When budgeting for a bathroom tiling project, it’s easy to become focused on the cost of the tile itself. After all, tile is at the heart of the project; it’s the main look of all of this. However, crucial (and often overlooked) steps like prep and time for labor can impact how much it’ll cost you to tile a bathroom.
In this guide, Sweeten outlines three categories that go into the cost to tile a bathroom: prep, materials, and labor.
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Tiling prep work
Before beginning the tile project, a number of items in the bathroom must be removed. After they have been removed, the subfloor must be assessed.
Using ceramic tile in your bathroom?
Ceramic tile requires a stable base (substrate) that is rigid and does not bend. The bathroom’s existing subfloor should either be strong enough or it should be strengthened. For natural stone tile, the industry group Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) recommends that the substrate be twice as rigid as for tiling with ceramics or porcelains. If the substrate is not smooth enough, it may require an additional layer of underlayment.
Removing bathroom items Toilet: The toilet must always be removed before tiling a floor. The toilet will either be replaced, or a new toilet may be installed.
Baseboards: Wall baseboards and any type of horizontal wall molding that touches the floor must be removed before tiling.
Door casing: Door casing—the vertical trim that forms a door frame—usually doesn’t need to be removed. Tile workers can cut the bottom of the casing and fit the tile underneath.
Shower/bathtub and bathroom cabinet: Showers, tubs, sink cabinets, and any permanent pieces do not need to be removed. However, sometimes they are removed during a full bathroom remodel.
Preparing (or repairing) the subfloor
When installing tile in a remodeled bathroom, it is common to find a damaged subfloor. This damage tends to be concentrated around the toilet, sink, and shower/bathtub. If you are removing the shower or bath, you may find even more damage under the shower pan or bathtub.
Sometimes, large sections of the subfloor may need to be removed and replaced with a new subfloor. In some cases, the damage may extend to the floor joists (the beams below the subfloor). Both of these fixes are separate from the tiling.
If you are working with a general contractor, the contractor will remove all of the necessary items and make repairs. This prep work should be done ahead of time before the tile subcontractor begins.
While removing items is heavily a labor cost, some materials may figure in. This depends on the scale of the project. For example, large projects may require the rental of a dumpster.
Raw materials for prepping
Though tile is the most visible feature of bathroom tile, a support system of other materials makes a bathroom tile surface possible.
Subfloor prep materials
Solid subfloor: Exterior-grade, tongue-and-groove plywood is a standard subfloor material.
Underlayment on top of subfloor: Many tile pros recommend laying down an additional layer of thin cement board on top of the subfloor.
Leveling compound: Dips in the subfloor can be corrected with a liquid leveling compound. Poured directly onto the subfloor, this compound is self-leveling. It fills gaps up to 1-1/2-inch deep.
Thin-set: Thin-set is the mortar base that is applied under the tile.
Grout: Grout is the filler that is applied to the joints between the tiles.
Grout tint: Grout usually comes in a few variations of gray, black, cream, or white. But grout can also be tinted to nearly any color you desire.
Grout sealant: Grout is porous and must be sealed to prevent moisture infiltration.
Haze remover: A light haze remains from the grouting process. A liquid haze remover is needed to clean this up.
Uncoupling material: When installing tile on concrete, many tile professionals recommend that you use a special material to avoid cracking. An uncoupling material disconnects the tile from the concrete slab. This prevents concrete from transmitting cracks to the tile. CTEF recommends that all concrete floors with pre-existing cracks be installed with uncoupling material.
Radiant heating: To combat cold tile floors, many homeowners opt for radiant heating underneath the tile. This electrically operated mesh is embedded in the thin-set mortar. It is controlled by a wall thermostat.
Time and cost of labor
Many types of home projects are DIY-friendly. But tilework is a long-established, highly skilled craft that can be tricky for many DIYers to master. So, hiring pros to expertly lay the tile pays for itself many times over.
If the cost of tiling materials (thin-set, grout, etc.) is not broken out in an estimate, it may be included in the labor cost. If so, it will be noted as such.
One more factor that affects the cost of tile installation labor is the need for the tile contractor to return several times to the job site. After setting the tile, workers must allow at least 24 hours before returning for grouting. After grouting, workers must wait at least another 4 hours before returning to remove the grout haze. All consults and the clean-up are usually included in the installation cost.
Choosing the style and color of your bathroom tile is an exciting remodeling step. But as you now know, there are many other factors that can impact the total cost to tile a bathroom. Knowing those factors will give you a leg up in understanding the bottom-line total cost when discussing the project with your contractor.
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