Installing tile in a bathroom shower can completely transform the look and feel of your space. With some planning, the right materials, and a bit of skill, you can create a beautiful, watertight tiled shower area. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to install tile in a bathroom shower.

Plan the Layout and Select Tiles

Before starting any work, it’s important to plan out your tile layout. Consider the size of your shower area and decide on the tile size, pattern, and orientation that will work best. Smaller tile sizes like 2”x2” or 4”x4” are commonly used in showers as the grout lines provide more watertightness. Pick tiles that have texture and aren’t too slippery.

Once you have a layout in mind, purchase the quantity of tiles needed. Make sure to get extra tiles in case any break during installation. Also buy any accent tiles you plan to use.

Prepare the Shower Walls

Installing tile over drywall is not recommended as it will deteriorate in a wet environment. Cement board, fiberglass, or a waterproof plastic shower surround are better shower wall materials. If using cement board, screw it securely to the wall studs per manufacturer instructions. Seams should be staggered.

Before tiling, the shower walls need to be totally flat and free of any bumps or unevenness. Fill any gaps or voids with thinset and let it fully cure before moving on.

Waterproof the Shower

A critical step is waterproofing the shower walls and floor to prevent leaks. RedGard® is a commonly used liquid waterproofing membrane that is rolled or troweled on. Apply at least two coats, letting it dry completely between coats. Run the membrane 6 inches up the walls past the shower floor and just to the top of the shower curb if you have one.

An alternative is to use a waterproofing fabric shower mat or sheet membrane. This gets embedded into thinset and installed underneath your shower floor and 6-12 inches up the walls. These systems form a waterproof barrier behind the tile.

Install the Tile Floor

Start tiling at the shower floor. Mix up thinset mortar adhesive and use a notched trowel to spread it onto the floor area. Create small workable sections since thinset dries quickly.

Place the tiles in the thinset, using spacers for consistent grout lines. Don’t walk or kneel on freshly installed tiles. Once the thinset cures (24-48 hrs), apply grout between the tiles. Remove excess grout with a damp sponge and let dry completely.

Optional step – Applying a grout sealant will make cleaning and maintenance easier.

Tile the Shower Walls

Using the same process, install your wall tiles working in sections starting at the bottom. For a clean look, keep grout lines aligned with those on the floor. Cut border and accent tiles as needed with a snap tile cutter or wet saw.

Near soap shelves, shampoo niches, or shower fixtures, be sure the tiles are level and placed snugly around. Avoid excess thinset in these areas.

Let thinset dry fully (24-48 hours) before grouting. Clean excess grout off the tile right away to prevent drying and hazing on the surface.

Seal the Tile Surfaces

As a final step, use a penetrating sealer formulated for wet areas to seal the grout and tile surfaces. This will prevent staining and make shower maintenance easier. Apply the sealer with a paintbrush or sponge, let sit 15 minutes, then wipe away the excess.

Use caution and avoid walking on the freshly sealed surfaces for a few hours. Let cure fully before using your new shower. Reapply annually or as needed to boost protection.

With good preparation and careful tile installation, you can enjoy a beautiful new tiled shower that will last for many years. Maintain it properly by using a gentle soap, soft sponge, and regular sealing.

Frequently Asked Questions about Installing Tile in a Shower

What type of tile is best for shower walls and floors?

Porcelain, ceramic, or natural stone tiles that have some texture work well for showers. Mosaics tiles are also a good choice. Avoid very smooth tiles as they can be slippery.

What can I use instead of cement board as a shower wall backing?

Fiberglass or acrylic shower surrounds are waterproof options. Plastic tile backer boards or treated densglass are other cement board alternatives.

How long should I wait before using my newly tiled shower?

It’s best to wait at least 24-48 hours for thinset and grout to fully cure before exposing them to water. Some products may recommend 3-5 days curing time, so always check manufacturer guidelines.

What’s the correct way to grout shower tiles?

Use a rubber grout float to spread grout at a 45-degree angle pressing into joints. Clean excess grout off tile surface with a damp sponge and water before it dries. Grout haze can be stubborn to remove once dried.

Should I use a different tile adhesive for shower floors and walls?

Thinset mortar adhesive works well for both shower floors and walls. Make sure to use a white polymer fortified thinset for areas that will be exposed to moisture.

How do I get a watertight seal around the shower plumbing fixtures?

Carefully pack thinset tightly around the pipes, valves, and plumbing penetrations before setting tiles. Consider using an installation flange kit for tubs or shower bases. Apply 100% silicone caulk around fixtures as a final seal.


Installing tile in a bathroom shower involves careful planning and preparation, but it is a doable DIY project if you take it step-by-step. Thoroughly sealing the shower walls and floor with a waterproof membrane before tiling is crucial for preventing leaks and damage. Allow adequate drying time for thinset and grout to properly cure. With some patience and care, you can have beautiful shower tiles that will enhance your bathroom for years to come.