The biggest problem with installing ceramic tile on the ceiling — aside from figuring out if local building code requires you to do so — is getting the actual tile to stay put. It doesn’t take much more than a couple of tiles falling on your noggin before most people give up and call a professional. If you want to see what all goes into laying (or should it be called “levitating”?) tile on the ceiling, follow this handy guide to see if you’re up to the task, or if you’d rather have Flooring Masters & Professional Remodelers come show you how it’s done.
First, you’ll want to look for non-sag thinset. Non-sag thinset is basically just thinset that is stickier than regular thinset, so when you do place those tiles above your head they don’t come crashing down on your head later.
Ceiling Tile Installation
Before you start hanging ceramic tile on the ceiling, you should always have the substrate properly prepared.
Always ensure that the ceiling substrate is screwed onto the joists securely. There is a whole different set of physics at work on a horizontal surface that don’t apply to a vertical wall tile. Basically, the entire weight of the full tile is pulling constantly on every inch of your tile. So, you want whatever it is attached to be fastened securely.
The first thing is to burn your thinset into the ceiling substrate. “Burning” thinset into something simply means using the flat side of your trowel and skim-coating the surface. It fills all the areas of your substrate or tile (whatever you’re burning it into) and ensures that your thinset gets a good grab on whatever it is.
You need to burn thinset onto the back of the tile, too. This will fill all those little squares and ensure that you have every area on the back of your tile adhering to thinset. You want to give it every square inch possible to grab onto that ceiling.
Now you’ll want to flip your trowel over and comb thinset onto the back of the tile. “Combing” thinset just means using the notched side of your trowel to, well, comb the little lines all in the same direction.
Now we get to the secret ingredient of ceiling tile installation–suction! All that thinset you combed into pretty little lines on the back of your tile? Take the end of your trowel and draw a bulls-eye in it. This bulls-eye is what keeps the tile from dropping on your head.
Now that you have your bulls-eye on the back of your tile, go ahead and press it up onto your ceiling. You want to push hard, to the point you actually hear air squishing out from inside that circle of thinset. This creates suction on the back of your tile and helps the tile stay put until the thinset cures. Once that happens it doesn’t matter what shape your thinset is on the back. The suction is needed to keep it there only until the thinset is cured.
Continue to do this with the rest of your ceiling tile–every one of them, even the cut tiles. Draw the bulls-eye and stick it up, rinse and repeat. To get them to stay in the proper spot with correct grout line size and lined up you can actually stick spacers in them and use blue painter’s tape to keep them in the proper spot relative to one another. Just get a piece of tape about 3 to 4 inches long and stick half of it to one tile then pull that tile slightly toward the one next to it and stick the tape to the next one. This will keep each tile tightly against the spacer and the tile next to it so your grout lines don’t go all wonky.
You do not need to comb thinset onto the ceiling. That may sound counter-intuitive, but simply burning the thinset into the substrate will give you plenty of grab onto the tile. You do not need to be concerned with 100% support as you would on a floor–no one will walk on your ceiling except maybe Spiderman.
Once you get all your tiles up there you can still push them upward to get them flat with each other. Just lay your straight-edge across them as you would on a floor and make any adjustments needed. You do not want to pull them down to adjust them. You will lose the suction doing this. You want them really close to flat before you make any final adjustments.
Always push up to make adjustments. If your tile is way out of whack pull it down as you are setting them to add or take away thinset on the back. Do not pull them down once you have them all set and taped.
That’s it. That’s how you get ceramic tile on the ceiling to stick.
Ceiling Tile Designs
There are two basic designs for your ceiling tile. You can either line up all the grout lines, which requires planning, or you can install the ceiling tile on-point, diagonally. This is simply a personal preference – whichever you think would look better in your shower is the one you should choose.
If you do not install your ceiling tile diagonally, make sure your grout lines are lined up, otherwise it’ll look like an amateur did it (which, if you’ve made it this far, might really be the case).
When installing ceramic tile on the ceiling you want to install the tile on the shower walls all the way up to the last row before the ceiling. If you’re lining up your grout lines rather than installing them diagonally you can then draw lines on your ceiling as guides to where your tiles should be.
Feeling overwhelmed by all the technical jargon? Why don’t you check out our page on the various types of tile we can install for you, then call or email Flooring Masters & Professional Remodelers today for a free consultation. We know you only want the best in flooring. That’s why it’s important to hire the best in the business, and at Flooring Masters & Professional Remodelers, we can guarantee you that’s us.
Flooring Masters & Professional Remodelers have been flooring and remodeling Kentuckiana for over 30 years. Our certified installers have the ingenuity and know-how to assist you in choosing the perfect floors for your home. Don’t take matters into your own hands—let us guide your next project.