Can You Install Floor Tiles on a Wall?

by Roger

Yup.

End of post.

Fine, I’ll elaborate . . .

To understand this you should understand what designates a particular tile as a ‘floor’ tile. A couple of different things determine this including the PEI Rating and Static Coefficient of Friction (that’s just fancy ass talk for how slippery a tile’s surface is).

Manufacturers do not necessarily determine the arbitrary term assigned to a certain tile, things such as a ‘floor’ tile. All they do is rate any particular tile following industry guidelines determined by the different institutions. In English that just means that the manufacturer doesn’t really call any particular tile a floor tile, they simply assign their tile the ratings.

Certain tiles are only called floor tiles because they meet certain criteria set forth by the different guidelines. For instance: if a tile has a PEI rating of 1 it is only suitable for walls and areas which do not receive foot traffic. This tile would not be called a floor tile.

If the same manufacturer creates a tile with a PEI rating of 3 along with a C.O.F. of 5 and a suitable Mohs scale number, etc., it may be ‘called’ a floor tile.

You can still put it on a wall. It will just be an extra durable wall.

Just about any 12 x 12 inch tile is commonly referred to as a ‘floor tile’ simply because of the size without taking any of the above into consideration. This is simply another example of misinformed dealers, stores, and installers. They don’t do it on purpose, it just happens to be common practice and they don’t know any better. Just because someone calls it a floor tile doesn’t mean that it is suitable for installation on a floor.  But I digress . . .

As long as a tile, no matter the size, meets a set criteria it will be suitable for your floor. It will also be suitable for your wall. This is also why you do not want to do it the other way around. You can use ‘floor’ tile on a wall but you cannot use ‘wall’ tile on a floor – it won’t last. It is simply not durable enough.

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Jon

I have tile that’s 48″ x 8″ what type of mortar should I use for a wall installation?

Reply

Roger

Hi Jon,

Whatever type the tile manufacturer recommends. I would use a medium-bed mortar like 4xlt or ultraflex 3.

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Dave

Hi Roger,

Thank you for all your help!!

Well my project is up to the walls in the shower now.

I have two niches and the tile is 12×24. Is it best to have the tile edge showing keeping the water from the grout line? Or the inside the niche keeping the grout line inside the niche?

What is the proper spacing between tiles? The floor tiles are 3/16 spacing.

What size notch trowel is the best to use?

Can I go all the way up the wall to the ceiling, or only a few courses at time?

Do I need to support the tiles from falling off?

Thanks again!!!
Dave…

Reply

Roger

Hi Dave,

Whichever way you think the niche looks best is the correct way. There is no wrong way.

Grout spacing

Trowel size

You can go all the way to the ceiling.

Falling off of what? The wall or the ceiling? Wall tile is supported from the tiles below it. Ceiling tile will not fall if installed correctly.

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Dave

Thank you very much!! It was the wall tiles I referring to. I didn’t know if tiles would naturally want to fall away.

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Chuck Stevens

Can I put a 20″ x 20″ tile on a shower wall or is that too heavy? 1/2″ Durock fastened to the studs and modified thinset. Should I do the first course and let it set up for a day before the second course? Thanks.

Reply

Roger

Hi Chuck,

I’ve put 48″ x 48″ on a wall, so 20″ x 20″ should be just fine. :D Letting the first course cure first always makes it go faster on the rest of the wall.

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MATT

Hello Roger, I have seen videos where people only back butter tiles before installing them in the shower. This seems like a cleaner method as I often spend a good amount of time removing thinset from joints which is a big pain in the a**. I am only concerned about proper adhesion when using this method.
Secondly, I am installing tile on 4 walls with an accent. I have seen demonstrations where people tile one wall at a time and others where they work there way upwards around on every wall. What is the best way to proceed?

Thanks for all of your help!
Matt

Reply

Roger

Hey Matt,

Provided you burn the thinset into the wall first (with the flat side of your trowel as you would when you backbutter the tile) then comb your thinset onto the tile rather than the wall you’ll get the exact same bond. I prefer to tile up to the insert all the way areound, install the insert, then finish tiling up the wall. It ensures a match at the corners.

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Ed

Also, I got the largest Jolly version they have for 1/4″ to 1/2″ tile. There is no larger version.

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Ed

Roger,

If you get the wrong code before you submit, it sends you back to add another code but then the message is not a replay to the message that you wanted to reply to but a whole new message.

Bit of a glitch in the website.

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Roger

Sorry about that – I’ll beat the elves and get them fixing that! Thanks.

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Roger

Provided you still get full coverage with a minimum 3/32″ layer of thinset behind the tile then yes, you can use a smaller trowel.

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Ed

I was going to use the 1/4 sq trowel at more of a vertical swipe leaving close to 1/8″ of thinset + burn the tiles. If that provides too much oozing or too thick bed I’ll reduce the angle of the combing a bit. I’ll let you know how it goes tomorrow.

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Ed

Ok, ended up using the 1/2″ trowel just to be safe. Probably could have gotten away with just a slightly smaller trowel as there were a bit too much thinset in the grout lines.

My hands can tell you that the modified thinset is much harder to remove from the grout lines once hardened than the unmodified thinset. And, to remove from the tiles, adjacent drywall, my hands and legs. You would have thought I was swimming in it. :lol2:

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Ed

Hi Roger,

Now onto putting some tiles on the wall. Again my tiles are 12 x 24″, 3/8″ thick and I used 1/2″ sq trowel to apply them to the floor and I assume I use the same for the wall except I’ll be using modified thinset this time.

My question is around the use of Schluter Jolly trim; I hope you have used it. The problem I see is that the jolly trim will not cover the full side of the tile after taking into account the thickness of the thinset. So, either you have to put the Jolly on the wall and deal with the fact that the tile will stick past the Jolly and you’ll see part of the side of the porcelain tile (which defeats the purpose of the Jolly in my mind) OR, you set the Jolly just below the tile and caulk the space between the Jolly and the wall.

Any thoughts?

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Roger

If you are going to use a trowel that large then you need to get a thicker profile. Every schluter profile comes in different thicknesses, you need to get one that will be thick enough for your installation. You can taper the tiles down at the edges to the profile a bit, you don’t need to have a full 1/4″ there. (1/2″ x 1/2″ trowel leaves 1/4 of thinset behind a properly bedded tile)

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Ed

Can I get away with a smaller trowel then?

Sorry for the repeat, i chose the wrong reply button I think.

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Ed

Tried to use the Jolly and was not impressed with how it looked once installed so pulled it all out. Returned the remainder for refund. With movement and temp changes I just felt there would always be gaps opening up in the jolly.

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TERRY

Hi Roger
I want to in stall a bench in my shower. I am not sure which is the best way. Should I use concrete blocks or wood? The bench size is 30″w x 20″h x 12″d.
It fits in between the side walls. I am under the impression that wood will shrink and crack grout and hard to water proof and that concrete blocks are two heavy for the floor bed ? What method do you prefer? Oh yea have ever
Installed a beer holder in a shower? Thanks Terry

Reply

Roger

Hey Terry,

I prefer concrete blocks in a shower that already has the pan formed, and wood when it isn’t done yet. The wood will be covered with backer or an appropriate substrate, then waterproofed just like the other walls.

I have two tutorials for shower beer holders. One here and the other here. :D

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Russell

Roger,

I have your shower/tub waterproofing guide and I am using it religiously but I have a question for which a clear answer eludes me in the googleplex. I plan to continue my tile around the wall of my bathroom to include the area beside and behind the toilet and behind the free standing vanity. This tile will be not reach as tall as the tub surround. It will reach about 4 ft up the wall from the floor. My question is this. What is acceptable wall material behind this tile which is not in the shower and will not be getting wet save the occasional drunken urine sprinkles or aggressive hand or face washing. I had intended to use moisture resistant sheet rock and thin set but now I am wondering if I should use concrete backer board. What is your suggestion for wall material and thin set?

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Roger

Hey Russell,

In non-wet areas such as that the drywall is fine. You should still use modified thinset with it.

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Mark

Roger,
BackButtering Topic.
I have looked on your forum and couldn’t find much on this and if anyone would be dead on correct it would be you.

I understand back buttering large format tiles 12×12+ and stone but could you explain to me this….don’t you get better coverage when using a larger notched trowel if so and that is correct why back butter then? is there some ratio out there determining coverage rate by trowel size by tile size.

Also is it mandatory to backbutter or no?…. it seems like backbuttering is the new facebook lol …. imo back buttering didn’t start untill tilers desided to put floor tiles on walls.

Reply

Roger

Hi Mark,

You do get better coverage using a larger trowel. The purpose of backbuttering (for me, anyway) is to ensure that all the little depressions in the back of the tile are filled (the honeycombs, squares, whatever) and also ensures that the pores of the tile are filled. If you do that you have 100% contact with thinset on the back of the tile. Once the tile is laid into the thinset (provided you are using the correct trowel) then you end up with 100% coverage and ensures a proper bond fully into the back of the tile.

Backbuttering, by the way, means forcing a skim-coat into the back of the tile, not combing thinset on there with the notched side. I’m vague about that and don’t mean to be. It is not required, but is always good practice. Don’t know about the new facebook, though, I’ve been doing it for about eighteen years. Maybe I’m just ahead of my time? :D

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Mark

Thanks for the quick responce! I also forgot to ask you about pressing the tile down to callaps the thinset to apparenly equire even more coverage? Is this correct or no? I do know pressing slightly up and and down is correct but that seems pointless of making trowel lines.
Thanks

Reply

Roger

That’s correct. The reason for trowel lines is because if you have a flat plane of wet thinset and put the tile down air will be trapped under your tile with no way of releasing it – not full coverage. Provided you comb the thinset all in one direction, set your tile in there, pull it and push it back against the direction of the lines while pressing down you will have complete coverage and a bond which makes it nearly impossible to pull the tile off before the thinset cures. After it’s cured it’s a perfect bond.

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Mary Ann

Sir Roger,
Installing river rock sheets on the floor of my shower (after having CAREFULLY followed all your instructions up to this point). Here’s the riddle: Does the floor ’tile’ go in before or after the wall tile? Or does it matter? I just cringe thinking of slopping/dropping material and wall tile onto a work of art (because it WILL happen, especially after I put my niche to good use :wink: ). Even though I’m finishing with epoxy grout on the floor, I still don’t want to compromise the integrity of a newly-minted floor. Plus I like the idea of not having to be anal about cutting the bottom course of tile to keep in perfect line with the floor. Or is that just being lazy?

I was unfaithful and strayed to another site that did nothing other than chip away at my self-confidence. I promise to never do that again.

Quick, before my thinset hardens…
Mary Ann

Reply

Roger

Hi Mary Ann,

With river rock it’s normally easier to do the walls first, then cut the stones up to it (if needed). It’s difficult to get a clean transition the other way. As long as your shower is properly waterproofed the layering aspect of the tile will not matter.

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Doug

I chosen a 13×13 porcelian and matching bullnose. Floor tile down and grouted. Bullnose cut to fit, need to know if I leave joint line between floor tile and bullnose or butt it right to the floor.

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Roger

Hey Doug,

Leave a 1/16″ – 1/8″ gap there and silicone it. The different planes will move differently, if you butt it together it may chip the tile.

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donna

Hi Love your site. We are installing cementboard and 12×12 tiles to a shower wall that has a preformed base, this base has a 1/1/4 inch flange . Does the cementboard go over the base flange, or does it go behind sorry we are still confused on the placement of the cement board.So glad to have found your site! Thanks

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Eric

Hi there, While I did a search and didn’t find any related topics, I have a project on my hands and the shower has a brand new completely vinyl JELD-WEN window and I would like to close it in with a ledge correctly. Do I install my 1/2 PermaBase cement board around the window sill and sides. I can send pics if needed to an email address of your choice. Thanks for any help you can provide. Eric

Reply

Roger

Hi Eric,

Yes, the permabase is installed around the sides of the window and you should silicone between the permabase and the vinyl window.

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Scott

Roger: I don’t where to ask these, so I’ll just ask them here:

1) I’m ready to start tiling my shower walls with 12″ tile and I’m wondering where to set that first tile. Some sites say to set a ledger board or cleat where the top of the first row of tiles would go. If I do that, however, I’m piercing the wall I just waterproofed. How do you start?

2) Regardless of whether I start with ledger board or just the first row of tiles, where should that first row sit? Directly on the tub / shower pan? Or just above it, leaving room below for caulk?

3) Is it always best to have the centerline of the shower wall be where the edge of a tile sits? Or is it okay to center a tile on that centerline (in cases where an odd number of tiles works well)?

And finally:

4) Is it aesthetically better to have a partial tile at the front or back of the shower’s side walls?

Thanks!

Reply

Roger

Hey Scott,

1. A lot of people use ledger boards – I’m not one of them. I start at the bottom row. If you use a ledger board you can fill the penetrations with silicone after removing the boards.

2. Leave a 1/16″ to 1/8″ gap between the tile and tub and silicone it when you’re done.

3. Either one works fine. Whichever leaves you the largest pieces at the corners is the proper way.

4. Partial tiles at the corner in the back of the tub on the side walls.

Reply

j

doing a tub surround up to ceiling. plan to use mastic under porcelain. any limitations to tile size?

Reply

Roger

Yeah, no tile at all. :D Most mastics require a MAXIMUM of 4 x 4 tile, and even then should not be used in a wet area. You should be using a powdered thinset.

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werner

Hi Roger,
im busy having my bathroom built and then i will be doing the tiles myself. i will be putting floor tiles on my shower walls. what i dont quite understand is how to prep the walls before i put the tiles on. can i simply put the tiles straight on smooth wall plastering or should i add some kind of board before doing the tiling? thnx….. great informative site btw

Reply

Roger

Hi Werner,

No, you can not install the tile directly to the plaster. (Well, you CAN, but it won’t last…) If you download my free shower waterproofing manual it will explain the different methods and products available in the industry for your shower substrate, how each is used and a general comparison of costs for each method. Read through that and you’ll know more than about half of the so-called ‘professionals’ – seriously. :D

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Candace

So how can you determine if a tile is a floor or wall tile? I picked out a travertine honed and polished mosaic tile from Lowe’s that I was planning to put in the shower floor. There is nothing on the label other than Made in Turkey and it came on mesh sheets that were wrapped in plastic, sold by the sheet. The fact that it is 3/8″ thick made me think it was floor tile, but stone tiles tend to come thicker than ceramic tiles. Do you think this tile is ok for the shower floor? Do you have any suggestions on tile sizes for the bathroom floor?

Reply

Roger

Hi Candace,

Most stone, provided it is not really thin mosaics (like 1/8″) can all be used for floors. The correct size for your bathroom floor tile is whatever size makes you look at it and say “oooh – that looks PERFECT!”. :D

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chris

Hi Roger,

When installing tile (I am using 12″x12″ tiles) on a shower wall, what methods have you used in the past to hold the tile up before it dries? I don’t think the thinset will keep it held up when wet.

Thanks for the help

Reply

Roger

Hey Chris,

I set the bottom row on something solid. Whether that is the tub (with spacers under them to give the proper gap), the tiled shower floor which was set the day before or a ledger board. I use hard ‘marble horseshoe’ spacers which don’t compress as weight (more tile) is stacked upon them. As long as your bottom row is supported every row will support the row above it.

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Chris

Ok, great thanks!

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Jesse

Hi Roger,
Need some help with my shower floor tile install. I built a kerdi shower for my bathroom, no problems there. I have wired floor heat into the shower area. Approved for shower install. No problem there. The problem I’m faced with is that I’m installing 2×2 inch tile on 13×13 mats for the floor. This is where my problems started, I floated (unmodified) thinset even with the top of the wire, about 1/8 inch, then attempted to backbutter the the mats prior to install. As you can imagine that turned into a big mess. Due to thinset coming through the grout lines. But the main problem is trying to lay the tiles on an uneven ( due to the embedded wires ) surface. I could not get the tile to lay flat and smooth due to the wire. Needless to say, the tile install turned into a nightmare. I removed the tile and basically just floated the shower floor even with the the top of the wire to gain a somewhat smooth and (slightly sloped to the drain) level surface. That is now in the process of drying… My question is what can I do to salvage this install. I cannot remove the thinset that the wire is now embbed in, and I’m concerned that when I go to install the tile it will not bond properly to the the first layed layer of thinset, or will it ? Since this is a kerdi shower, I assume that I have to stick with unmodified thinset or can I use some kind of concrete to concrete bonding agent, such as latex primer or other product ? Or am I just screwed now ? What is the proper trowel and install method to deal with “tile on mats” without all the thinset coming up through the grout lines. I’m in serious “Kimchi” here and hope theres a way out. Help…

Reply

Roger

Hey Jesse,

Float over what you currently have to get a flat, sloped substrate then use a modified thinset to install your tile over it once it cures. The thinset will adhere just fine to what you have.

Heating elements in showers utilizing the kerdi system should be installed beneath the layer of kerdi on the floor – not above it. The way you have it will work, it’s just better the other way.

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Jane

Hey Roger:

David wanted me to ask you if you should line up the grout joints on the 13×3 bullnose with both the 13″ tiles and the 6″ wall tiles? Does it look better to have the grout joints offset, or is they any benefit to doing so? Sorry, we had a set back on the 6″ tile – seems that some of it was finished that size at the factory, and some had been cut from a larger piece of tile and there was 1/8″ difference between the two. I went back to the tile store this morning and he said it came from the factory that way, and being a closeout, he just gave me their remaining three boxes of 6″ tiles. We are short about 14 tiles, but David will cut down the larger tiles for the corner pieces and we will be good to go.

We didn’t forget about you and we are definitely not ignoring you. This project was supposed to be done last Tuesday when David’s grandparents came here for a visit, and that didn’t happen! :cry:

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Roger

Hi Jane,

I normally offset them because if you look very closely the bullnose is about 1/16″ smaller than a full tile. Using the same grout joint the bullnose will eventually not line up with the field tile.

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steven t.

hey man great site i got 7 boxes of 13 x13 tile my cousin had left over from when she did her floor.im gonna use it to do the three walls in my shower. im gonna go down to the studs, fix any damage if any then use hardy board and a nice membrane on top of that. my question to you is what kind of mastic/ thinset should i use. idk if it makes a difference at all but with the tiles being so big and also in a wet area i was curious what you would recommend, since the rookies at lowes don’t seem to know what i’m talking about lol.

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Roger

Hey Steven,

You want to use a powdered modified thinset sold in 50lb. bags that you mix with water. Mastic doesn’t belong near a shower and over a topical membrane it will never cure. :D Size of the tile doesn’t matter when using thinset (mostly). Those won’t be a problem.

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Steven FKimmel

I understand about cutting small holes (1 inch) in tile, say for a water line. But how do I cut a large hole, like for the shower valvue or toilet flange?
Thanks!
Steve

Reply

Roger

Hi Steve,

Normally a grinder with a diamond or carbide coated tile blade on it is the best option.

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Daniel

Hi Roger,

I stumbled on this site as I am about to begin a poor-man’s bathroom remodel and it has been a huge help so far. I did want to ask your opinion on a more specific form of the “Can You Install Floor Tiles on a Wall?” question; specifically, “Can You Install Floor Tiles on a SHOWER Wall?”

I’ve chosen a 12×12 glazed porcelain tile (about 1/4″ thick if that matters) at Lowes which was in flooring section. I’m a little nervous about it because it has a very light texture on the face, like a light pitting. I’m afraid this may make it difficult to clean and prone to scum buildup. Have you ever installed tile like this in a bath/shower?

Thanks,
-Dan

Reply

Roger

Hi Dan,

You can install ‘floor tiles’ in your shower, or nearly anywhere else you want to. The cleaning aspect will depend on the finish of the tile. I do install travertine and other porous stones in showers all the time – they simply require a bit more maintenance. The bast thing you can do is keep a squeegee in the shower and use it on the walls after every shower. It will cut the cleaning down by about 80% – really.

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Mercedes

Thank you for the information re: Can You Install Floor Tiles on a Wall?. not only did you answer my question but you educated me on tiles!!

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Ed Sunderland

Walls are a good place for marble in my view because it’s about as soft as balsa wood. “Nice site brother”, and you seem to have similar motivation in offering advice and help to others.

Most folks don’t even consider or care about any difference between floor or wall tile. In my view maintenance is most important which I ask all my tile customers to consider. In the end they just get what they want.

Your commerce site looks good as well with good photos. Don’t know how I found your blog but glad I did.

Warm regards, Ed

Reply

Roger

Hey Ed,

I’m glad you found my site too! Nice to know there are other professionals out there that know the important aspects of tile and stone. Customers always get what they want but hopefully they walk away with more information than they ever hoped for. All you can do is try to educate.

Thank you for the kind words.

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