How to tile a wall: like a pro (even if you're a DIY novice)

If you want to learn how to tile a wall properly, use our step-by-step guide and video to get flawless results

How to tile a wall like a professional
(Image credit: Topps Tiles)

If you want to learn how to tile a wall, then patience and preparation are key. Wall tiles tend to be the go-to option for rooms like the kitchen or bathroom, where there may be too much moisture for wallpaper or paint, but they can also be a great option in hallways and dining rooms.

Whether you go for solid stones like granite and marble, handmade terracotta or quarry tiles or cost effective but stylish options like porcelain and ceramic, getting the job done well is a must if you want a professional-looking result. Follow our guide to how to tile a wall – and check out the video, too.

Not found your dream tiles yet?  Find more bathroom ideas and know how and more kitchen ideas and advice on our dedicated hub pages.

You will need:

1. Protect the area

Begin by laying a protective cover on the floor and secure this with masking tape. Then, using a clean, damp cloth, wipe down your wall surface, or use a suitable degreasing agent, such as sugar soap, and wash this away with water before leaving the wall to dry completely.

If you find any cracks in the wall or any areas that need repair, it’s a good idea to fix these before you begin to tile. It’s important to make sure the surface is flat, too, so make sure to sand away any lumps and bumps at this stage.

2. Prime the surface

Depending on the tiles chosen, you may need to prime the wall, but check with the adhesive manufacturer to see if this is recommended. Remember that in wet areas, such as a bathroom or near a bathroom sink, apply a specialist waterproofing product, such as BAL Waterproof Plus

Depending on the tile size and substrate cement, Hardiebacker boards may be required to ensure the wall will hold the weight of the tiles. It’s best to check with the tile manufacturer to see what’s recommended.

3. Work out how many tiles you need

To work out how many tiles you need, measure the wall height and width and multiplied the two measurements to calculate the metre-squared value.

Make sure to measure each wall separately and add together the values to get a total coverage. It’s a good idea to include a 10 per cent contingency for off-cuts and any mistakes or breakages. This is particularly important if you’re creating a more decorative laying pattern, such as herringbone.

4. Find your starting point

Your first step in tiling a wall? Find your starting point by locating the centre of your wall and mark a pencil line. Then, using a tile measure, or tile staff, mark the width and length or the tiles so you can see where they will lay. Where the bottom tile is less than about half a tile, re-arrange the layout slightly by raising the tile so you have at least half a tile and mark the wall once you are happy.

On the mark nearest the floor, use a spirit level and draw a straight line horizontally across the wall and fix a timber baton into the surface – you’ll use this as a guide and tile up from this point. Remember, the baton will need to be removed later.

5. Prepare the adhesive

How to cut tiles with...

A manual cutter: A manual cutter is used for straight cuts.

A tile scribe: This method can be used on thinner tiles.

An electric tile cutter: Electric cutters are used for right angles, curved edges and thicker tiles such as porcelain and natural stone.

Mix the adhesive in a bucket according to the packet instructions. For smaller tiles, it is fine to use a pre-mixed adhesive, but for larger designs, a cement-based type, which you mix yourself is recommended. Follow the packet instructions to ensure the mix is right. To apply the adhesive, use a notched trowel held at a 45 degree angle, to spread the adhesive on the wall.

Drag it across the surface to ensure an even coverage right up to the timber baton and pencil outline. Make grooves in the same direction and only cover enough to suit your application without the adhesive going off, meaning it will harden, before the tiles are fixed – around one square metre.

6. How to tile a wall

Now you're ready to tile the wall. Place the first tile onto the wall and push gently, twisting and sliding it, to make sure it sticks. Put a tile spacer along each edge and use a cloth to wipe away any excess adhesive as you go. Carry on the above steps until you’ve covered the whole area.

7. Cut some tiles

When you come to the edges, you may need to cut some of the tiles to fit. To do this, use either a manual cutter, which is best for straight cuts; a tile scribe for thin tiles; or an electric cutter for right angles or curved edges and for thicker tiles such as those made from porcelain or natural stone.

8. Finish the edges

Then, follow the same steps to secure the edge sections of tiles to the wall. Adhesive drying times vary by substrate and type so check guidance on the adhesive packet. Once dry, remove the spacers and any remaining excess adhesive then prepare your grout.

9. Prepare and apply the grout

Mix the grout powder and water in a bucket, but don’t mix too much at once, as this too will set quickly. Using a grout float, push the grout into the gaps and wipe away any excess with a damp sponge. You’ll need to wipe the wall again after around an hour to get rid of any residue and use a grout profiler to smooth the grout lines. Avoid over wetting the grout while removing as this will weaken the finished grout.

10. Seal the edges

Finally, use a silicone sealant to seal the edges of the wall, ensuring a watertight finish. Use a caulking gun to squeeze it from the tube and a sealant profiler or your finger to take away any excess, but make sure to wear rubber gloves. Leave the sealant for 24 hours to fully cure and then your newly tiled wall is complete – with a perfect professional-style result.

More great DIY ideas

Hebe Hatton
Hebe Hatton

Hebe joined the Real Homes team in early 2018 as Staff Writer. As a renter, she is always looking for creative ways to make her flat feel like home. She loves boho and 70's style and is a big fan of Instagram as a source of interiors inspiration.