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I would like to install a continuous pattern of tiles from floor to ceiling on a wall that is a combination of plywood (mounted to 2x4 studs) and a short concrete stem wall.

Is there a suitable backing/decoupling material I can install so I can tile continuously from floor to ceiling without an expansion gap, or do I need to change the wall tile design?

picture of plywood wall covering above concrete stem wall

  • How large are the tiles? – Ed Beal Nov 4 '19 at 3:29
  • @EdBeal they are porcelain hexagons about 1 square foot each, ~3/8" thick – Steven T. Snyder Nov 5 '19 at 5:28
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Easy peasy. Looks like there is a slight depth difference from concrete to plywood—not a problem.

Encapsulate existing plywood with 1/4” Hardibacker or other cementitious backboard using 2 1/4” galvanized roofing nails at all designated points. At the seam with the concrete, use fiberglass backer board tape and the same Thinset you use to set the tiles. You can set the new tile directly to the existing concrete as long as it’s smooth. If not, a skimcoat of Thinset mortar will even it out. If the difference is greater than 1/4” use 1/2” Hardibacker.

Use 1/4” Hardibacker and cover the plywood only. You have several options for the concrete. You could set stone tile or river rocks; many options. Since you want to go floor-to-ceiling with the new tile, for visual interest set a larger, thicker tile on the concrete as a “baseboard.” This base tile should be approximately 1/2” thick lug-back tile (or stone, etc.) which will meet the bottom edge of the hardibacker a quarter of an inch out. For wall tile, easiest installation is 1/4” thick, talc-back tiles.

If you post a photo of a design you’ve seen and want to use as inspiration, I’ll give directions on that particular installation process. Here’s an example of a tiled wall with a base different from the rest of the wall.

tiled wall

Post photos after your project is completed. Good luck!

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    They have treated screws for backboard. Works great. – JACK Nov 4 '19 at 0:06
  • The plywood and concrete are actually flush although it's hard to tell from the photo. So in that case, do I install a single sheet of 1/4" or 1/2" Hardibacker over the whole mess? If so how do I attach it to the concrete? (treated masonry screws?) – Steven T. Snyder Nov 4 '19 at 2:44
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    I’ll add to my answer. – M.Mat Nov 4 '19 at 6:51
  • The screws are great but they’re also expensive compared to the roofing nails. – M.Mat Nov 6 '19 at 1:08

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