Converting your tub into a walk-in shower can completely transform your bathroom. After removing the old tub and prepping the area, you are ready for the exciting tiling and grouting phase. With proper planning and preparation, you can tile your new shower space beautifully and functionally.

Selecting Your Tile

Choosing the right tile is one of the most important decisions you’ll make during your tub-to-shower conversion project. Keep the following in mind:

Tile Material

  • Ceramic – Classic, affordable option available in endless colors and styles. Avoid very porous types.
  • Porcelain – Less porous than ceramic and more durable. Easy to clean. Can mimic stone.
  • Natural Stone – Elegant but pricey. Needs sealing. Avoid soft, porous stone. Granite and slate are good options.
  • Glass – Colorful, water-resistant, and easy to clean. Can be slippery. Mosaics popular.

Tile Size

  • Smaller tiles (1 inch square or smaller) are better for tub surrounds as they allow flexibility and provide more grout lines which are helpful for waterproofing.
  • Larger tiles can be used on the shower floor but may require more sloping.
  • Combining sizes can create interest. Use large format tiles on walls and mosaic tile as accents.

Tile Style

  • Choose a style that suits your design vision. Options include subway tile, hexagon tile, mosaics, marble/stone look, and patterned or decorative tile.
  • Neutral colors make small spaces appear larger. Bold colors or patterns make a statement.
  • Consider slip resistance and texture which help prevent falls.
  • Get extra tiles in case repairs are needed later.

Shower Wall Prep

Preparing your shower walls properly will ensure your tiles adhere well and last.

Remove Old Tub and Finish Walls

  • Once the tub is removed, inspect walls for any moisture or mold damage.
  • Ensure surfaces are cleaned thoroughly and free of soap scum, paint, etc.
  • Drywall should be repaired or replaced if needed. Finish should be smooth.

Install Cement Board

  • Cement backerboard, not drywall, should be installed on shower walls.
  • Use moisture-resistant boards like Durock or HardieBacker. Cut to fit with utility knife.
  • Screw boards to studs with cement board screws every 8 inches. Tape seams with fiberglass mesh tape.

Install Vapor Barrier

  • Cover cement board with vapor barrier like Kerdi membrane. This waterproofs the shower.
  • Use thinset mortar to adhere barrier to boards. Seal seams and corners. Extend onto nearby walls.
  • Top with a fresh layer of thinset mortar. This prepares surface for tile.

Laying Shower Floor Tile

Tiling your shower floor takes careful preparation and technique. Follow these best practices:

Slope Floor

  • Use mortar to slope floor 1/4 inch per foot towards drain. This allows proper drainage.
  • Consider pre-sloped shower pans for easier installation.

Install Drain

  • Choose center drain or linear drain style.
  • Set drain in thinset per manufacturer instructions. Attach waterproof collar.
  • Test pan for leaks by plugging drain and flooding pan before tiling.

Apply Mortar

  • Spread thinset mortar with a notched trowel to adhere tiles. Use non-sanded grout for small tile like mosaics.
  • Only spread enough mortar that tiles can cover before it dries, about 4-6 sq ft sections.

Lay Tile

  • Ensure tiles are fully embedded in mortar with no gaps. Use tile spacers for consistent grout lines.
  • Arrange tiles for best visual effect. Cut border tiles to fit with wet saw.
  • Mix tiles from several boxes together. Blend color variations.
  • Allow mortar to dry 24 hours before grouting. Avoid walking on tiles.

Waterproofing and Tiling Walls

Waterproofing your shower walls properly is crucial to prevent leaks and moisture damage. Here are key steps:

Install Waterproof Membrane

  • Cover all walls with waterproofing like Kerdi non-sag membrane.
  • Use thinset to adhere to vapor barrier on walls. Seal corners and seams.

Apply Mortar and Tile

  • Apply thinset mortar to membrane with notched trowel. Only spread small sections.
  • Place tiles firmly in mortar. Use spacers for consistent grout line spacing.
  • Cut border tiles with wet saw for precision fit. Blend tile color variations.

Seal Corners and Edges

  • Use silicone sealant at inside corners and sharp edges. Smooth with fingertip.
  • Install ready-made corner shelves or niches now before grouting.

Allow Drying Time

  • Let thinset mortar cure fully for 24 hours before grouting tiles.
  • Avoid getting walls wet or disturbing tiles. Test one tile to ensure mortar is cured.

Grouting Your New Shower

Grout fills the spaces between your tiles, finishing your installation. Follow these tips:

Choose Grout Type

  • Unsanded grout for joints 1/8 inch or smaller. Matches fine tile like mosaics.
  • Sanded grout for joints larger than 1/8 inch. More durable for floor tile.

Tint Grout to Match

  • Purchase grout in a color that matches or complements your tile.
  • Consider contrasting grout color for effect. Unsanded grout has more color options.

Prep and Apply Grout

  • Wait at least 24 hours for thinset mortar to cure before grouting.
  • Follow product directions for mixing grout. Let slake 5-10 minutes before use.
  • Use a rubber grout float to spread grout forcefully into tile joints.
  • Hold float at 45 degree angle to avoid removing grout.

Clean Excess Grout

  • Let grout firm up in joints about 15 minutes. Don’t let dry completely.
  • Use a damp grout sponge in diagonal motions to remove excess grout. Rinse sponge frequently.
  • Polish tile gently with soft cloth once haze is gone. Don’t smear grout.

Finishing Touches

  • Seal grout lines after another 72 hours using grout sealer. This protects from moisture.
  • Apply silicone caulk along bottom corners and edges if needed.
  • Install fixtures like showerhead, shelves, and grab bars.

With the tiling and grouting phase complete, you can now enjoy your stylish new walk-in shower! Maintaining grout sealant and caulk will keep your shower walls waterproof for years.

Frequently Asked Questions about Tiling and Grouting a Tub to Shower Conversion

How much tile do I need?

Measure shower walls and floor area and add 10-15% extra to account for unusable tiles and cuts. Budget appropriately as natural stone and glass tile cost more.

What tools will I need?

Essential tools include a wet saw for cutting tile, notched trowel for applying mortar, grout float, sponges, buckets, tile spacers, and safety gear. A mixer is helpful for mortar and grout.

Should floor or wall tile go in first?

It’s generally best to install the floor tile before tiling walls. This allows you to lay wall tile snugly against floor tiles for a seamless finish.

How do I get clean straight cuts on border tiles?

A wet saw with a diamond blade is ideal for making precise cuts without chipping tiles. Use the edge of a tile spacer to guide the saw. Go slow.

How long does mortar need to dry before grouting?

Allow thinset mortar to cure for at least 24 hours before applying grout. This prevents grout from sinking into the mortar. Test a tile first to confirm mortar is fully hardened.

What is the best way to apply grout?

Use a hard rubber grout float to force grout deeply into joints. Hold at 45 degrees and spread diagonally across tiles. Let sit briefly before wiping excess grout off with a damp sponge.

How soon can I use the shower after grouting?

Avoid using the shower for at least 72 hours after grouting to allow grout to cure properly. Minimize moisture contact for a week if possible.

When does new grout need to be sealed?

Apply grout sealer to finished joints after 72 hours of curing time. Reseal grout every 1-2 years to protect it from moisture and mold.

How do I maintain my new tiled shower?

Use non-abrasive cleaners and avoid scouring pads. Check caulk and grout sealant yearly and reapply as needed. Recaulk if you see separation or moisture.


Converting your outdated tub into a fresh new walk-in shower takes planning and elbow grease but is a project any motivated DIYer can tackle. Carefully prepping surfaces, establishing proper drainage slope, using quality waterproofing, and taking time to neatly tile and grout will result in a beautiful and functional shower you’ll enjoy using daily. Maintaining grout sealant and caulk while cleaning with gentle products will keep your new tiled shower looking like new for years of safe showering.