The two main reasons people need to put tiling around shower valves are for bathroom remodels and plumbing repairs.
Tiling Around Shower Valve
Average bathroom remodels are costly. Midrange remodels average around $20,000! It is understandable, then, if you might consider retiling your shower as a DIY project.
Another reason you may need to retile your shower valve may be due to plumbing repairs. Perhaps you discovered a leak and hired a plumber to fix it. The plumber had to remove the tile to fix the piping, which most plumbers will do for you.
However, not all plumbers will then replace the tile. Therefore, you may need to replace tiles where the plumber removed your old ones. Tiling around a shower value is one of the trickier parts of retiling a shower, so we will discuss the best way to go about it.
What Tools and Supplies Do You Need?
For this article, we will assume that you don’t need to add a wall backing to support your tile.
With that in mind, the first thing you’ll need is tile. If you’re just repairing existing tile, you may be lucky enough to have some left over from the original build that you can use to replace what you removed.
If not, take a sample of the old tile (perhaps a broken piece leftover from what you removed) to a tile supplier to see if they can find a match.
If you’re remodeling or adding new tiles, take measurements to see how many tiles you will need to buy. That’s the fun part because you can get creative with the shape and aesthetic of the tiles. Go wild!
Other than tile, you’ll need the following tools:
- China marker
- Masking tape
- Power drill
- Hole saw
- A guiding bit for your drill/hole saw (often sold with the hole saw)
- Cooling oil or water
- Cross-line laser level
- Standard tripod stand (such as one used for cameras)
- Tile wet saw (if needed)
- Tile nippers (if needed)
Cut and Mark Your Tile
You will first measure your cuts carefully and mark them with a china marker. Then you will cut the tile to fit around your valve using either a hole saw or a wet saw, depending on your method and the tile you use.
Protect Your Tub/Floor
The blankets are for you to put down in your tub or on your floor to protect them in case you drop anything. You will appreciate the extra security. Plus, it’s a little cushion for your knees.
Set Your Laser Level
Using a cross-line laser level is the easiest way to ensure your tile is level. This handy device fits on any standard tripod and projects a straight, crossed, horizontal and vertical line onto your wall. You can then use these lines to straighten your tile when applying it.
You can use a standard level if you don’t have a laser level.
Cutting a Hole Through a Single Tile
First, if you can, enlist a second pair of hands, making certain parts of the job a lot easier. Line up your tile to the valves coming out of your shower wall. Make sure the tile is level with your laser line. You can allow the back of the tile to touch the valve. Ask your partner to use the china marker to draw a circle on the tile around the valve.
Place the tile on your workbench and clamp it still. Next, place a piece of cardboard under the front of your tile to prevent it from being scratched while you work.
Place a piece of masking tape over the center of the circle you drew on your tile (on the back of the tile), and draw a dot in the center of the tape (at the center of the circle). This tape will keep the guide bit from slipping as much.
Dip the edge of your hole saw into cooling oil or water.
Using your hole saw, press the guide bit against the dot at the center of your tape. Be sure you’re pressing at a 90-degree angle. While pressing, start the hole saw and apply pressure. Have your partner watch the underside of the tile. Once they see the guide bit come through, stop drilling and retract the drill. Try not to go all the way through the tile with the hole saw.
Flip over the tile and use the hole made by the bit when you drilled the other side to place your bit again. Drill again from this side with your hole saw until you go all the way through the tile. Doing this helps prevent chipping in your tile.
Now, you can place the tile over your valve. Be sure once again to line up with the level. Apply the tile with the proper adhesive, and you’re done.
Cutting Two Half Tiles
If you’re using smaller tiles, you may need to cut two half tiles around the shower valve(s). To do this, hold up each tile as instructed above, but this time, draw a half circle at the end of each tile where you plan to cut to fit around the valve(s).
Next, place the tile on your wet saw, with the back side of the tile (and the markings you made) facing toward the blade.
Cut in straight, 1-inch increments toward and following your guide line, making the tile look like it has little teeth on the side you cut. Next, use your tile nippers to break off the teeth. Don’t worry if the end result is not perfectly round, which will be covered by the faceplate of the valve.
Now, you can apply your tiles as normal.
When placing tile around your shower value, a little more effort is involved than if you were just laying it on the floor. The marking and cutting to fit around the circular shape of the valve might seem daunting. But, with patience and care, you can cut and place the tile without needing professional help.