How to Retile a Shower – Step by Step Guide

Have you been wanting to retile your shower but you’re not sure of the cost? Maybe you’re an avid DIYer who wants to learn how to retile a shower, and you can save money doing it yourself. Decor styles come and go, so this is a very common project to take on to turn a dated bathroom decor scheme into something sleek and modern. Also, new tile can make the bathroom seem brighter and more airy, and this is especially important in smaller spaces.

We’re going to outline how to retile a shower below, and you can take this information and use it to tackle your own bathroom remodeling project, step by step. When you finish, you should have professional-grade results that you’re proud of and can’t wait to show off.

How to Retile a Shower
Tiles can easily update the look of your bathroom or make it look more sleek, modern, bright, and open.

Step 1 – Remove the Shower and Your Shower Handle

The first thing you’ll do, obviously, is remove the old tiles. However, before you do this, you’ll need to start the project by removing the old shower and shower handle. You may need tools like a drill or screwdriver to accomplish this task, depending on the model you currently have installed.

Step 2 – Cover Your Floors

You’ll also need to put a covering down on your floors. When you start working, it’s common to have pieces of tile fall down, and you don’t want these falling tiles to cause damage to your shower pan’s floor. The best way to cover your floors is to use multiple towels, or if you choose to use a thinner material like a plastic drop cloth, you should back it with a more solid material, like cardboard to provide a little cushion.

Step 3 – Remove the Tiles

Once you cover your floor, you can start removing the tiles. Use a chisel and a hammer, and start from the bottom, moving up row by row. Once you get near a ceiling or wall, you should be very careful as you don’t want to accidentally damage these spaces and have to fix them later.

Remove the tiles by gently pressing your chisel on the side of the tile, and push it out with your hammer. At first, you should start working gently, but as you move forward, you’ll realize what your optimal way to do it is. Sometimes, you may need to get a putty knife instead of a chisel, but this is up to your personal preferences. As you work, some of  your tiles may crack and fall, but the goal is to remove each piece individually to minimize breakage. This also reduces the chances of damaging the walls. You can use a utility knife to help with the process too.

Step 4 – Preparing Your Walls

Assuming that you’ve managed to get all of the tiles off of all of your walls, the next part on how  to retile a shower is to prepare the walls. The bottom line is that every part of your wall has to be smooth and completely flat so you get a blank canvas to work with when you put the new tile up. If there is even a tiny piece of mortar, you won’t get the flat, smooth finished product you want.

Also, if the wall isn’t 100% flat when you go to retile it, you won’t be able to set your new tile at the right angle. Even worse, you may not notice that it’s not sitting correctly until it’s too late and you have to do it over. You may even find yourself breaking tiles that you already put up. Once you finish preparing the walls, you need to measure the width of the first wall that you want to start working on. Then, find the middle and draw a line straight up from the bottom. This is where your starting point will be.

Step 5 – Start Retiling

Next, you’re going to learn exactly how to retile a shower. The first thing you should do is measure your wall. This will help figure out the total amount of tiles you will need, so you shouldn’t have a lot left over. Also, most stores will cut any tiles you need for the edges for you to get a perfect fit.

Start the process by covering the bottom half of the wall with mortar, and spread it using a trowel. Put the first two tiles on the bottom, of the right or left side of the line that you drew in the previous stem, and aim to get to the very end of the wall on both sides. As you reach the end, you may need to cut to tiles to get a picture-perfect fit. However, if you don’t want to cut them on your own, you should go to your local home improvement store and ask them to cut your tiles to your necessary dimensions.

Also, as you start placing your tiles, don’t forget to put spacers between each one. You should put them in so you leave space for the grout that’ll go in the day after the tiles. When you finish an entire row, you want to repeat the process you learned on how to tile a shower until you reach the ceiling. When you finish with everything, you can take a rest until tomorrow since you should allow the mortar to set overnight.

Step 6 – Add Your Grout Between the Tiles

The final step on how to retile a shower requires that you add grout between the tiles. First, you’ll carefully remove the spacers from the mortar. Then, you’ll spread the grout over your walls and press it between the tiles using a trowel. You can use a sponge to strip off any excess grout. However, you have to move quickly since the grout will harden and stick to your tiles. It will be pretty challenging to strip off once it already sets on your new tiles.

You want to apply grout to all of the lines except for the vertical lines that run along the walls. Also, you want to exclude the horizontal lines that go along your floor. You should leave the grout for 24 hours to cure before you fill in the rest of the lines. You want to wait 48 hours before you use your newly retiled shower.

2 Bathroom Wall Tile Installation
Adding tile to your bathroom can be a slightly more complicated process as you have to work around fixtures that aren’t present in other rooms.

How to Lay Tile Over Your Existing Shower Floor

As your tile shower floor ages, all of the small imperfections come out. Each settlement will cause a crack in the grout and create a path for water to seep down onto the concrete subfloor. A lot spot will allow this water to puddle, and both of these problems promote mildew and mold growth in your grout and subfloor, and this will darken your grout in any problem areas.

A lot of showers will also have cut tile on the floor with rough-looking or sharp edges. The bad cuts can turn a good-looking floor into an amateurish-looking finished product that brings down the look of the whole space. Layering a new layer of tile over the existing shower floor can help solve these issues instead of learning how to retile a shower and stripping the old out. We’re going to outline how to prep an old floor and install tile over it to finish it off.

Step One – Preparing the Existing Floor in Your Shower

Most decent tile setters will tell you that a high-quality project involving tile always starts with surface prep. A tile showre floor uses a sand and mortar mixture as the subfloor. The contractor will dry pack the mortar mixture into your shower pan, and then they’ll cut in the floor’s slope with a straightedge. Once it dries, the mortar will lend a solid surface for the tile to rest on. If you have a subsurface that isn’t created properly, it will cause low and high spots in your floor. It may take as long to prepare the subsurface as it does to learn how to retile a shower.

How to Prep the Floor:

  1. Remove your shower drain cover and set it out of the way.
  2. Stuff a rag into the top of your drain hole. This rag will help prevent debris from falling down into your drainpipe as you work.
  3. Hold one end of a bubble level on the drain opening and slide the other end of the level across the existing tile to check your slope of the floor. When you measure from the drain opening to the furthest wall, your level should show roughly ¼-inch of slope per foot. Slide your level across the floor and mark all of the low and high areas with a permanent marker or wax pencil.
  4. Put all of your safety equipment on, including leather work gloves and your safety glasses.
  5. Remove any raised tile using a chisel and hammer. Don’t worry about damaging your neighboring floor tiles. A single raised floor tile has enough room to hide a puddle of water.
  6. Get rid of any old caulking material from the shower floor’s perimeter, including any caulking covering the lower six inches of each of the corners of the walls.
  7. Clean your entire shower stall thoroughly using any household cleaner meant to help get rid of hard-water deposits or soap scum.

Fixing the Slope:

Next you’ll work on fixing the slope so you don’t have any high or low spots in your flooring when you finish your project. You do this by:

  • Mix up a white-colored thinset in a bucket, making sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions. The white coloring on this thinset won’t bleed through your new shower tile’s grout.
  • Dampen the entire floor using water.
  • Fill any dips in the floor or missing tile using this thinset and a flat trowel to feather it into the surrounding tile to get a smooth slope.
  • If you don’t have the proper slope on your existing tile floor in your shower, build up a low area using thinset.
  • Run a straightedge across the whole floor’s surface and shave off any high areas you have left.
  • Allow the thinset a few hours to dry and set before you continue.
  • Double-check the slope of the floor and look for any dips. You want it to be 100% level. Continue to add your thinset to any problem areas you see, as necessary. If you created a high spot with your thinset, rub it with a cinder block or sanding stone.
  • Clean up all of your debris.

3 Shower Floor
It’s essential that your shower floor slopes toward the drain without any high or low spots that allow water to pool and mold to grow.

Step Two – Prepare the Drain

Once you have your floor set and a smooth slope running to the drain, it’s time to prepare the drain itself. You can do this by:

  • Mount your shower drain extension ring. This is a ¼-inch thick plastic ring that you’ll put on top of your existing shower drain. The mounting screws for the extension ring work to secure the ring right on top of your shower drain opening. Use a ring that is the same diameter as the existing shower floor drain opening. Most extension rings will bolt right to the four-inch diameter around the drain opening in the floor.
  • After your new tile floor dries, the ring will work to hold the drain cover flush with your new shower floor’s finished surface.
  • You can add an adapter to convert your round drain cover into a square one. The square one will make cutting around the tile opening much easier. If you want to use a square cover, mount your adapter to the extension ring at this time.

Step Three – Install the Shower Floor Tiles

The next step in learning how to retile a shower is to install your shower floor tiles. To do this, use the following steps:

  1. Mix up a bucket of the white-colored thinset using the company’s wet-mix ratio recommendations. Most shower floors will require a gallon of thinset.
  2. Spread your thinset on the shower floor using a notched trowel and starting at the fan corner and working toward your shower curb. Only cover as much floor as you can comfortably reach with a sheet of tile. If you’re working on a bigger shower floor, consider laying roughly half of the floor at a time and complete the first half before starting the second. If the thinset rolls with your trowel, add more water to the mixture.
  3. Position your first full sheet of tile on the floor against the most visible corner of the shower setup. If you’re working with a larger space, start in the far corner and work backwards, toward the door. Shower floor sheet tile offers several rows of small tile that have a mesh backing holding them together. The smaller pieces of tile will follow the floor’s slope, and the backing helps to keep the grout joints between each small piece even. Lay each full sheet of uncut tile on your shower floor.
  4. Don’t install the tile surrounding the drain opening or any cut pieces of tile near the shower walls just yet. Adjust each full tile sheet until the grout joints between the sheets match the joints between each individual piece of tile. Lightly tamp the tile into the wet thinset using a grout float.
  5. Measure the space between the full sheets of tile and your adjacent wall. Transfer the measurement to a sheet of tile. Layout the cuts surrounding the drain opening, and use the drain as your template. Make the cuts using an electric tile cutter or a set of tile nippers. Set the cut tile in their spots on your shower floor and lightly press it into the thinset using a clean grout float. Get a wet sponge and wipe any excess thinset that seeps through off.
  6. Check your floor for low or high spots using a bubble level. Tamp down high spots using a grout float and add more thinset to any low spots. Wash the floor with a damp sponge and wait an hour before you continue.
  7. Look at each grout joint for any thinset. While tamping the floor, it’s common for excess thinset to fill in the grout joints. This will bleed through the grout and cover it. Once the floor dries, any excess white thinset will really stand out against the grout, and white grout will make it look gray. Run a handheld grout saw very carefully across the thinset before vacuuming the debris up.

Calculating the Costs

4 Costs to Retile a Shower
Many people learn how to retile a shower due to the labor costs associated with this project.

When you learn how to retile a shower, costs are a huge consideration on whether you do this yourself or hire a professional. To get how much money you’ll need, you have to know how much one tile costs. If you go for the cheapest ones, which are ceramic tiles, they cost roughly $2.00 each.

On the other end of the spectrum, you may go with stone tiles as they are slowly gaining in popularity. They cost anywhere from $3.00 to $12.00 each, depending on the size and quality. There are also bronze, brushed steel, and copper tiles to consider, and their prices fluctuate a lot. To determine how many tiles you need for your shower, you should:

  • Measure the height and width of the wall in inches.
  • For each wall, multiply the width by the height.
  • Add your totals for each wall.
  • Divide your answer by 144 to find the total square feet of the area.
  • Subtract any windows in the space from your total.
  • Add 10% to 25% to your final answer for any overages to ensure that you have enough tile in case some break. For herringbone or diagonal designs, at 20% to 35% instead because the diagonal cuts will cost you more tile.
ProjectAverage Prices
Retile a Walk-In Shower$800 to $3,000
Retile Shower Floors$500 to $1,000
Retile Shower Walls$800 to $2,600
Install a Tile Shower Pan$800 to $3,000
Retile Bathroom Floors$800 to $3,800
Retile Bathroom Walls$800 to $1,700
Add a Shelf, Bench, or Recessed Niche$200 to $500

Average Cost to Retile a Bathroom

The average cost to retile a bathroom ranges from $2,500 to $8,500 if you enlist a contractor, and this is why many people learn how to retile a shower on their own. This estimate includes the walls, shower, and floor. For materials and labor, installing bathroom tile costs between $7.00 and $25.00 a square foot. The total price depends on teh size, type, and design company.

ProjectAverage Prices
Retile a Bathroom Floor$800 to $3,800
Retile a Shower$800 to $3,000
Retile Bathroom Walls$800 to $1,700

Tile Replacement Cost for a Small Bathroom

Retiling a small bathroom will cost anywhere from $2,400 to $4,150 for the walls, floor, and shower. This works out to $7.00 to $25.00 per square foot installed. Tiling a small bathroom floor ranges from $800 to $1,500 on average, and retiling a small shower will cost between $800 and $1,650, including the installation and materials.

Retile a Bathroom Floor Costs

To retile a bathroom floor, you’ll speed between $7.00 to $25.00 a square foot, and this works out to an average of $800 to $3,800. The total costs will depend on the tile size and materials, site conditions, and bathroom size.

Bathroom SizeAverage Prices
Small (5 by 8)$500 to $1,000
Mid-Sized (8 by 10)$1,000 to $2,000
Large/Master (10 by 15)$1,200 to $3,800

Retile Bathroom Walls Costs

Tiling your bathroom walls will cost between $7.00 and $25.00 a square foot, and this works out to $800 to $1,700 for an average, including installation. The costs depend on the size and tile material, as well as the bathroom layout and size. Tiling a bathroom will cost more than tiling other rooms because the installers have to cut the tiles to fit around your bathroom fixtures like the drain, toilet, or sink.

Labor Costs to Retile a Shower

The labor costs involved with learning how to retile a shower is the main reason why people decide to DIY. Generally speaking, labor costs between $4.00 to $12.00 a square foot, depending on the layout and tile. For a straight pattern, the labor costs will be between $4.00 and $8.00 a square foot. Your labor costs for natural stone tiles or more complex designs range from $6.00 to $20.00 a square foot.

Shower Installation – Average Costs
FactorCost per Square Foot on Average
Tile/Materials$1.00 to $10.00
Installation Labor$4.00 to $12.00
Tile Patterns and Designs$1.00 to $5.00
Setting Materials (grout and thinset)$0.50 to $1.60
Waterproof Membrane$0.50 to $2.00
Underlayment or Backer Boards$0.50 to $1.00
Old Tile Removal$1.50 to $5.00
Shower Pan$20.00 to $75.00
Floor Leveling:$1.00 to $4.00

Useful Tips On How To Retile A Shower

As you may have noticed by now, learning how to retile a shower isn’t a very complicated process. This small guide outlined the biggest parts of the job to keep in mind, even if you’ve never done something similar before. However, as you start this project, you may figure out that it’s slightly more complicated than you imagined at first glance, and these tips can help.

As we already touched on, you want to make sure that you shut off every possible water supply to avoid having water spraying around your project area and soaking you. Then, when you strip away the grout between the tiles that are already on the floor, you may want to use an electric grinder to make the job just quicker, easier, and less labor-intensive.

Also, make sure you consider safety first with this project. You want to get a pair of protective glasses, wear gloves, and have a long-sleeved shirt on. Once you start learning how to retile a shower, you’ll notice broken pieces of tile flying in all directions and different speeds, and you don’t want to get hurt. When you remove the mortar from the walls, you should get rid of it completely. The rule of thumb to follow during this portion of your project is that the better and more you remove the mortar, the better your new mortar will go on. Once you’re sure that you have a 100% clean work area, you should wash it using water to remove all of the particles and dust.

When you start putting the new tiles in, you want to measure the height and draw a chalk line just above each tile’s height. You should apply a mortar below your chalk line and this will help your next mortar layer hold the materials in place correctly. Another thing to keep in mind is that when you finish everything, you should apply a coat of grout sealant. This will help ensure that your grout holds. If it doesn’t, it can erode from water exposure and ruin the look of your space.

Also, when you’re swapping out tiles, you may want to consider looking for a new shower head and shower doors to match the color and look of your new tiles. A shower caddy is another small decorative piece that can improve the look of your bathroom by a lot.

Bottom Line

By now, you should know how to retile a shower and get professional-level results without paying the professional-level fees. We’ve outlined everything you need to know from start to finish, and we even included tips and walked you through how to put a new floor in over an existing tile. You can take this information and update your bathroom this weekend as a nice, small home improvement project.

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