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How to Create an Accent Wall With Wall Tile

How to create an accent wallFeeling blah about your kitchen? Does your bathroom need a boost? Installing a custom tile accent wall is easier than ever with today’s selection of marble, slate, ceramic, porcelain, and even prepared glass mosaics and wall tiles. In addition to their beauty and textural impact, tile walls are durable and easy to clean. Are you a DIYer interested in adding a pop of color or a modern touch to your space? Here’s how to get it done.

Step One: Prep the Walls

Remove any wallpaper before you begin. Make sure you have a suitable surface, then fill holes or cracks with spackling, and give the wall a light sanding to prepare it for the tile adhesive. You can install directly over drywall in most rooms, but if your tile accent wall is going in the bathroom, it’s best to hang waterproof cement board as a base for your tile installation. Ceramic or porcelain tiles work well in the bathroom as a one-two punch in protecting your walls from excess moisture.

Step Two: Plan Your Layout


Wall tiles allow you the freedom to create customized wall patterns, like this herringbone design. (Alzatina Ceramic Wall Tile – Nottingham Collection in Black Nero)

There are endless layout and pattern options for tile accent walls; for beginners, simple is better. If you want a more colorful, eye-catching wall without a lot of work, consider going with 12-by-12-inch sheets of glass mosaic tiles.

Once you’ve decided on a pattern, make a layout tool to help guide your installation:

  • Lay a row of tile on the floor, allowing room for spacers and grout lines.
  • Place a narrow wooden strip against the top of the row, and mark the tile and grout lines on it.

You’ll use this tool, along with the level, to ensure neat, regular tile placement.

Step Three: Determine Your Starting Point

Walls are rarely perfectly square, so the best installation begins at the center of the wall and works out to the edges so all corner pieces are equal.

First, make a mark one tile width from the bottom (your reference point), and use your layout tool to see how the tile will look at the top of the wall. If the top tile piece will be very narrow, adjust your reference point down until you get even-sized rows at the top and the bottom. Then use your level to draw a straight horizontal line from your final reference mark. This is the starting point you will use to install your tile.

Step Four: Install the Tile


Taking a thorough, step-by-step approach will help you achieve a successful wall tile installation.

Mix your tile adhesive, and use a notched trowel to spread a thin film over about a 2-by-2-foot area. Use your layout tool and a level to place tiles and spacers in the adhesive. If it oozes up between the tiles, wipe it off immediately with a cloth. After you’ve placed a few rows of tile, use a mallet and tile leveler to set them into the adhesive. Cut tiles to fit the edges and corners.

Step Five: Grout and Finish

If you tiled around a tub or shower, apply silicone caulk between the tub and tile. Remove spacers and mix your grout to a peanut butter-like consistency. Apply the grout with a rubber or plastic float held at a 45-degree angle and use a toothbrush to shape it. Wipe any excess grout with a damp sponge.

You can finish your accent wall in a single weekend in most cases. If you’re free next Saturday, why not take the plunge?

Would you go bold or more subtle with your wall tile design?

Browse our selection of beautiful Wall Tile & Mosaics here. Take your interior design plans to the next level.