Every once and awhile, as you live in your existing home, you may feel the need to install some new tile on a wall. Correct tile wall preparation will determine how strong the new tile will be. The old cliche, why take time to do something a second time when you can take time to do it right the first time, should always apply. Cutting corners on tile wall preparation could increase the need to repair or redo the job again in the future.
For Existing Walls
Existing walls in a home are subject to all varieties of wall hangings, paint, and/or wallpaper. It is rare for a wall in an existing home to be completely bare, showing only drywall and plaster. If this were the case, no real tile wall preparation would be needed other than a quick check that there is no dirt. The tile could be mounted pretty much as is. Not so for existing walls.
Structurally Sound Walls
The first thing to check on the wall you wish to tile is that it is clean, dry, and structurally sound. If you’ve ever lifted a box of tiles, you know how heavy they can be. The wall will carry this weight.
If your wall isn’t sound, the tiles will fall and possibly even pull down the entire wall. Most walls built by contractors should fall into the structurally sound category. If you’re unsure, get a certified professional to come take a look. You may need to rebuild the wall simply for safety’s sake.
Preparation of the Walls
Existing tile wall preparation should involve stripping off any wallpaper or loose paint. If this is not done, the weight of the tile will pull off the paper and tiles will fall to the ground.
Lightly sand off any sheen from glossy finishes. If possible, it is best to remove all paint completely, or mount a tile backer board over the top as an alternative. Patch any noticeable cracks or holes with a spackling compound and sand it smooth when it dries.
Using Cement Board
If you’re mounting tile in a high moisture area such as in the bathroom or for a shower, extra care and steps must be taken in tile wall preparation. Use cement-fibre board, also known simply as cement board, as a tile underlay. Cement board is built to be strong and moisture resistant.
Otherwise, wet areas have moisture that will find its way beneath the tile, and tile will begin popping off due to moisture expansion. Also, leave a small 1/8th inch space separating where the tile wall meets the shower base or tub. This space will be caulked afterwards to allow movement caused by the expansion of the water and avoid cracking the tile.
Correct tile wall preparation will avoid any expensive repairs down the road. Take your time and before you know it, you’ll be enjoying a new properly installed tile wall.