How to lay bathroom tile

How to lay bathroom tile

Simple steps with beautiful results with this How to lay bathroom tile tutorial!

How to lay Bathroom tile. Beautiful cement tile for this DIY bathroom renovation

I am so excited to finally get this bathroom renovation shared on the blog! We added ship lap, painted the cabinet, added a new counter top and most importantly got rid of the water damage from the leaky toilet! Today is all about How to lay bathroom tile.

Here is what the bathroom floor looked like. It was a laminate sheet that was broken in the corners and apparently leaking water (probably pee, gross!) under the toilet. I shared the messy progress as well as the bathroom reveal of this a couple of weeks ago. I am finally getting to the nuts and bolts of the DIY renovations I tackled.

Since this was an unexpected repair situation my budget was small… very small. The plan is to just repair the flooring, add the tile and leave the current drop in shower as-is for now. Eventually I would love to pull that out and tile that as well, but we needed a functioning bathroom and toilet first.

I fell in love with this floral and swirly cement tile! I purchased it on clearance and there was just enough for tiling the bathroom floor with whimsical shapes and gray tones! This was an unexpected renovation but when I saw the tile in the clearance section it felt like a little decorating angel was helping me out. Because the tile pattern is so busy I felt it was best to paint the walls a calmer white. I also felt there was a small domino effect because the gray of the tile made the gray vanity feel too matchy/matchy. I also loved the turquoise that the walls gave this space. So I chose to paint the vanity a blue color. I will talk more about this next week though, I am getting ahead of myself.

Yep, this is the reality of a DIY bathroom renovation! Me sitting here with a pulled up floor and perfect view of the water damage.

All because of this, a broken toilet flange. The flange is is a pipe fitting that both mounts a toilet to the floor and connects the toilet drain to a drain pipe. Somehow ours started to leak. For anyone unaware this is not what a flange should look like! Ours came apart in rusted dust when touched. This is the reason water (and pee) were leaking around the base of the toilet. I did not even know a toilet flange was a thing we needed to be aware of. It sounds like an excuse to get out of something “Oh we cannot come to your baby gender reveal party, our toilet flange is broken! Too bad, so sad…” But it is real and a broken flange makes for big problems.

For reference here is the shiny and new toilet flange. It connects the toilet pipe to the base of the toilet. There can be no leaking otherwise you end up with our mess.

We started pulling up the flooring just around the toilet and realized that in order to see how bad the water damage was we needed to expose the entire floor. Which meant pulling out the vanity and replacing the sub floor with new cement flooring boards. It was all clean, no longer water damaged and so incredibly sparse! This is when I freaked out, what I assumed was a quick weekend repair of laying new flooring turned into a couple weeks of sub floor repairs.

Fun side note, I also cracked our bathroom vanity laminate counter top when pulling out the vanity. So adding on a new counter top to our ever expanding (but still trying to keep small) budget. I will share next week what we did to make that mistake into a win!

Before beginning the actual tiling be sure to take off the floor trim, clean the surface and remove any nails or screws in the sub floor that are sticking out. Once the work space is cleared up it is time to get those beautiful tiles out! The pattern I chose is very particular in how they are set down. Four tiles makes up the design and they have to be laid in the same pattern, otherwise the whole thing would be messed up. I stressed about this wayyyy too much. I envisioned me happily showing off my bathroom tile all shiny and finished, only then to notice one tile set down in the wrong direction. Take your time! Installing tile flooring is not a complicated job but it is a time consuming one.

Items needed to tile flooring –

  •  Mastic (AKA thin set)
  •  White grout
  •  Trowel to lay the thin set
  •  Tile spacers
  • Grout sealer
  • Two big sponges, one specifically for grout and one for the grout sealer.

I am going to start this tutorial of How to lay bathroom tile when the laying of the tiles actually began. There was work to add the new cement floor boards, which is really straight forward. Clear out the old plywood floor remove nails. Then cut into place the pieces of new floor and nail into place. It gave me the sparse and blank canvas to start tiling.

Let’s get this tile down!!! Taking the trowel and getting a glob of mixed thin set. Take the un-grooved side of the trowel and lay a thin layer on. Enough to cover the floor. Smooth it out with no obvious clumps or really thin spots. We set enough thin set to be able to lay a few down at a time.

Then, once laid use the grooved side and run it along the fresh thin set. This will make lines along the floor. It helps make sure there is not too much in one spot, and help the tile attach to the thin set. Sliding along slowly, and pushing the grooved edge trowel down along it.

Making sure the thin set is evenly distributed is key here. Too much on one side will have it be gloopy (yep, that is the technical term).

Laying down the tile, the level of it also has to be spot on. Otherwise there will be tiles that jut out or sit at a slant. Using a leveler and placing it over the tiles individually as well as over multiple tiles as you go laying them down.

If there is an edge that is too high or low you can either push down the tile or lift it up to add or take away thin set. Whatever is needed to make it even.

When each tile gets set, use the spacers as the next tile is put down. Squish them in place so the line in between the tiles is even. I chose a small grout line, so the spacers are very tiny. There is different sizes of spacers available, it all depends on how big or small grout lines you want.

How to lay bathroom tile is not actually that complicated of a process, it just takes a while. Many, MANY repeating of steps. Lay thin set, lay tile down, check if it is level then stick in spacers. Rinse and repeat 10,000 times.

As you can see, the thin set should poke through a little but not ever get smushed to be out of the grout line. Most of the tiling was done by just simply placing the tile down. It was not until I got to an edge or corner that cutting the tile had to happen.

I will note that I did most of this DIY bathroom tile job I did on my own, the manly hands may show otherwise. I asked Dale to be my lovely hand model to show what to do. He is incapable of taking pictures that are not blurry so I cannot do the action shots.

Cutting the tiles I used a wet saw. Measuring where the cut needs to happen and drawing the line on the back of the tile. Then setting up the wet saw to meet that line. Quick and simple cuts, I love using the wet saw!

I started laying the tiles by the doorway then put down a couple of rows across. Always check in with the direction of your tiles! I measured from the wall multiple times as I was laying tiles to make sure they were going in a straight line.

Here is a sneak peek of the new bathroom vanity cabinet! It is actually the one that was in there all along, I painted it. That tutorial will be next week.

Another tip is to not step on the tile once is is laid down!!! The thin set takes up to 24 hours to dry, so once you have everything level you do not want any weight on it that can mess up the tile. So I did a lot of hopping and jumping to get in and out of this bathroom while I was working on it. I also put up a baby gate in the doorway when I walked away from the bathroom so no kids or dogs would walk on it by mistake.

The last tile that went in was this corner one by the doorway. It was one I was stressing about because of the more complicated cuts. I got through it by sliding a piece of paper under the doorway trim and tracing the shape of the wall. Then drawing that onto the back of the tile. I also forgot to take pictures of that process, I failed at my DIY blogging job. But I did get one pretty tiled corner.

Tile is all down! This bathroom tile job is almost done! I waited 24 hours before I removed the spacers.

Here is two of my three kids celebrating that they can finally walk on the bathroom floor again! The bathroom is far from usable at this point but it sure looks pretty!

After waiting the recommended 24 hours for the thin set to “set” and all of the spacers were pulled out it was time to grout! I chose a white grout color because I felt that the tile itself was busy enough, so the simplicity of a white grout would be a good addition.

For anyone that does not know, grout is what is put in the cracks between each tile. It helps keep dirt out of the cracks and also allows the flooring to be more water resistant. You simply wipe it on over the tiles in big wipes.

The goal is to cover the entire line with grout where the grout becomes flush with the surface of the tile.

Once you add the grout just keep wiping until it all becomes lightly covered.

Pause for some more reality, a messy hallway and a exhausted Teddy. He watches me work on the tile and it is so much for watching me he needs a nap. Times are hard for a fluffy Havanese!

Here is where I can show you the difference between grout and no grout. The change is subtle. You keep wiping the grout away until the tile does not have anymore of a grout sheen on the surface of the tile.

Once the grout is wiped into the cracks as possible it is time to wipe away the remaining grout residue from the tiles. You will want to do this before the grout sets, otherwise it becomes very difficult to wipe off.

Take a sponge and get it slightly damp with water. Then slowly wipe the tile down. DO NOT get the tile too damp, if the sponge has too much water it will make the grout get washed out of the lines of the tile. So only a little bit damp is all that is needed.

The above picture is before the tile was wiped down with a damp sponge.

This picture is after everything was completely wiped away. I now have neat and straight grout lines! If the grout lines are not looking even just wipe a little more and the lines will straighten out.

Oh guys, this floor looks so pretty! I am absolutely in love with the tile!!

The final step in How to lay bathroom tile is to seal the grout. This is done by wiping on a clear coat over the tiles and grout. There is some grout that has the sealer already included into it. I put on three coats of the sealer. I knew it was enough when I dripped water on the tile and grout and the water puddled onto the grout instead of getting absorbed into the grout itself.

I wanted to take pictures of this process, but from a picture standpoint there was absolutely nothing to see because the sealer is clear. Installing tile flooring is an important job, but at times not the most entertaining in photography for a blog.

Then we are finally done! Well done with the flooring that is. I will be sharing the tutorial for how we put up the rustic gray shiplap soon. There is still so much for unpack with this bathroom renovation!

The before and after is amazing! I love a good ending to a story and to me this flooring was worth all of the headache that was dealing with the leaking toilet and water damage. I am now sure if I would have said that when I was sitting in a completely empty bathroom 1 week before the tile was done, but hindsight is 20/20 and I adore the results!

Before and after bathroom renovation

This bathroom has been through a lot. It was yellow for years, then painted bright blue for a short time. Once the water damaged became known I decided to freshen things up even more.

It really all started with the tile. I fell in love with the pattern but knew that if I picked this tile keeping the bold blue color of the walls could not happen. It would be way too much going on in this small room. That started a whole ripple effect of painting the walls, painting the cabinet and eventually landing into this beautiful bathroom!

How to lay bathroom tile is actually a very straight forward process. Not that many steps, but you do those steps over and over and over again! Taking your time, making sure everything is level and the tile pattern is complete is the most important parts of installing tile flooring. This bathroom renovation has been a learning experience, but in the long run I am happy we took the plunge and did it right. All worth it in the end.



  1. I can’t wait to redo my bathroom. Thank you for your really informative post. Your tips are really helpful.

  2. I love your bathroom! And the tiles are so pretty. You did a great job. My daughter and her husband just finished an entire kitchen remodel and they also installed the tile and it looks amazing.

  3. I give you a lot of credit that floor came out so great and it was a real professional job. My bathrooms are good but i need a new floor in my kitchen.

  4. I typically leave this type of stuff to the experts because I can’t draw a straight line even with a ruler!

  5. So pretty! I need to do this. The tile in the bathrooms is pretty blah at the moment. I’d like it to pop more.

  6. Can I hire you to do my house LOL. I am pretty sure my toilet has the same problem as you mention here, but I’m afraid to look. Those tiles are gorgeous!

  7. Oh my goodness those tiles are absolutely beautiful, what a difference they make to the floor! I love them!

  8. I absolutely love it! The floor and the color of the cabinets go so well together. You did an amazing job!

  9. Man oh man did I need this blog post last year around this time! Ha! MASSIVE water damage in our bathroom through the ceiling into our kitchen. But looking back it’s the best thing that could have happened because we wound up completely remodeling and it looks great now!

  10. I love your tile! That’s a tedious process. I love the look but I probably wouldn’t be able to stick to it. I am so impressed that you all DIY’d it.

  11. I will not be able to do this I swear. I’d just quickly call a handyman to get it done I suppose. You are a tiles rockstar!

  12. Wow, you really did an awesome job. It turned out super awesome. I couldn’t imagine being able to pull it off personally.

  13. Oh my gosh, these tiles are so beautiful and I am so proud of you for doing it by yourself.

  14. I absolutely adore the tiles you put down! I have never done it myself and I don’t know if I could – I am so terrible at these kinds of things, even with guidance.

  15. I loved this step-by-step tutorial for how to lay down tile. The pattern you chose for your bathroom is absolutely lovely!

  16. This couldn’t be more timely. We need to lay new tile in our bathroom. This will help hubby and I so much!

  17. The tile you chose is so pretty! The whole bathroom looks great.

  18. What a beautiful floor! And a lot of work. It came out wonderfully. I usually am not a big fan of patterns, but this is so pretty.

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