD keep a 3M scotchbrite kitchen scouring pad handy just in case. If you end up mixing and spreading too much grout and it starts to get too hard for the sponge to remove easily, switch to the scouring pad and you can tear it off without damaging the tile. Not once have I seen anything in any TV show about this, and considering they're teaching people how to do it, you'd think they'd provide a safety net like this.

4.) You'll be able to wipe the grout down real good with a damp sponge. However, I don't care what Dean Johnson says, as long as you continue to use a damp sponge you're only going to be spreading a thin film of it around. To remove that thin film of grout you have to let it dry and wipe it off with a DRY cloth. Never have I seen any TV show say this. They just show Dean Johnson wiping the tiles with a damp sponge, and then after the commercial him and the lady are admiring his great tiling job!

You don't have to wipe the film off before starting the next batch of grout. Any time within about 8 hours of wiping it down with a damp sponge will be OK. After you've finished wiping down the last grout area, turn on the bathroom ceiling fan, go for a coffee break and wipe the dry grout film off all the tiles when you get back. The rougher the cloth, the easier the film will wipe off. Don't worry about damaging the surface of the tile no matter how rough a cloth you use.

You watch any TV show about installing ceramic wall tiles and you won't see them:

a) applying 2 cups of grout at a time. They always apply all the grout or don't say not to grout the whole bathroom at the same time. If you do grout all the tiles before you start wiping it off, the grout on the first tiles you grouted will be too hard to remove with a damp sponge.

b) They never tell you to scratch the grout down to a uniform depth. You do it the way I'm telling you. I have a sneaking suspicion that I've installed more ceramic tile than Dean Johnson has.

c) They never tell you to keep a Scotchbrite pad handy in case the grout is hardening up on you and you're losing control of the situation. Even if you don't believe a word I'm saying, it's not going to do any harm to have a scouring pad handy.

d) They never tell you to remove the final film of grout with a dry cloth. I've seen about 4 or 5 posts from people who all followed the instructions on the video and were wondering how to get the film off.
Old 10-02-00, 07:08 PM
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And I almost forgot:

I've never seen Dean Johnson tell you how to use a 10 inch float to grout the lines between the faucet hot and cold cartridges and the spout stub out. The answer is that you can't do this easily with a normal sized float.

First, use some masking tape to cover both the faucet cartridges and the copper pipe where the spout will slip onto. That way, if a big blob of grout falls onto any of this stuff, you won't have to worry about how you're going to get it off.

Now, buy something called a "margin trowel" in the bricklaying section of your home center and put 3 or 4 layers of masking tape on it's blade to protect the glazed surface of the tiles. Margin trowels have short wide blades that are good for packing grout into the area in front of the faucet rough in that are inaccessible for a normal sized float.

This is something else they don't even touch on in the TV shows. I guess they expect you to figure something out while the grout is drying up on you.

Old 10-12-00, 06:39 PM
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Nestor Kelebay is a long winded drunken fool. Lots of talk- little knowledge about tile setting.
Old 10-12-00, 06:47 PM
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Nestor Kelebay is a long winded drunken fool. Lots of talk- little knowledge about tile setting.
Old 10-15-00, 12:26 PM
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I really don't need the $1 in royalty, but after dealing with Nestor, I think you should go out and get either my book, Ceramic Tile Setting (McGraw-Hill) or Mike Byrnes's book, Setting Tile (Taunton Press). You can order either or both from my web site. Do it because you need more instruction than will fit on a message board.

Old 10-26-00, 03:15 AM
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Now that your thoroughly confused(I know I am and I do this for a living) do yourself a favor.
Go to the local bookstore or home center and purchase a book on Ceramic Tile installation. Go home and read it thoroughly.
Then start your project using the book as a reference. Good Luck.......Rich Gately (tileman1)

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