Dos and don'ts of laying tile for tubs and showers

September 16, 2015

If you're thinking about adding tiles to your home, check out these tips to achieve a perfect tile job. Keep these dos and don'ts of laying tile for tubs and showers in mind to make the job easier.

Dos and don'ts of laying tile for tubs and showers


  • Mock up and measure a row of tile to determine how best to lay them out.
  • Locate the starting plumb line to leave the widest possible same-sized tiles at each corner.
  • Lay out the tile on the floor and use the back wall measurement to determine how wide the corner tiles will be. If starting with the edge of a full tile in the centre of the back wall, you'll be left with a skinny strip in the corner, shift the plumb line by half the width of the tile. This will increase the size of the corner tiles.
  • Plan your tile layout so a column of tile extends past the end of the tub.
  • Plan for the widest possible corner tile for the most attractive tile job.
  • Draw level and plumb layout lines on the wall to guide your installation. To do this, measure a row of tile to determine the location of the plumb line on the back wall. Subtract about 1.5 centimetres (3/4 inch) from the height of the tile and use this measurement to locate the height of the level line above the tub or shower.
  • Determine how wide your corner tile needs to be in order to extend the tile beyond the tub. Plan to extend the tile 5 to 7.5 centimetres (2 or 3 inches) beyond the tub and to leave at least a half tile along the wall if possible.
  • Screw a straight board to your level line and stack tile on the board.
  • After you've completed tiling above the board, and the tiles are firmly attached, remove the board and cut the first row of tile to fit. Leave three millimetres (1/8 inch) space between the tub and the tile to allow installation of a flexible bead of caulk. This tip also allows you to wrap tile around tub corners.


  • Don't rest your first row of tile against the tub or shower to start the job. Doing this will cause trouble because most tubs and showers aren't perfectly straight or level. As a result, your tile will wander from the plumb line, and misaligned grout lines will be your only solution.
  • Stop tile even with the end of the tub. This leaves the walls along the front of the tub vulnerable to water damage, and doesn't look as finished as tile extending to the floor.
  • Leave a skinny strip of tile in the corners.

Remember these dos and don'ts of laying tile for tubs and showers to help make the job easier.

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