How to Install Ceramic Tile on a Painted Wall


Ceramic tiles provide durable wall surfaces that are easy to care for. Installing ceramic tiles directly on a painted wall is an easy process that can be done by most do-it-yourselfers, requiring only a bit of wall preparation, careful attention to detail and a few simple tools. With everything in place, completing a modest wall can be done in the length of a single afternoon.

Things You'll Need

  • Sandpaper
  • Measuring tape
  • Carpenter's level
  • Chalk
  • Tile adhesive
  • Notched trowel
  • Ceramic tiles
  • Tile spacers
  • Tile cutter
  • Tile nipper
  • Grout float
  • Grout
  • Sponge
  • Water
  • Caulking
  • Prepare the wall for the ceramic tile by removing all fixtures and then sanding the surface of the wall, removing all glossy finish and creating a scratched surface for the adhesive to stick to.

  • Use a measuring tape to find the center of the wall. Place a mark at the center of the wall and then use a carpenter's level to mark with chalk a vertical and horizontal line intersecting at the center mark.

  • Lay out a tile pattern on the floor by placing a row of tiles at the base of the wall. The row will likely require a partial tile to complete it. Adjust the row of tiles so that the partial tile space is the same at both row ends, creating a short tile for both sides for visual symmetry.

  • Using the center lines as a guide, apply a coat of tile adhesive along one side of the vertical line covering a space of about three square feet. Use the flat of the trowel to spread the adhesive level and then use the notched edge to create a series of ribbons in the adhesive surface.

  • Press a ceramic tile into the adhesive, using the lines as guides. Use a slight twist on the tile to assure coverage from the adhesive when placing on the wall's surface. Place two tile spacers along each edge of the tile to create even spacing between the tiles. Continue placing tiles in rows until the desired wall surface has been filled.

  • Use a ceramic tile cutter to cut tiles as necessary in order to fit them around fixtures or to fit partial tiles at the edge of the wall. A ceramic tile cutter can be rented at home improvement stores or equipment rental shops.

  • Allow the tile adhesive to set overnight.

  • Remove all the tile spacers from between the ceramic tiles.

  • Mix the grout according the manufacturer's instructions. Apply the grout to the joints between the tiles using a grout float and pressing firmly in order to fill joints completely. Wipe off excess grout with a damp sponge. Allow the grout to dry 30 minutes and then use a soft lint-free cloth to go over the surface of the tiles, removing any remaining residue. Allow the grout to dry for 24 hours.

  • Apply a line of caulk between the tiles and any countertops, sinks or tubs. Replace the fixtures to finish the wall.

Tips & Warnings

  • For tiles installed in moisture rich environments, make sure the grout used is waterproof.
  • Check that the ceiling is level before creating your horizontal level line. If it's tilted, tilt your line accordingly so that the tiles will line up with the ceiling.
  • If a partial tile row is required on the horizontal, place the partial tiles at the bottom of the wall for the best visual result.
  • Remove any excess tile adhesive from the tile surfaces as soon as it appears; dried adhesive can be difficult to remove.
  • Use latex gloves when working with the grout to prevent skin irritation.

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