Q: Can you give me some advice on tiling a bathroom wall — well, half of the wall? The bathroom has an enclosed shower stall. All the remaining walls are painted drywall. I want to use 8-by-8-inch tumbled marble tile with beveled edges that’s nearly a half-inch thick. I know this is not standard wall tile. I am hoping this is a do-it-yourself project.

I would like to use premixed ceramic adhesive and grout from a company named Tile Perfect out of Aurora, Ill. I want the grout lines to be as unobtrusive as possible — 1/16 inch or less. I will cap the tile with chair-rail molding that I’ll paint with high-gloss enamel.

If I start at the floor and the weight of each tile is held by the tile under it, would I need to prop a sheet of plywood or something like that over the completed wall to hold tiles to the wall until completely dry?

Am I crazy? Will I have a big mess? I am handy at construction work, so I know I can do it — if the tiles won’t fall off the wall.

A: It is certainly a DIY project; you’re not crazy for tackling it; and the tiles won’t fall off the wall.

We’ve checked out the Tile Perfect Web site, and if you want to use this product you’ll probably be perfectly fine. It looks as if it would be good for a small project, but for bigger ones we just don’t know. Since we have no hands-on experience we can’t recommend it.

If we were doing the job we’d employ a two-step process. We’d fix the tile to the wall with tile mastic and, since the grout lines are narrow, we’d grout the joints with nonsanded grout. Only the grout requires mixing. It’s easy, and we have all the confidence in the world that you can do it.

Mastic is thick glue about the consistency of toothpaste. It’s packaged in various sizes of plastic containers, including 1 gallon. Mastic requires no mixing and is applied with a notched trowel. If the mastic is applied properly, the tile will not fall off the wall and will not need support during the drying process.

To install the tile you’ll need the following: the tile, mastic, tile spacers, a notched trowel and a way to cut the tile. A diamond-bladed wet saw and a manual tile cutter can be rented or purchased. We have always rented tile saws, finding it difficult to justify spending hundreds of dollars on a tool we use only occasionally.

To grout the tile, you’ll need nonsanded grout, a rubber grout trowel, and a tile sponge or two. All material and tools should be available where you purchase the tile.

Tile spacers look like little rubber crosses. They come in various thicknesses, from 1/16 inch to 1/2 inch. Make certain that the wall is flat. The mastic ridges will be only about 1/16 inch high, and an uneven wall will prevent the mastic from having full contact with both the tile and the wall.

If the wall is textured, you may have to apply a skim coat of joint compound to make it smooth. In any case, prime the wall with a high-quality primer to ensure a clean, solid surface.

Place a level on the floor. If the floor isn’t level, measure from the highest point on the floor up the wall 8 inches (the tile size). From that reference point draw a level line on the wall. This makes sure the first row of tile you set is level. You may need to shim some of the first row of tile to establish a level line.

Apply a layer of mastic to the wall with a notched trowel. Apply a layer of mastic to the back of each tile as you place it on the wall. This is known as “back buttering” and ensures that the mastic gets full purchase on the tile and the wall. Set the first row of tile to the line, wiggling each tile as you place it and using the spacers to ensure uniform vertical lines. Cut the final tile in the row to fit, leaving the same 1/16-inch space between the wall and the tile.

Then, set the next row using the spacers on both horizontal and vertical joints. Set subsequent rows in the same manner until the wall is complete. Every third row, use the level and check for level and plumb. You can adjust the tile by sliding them on the wall.

Once the tile is set, let it dry for a day. Mix the grout in a small pan to the consistency of toothpaste. You can use water, but we suggest you use a latex additive. With a rubber grout trowel, press the grout into the joints between the tiles working diagonally to the joints. Let the grout dry until a film appears on the tile. Wipe the tile down with clean water using circular motions with a grout sponge.

While wiping, check the joints to make sure the joints are uniform and that there are no voids. Repeat this process a couple of times. Let your grout dry one last time until a film forms. Polish the tile with a clean cloth (an old towel works well here) and you’re done.


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