The bathroom I'm about to tile has a complex layout, and I've never put tile on a wall before. Let me see if I can paint a verbal picture...

The room is approx. 6'("short side") by 10'("long side"). The short side has the door on one end, and a window centered above the tub on the far end. The window is about 3' above the tub and (used to be) a typical household window. The tub stretches from one side of the room to the other. Toilet and sink are along the long side.

The tile would extend from the door jamb about 5' from the floor, over the tub where it goes up to near the celing, around the back wall over the window, then back down again and across behind the toilet and sink.

So I have a couple features that influence, I believe, where I start tiling--the window and the tub.

I believe I should start at the window and tile outward, which ensures the tile is centered on that spot. However I'll probably end up with oddly cut tiles at every single corner in the bathroom.

Another option is to start centered directly above the tub. That way the tile grows up with regular sized tiles until the window, which would end up with oddly cut tile around it.

I'm afraid that when I get down to the nasty business I'll end up picking the wrong way, and every time I go in the damned bathroom I'll look at it and obsess about my decision.

Which is it--window outwards, or tub upwards? Or is there even a third option I should pick?

  • How large are your tiles, and are you going to tile to the cieling or stop at a certain height? Jul 22, 2010 at 6:16

2 Answers 2


Two things:

  1. Most corners or window frames aren't square, so don't use them as the guide.
  2. You will have odd-cut tiles at the edges and around the window.

What you really want to avoid is having the un-cut edge of a tile close to a corner or the window frame. If it's not square then you'll have the straight grout line right next to the not-square line of the wall or window. Your eye will be drawn to this, and you'll indeed get cross every time you lie in the bath. Worse, you may have to cut a tiny sliver of tile to fill an annoying large gap...

In the ideal situation the width of the wall will be an exact multiple of the width of a tile plus the grout line. Then you can adjust things so you have half-a-tile width at the left and half-a-tile at the right. In this case, draw a vertical line dead-centre of the wall and work in both directions from there.

If your wall isn't an exact multiple of the width of a tile plus grout line, start between one-quarter to one-half of a tile to the left or right of this line. It may be best to lay out the tiles on the floor (with spacers!) so you can get a good picture of where the verticals will end up.

Finally, rent or purchase a good diamond tile cutter. Being able to cut tiles easily and quickly is really important, especially if your tiles are large!

  • Point 1) is so true. I was SHOCKED at the fact that when we took all the tiles off our bathroom, nothing was straight or at 90 degrees. Tiles cover a multitude of sins! Jul 22, 2010 at 6:15
  • The top of the tiled portion of the wall meets up with drywall all around the room. Should I ensure a full tile meets the bullnose at the top, or just work from the bottom up and cut tile at the top?
    – Ripped Off
    Jul 25, 2010 at 18:28
  • 1
    If the line is straight and level, I'd take a full tile. It probably depends on what that does at the bottom of the wall - if it means you need a tiny sliver of tile at the bottom then I'd go for a half-tile. Jul 25, 2010 at 20:54
  • Definitely rent or purchase a wet saw! It sounds like you will be doing a lot of tiling for this room.
    – Theresa
    Jul 26, 2010 at 15:22

I would start on the wall with the window above the tub. You should lay out a row of tiles on the ground as they would go on the wall. You'll want to pay attention to how the grout line will line up with the sides of the window and center accordingly. You always want the cut tiles in the corners where they will be hidden. Then start tiling from the tub up.

Is this a wooden window sill in a shower? If so, you might want to think about removing the wood and tiling the window as well.

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