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Should You Tile a Shower Floor or Walls First?

There is a heated debate among contractors and homeowners everywhere. This argument revolves around where you should start tiling your shower.

Some people believe tiling the floors first is best, while others believe tiling the walls first is better. There is no wrong or right answer to this debate. You can tile your shower either way.

Depending on your experience, the type of shower you have, and the tiles you’re working with, one method may work better for you than the other.

shower tile installation

Tiling The Shower Floor First

One of the reasons you should tile your floor before your wall is for the look it gives. When you tile the floor first, the wall tiles will sit on the floor tiles.

There is a tiling principle stating that the wall tiles should always sit on or hang over the floor tiles. You can only accomplish this by installing the floor tile first.

Also, tiling the floors first will give you a beautiful finish. It will make the shower more waterproof as well. This is because gravity will constantly cause water to drip from the wall to the floor. If there is a poor overhang or gaps where the floor and wall meet, waterproofing will be much more difficult.

Many contractors complain that they don’t like doing the floors first because as they are tiling the walls, they may damage the floor by walking on it or dropping mortar meant for the wall tile onto the floor. You can easily fix both those problems by waiting for the floor mortar to set and then putting a protective cloth or some plastic sheeting over the floor.

Tiling The Shower Walls First

The main reason to install the wall tile first is for an easier installation. By installing the wall tiles, you don’t have to wait for the floor tile to set or worry about damaging the floor tile. So not only does it make for a more simple installation process but a quicker one as well.

One installation issue you will run into by installing the wall tile first is accounting for how much the wall tile will hang over the floor tile. But there are methods such as using a ledger to get around that issue.

Installing your wall tile first will give you the advantage of getting the job done faster, costing you less money if you are employing or hiring people paid by the hour.

Things To Consider When Tiling a Shower

When considering whether to tile the walls or floor first, another approach takes the middle road. This is accomplished by tiling the second row up on your wall first, which would be the top third of your wall. After which, you would do the floor and the rest of your wall. This approach solves many of the issues of doing the floor or walls first, such as waterproofing and using a ledger.

Whether you choose first to tile the walls, or the floor, or take the middle approach, the following tips work for whenever you’re tiling a shower.

Tile Choices

There are many decisions to make when it comes to choosing your tile.

You will have to look at colors and color palettes. You should try to match your tile with your sink, vanity, and other walls in your bathroom.

You will also need to consider the size of your tiles, as this can definitely affect the look of your bathroom.

You will also need to decide what material you want for your tile, and lastly, you must commit to a budget because tiling a shower can be an expensive endeavor.

Prepping the Bathroom

Before you can install any tile, you must properly prep your bathroom.

Begin by taking out any accessories, anything you have hanging on the wall, and any easily removable fixtures. Plugging your drains will prevent any mortar from getting into your pipes.

Make sure to patch any holes in your walls or floor efficiently. Check to see how level the floor is, which will save you trouble later on. And if you are only tiling the shower, you may want to cover the rest of your bathroom floor in plastic sheeting to prevent any messes.

Be Familiar With Tile Installation and Its Requirements

Tiling your shower is not the easiest DIY project you can tackle. Though it can be a lot of work, it is totally possible to do it independently. But if you have never tiled a shower before, there will be a learning curve.

Do enough research on the prep and grout process until you feel comfortable doing it on your own. Watch a YouTube video on troweling technique to give you a good idea of how to apply mortar. Research all the tools you will need so you can avoid having to run down to the hardware store halfway through your installation.

Calculate how much time will be required for the job. If you are tiling by yourself and need to remove old tiles, the entire process can take up to 6 days.    


How much space should there be between floor and wall tile?

You should leave a quarter of an inch of space between your floor and wall tile. This gap is not meant to be filled by grout but should be filled with an elastic waterproof material. This is because the joists of your floor will move a little under a person’s weight.

Do I need to waterproof the shower floor and wall before tiling?

Yes, you should. Your floor should have a waterproof mortar in between your floor and foundation that will stop water from seeping into your foundation. But applying a waterproof membrane to your floor will definitely help. Your walls also should be waterproofed, and you should use proper backing boards before attempting any tile installation.

Can you use floor tile on shower walls?

Generally, I would say no. It is possible, and you can do it, but It may not be the best idea. This is because the floor and wall tiles are rated to take on different weight and moisture levels. A wall tile would definitely not work on the floor due to the weight it’s rated to hold. A floor tile might work on a wall, but you need to look at its specifications and be aware floor, and wall tiles usually have different dimensions.

James B. Parker

At a young age, James' father taught him carpentry, and he was pretty much destined for a career in the construction industry. He worked as a professional remodeling contractor for some of the most prominent construction companies for several years, before deciding to pursue his passion for writing.

A vast amount of construction experience allows James to provide practical advice for those considering a bathroom remodel.

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At Loo Academy, our mission is to offer trusted advice for everything related to bathrooms (design ideas, plumbing advice, showering & bathing tips, remodeling guides, and more) — a place where we all spend a great deal of time.

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