Laying down tiles on a concrete wall is not much different than laying tiles on drywall. You may install the tiles on the surface directly without the need for cement boards. You may also use floor tiles on a concrete wall if you don't like to use wall tiles. However, make sure that the surface is smooth and flat before doing anything.
Inspecting the Surface
It's necessary to inspect the surface first before putting tile on concrete as there might be cracks, uneven areas or moisture penetration. If there is no structural damage and the wall may still be able to support the weight of the tiles, you can proceed with the work. Otherwise, you can fix the wall tiles with cement to even out the surface.
However, if moisture is present, then be sure to find suitable tiles that can be installed in wet areas. Confirm this detail with the manufacturer or the store where you're getting the tiles.
Preparing the Surface
First, chip the bumps, cracks and dents on the concrete wall with a hammer. Then, flush and fill the areas with cement. Use a flat scrap of wood to even and smoothen out the surface and let this dry for a few hours or overnight.
Once the cement is dry, apply the bonding agent that should give the surface a rough texture. This will ensure that the tiles will stick to the wall better because, unlike floor tile installation, vertical tiles might slide as you work. Next, draw even and properly spaced horizontal and vertical lines to serve as your guide when placing the tiles.
Tiling the Wall
Ideally, when you're working on wall tiles, you have to plan your layout well as it can be a time-saver.
Start by putting tiles on the bottom of the wall and work your way up. It's best to use a V-notch trowel to layer and evenly spread the mastic or adhesive for wall tile installations. Use spacers between each tile for the grout.
When the entire wall is finished, tap tiles that are slightly raised with a rubber mallet. Leave this set up overnight. The next day, take out the tile spacers and apply the grout. Clean as you go because grout can harden easily and it might be harder to remove the residue.
How to Tile Basement Wall and Bathroom Walls
The process is the same when you tile a basement wall. However, ensure that areas around pipes, wires and conduits are patched and repaired first. Ventilate and dehumidify the area before, during and after the installation because basement walls are usually susceptible to moisture.
For tiling over tiles in bathroom walls, you'll need to set up sheets of waterproof membrane in between the concrete wall and tiles. You can get this from construction or hardware stores.