I am about to remodel our bathroom. Currently the tub/shower is all tiled but the backing is not secure/stable so there is cracking in the grout and I know water is getting behind. I prefer the look of tile over the plastic surrounds and we have a window in the shower that is current tiled over but I would like to expose it again.

I have not done tiling before so I am just starting my research and I am looking for some advice regarding the type of tile to use. Budget is flexible but I am not real interested in the "glamour bath look" of marble and granite as I don't think it will match the rest of the house.

What are the pros/cons of ceramic and porcelain tile? How about other alternatives (slate, etc.)? Do I need to use anything special on the flat horizontal surfaces at the window sill (that is in the shower) or any shelves I build into the shower wall?

2 Answers 2


If your tile is not secure, then the backer is not secure either. You will need to gut it to the studs and install water proof membrane, concrete board or heavy hardy-backer to tile over. The window frame must also be carefully water-proofed as well and trimmed out with a moisture resistant material. Get some professional advise on this one, a new tile job is not cheap or easy and be a shame to have a leaky, grout dropping job when you're done.

As far as the type of tile, ceramic or porcelain are similar products, difference being the hardness grade and the type of glazing. Porcelain is always a better choice in my view as the surface glaze is smoother, easier to keep clean and usually a harder grade.(3 to 7) prices can vary wildly, usually again because of the glazing and hardness factors. Designer patterns also effect the cost as well.

  • I realize the backer is the problem with the current tile. The plan is the rip it all out down to the studs as you mentioned. I was going to use concrete board and cover it with KERDI, and use the KERDI product around the window as well.
    – auujay
    Apr 15, 2011 at 18:09
  • insulating the wall, even an interior wall helps with noise reduction. but I always recommend a vapor barrier on the studs behind the concrete board as well. Kerdi system is great stuff. Good choice. Apr 15, 2011 at 18:14
  • Vapor barrier behind a board with Kerdi is commonly referred to as a "moisture sandwich" over here; that site's an excellent resource although its scope is narrow to tile & stonework. Apr 15, 2011 at 19:24

I actually just finished this very project myself, and it was my first time too.

I followed this guide from This Old House on how to tile around a tub, as well as watched a few videos on YouTube.

We chose with a fairly basic 6" ceramic tile that has a stone-like texture that we purchased from Home Depot. One of the nice features of our tile is that they came with built-in nubs on the side, so I didn't have to worry about tile spacers. As you can see below, we also put in a 2" high strip of colored glass tile about eye-level, which really helps to break up the monotony of the tile.

Click for large version.

We tore out the old drywall and tile and hung concrete WonderBoard on the studs. This Home Depot video on YouTube recommends sealing the tub to the wall with roofing tar, and using a waterproof barrier underneath the backerboard (we didn't do that).

Hanging the tile was easy, just a matter of applying the mortar in small sections and putting the tiles up on the wall. The hard part was the grouting. I used a grout additive called Grout Boost that makes the grout more waterproof (and you don't have to seal the grout). It turns out it also makes the grout much more difficult to work with for a first-timer, as the grout dries much quicker than normal.

In the end, we spent around $600 for everything, including the tools we needed like a tile cutter/snapper, tile hole saw, nibbler, concrete circular saw blade, etc.

  • nice job, looks great. Congrats Apr 20, 2011 at 10:42

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