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Replacing Bathroom Tile: Step by Step Instructions

Replacing bathroom tiles can seem like a daunting task, but with a thorough understanding of the process and the proper tools, it is possible to transform your bathroom into a space that feels fresh and updated.

Bathroom tiles can become worn, cracked, or outdated over time, and replacing them not only improves the aesthetics of the room but also ensures the functionality and safety of the bathroom surfaces. In this article, we will walk you through the step-by-step process of removing and replacing bathroom tiles in an efficient and organized manner.

Replacing Bathroom Tile

Gathering Necessary Materials

Before starting the process of replacing bathroom tiles, it’s essential to gather all the required materials and tools. This will help ensure a smooth and efficient workflow while minimizing unexpected trips to the store.

To begin, accurately measure the square footage of the area where the tiles will be replaced. This will allow you to determine the number of tiles needed, as well as the amount of adhesive and grout required. It’s a good idea to purchase some extra tiles in case of breakage or miscalculation.

For the actual tile work, you’ll need a range of hand tools and power tools, including:

  • Safety glasses: Essential for protecting your eyes from dust, debris, and flying tile fragments
  • Hammer: Useful for removing old tiles and gently tapping new ones into place
  • Putty knife: Helps with scraping away old adhesive and applying new adhesive to the tiles
  • Hand tools: A few essential hand tools include a carbide-tipped scoring tool for removing grout and a notched trowel for applying adhesive
  • Power tools: A reciprocating saw or an oscillating tool with a grout removal attachment can help more efficiently remove grout and cut through screws, if necessary

In addition to these core tools, ensure you have all necessary materials on hand:

  • Tiles: Select the desired style and color of tiles to match your bathroom’s aesthetic
  • Adhesive: A high-quality, waterproof adhesive that is suitable for your chosen tile type
  • Grout: Select corresponding grout color and ensure it’s appropriate for your tile size and spacing
  • Spacers: These plastic pieces help maintain even spacing between tiles for a consistent appearance
  • Cement backer board: This is often used to provide a stable, waterproof base for tiling, especially in wet areas like bathrooms

Once all necessary materials and tools have been gathered, you can proceed with the process of replacing bathroom tiles in a confident, knowledgeable, and organized manner.

Preparation of Work Area

Before beginning any tile replacement project in a bathroom, it’s crucial to properly prepare the work area. This not only ensures a smoother, more efficient process but also helps to protect fixtures and surfaces from potential damage.

Clear the Area

Begin by removing all items from the bathroom, including any rugs, toiletries, and towels. Next, cover the bathroom fixtures, such as the bathtub or shower pan, sink, and toilet, with a drop cloth to protect them from dust and debris during tile removal.

Take Measurements

With the bathroom emptied and fixtures covered, it’s time to take measurements. Using a measuring tape, accurately record the dimensions of the space where the new bathroom tiles will be installed.

Measuring a Bathroom Floor

These measurements will be helpful when calculating the number of tiles needed and the pattern in which they should be laid out.

Assess Condition

Examine the bathroom floor and walls, assessing their current condition and identifying any areas that may require repair or maintenance. If necessary, remove any loose or damaged tiles and replace them with fresh, intact pieces. Repair any damaged backer boards or other underlayment to ensure a stable and sturdy foundation for the new tiles.

Once the bathroom floor and walls are prepped and in good condition, the work area is ready for the tile replacement project to begin. By taking the time to properly prepare the space, homeowners can confidently move on to the next steps, knowing they have set the stage for a successful bathroom tile update.

Removing Old Tiles

When working on a bathroom renovation project, one crucial step is to remove the old tiles. Removing both shower and wall tiles may seem daunting, but with the right tools and techniques, it can be a manageable task.

Clear the Area

First, be sure to clear the bathroom of any objects or fixtures that may obstruct your work. Then, protect any items you can’t remove, such as bathtubs, by covering them with a drop cloth or similar materials.

Safety should be your top priority, so make sure to wear protective gear like goggles, gloves, and long sleeves.

Break and Loosen Old Tiles

Begin by using a hammer and a putty knife or a chisel to carefully loosen and break the old tiles. For wall tiles, start at the top and work your way downwards.

Old Tile

For floor tiles, identify a corner or edge to start with, making the task more manageable. Use caution when removing tiles near plumbing fixtures or electrical outlets.

Chip Off Old Adheisive

Once you’ve removed the tiles, the next step is to remove the thinset adhesive, which is often still attached to the wall or floor surface. Use a hammer and a chisel to chip away at the thinset, being careful not to damage the underlying surface.

When working on walls, use moderate force with your chisel to avoid punching through the underlying material. As you work, continuously sweep the debris into a designated container for easy disposal.

Preparing the Surface

Before beginning the process of replacing bathroom tile, it is essential to properly prepare the surface to ensure a successful and long-lasting installation. It is crucial to have a clean, dry, and level surface to work on.

Check the Floor Condition

Once you’ve removed any old tile if needed, assess the condition of the substrate, which might be either the sub-flooring or the wall surface. It is important to make sure that the substrate is clean, dry, and free from any defects or excess materials.

Ensure the Floor Is Level

You can use a level to check the surface’s evenness. If the surface is not level, consider using a leveling compound or an appropriate underlayment to correct any discrepancies.

Examine Drywall Condition

In the case of bathroom walls, examine the existing drywall to ensure that it is in good condition. If any sections have water damage, mold, or are otherwise compromised, replace them with new drywall or a suitable backer board specifically designed for use in wet areas.

For floors, use a proper underlayment to create a stable and waterproof surface for your new tiles.

Fill Gaps and Seams

For both walls and floors, it is essential to fill any gaps or seams with appropriate tile adhesive or thin-set mortar. This will create a continuous surface for your tiles to adhere to, reducing the chance of failure.

Clean Up

After addressing any potential issues with the surface, ensure that all excess materials, dust, and debris are removed. A clean and level surface is critical to ensuring a successful and long-lasting bathroom tile installation.

By properly preparing the surface, you can be confident that your new bathroom tiles will look stunning and stand the test of time.

Planning and Laying Out Tiles

Measure the Area

Before starting the process of replacing bathroom tiles, it is crucial to plan and lay out the tile design. To begin with, measure the bathroom area to determine the square footage of tiles needed. Accurate measurements ensure that the necessary amount of tiles is purchased, saving both time and money.

Choose a Design

Following the measurements, choose a suitable tile design that complements the bathroom’s overall aesthetic. Consider factors such as tile size, color, and texture when making a selection. Smaller tiles work well for intricate patterns, while larger ones create a more streamlined look.

Tile Design

Layout Tiles

Once the tile design is finalized, begin the layout process. Start by finding the room’s center point and marking it. From this point, dry-lay the tiles in the desired pattern, ensuring that the arrangement is symmetrical and visually balanced.

Use tile spacers to maintain consistent spacing between each tile, providing a more professional appearance.

Make Necessary Adjustments

During the layout phase, make any necessary modifications to the tile arrangement. This may include cutting tiles to fit around fixtures or adjusting the position of certain tiles to create a visually pleasing design.

Always double-check measurements when cutting tiles to avoid errors that could lead to wasted materials and additional expenses.

Cutting and Applying Tiles

Cut Tiles

You will begin cutting the ceramic tiles using a wet saw or circular saw equipped with a diamond blade to ensure clean, precise cuts. When cutting the tiles, make sure to wear appropriate safety gear, such as goggles and gloves, to protect yourself from any debris or sharp edges.

Prepare Adhiesive

Once all the tiles have been cut to size, prepare your mortar or adhesive in a mixing bucket. Use a notched trowel to evenly spread a layer of the mixture onto the substrate, such as the wall or floor.

Hold the trowel at a 45-degree angle to create ridges in the adhesive, allowing for better tile adhesion and reducing the chance of air pockets forming underneath.

Place Tiles

Carefully position the first tile on the adhesive, gently pressing it in place while ensuring that it is level and properly aligned with your layout marks.

Continue applying tiles in the same manner, using spacers to maintain even gaps between them for consistent grout lines. If the tiles need adjustment, do so before the adhesive has time to set.

Apply Grout

After all tiles have been applied and allowed to set according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, prepare the grout in a separate container.


Using a rubber float, press the grout into the gaps between the tiles, making sure to fill them entirely. Remove any excess grout with the float by holding it at a diagonal angle and making sweeping motions across the tiles.

Clean Excess Grout

Allow the grout to dry for the specified time before gently buffing the surface of the tiles with a clean, damp sponge to remove any remaining residue.

This process may need to be repeated several times to ensure a smooth, clean finish. Allow the grout to cure completely before exposing the area to water or regular use.

Finishing Touches and Post-Project Cleanup

After successfully replacing your bathroom tiles, it’s time to put the finishing touches and clean up the area.

Apply Caulk

Begin by applying caulk to seal the edges where the tile meets other surfaces, such as the bathtub, shower, or floor. This will help prevent water from seeping in and causing damage. Allow the caulk to dry for at least 24 hours before moving on to the next step.

Replace Fixtures

Reinstall the fixtures, such as the toilet, faucet, tub, and showerhead. Remember to replace the wax ring beneath the toilet to ensure a proper seal.

As a DIYer, you’ve come a long way in upgrading your bathroom, and it’s crucial to ensure that all your hard work pays off by properly securing and reinstalling every fixture.

Clean Up

Once all fixtures are back in place, it’s time to clean up. Post-project cleanup is essential to eliminate dust and debris that may have settled during the tile replacement process. Thoroughly vacuum carpets and upholstery, as dust can easily settle in these areas.

Carefully wipe down surfaces with a damp cloth, ensuring you remove any glue residue or grout haze that may still be present.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you remove and replace a single bathroom tile?

To remove and replace a single bathroom tile, first, put on safety glasses to protect your eyes. Use a carbide-tipped scoring tool to rake out the grout surrounding the broken tile. Apply enough pressure to remove the grout but avoid damaging neighboring tiles.

Next, loosen the tile by carefully tapping a chisel or similar tool into the tile joints. Once the tile is removed, clean the area and apply adhesive to the back of the new tile. Press the tile firmly into place and let the adhesive dry before applying fresh grout.

What is the cost of replacing bathroom tile flooring?

The cost of replacing bathroom tile flooring may vary depending on factors like tile type, material, labor, and square footage.

It can range from $101 to $250 per square foot, including the cost of materials and labor. Get multiple quotes from professional installers to determine the best price for your project.

What is the best method for removing wall tiles without damage?

To remove wall tiles without damage, first, put on safety glasses and use a carbide-tipped scoring tool to remove the grout surrounding the tiles. Applying light pressure, use a utility knife to cut the caulk along the edges of the tiles.

Gently tap a chisel or similar tool into the tile joints to loosen the tile and carefully pry it off the wall. Avoid using excessive force to prevent damage to surrounding tiles or the wall.

How do I tile a bathroom floor as a beginner?

For beginners, start by preparing the floor—remove any old flooring, clean the surface, and ensure it is level. Plan your tile layout and determine where to start tiling.

Use a high-quality adhesive, appropriate notched trowel, and spacers to apply and align the tiles on the floor evenly. Allow the adhesive to dry before applying grout with a rubber float. Wipe off any excess grout with a damp sponge and let the grout dry completely before sealing.

Can bathroom tiles be changed without removing them?

In some cases, bathroom tiles can be changed without removing them by using tile paint, tile stickers, or resurfacing the existing tiles. This option can be suitable for cosmetic updates or when the tiles are in good condition but no longer match your design preferences.

What are some recommended adhesives for bathroom tile replacement?

For bathroom tile replacement, using a high-quality adhesive designed explicitly for tile installation is crucial. Some recommended adhesives include thinset mortar, mastic, and epoxy-based adhesives.

Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and choose an adhesive that is suitable for the specific type of tile you are using.

Wrapping up How to Replace Bathroom Tile

Now that you know all about the needed materials and how to prep the area for new tile, you’re ready to update your bathroom or kitchen with a brand-new floor.

While you’re updating those rooms anyway, why not consider a fresh coat of paint? Check out 16 Bathroom Paint Ideas You Can Use in Your Home and/or The 19 Best Kitchen Paint Colors For Your Home for paint inspiration!