DIY Network

How to Remove An Old Bathtub Surround and Install New Tile

Weekend Handyman host and licensed contractor Paul Ryan shows how to remove a bathtub and shower surround and install new tile.

More in Bathroom

  • Time


  • Price Range

    $500 - $1,000

  • Difficulty

    Moderate to Hard


Step 1: Remove Old Fixtures and Surrounds

Remove the old fixtures: faucet handles, tub spout and showerhead. Cut the pipes, pull out the old valve body of the faucet spout, put the new one in and solder the connections.

Tip: When soldering pipes together, remember to heat the copper and not the solder. The hot copper is what melts the solder, not the flame.

Remove the existing surround. If removing tile, removing those set to a solid surface is easier than those set to plasterboard. Some treatments may easily be removed with a hammer and chisel. Other tile applications may require the help of a professional to avoid wall damage. Remove the grout surrounding the tile with a removal tool or a flat-head screwdriver and a hammer to chip away at the grout.

solder connections after installing new valve body

Step 2: Repair Underlying Wall and Surfaces

Repair the underlying wallboard as needed. Remove any loose paint and old adhesive with a scraper or use adhesive remover, if necessary.

Note: It's important to have a clean, smooth surface for the best tile application.

Remove any rotten or moldy drywall or studs and replace them

Step 3: Lay Out the Tiles

Measure the height and width of the walls to be tiled. Using the spacers, lay out a couple of row of the tiles horizontally in a dry run on a tarp to see where they fall on the joints.

Now compare these placements to the actual wall. Using your wall measurements, figure and mark the center of the wall and work out the layout from the approximate center of the wall. Check to make sure your end pieces are at least one-half of the tile width.

Determine the vertical layout. See if the tub is level. If it isn't get the height measurement from the low side of the tub.

Draw lines: the top line will be the glue line and the center line will be the plumb line. Draw a grid, representing tile quadrants.

measure and lay out tiles for quick assessment

Step 4: Apply the Tiles

Trowel the wall with adhesive in small areas that can be covered right away.

Tip: Because the adhesive you'll be using dries in approximately 30 minutes, it's best to lay the tile one grid at a time.

Begin in the center of the bottom of the grid and move out toward the sides. Push the tiles into place. Use your hands, a grout float or a rubber mallet to apply even pressure across the tiles. Wipe the tiles with water and a clean sponge as you set them.

Check the level of each row before you set the next one. Use spacers to make sure the grid lines are straight and hold the tile in place as they dry.

Put in all the full tiles first.

spacers help keep grid lines straight

Step 5: Cut the Tiles

Cut the tiles as necessary to fit along the edges and to accommodate fixtures. If there are gaps at the corners, fill in the spaces with individually cut tiles.

Use a tile cutter to make straight tile cuts on the edges. Slide the tile in place, draw the wheel back along the tile to score it, press the handle down to break the tile. With a wet saw, put masking tape on the tile, mark the cut line with a pencil and cut the tile.

To make complicated cuts such as cutting around fixtures, mark the square on the back of the tile where you need an opening. Hold each piece firmly in place and gently slide it under the wet saw blade.

To make cuts for small divots, mark the tile and use tile nippers to cut.

Use a sanding stone to smooth cut edges of the tile as needed. For any thin tile strips, score the tile on a cutting board and cut away the scored edge with nippers.

Clean up any remaining fronts of the tiles that may have adhesive on them and remove the spacers.

To prepare for applying the grout, tape to protect any neighboring walls or wallpaper. In the next phase of the project, the grout is applied.

use nippers for small divots