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I've got this small old bathroom that I want to lay with ceramic tiles. But to do that the walls should be straight - which they are not. Three of them are almost fine, but the fourth is... well, take a look at the pictures:

Wall
Left: front view at the wall;
Right: side view at the wall.

This isn't to scale, but you can see the idea. First of all there is a large towel-dryer in the middle of it, stretching almost all the way across. Secondly, the wall starts slanting away on the upper half.

I cannot remove the towel dryer because the people who designed the original plumbing system (probably dead by now) were... not very smart, to put it politely. It is attached to the central hot water supply in the apartment block and turning off the water means that everyone loses hot water. To make it better, even if I did turn off the water momentarily and remove the dryer, I'd still need to reconnect the open ends or the water flow would be broken (my above neighbour gets the hot water that has passed through my dryer). And last but not least - to turn off the water and do anything with the dryer I have to call the authorities and pay them $30 every time. Royal pain.

So... what would you suggest?

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What is the wall made of drywall, plaster, brick, cement board? –  Tester101 Aug 5 '10 at 11:32
    
The wall is concrete. I've gotten the old paint off of it already, so it's just bare concrete. However it's pretty...how to say... crumbly? It crumbles easily. Things drilled in it tend not to hold there. You can easily get a lot pieces of it by just scraping it. Still it's stable, the towel dryer holds in place well, and it can be plastered or something. –  Vilx- Aug 5 '10 at 12:59
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You might want to call in an engineer to have a look. If the wall is load bearing and it is flexed that much and crumbling, your upstairs neighbors may be 'dropping' in for a visit. If the wall is not load bearing it still could be a hazard if it crumbles and falls. –  Tester101 Aug 5 '10 at 15:31
    
@Tester101 - It's not load bearing and it's not falling apart either. Though I suppose you could tear it down without much difficulty. However it's pretty stable, as I already said. –  Vilx- Aug 5 '10 at 16:30
    
If you're able to pay for the tile, the $30 can't be a big deal to you. –  Bryce Sep 10 '12 at 7:50
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2 Answers

If this were my wall: I'd pay the $30 to have an engineer remove the towel rail and fit service valves to the pipework. Then you can take it off, replace it, or what-have-you whenever you want without worrying about the upstairs neighbour. Mention to the plumber that you'll be re-plastering and re-tiling so the service valve is properly proud of the wall.

Then, with the towel rail off, get someone in to plaster it. (Don't try plastering yourself unless you do it for a living, it's much harder than the fellow you'll get in will make it look.)

Then tile away. A smaller tile means you can generally get away with really quite big imperfections, a wall that's a couple of inches off true at the top should be fine. (See here for more on that.)

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I'd agree with @Jeremy about paying a one off $30 to remove the towel rail and fit service values.

However, from there you could batten the wall and fix Aquapanel to the batten to get a vertical and flat surface to tile on to. This is a job you can do yourself. I did this for a "wet zone" walk in shower and it resulted in an excellent tiling surface.

You will lose 12mm + batten depth + tile depth from the width/length of the room.

Though on re-reading your comments about the state of the wall, it might not be suitable for holding the battens and/or weight of the Aquapanel which is quite heavy.

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Actually this might be a reasonable way to go. If the wall's strong enough to take plaster and tile, if you can drill it deep enough to take good fixings it should also take battens and board. Bear in mind that depending on the cost of a plasterer, this will most likely be a more expensive option. –  Jeremy McGee Aug 8 '10 at 15:13
    
@Jeremy - true on the expense, but it is a DIY option. Plus there's no plaster to dry out. –  ChrisF Aug 8 '10 at 15:46
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