Convert Your Tub Space Into a Shower – the Tiling and Grouting Phase

Missed step 1, “Convert Your Tub Space to a Shower — the Planning Phase”? Read it here!


Step 2 in swapping your tub for a sleek new shower: Pick the right tile and test it out, then choose your grout color and type.

The subject of tile comes up quickly on every shower build. What kind of tile should you choose? Where should you get it? Who buys it? What size is needed? What kind of grout should you use? The information stream can be a little overwhelming, and it’s difficult ground to cover in a short meeting with a potential renovator — so do your homework ahead of time. Understanding how to properly build, waterproof and tile your shower can help you can ask the right questions when interviewing your contractors.

There is a lot of great tile out there, but there’s even more junk to avoid. And once you find the perfect tile, you still need to decide on your grout. Should you use cementitious grout, sanded grout, unsanded grout or epoxy grout? There’s a lot to consider. Sometimes tile setters include the grout in their price, but try to get to know more about your shower project before selecting a grout.

Tiling and grouting are hard to get right. I have seen way too many shower builds screwed up because the grout was poorly installed. Let’s take a look at some beautiful showers and learn more about how to get tile, grout and edging details right.


Mable bathroom
Stone tile versus porcelain tile. This choice comes up constantly. Personally, I prefer porcelain. A shower is one of the wettest places on the planet, and porcelain tile is nearly impervious to moisture migration.

But when someone does decide to use natural stone, it’s time to get into due-diligence mode and inspect the stone for defects, epoxy fill and mineral veins, and then perform a soak test. A simple soak test is easy. If you are planning to use some white marble in your shower, for example, purchase it from a supplier that’s been using the same source for a few years. Make sure to ask how long the store has been purchasing stone from that source and if there were any problems on prior jobs.

Purchase several pieces and place them in a bucket of water for two days. Then take them out and leave them out for a few more days. If the stone looks different, those same changes are bound to happen in your new shower.


Bathroom large format tile
Large tile. This is one of my favorite shower shots. A shower with large-format tile like this is very easy to clean, but it’s not the best for young children, who tend to run into showers at Mach-10 speed.

Larger tile can be slippery. Floor tile that’s 2 by 2 inches or 4 by 4 inches tends to be a safe bet for those who want extra traction. When you get larger tiles, you need to be extra careful.

This shower also has a long linear drain. When you’re having a linear drain installed, ask to keep the tile height about 1/16 to 1/8 inch above the drain’s edge, so the soap suds and water can fall off the edge of the tile and into the drain.


Bathroom Shower with mosaic  accent and floor
Small tile. Mosaic tile in particular is very difficult to install in a shower and should be tackled by a professional. They are however great for accent strips to add some interest, and for shower floors as well as they provide extra traction which makes it less slippery. If you find a mosaic you love go ahead and tile the entire shower in it, but note it will cost more than using porcelain tile. This is another benefit to putting in an accent of the mosaic, and using porcelain tile for most of the space to save some money and still have a great looking shower.


Bathroom Shower with 3 different tile types
Mixing and matching tile. This builder has used three different tiles for one gem of a shower. Mixing tiles from different suppliers is a very practical way to reduce your shower renovation costs. It also adds more interest to you shower, just be sure to choose tiles that are all in the same color scheme so they will create a harmonious overall look.


Bathroom Shower Bullnosed edges
Edging details. Understanding how the tiling edges will be addressed is an important step in planning your shower. Looking closely at this photo and you can see that the edges where the tile meets the wall and vanity are beveled. Today most tile comes with a specific edging version of the tile called a bullnose for the edges.

Before starting your shower renovation, take some time and study other installations in photos and at tile showrooms to decide on an edging detail you like.

Bathroom Shower Tiled & Grouted Edges
Other homeowners prefer for the edge of the tile to just be grouted where it meets the wall. This niche is done with a mitered edge — make sure the corners are nicely grouted so they’re not razor sharp. While mitering isn’t necessarily difficult, it takes time, so you can expect to pay a premium for this kind of work.

The way corners and edges like this are prepared needs to be decided before the tile is set.


Bathroom Shower Layout
Tile layout. Now it’s time to start designing your tile’s layout. Look at how simple and clean lined this shower is — the shower niche is exactly in between two tiles. This is no coincidence; planning ahead can make the difference between a sloppy look and a clean look. If you’re aiming for a polished shower layout, make sure you and your installer know exactly where every tile will lie before framing starts.


Bathroom Shower Matching Grout
Grout. Grout colors today now come in a wide range of colors so you can easily match one to your tile color. This helps make it appear larger, as the grout colors blend in with the tile color and make a smooth look that is less broken up by grout lines. Also, another great thing about grout today is the additives and different types, such as epoxy, you can get which are mold, and stain resistant, making it much easier to clean!