Tiling a Tub Enclosure Ceiling - Pro Construction Guide
Tiling a Tub Enclosure Ceiling

Tiling a Tub Enclosure Ceiling

The shower. The ceiling. The tiling. Most traditional tub and shower combinations have tile running up the walls to at least 7 feet – higher on custom installations. Some include a ceiling of tile, and a sliding door or folding door for a complete shower or tub enclosure.

One of the biggest problems with tiling a tub enclosure ceiling is getting the tile to stay where you put it. While tile isn’t always the same on a ceiling as on the wall or floor, there are subtle differences that ensure the ceiling ties into the walls and the tiles remain on the ceiling for years to come.

Here are some tips for tiling a tub enclosure ceiling:

  • Make sure that the ceiling substrate is screwed onto the joists securely. Remember that the entire weight of the full tile is pulling constantly on every inch of your tile. So you want whatever it is attached to be securely fastened.
  • Next, waterproof the walls and ceiling. Use a paintbrush for the corners and a paint roller for the wide-open spaces. Let it set for at least 24 hours before heading into the installation process.
  • Before you hang the tile, properly prepare the substrate. It doesn’t always have to be waterproof. While it’s a good idea, it isn’t always necessary.
  • Spread a thin layer of thinset mortar onto the surface of the ceiling material. Use the flat side of the notched trowel and cover the ceiling from multiple angles, scraping the excess off to leave a thin coat. Let it dry.
  • Based on your calculations, lay out the ceiling so that the ceiling joints line up with the wall joints. Carry any lines from the installation up to the ceiling and then mark them with a pencil and framing square.
  • Take a notched trowel and spread thinset onto the back of a tile. Remember to spread from the center outward and cover the whole piece. Using the pencil marks you made, press it in place, applying firm pressure with both hands. Move the piece slightly in all directions before you align it with the pencil marks.
  • Continue to tile the shower wall using this process. Make any necessary cuts with the tile wet saw. Remember to leave at least a 1/8-inch gap for expansion where the tiles meet the wall. Wait to grout the ceiling when you grout the walls.
  • Like any other tile installation, grout the ceiling by pressing it into the joints with the grout float. Let it set for up to 30 minutes. When it starts to harden, smooth it down and clean the surface with a damp sponge. Rinse it frequently in a bucket of water to avoid streaking.
  • Caulk the ceiling-to-wall transition when you caulk the vertical inside corners and the tile where it meets the tub.

What you need for tiling a tub enclosure ceiling

Safety glasses
Paint roller
Paint-on waterproofing
Tape measure
Framing square
Laser level with plumb line
Notched trowel
Modified thinset mortar
Grout float
Tile sponge

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