This article shows some of the different approaches possible when it comes to tiling your bathroom walls.

When choosing to finish the walls in your bathroom as part of your new bathroom installation you will in all likelihood choose to use tiles. The question then becomes “Do I tile all the walls from floor to ceiling, or merely the wet areas.”

Wet areas include shower enclosures, around the bath and behind a basin – basically anywhere that is liable to get wet. This article will show you some examples of both approaches and then goes on to explain some of the other implications of each approach. Ultimately it is then down to personal preference.

Fully tiled
Fully tiled bathroom walls have tiles on all the walls from floor to ceiling and normally even negate the need for window cills as these are also tiled for a sleek finish.

Fully tiled bathroom installations (as opposed to part tiled – see below) have the following installation implications

  • More tiles are needed (& more material cost, labour cost & time needed to fit them)
  • No skirting boards are needed as tiles can finish down onto the finished floor surface (whatever it is) – This saves the time & money associated with installation and subsequent painting & decorating
  • No finish skimming of the walls is required so this saves time & money (also saves time waiting for the skim coat to dry before painting)
  • No painting of walls required so this saves time & money.

Other considerations
Wall preparation may be different than if you were intending to merely skim & paint (or just paint) your existing walls with regards to:

  • how flat & straight your walls are
  • how strong the walls are e.g. lat & plaster walls may be OK for skimming, but not really for tiling onto.

Your bathroom fitter or tiler should be able to advise you on this.

Cost implications

  • Wall tiling costs from £40/m2+ (including cheap tiles, labour & fitting materials – adhesive, grout, silicon etc) so a bathroom with £20m2 of walls (quite common) will cost £800+ to fully tile the walls.

PS This does not include any major wall preparation costs such as reboarding that may be required when stripping off the existing tiles.

Things that will increase this figure:

  • Having border inlays will increase the material AND the fitting cost.
  • Choosing very small tiles will increase the fitting cost as they take longer to fit.
  • Choosing chrome metal edging trims (rather than standard plastic) will increase the material cost.
  • Choosing more expensive tiles will increase the material cost and MAY increase the fitting cost.
  • Choosing natural stone or porcelain tiles will increase the material AND the fitting cost.

Half tiled
Half tiled bathrooms (as I call them) have tiled areas and painted areas. They are normally only tiled in wet areas such as in shower enclosures, around baths & behind basins.

Half tiled bathroom installations have the following installation implications:

  • Less tiles are needed (& less material cost, labour cost & time needed to fit them)
  • More expensive, ‘wow factor’ feature tiles can be used as the m2 is small
  • Skirting boards are needed to cover the wall / floor junction in areas that are not tiled. This means you will have to pay for the supply & fit of the skirting boards plus their subsequent painting.
  • Walls in the non tiled areas may need skimming if they are to be decorated (as they will not be covered by tiles)
  • Untiled walls will require decorating, which obviously takes time & money.

Other considerations
Half tiling bathrooms is done incorrectly by most people in that they assume they have to strip everything back, do 1st fix work (all OK so far) and then skim ALL the walls before tiling back onto the newly plastered areas.

This last part is wrong, and serves to:

  • Make the plastering more expensive as more area needs to be skimmed.
  • Slow the job down massively (probably leaving you without facilities in the meantime) whilst you wait for plaster to dry. 4 weeks is the recommended time from the Tile Association though this may be a bit excessive.
  • Compromise the ability of the wall to hold the weight of the tiles (especially if you are skimming / tiling onto bare plasterboard after reboarding)

A better approach to half tiling bathrooms

A much better approach is to glue tile trims to the wall (prior to plastering & tiling) to separate the (soon to be) tiled areas from the plastered areas.

These can then be plastered up to, leaving the areas that are to be tiled un-plastered as above.

This is an alternative approach to plastering the whole wall and then tiling over part of it, and it has a couple of benefits:

  • Quicker tiling & plastering can be done simultaneously, rather than waiting weeks for fresh plaster to dry out prior to tiling.
  • Better tile adhesion – If the walls have been reboarded as in the example above: Bare plasterboard can carry tiles of up to 32Kg/m2 rather than 20kg/m2 for tiles onto plaster, meaning that you can fit a greater range of tiles, including larger, thicker, heavier tiles.
  • Waterproof – Areas to be tiled can tanked without having to wait for the plaster to dry.

PS The exception is of course the tiled splashback above the basin but this is largely unavoidable.

Tiled upstands vs Skirting boards

Tiled upstands may be used in half tiled rooms (if you have a tiled floor) instead of skirting boards.

Cost implications

Half tiling a room obviously saves you money on tiling but not a lot overall when you add in:

  • Replastering non tiled areas.
  • Painting non tiled areas.
  • Supplying & fitting skirting boards / tiled upstands.
  • Painting all skirting boards.

However, if you are doing the work on a DIY basis you will probably find this 2nd approach more cost effective that the 1st.

Thanks for reading,

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