How to Install Wall Tile Around a Door Frame

Working Tiling Around a Door
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Tiling a floor in a home or room that is in the process of being built or remodeled is fairly straightforward. You lay as many whole tiles as possible and you cut around obstructions only when needed. This is relatively simple because so few obstructions are in place at this time.

While there will be pipes and toilets to work around, the room or home has no baseboards, door trim, cabinets, exterior door casing, or doors.

But when you are remodeling a completed home or room, you run into obstructions all the time.

One common scenario is when your new tile meets the door casing or trim—the vertical trim running along the sides of the door opening. Do you cut the tile to fit around the casing or do you cut the casing to fit against the top of the installed tile?

When to Cut Tile Around Door Trim

The short answer: In nearly every instance, try to have the door trim or casing overlap the tile. This produces a cleaner, more professional look. Plus, while removing the trim to cut it or undercutting it can be difficult, it is not as difficult as making several cuts into the tile for the tile to form-fit the trim.

Also, there is no visually effective way to cover up the seam between the casing and tile. Caulking the seam will work for a while, but caulk never looks good for long, especially on a floor. 

Options: Tile Around Door Casing
Strategy Description Why?
Install flooring before everything else Install all of the ceramic tiles in the room first. Then, install the door casing, leaving a small space between the top of the tile and the bottom of the casing. Ceramic tile is difficult to cut at odd angles, while wood is much easier to cut. This allows you to butt the tile right up to the door frame. When the casing is installed, it hides the cut edges of the tile.
Install casing first, leaving space Use a spare tile as a guide to keep the bottom of the door casing high enough so that tile can later be slipped in underneath. Be generous about your spacing, because you will also have thinset mortar under the tile. Do this when you need to install the casing now and the tile later. You're cutting the casing short to allow room for the tile.
Install casing first, then cut a space If the door casing has already been installed before the tile, cut the casing while it's in place, using a spare tile as a spacing guide. This is the least desirable option but is acceptable if done cleanly. Essentially, this is the same as the above option, except that the casing is being cut in place, rather than installed with a space for the tile.

How to Cut Casing: Cut in Place or Remove It

Cutting door casing is easier than you might think. You can either remove the trim and make a straight cut across the bottom or you can leave the trim in place and undercut it.

Cut in Place

You can make this cut with a small, flexible handsaw, like a mini version of a standard rip saw. A better tool is an undercut saw, which looks like a spatula or pie server but has a squared-off nose and saw teeth along three edges. 

To use an undercut saw, place a tile on the floor with a spacer beneath to represent the tile mortar, and hold the tile against the casing. Set the saw flat on top of the tile and simply work it back and forth to cut the casing at the tile height.

As an alternative, you can use a multi-tool oscillating tool with an undercut attachment.

Remove the Trim

If you can remove the trim without damaging other trim or the wall, this is another viable option. With a flat prybar resting on a protective board, gently pry back the door trim at various spots.

With the trim fully removed, you can then place it on an electric miter saw or use a manual miter box and saw. Cut off a section of trim equal to the tile, plus all of the layers under the tile such as mortar and cement board.

One advantage of this method is that you can touch up the bottom of the trim with paint while the trim is removed.