Schluter Shower Part 5: How to Tile a Shower Wall (10 Important Tips)

Hey there! I hope you’re having a great
day. In this video, we’re going to share 10—count
them—10 really great tips for how to tile a herringbone shower wall. Now, here’s the
deal. If you’re not doing a herringbone tile wall, no problem. Most of these tips
will apply to pretty much any type of tiled shower. And we’re also going to sharing
different tools and materials that’ll make this much, much easier. So let’s just dive
right into it. Tip #1 is layout. So layout is critical not
only for herringbone tile walls but also for any type of wall. What can you do to make
the layout a little bit easier for yourself? So you can either put it down on a sheet of
paper and sketch it out, which is a very affordable way to do it. We’ve done it. It’s a nice
way to see visually what you’re dealing with. You can alter your measurements. Or
you can get a backer board; you can use the backer board that you’re going to be using
in this shower, which is typically a 3 x 5 panel, and you can lay all your tile on top
of that and plan how the layout is going to look once you start cutting tiles. You just
need to factor in, which brings me to Tip #2: your expansion and contraction joint.
So, expansion and contraction joints are critical in three main areas within a shower: between
the bottom row of tile and the tiled shower pans—we always tile the shower pan first,
so you want your expansion and contraction joint there; you need the expansion and contraction
joint in the corners, so between this last column of tile and the tile on the back wall;
you need the expansion and contraction joint between the last row of tile and the ceiling.
So, those are three main areas where you need an expansion and contraction joint with your
wall tile. So we always get this question: How big should
the expansion and contraction joint be? Well, if you’re following the Tile Council of
North America, they should be right around 1/8 of an inch. So how do you get them to
stay an eighth of an inch? Well, you can use these little guys. These are plastic horseshoe
shims. You can get these online on You can get them at your tile distributors.
These are great because they’re plastic, and they do not compress like the little tiny
cross rubber shims. We never use those because, especially if you’re using big tiles or
heavy tiles, they compress too much, and you get uneven grout joints or expansion and contraction
joints. So these little plastic 1/16-inch horseshoe shims are awesome for maintaining
not only the expansion and contraction joint but also grout joints too. So keep these in
mind. Tip #3 deals with the tile leveling systems.
There are many different tile leveling systems, and we’ll get to those in a second. But
for 3 x 6 inch subway tiles, we did not use a tile leveling system. But for any tiles
over 15 inches long, you may want to consider them.
So what leveling systems are out there? You’ve got T-lock. You’ve got Peygran. You’ve
got Levtec. You’ve got MLT. And you’ve got the Tuscan seam clips and the Tuscan leveling
systems. There are a ton out there. We like T-lock. It’s comprised of a wedge and basically
a clip that has an integrated grout joint in it. And if you choose something like T-lock,
their grout joints in the clip are 1/16, 1/8, and 1/32. So you can choose the size of the
clip in relation to what size tile and grout joint you want. But this is a really great
system. Consider it if your tiles are large format tile with 15-inch long edges. So that’s
tip #3, tile leveling systems. Tip #4 is to use a laser level, especially
with herringbone tile but for pretty much any wall tile. It makes the adjustment of
the tile so much easier. You can see what you’re doing. Sure you could snap a chalk
line or draw a line on the backer board, but in reality, you’re probably going to cover
that up with thinset mortar. So using a laser level helps out a tone with this. We like
the Bosch laser levels, DeWALT laser levels. If you’ve got a laser level that you like,
let us know down in the comments. This one is a red laser level. We’re going to be
testing out the green ones. Some people like the green ones more than the red ones because
they can see them better. But it’s really up to you. And we highly recommend you get
one that has a crosshair on it—so both a horizontal laser line and a vertical laser
line. The vertical laser line allows you to line up things like vertical 12 x 24s or bullnose
tile. Or even Schluter-RONDEC if you’re using a metal profile. So laser level, definitely
consider one. Tip #5 is trowel selection. You got to have
the right size trowel for the type of tile that you’re going to be using. So with 3
x 6 inch tile, we ended up using a ¼” x ¼” square notch trowel. Now if your tile’s
a little bit bigger than that, you can always upgrade to a ¼” x 3/8” square notch trowel
like this one. If your tile’s really big, you may want to consider a ½” x ½” square
notch trowel. There are also Euro trowels out there, so you have a lot to choose from.
And if you’re unsure of which one to pick, our buddy, Sal DeBlasi, has a really great
video over on his YouTube channel that’ll help you out with that. Or you can just ask
us or call the thinset manufacturer. But tip #5, make sure you choose the right size trowel.
Tip #6 is to mix the thinset the right way, according to the directions. So in this shower,
we ended up using Schluter ALL-SET. You’ve got to mix that thinset. Let it slake or sit
for several minutes. And then you have to re-mix it. And so thinset mortar is really
important in terms of following the right amount of water and the right amount of thinset
to add to the bucket. So typically, we add the water first to the bucket then the thinset.
And then mix it according to the directions. Now, having the right mixer helps out a ton
with this. We’re actually testing out the FlexVolt Mixer by DeWALT. This is a really
great new tool. The only thing we’ll say about it is make sure your batteries are fully
charged and you have two on hand. Because we’re mixing multiple buckets, this little
battery here can actually run out of juice, and you’ll be kind of out of luck. So definitely
make sure you have two batteries if you’re using a cordless mixer like this one. The
Milwaukee mixer is also great. We’ve tested that one out. So those are two options for
you. And of course, you can always get a corded mixer. But tip #6, make sure you mix the thinset
according to the directions. Tip #7 us not sexy, but it’s absolutely
necessary. And that is to use directional troweling. So whenever you’re applying the
thinset to the wall, all the trowel ridges face the same direction. For example with
the 3 x 6 subway tile, we made sure the directional trowel was a vertical. That way when the tiles
were compressing into the thinset, you’re collapsing the ridges, removing the air, and
making sure you have a good bond—at least 95% to 100% bond—coverage between the thinset,
the tile, and the substrate. And that’s what you want to accomplish in a tiled wall
situation in a shower. Also, it never hurts to back butter tiles with the flat side of
the trowel. This will provide you with that 95% to 100% thinset coverage that it needs.
So that’s our tip #7. Make sure you back butter the tile and use directional troweling
that’s going to give you the proper thinset coverage you need in a shower.
We’re moving right along. Tip #8 is to clean the tiles as you set them. This is really
important if you’re using those horseshoe shims or a tile leveling system. So there
are three different types of tools that you can use for that. Number one, a very dull
carpet knife. This is great because you can basically scrape out a 1/16-inch grout joint.
Make sure you get all the thinset out from there; anything that oozes out in between
the tiles. You can also use a paintbrush, a little cheap paintbrush. This is like $1.50
at your home store. And certainly a great sponge. We love these Ardex sponges. You may
like them too. But we like them because: number one, they absorb water; and they’ve got
a good surface area; and they last a very long time. So that’s tip #8, make sure you
clean the tiles as you set them. Tip #9 is very exciting because it’s dustless
tools. So if you’re cutting tile inside a confined space like this one and you can’t
go outside or the space isn’t big enough for a wet saw, what tools can you use to cut
the tile without a bunch of dust everywhere? Well, lately we’ve been testing out—unfortunately,
I don’t have it right here—an angle grinder with a dust shroud connected to a HepaVac.
So in this particular instance in this shower, we used Fein’s WSG-7 4 ½” angle grinder
with their new dust shroud connected to it. And that dust shroud is then connected to
a HepaVac. It works amazingly well! Now, I know what you’re going to say. It’s bulky.
It’s going to be hard to see the tile. I totally understand that. But you get used
to it. And it works incredibly well! It cuts down on the dust, which is not only good for
you; it’s good for everybody who’s using the space. So other workers, home owners,
you name it. So that one setup that is awesome. The other one is this. This is Montolit’s
14-inch Minipiuma, and this is a really great tool for cutting both ceramic and porcelain
tile. You can also cut subway tiles. No problem with it. You can cut glass mosaics and much,
much more. We took a really in-depth review of this Minipiuma, and you can actually watch
that if you want. So this is a great tool for making dustless—for the most part—cuts
in a small, confined space. It’s really a great tool for that.
Tip #10 is grout selection. So what type of grout should you choose for tile in a shower?
There are many different types out there. But the one that we chose for this shower—because
we had to use black grout on the accent wall and white grout on the subway tile walls,
and we didn’t want to do grouting on two separate days—we chose Mapei Ultracolor
Plus FA. This is a grout that sets up in 20 to 30 minutes. It pretty much almost performs
like an Epoxy grout, but it’s a little bit different. And you can use it down to 1/16
of an inch grout joints and almost any type of tile. Just make sure you read the directions
on the bag or on the spec sheet. But Mapei’s Ultracolor Plus FA is awesome, and we highly
recommend that you check this out. It’s a great grout. Hasn’t failed us yet. You
just got to make sure that you clean it up as fast as you can after you apply it.
Now it’s time for the bonus tip, and that has to do with what you need to use in the
expansion and contraction joint. So in the shower, obviously it’s 100% silicone. But
what types of silicone are best? We’re going to share three that’ll help you out.
So this one is Mapesil T. This is made by Mapei. And this is a color-matching silicone.
So they have Mapesil T that matches different types of grout that you can get from Mapei.
So Mapesil T is one. Latasil is another silicone that you can use in the corners if you’re
using a Laticrete grout. So we use Latasil with Laticrete’s Epoxy grout, which is called
SpectraLOCK. This is another great product. Definitely check it out. CRL also makes a
silicone sealant for showers. In particular, their clear silicone is awesome for shower
doors. So make sure you check out CRL’s 100% silicone clear or white, whichever you
prefer, for your shower. Now, here’s the deal. There’s a specific type of sealant
that we recommend between the last row of tile and the ceiling. And that is Sherwin
Williams 950A or Sherwin Williams 1050QD—the QD stands for quick dry. But the reason why
we like these sealants is because you can apply between that joint, and they’re paintable.
So these are siliconized acrylics that you can paint over. And you can have a matched
ceiling paint; it’s kind of a seamless transition between the last row of tile and the ceiling.
So make sure you check out Sherwin Williams 950A or 1050QD.
It’s cray how many new products are constantly coming out. We’re trying to share those
with you on a regular basis, so make sure you watch our videos. And also remember, if
you’re doing a custom bathroom or custom shower, check out
That’s where we have over 200 step-by-step video tutorials. They’re phenomenal, and
I know they will definitely help you out with your project.
So thank you for watching this video. Check out Bathroom Repair Tutor. And we’ll see
you in the next tutorial. Take care!

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Reader Comments

  1. teh60

    I was really surprised at how well the color matching caulk matches the grout. Mapei makes good products. Great tips, you covered everything.

  2. chupalia

    A guy once told me to use grout as mortar, so you only have to buy grout for applying tiles. I have tiled a bit in house remod but always used thinset as mortar and grout as grout. Serious question. What is your take on only using grout?

  3. Money Making Mike G.

    Bro., I NEVER would of thought of the spacers compressing leading to uneven grout lines!!! Another one learned from you guys!! Hope all is well, Dirty Jersey out!!

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