Tiling the shower, part 1

My scarcity over the past week is due in large part to a new project I’ve been working on (I know you all noticed I was missing, right?). Since we moved in, we’ve been using the kid’s bathroom as our shower has been nothing but studs. Well, I finally started to take steps to remedy that situation, and eventually we’ll have a nice tile shower in our own bathroom. I took a couple days off from work to go with the long holiday weekend, and spent much of that time working. And the rest, as usual, just trying to keep some level of containment on C.

I’ll walk through what I’ve done so far, but probably a much better guide, and one that I’ve been following, can be found here.

I started fresh, from just studs. If you have to do a full demo too, good luck. First thing, make sure that you have a solid “bowl” around the base of at least 6-8″ up from the floor. This is necessary for proper installation of the liner that’s going to go in later. I got a few 6″ x 6′ boards (3/4″ thick), then cut them to fit between the studs, making sure I covered all the gaps.

Next step was to prep the floor for the first layer of mortar. I cut 15# roofing felt to fit, then covered that with metal lath, and stapled in a few spots to keep it flat. Also at this time, prepare a curb (this is what the door will rest on, and keep water in the shower!). This is as simple as stacking a few 2 x 4’s (I used three) and putting a couple nails in them.

Now for the first messy part. The first mortar bed goes down directly onto the lath base. Use Quickrete’s Mortar Mix for this. Keep in mind that you need to maintain a positive slope toward the drain (experts recommend at least 1/4″ drop per linear foot), so using the height of the flange as a guide, add the appropriate height and mark on the walls so you know where to start (and make sure the lines on the walls are level!). Mix the mortar and apply, keeping your slopes, and the floor in general, as smooth as possible – you don’t really want any high or low spots. Let dry for a day.

When the first mortar base is dry, you’re just about ready to put cement board up, but first, you need some kind of membrane covering the studs – cement board is water-resistant, not water- proof. This means that it won’t mold, but moisture can still wick through, and if it hits the wooden studs, game over. Any 4- or 6-mil plastic sheeting should work (found near the paint drop cloths). They usually come in rolls, so cut to the appropriate length (make sure you go almost all the way to the floor, or at least far enough to cover the pan liner), then attach to the studs using a plastic-approved adhesive. Make sure that each sheet overlaps the one next to it by at least a few inches – redundancy is a good thing when it comes to waterproofing.

When the walls are done, it’s time for the liner. This is a 40-mil PVC and should be found in most home improvement stores. It’s tough stuff, but still be careful with sharp or pointy objects. Any hole in here will pretty much render it worthless. It can be a little stiff to work with, so take your time. It was very flexible after it had been sitting in my hot car for a couple hours, but alas, when the time came for me to install, it was cloudy and 65 out, so I managed as best I could. Make sure you only staple at the very top – you want at least six inches of pure PVC; no holes. The corners are tricky, just fold up and cram to the best of your ability. Definitely don’t cut anything to make it easier. Cut carefully around the drain, and apply some adhesive only between the liner and the bottom part of the flange. The liner should also extend over the curb, but only staple it on the outside.

When the liner is finished, you can go right onto the cement board. Pretty straightforward – cut to fit, and attach to the studs with 1 1/4″ (minimum) screws. As mentioned earlier, make sure the plastic sheeting from the walls is hanging over the liner, not behind it, before you attach the cement board. I just mounted the board for now, I’ll do the taping later, before I tile.

I appreciated the effort, but he doesn't quite have the coordination to operate the drill.

And finally, the second mortar bed. This is what the tile will actually be laying on, so take your time with it. As before, measure and level your lines on the wall, accounting for the appropriate drop in elevation to the drain. Also, don’t go all the way to the top of the drain – leave some room to account for the thickness of the tile. When the base is done, do the curb. The instructions in the link above are much better. I attached the metal lath over the curb, then did the best I could to pack the mortar in and keep it even. It was a little tricky, but it turned out pretty well.

So far, so good, but there’s still a lot to go, and then the actual showering part. This is the first time I’ve attempted anything like this, so I’m being careful and trying to follow the instructions of someone who’s done it many times before. There are lots of good resources online, so if you’re not sure of something, look it up first!

 

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One thought on “Tiling the shower, part 1

  1. […] see how we got to this point, here’s part 1 and part […]

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