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How Do I Prepare a Bathroom For Tile Installation?

Throughout a series of articles, I am going through the steps involved for remodeling a bathroom. In this article, we are going to discuss the preparation process after the bathroom demolition is complete.

What do you do now? I outlined the steps involved for tile installation.

Step 1:
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  • Clean the bathroom.
    • Remove any screws or nails in the wall that are exposed.
    • Vacuum the floor to remove any construction debris left from the demolition.
    • Check exposed framing for any water damage or rotting wood. Repair any framing as needed.
    • Check exposed framing for plumbness. Any framing out of square will affect the tile and or bathtub. Repair any framing as needed.

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Step 2:
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  • Install bathtub.
    • Slide the bathtub into place; be sure to check that the bathtub is level. Use plastic shims to level the bathtub, if needed. Once the bathtub is level, mark the top of the nailing flange.
    • Remove the bathtub and install 2×4 ledger boards to the wall studs. The bathtub will rest on the ledger boards once the bathtub is in place.
    • Some bathtubs need to be set in thin set to help support the bottom. Mix the thin set as you would for tile and apply a solid base where the bathtub will be placed. Be sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for installing your bathtub.
    • Make sure the tub is still level when placed on the ledger board and on the thin set, if needed. If the bathtub is not level, adjust the ledger boards and thin set as necessary.
    • Connect the drain pipes and overflow valve.
    • Connect the nailing flange to the framing studs. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.

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Step 3:
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  • Prepare shower surround for tile.
    • The framing studs should be exposed where the tile is going to be installed in the shower. Any necessary framing repair should be completed.
    • Vacuum the bathtub out as necessary to remove any construction debris.
    • Protect the bathtub with drop cloths.
    • Create a vapor barrier between the framing studs and backer boards. You can use asphalt felt roofing paper, or plastic sheathing as a vapor barrier. Attach the felt paper to the framing studs with staples. Overlap the felt paper 6 to 8 inches vertically and 2 to 4 inches horizontally.
    • Allow the felt paper to overlap the nailing flange on the bathtub.
    • Apply a bead of silicone sealant on the bathtub nailing flange and between the felt paper.
    • Push the felt paper to the sealant on the nailing flange to create an airtight seal.
    • Pre-cut the cement backer boards to fit around the tub surround. Allow the backer board to sit inch off the bathtub deck.
    • Measure and mark for the pipes that need to be cut out. Drill the holes using a carbide hole saw. Drill the holes a inch wider than the pipes.
    • Screw the backer boards to the studs with corrosion resistant screws as per the manufacturer’s recommendations.
    • Tape the joints with seam tape made for backer boards. This tape can be bought at your local building supply store. It is usually located in the drywall supply section or tile section and is labeled for cement backer boards. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for mixing the thinset mortar.
    • Apply mortar over the tape and let dry for 24 hours.

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Step 4:
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  • Prepare floor for tile.
    • Pre-cut the cement backer boards to fit the floor layout.
    • Dry fit the backer boards to ensure they will fit properly. Leave a 1/8 inch gap between backer boards and 1/4 inch gap between the walls and bathtub.
      Remove the backer boards.
    • Install a thin layer of mortar (approximately 1/8 of an inch thick) with a notched trowel onto the subfloor. Firmly press the backer boards onto the thin set. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for mixing the mortar.
    • Start on the inside of the room and work your way out. Only spread enough thinset mortar on the floor for the size of the backer board you are laying down. Keep the backer board in as large sections as possible.
    • Screw the backer board to the subfloor with corrosion resistant screws as per the manufacturer’s recommendations.
    • Tape the joints with seam tape made for backer boards.
    • Apply thin set mortar over the tape and let dry for 24 hours.

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Step 5:
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  • Prime and paint the walls and ceiling.
  • Repair any drywall damage with joint compound.
  • Prime both ceiling and the walls.
  • Paint ceiling and the walls.
  • I prefer to paint at this point because I do not have to worry about getting paint on newly set tile. You also have the option to paint at some point later in the remodel.

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Now you are ready to set your tile The bathroom remodel at this stage is about half way complete.

Check and double check to make sure everything is done correctly! If at any point you are not comfortable, take a step back and higher the proper professional. Always follow the local and national building codes.

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