Saturday, February 6, 2010

Building a Tile Shower

Anyone who's building a tile shower should check out Schluter Systems. This product revolutionizes the way tile showers are built. Here's a little history on tile shower evolution. Traditionally the base of a tile showers was built using a mortar bed on top of a rubber membrane. The membrane was there to keep water from leaking, and the mortar bed provided the stable structure to which the tile could adhere. The sides of traditional tiled showers were made from a concrete backer board, which again acted as a stable structure that the tile could adhere to. For decades this is how tile showers were built. What a lot of people don't know is that the tile surface is not actually waterproof, water usually soaks into the grout joints and eventually dampens the structure behind and underneath it, hence the rubber membrane covering the floor and lower portions of the shower walls. In a shower that gets frequent daily use, the grout, concrete backer and mortar bed are expected to get wet, but because they're made of cement products, the dampness doesn't affect their structural integrity. This is all well and good, except we now know that substances that never dry out become a breeding ground for molds and mildew. So that's where Schluter Shower Systems excels. What Schluter Systems does is put the waterproof membrane between the tile and the structures, so the structures never ever get wet.

Sounds great, right? The old traditional method is history, right? Not really, cause there's one big difference in putting a Schluter Shower, and that's cost and time. Here's a breakdown of cost differentials. With a Schluter system, you can use drywall or blueboard as the wall structure, because it never gets wet or damp, which is far cheaper than concrete backer board. But the Schluter drain is about $100, compared to a traditional shower drain which is about $20. So depending on the size of your shower, these two offsetting costs end up washing each other out. The Schluter membrane, called "Kerdi" is also quite expensive and it comes in 2 sized rolls. I can tell you now, whatever size shower you're doing, buying one of the smaller rolls, isn't going to be enough. And the biggest additional cost, unless you are doing it yourself, will be time and labour. The membrane is installed using thin set, much like the way the tiles are eventually installed over top of it. So it nearly doubles your install labour costs. That said anyone who has ever tiled before could easily install the Shower System themselves, and there are many online resources to show you every step of the installation.

So here's my project at the various stages.

Mortar bed finished, that round thing is the Kerdi drain (NOTE: This must be used with this Shower System, the traditional drain has weep holes and will not work in this application):

Here's the shower covered in the Kerdi membrane. Make sure you have over-lapped the joints and corners:

And now for the pretty stuff. Tumbled marble floor tile (NOTE: Make sure that the tile you choose is actually 4" or 2", to fit around the drain):

And finally the wall tile and grout:


Stella said...

This is great! I'm thinking of doing this myself one day. Can you tell me a bit about how you made the little shelf?

Roncie Vic said...

Thanks Stella, unfortunately i didn't take very many photos of the process,but i'll try to describe how the nook is made. The shower happens to be 32 inches wide (three studs, 16" apart). So when i stripped it back to the studs. I had studs on either side of the back wall and one down the middle of the back wall. I basically cut a couple 16" 2x4's to run between the left stud to the middle stud. this forms the top and bottom of the nook. Then i used a couple more short 2x4's to frame in the nook to my desired width. Then i re-dry-walled everything except the nook. Over all that went the Kerdi membrane - this part is a bit tricky, as you do want to make sure that you overlap your seams. Once that was set, i tiled and grouted it. The tile in the back of the nook is extra tumbled marble that i had from the shower floor, and the sides of the nook are made of marble thresholds, exactly like the sill of the shower. Hope this helps.

Stella said...

Thanks! Very cool stuff.

Timeless Style Design said...

Your finished shower looks great and your demo story was amusing...our basement was also used as an apartment at some point in the past (probably 30+ years ago) and I think we had the same flimsy shower unit!