Installing Tile on Ceilings

For installing tile on ceilings, you have several acceptable methods to choose from:

  • Mortar,
  • Backer-board,
  • Drywall, 
  • In some cases metal or other laminates.

You'll want to select the best substrate for the application of tile within your budget.

The following photos detail the application of a fiber-cement product backer-board. This tile ceiling was installed over a new three-walled shower tiled using a one-coat mortar bed over solid backing. To learn more about that tile installation, refer to installing tile in showers.

What You'll Need for this Installation Project

  • A level and a straight edge if the level isn't long enough to span all the studs at once
  • Backer-board
  • 15 pound roofing felt
  • Backerboard scoring tool
  • Fasteners for panels
  • Thinset mortar
  • Spacers
  • Grout

How to Tile a Ceiling

In the past, ceilings were treated as any other surface. A mortar bed would have been installed and tiled as any other wall surface. In this tutorial, we'll focus on the backer-board method since it is well suited for this application. The caveat for backer-boards is that the framing must be nearly perfectly level and on-plane. In other words, all the framing members must line up and be as close to level as possible.  Otherwise, the framing members will reflect those deviations through the tile.

Make sure the framing members are installed at the desired height and are level one to another. Use the straight edge to align the members.

In this photo, notice that the framing members have been installed level and on plane to one another.

The Manufacturer recommended that wherever there are joints or where panels terminate, adequate framing must be present. Therefore framing members were added to all perimeter joints and the field joint.

The framing was covered with 15 pound roofing felt. This step was recommended by the Manufacturer for wet enclosures.

 

 

 

Note that the felt extends down the walls and is tightly folded into the corners.

This step is important later when the wall is prepared for the mortar bed.

 

 

 

 

The next set of photos detail one of the most popular methods of cutting this product. It is measured and marked, deeply scored with a backer-board scoring tool along a straight edge, and is snapped like drywall.

The edge can be cleaned up with a razor knife if necessary.

 

 

 

 

 

The panels can be heavy and cumbersome for a one-man application. This photo details the use of a 2"X4" "dead man" to hold the pane in place while fastening. The panels are fastened using the manufacturers recommended fasteners and are spaced 6" - 8" on center through the field on the perimeter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note that the manufacturers recommended gaps were left between the panels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

These gaps were filled, taped, and feathered according to manufacturers recommendations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since this was nearly a full tile layout, a centerline was penciled in to allow enough room for a trowel pass on both sides.

What is important here is to have the grout joints match on all three sides including the front trim.

Thin set mortar was "Keyed in", combed out, and the tile was set, beaten in, aligned and spaced. If there was a good time to use spacers, ceilings are it. The spacers, however, must be removed prior to grouting.

 

 

 

 

These steps are then repeated on the other half.

 

 

 

 

 

This photo details the finished ceiling of the shower complete with the trim.