How to Tile Shower Ceilings
Written by Todd Fratzel.
Last week I was asked if I could explain how to install tile on an overhead surface (shower ceiling). Well I’ve done it once so I thought I’d share my experience installing marble tile on a shower ceiling.
The first thing that I’d like to share is the importance of a proper substrate surface to install tile on for showers. If you’re going to do a tiled shower then you need to take every step possible to prevent water from leaking out and damaging your home.
For this project I used Durock underlayment. I made sure to screw the Durock to the framing as specified. Next I sealed all the joints with silicone caulk first. Then I used special tape made by Durock and thinset to seal all the joints.
Once I was ready to install the marble tile I spent some time dry fitting the first coarse of tile to come up with a layout that we liked. Marble tile is fairly heavy so it’s best to work from the bottom up so that the lower levels of tile can support the work as you go. I only recommend using a cementitous thinset product. It doesn’t make sense to me to use a latex mastic product in such a wet environment. However, thinset is much harder to work with on vertical and overhead surfaces. So be prepared to be patient and take your time setting tiles in this manner.
Once the walls are finished then you can concentrate on installing the tiles on the ceiling. You’ll want to snap some lines on the ceiling to help yourself with the layout as you go. Working on the ceiling is hard enough without worrying about whether you’re keeping your layout square and parallel. If you’re installing tile on the ceiling above a fiberglass or acrylic tub you’ll want to use some wood or cardboard to protect it in case of a falling tile.
Mix up the thinset according to the manufactures specifications. It’s crucial to following the directions closely and only use the recommended amount of water. Mix the thinset well mechanically, let sit to slake, remix and you’re ready to start. It’s best to apply the thinset to the back of the tile (back butter) so that you get full coverage without air pockets. Push the tile up against the Durock on the ceiling and give it a little twist to help seat it well. Next I like to use some painters tape to help hold it in place. Work quickly to finish a full row of tile
Here’s the step that I learned after having several tiles fall down. Make some “dead man” temporary “T” supports out of some scrap 2×4 materials. You’ll want to make these ahead of time and get the length the correct size so that you don’t struggle putting them up. In the photo you can see I installed a new “dead man” temporary support for each row of tile. This ensured that the tile could set up properly without pulling away from the Durock.
I made each “dead man” support slightly shorter than it needed to be so I could shim up the bottom of it to produce a nice tight fit. I left the “dead man” supports in place for 24 hours before removing them and grouting the tile.
Tiling a ceiling in a shower enclosure is a great way to prevent moisture problems and it creates a beautiful touch to any shower.
Tools You Need For This Project
The following tools are very useful for tiling:
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