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Friday, March 14, 2014

DIY Tub Surround Tile Accent Row

We’ve been seeing a lot of tile accents in bathrooms lately and think it’s a clever and inexpensive way to add a little detail and oomph for those of us who have the standard ceramics installed. The master bath will be getting a full spa-like treatment, so we had to give this bath some love so it wouldnt feel left out and add to the upgrades we completed already.

We went with a grey/charcoal/black-ish mosaic to match the updated decor. It is a high-contrast blend with the white grout & tiles and adds some major pop and looks great next to the wall color.

Time: 2 hours for tile removal + tiling/grouting (2 days)
Cost: $30-$75 depending on accent tile
Difficulty: Easy, but cautious

Tools Needed:
Multi Oscillating tool with scraping blade (optional)
Painters tape
Grout Float
Notched Trowel

Materials Needed:
Accent tiles
Tile Adhesive/Mastic
Joint tape for wet surfaces (typically used for shower corner/drywall joints)

First step is to protect your tub, so you can either lay a piece of plywood over it to protect it from falling tile (yes, it will) or to simply tape a tarp around the edge of the tub.

For anyone who has tiled before and have used a pre-mixed grout product, you have witnessed just how brittle and dry that mixture is. The mastic and grout used by professionals is mixed dry with water and creates a substantially more difficult product to remove.

The first step is to use your Multi Oscillating tool (easiest, fastest method) to remove the top and bottom  grout lines from the tiles you want to take out. Others have suggested simply using a screwdriver or chisel  and tapping along the grout line. That will work but will take forever.

Use this tool to carefully scrape through the grout lines. Ive found that using it at a 45 degree angle works best. There will be some play and jumping around of the blade so always angle the tool slightly towards the tile were going to remove, so if it does jump it wont scrape the good tile that will be left behind. TAKE YOUR TIME!

Youll basically end up with something that looks like this...

The idea is to loosen the grout edges to help ease the tension holding on to the tile and to ease adjoining tiles from the stress as youre pulling on the ones you want to remove. The tiles used are standard 6" ceramic generic tiles, so they are easy and cheap to replace if a mistake is made.

We first slid the multi tool under the edging tile so we could get to the inner ones, and then replaced it since having our accent row ending exposed at the wall might look a little weird, so we took the safe route and wanted a clean finish on the end.

To remove them all you essentially, remove grout edges, run the multi tool underneath the edge of the tile to loosen the mastic(glue) holding it on the wall, and then use your chisel to tap and pry the tile from the wall.

What is behind the tile is drywall so you will make holes/indents in it while prying if youre not careful. Its not the end of the world, but should certainly be avoided if possible. The bare wall will be protected later with water barrier tape and the grout will be sealed in the last step, so dont worry.

We've found that if the tile doesnt seem to want to pry off easily, we would simply smash it with the corner edge of the hammer and then pry off the smaller pieces. Fast and effective.

You can utilize the hammer method solely, that will require no power tools, just a chisel/pry bar and some elbow grease.

Once your tiles have been removed, you can optionally use a paint scraper to remove any mastic left from the previous job, spead your mastic and lay tile--constantly reviewing alignment and edges.


p.s. any misaligned tiles you see in the photo have been fixed :-)


  1. Looks great! We may have to try this!!

  2. Wow, what a huge difference this made!! Thank you for sharing, this just landed on my 'to do' list. Love the tile you picked too, where did you get it?

  3. That looks amazing, I never would have thought to do that!

  4. Thanks guys! Definitely steps it up a bit, now thinking about a surround/frame in the same tile for the mirror :-) @Chrissie - The tile came from HD, it was actually on clearance so we got a great deal at about $1.50 each! But Im sure this pattern is widely available from just about anywhere.

  5. I haven't been on here for a while and just the other day was wondering how you guys are doing. Turns out, you are doing great and still pumping out great house projects.
    This looks great. Congrats.

    1. Thanks man, you have a few special projects still on my list. Were just getting back into the swing, basement built-ins and spa-ish master bath on the way.

  6. How funny...we used the exact same mosaic tiles as an accent in our shower along with white tiles!! Great minds must think alike....

  7. This is awesome! It looks so great and you make it sound so easy (though I have a feeling it is not that easy). We have the all white tile too and it kills me how boring it is. I may have to give this a try one day.

    1. @colette, it totally is this easy. Just smack the tile with a hammer and pry it out. If your mastic is really gripping the drywall, you made need to replace a few areas, but other than that, its a piece of cake and makes a big impact.

  8. Just found your blog now. Good job! I like people that think out of the box and do it themselves.

    1. Hey James, thanks for stopping by. Appreciate the kudos, youve got some cool things going on yourself :)