Installing Redgard on Shower Walls for Tile

by Roger

Elastomeric or liquid waterproofing membranes are one of the most convenient methods of waterproofing shower walls before installing tile. These membranes consist of products such as Custom Building Products’ Redgard and Laticrete’s Hydrobarrier and Hydroban and Mapei’s Aquadefense. I will refer to all the membranes as Redgard for the purposes of this post, but they all work nearly the same way.

These materials can be installed with a regular paint brush, paint roller, trowel, or even sprayed on. They are applied to your shower walls then tile is installed directly onto it. When I use these products I always use a cement-based backerboard as the wall substrate without a plastic vapor barrier.

redgardIt is imperative that you do not install plastic behind your walls since this would create two waterproof membranes with your substrate between them. Having two barriers this close together leaves open the chance of trapping moisture between them with no way for it to evaporate. This may lead to mold.You must also tape the backerboard seams with fiberglass mesh drywall tape.

The easiest way I have found to install Redgard is, after the walls are prepped properly, start with a paint brush and thoroughly coat all the corners and angles. The membranes are more the consistancy of pudding than paint so don’t be afraid to scoop it out to spread it. You should be used to it after a few minutes.

After all the corners are coated I use a paint roller and pan to cover the walls. Redgard is bright pink – I mean pepto-bismol pink, it almost glows in the dark. This is useful in that when it is dry it turns dark red. The other membranes are similar. Laticrete’s Hydroban, for instance, goes on light green and dries forest green.

Just thoroughly coat the entire inside of your shower until the whole thing is bright pink – enough so it can be seen from space. That’s it – go have an adult beverage until it dries. You must then do a whole second coat the same way. Make sure the first coat has fully changed color before applying the second coat. If you are using a roller Custom (the company that makes redgard) recommends that you roll on the first coat horizontally and the second coat vertically to ensure full coverage. (Thanks for that Davis)

Most of the product specifications for these materials state two coats to be sufficient, and it probably is. I normally use three coats. I’m weird like that. Unless you have a steam shower or something similar, two coats would probably be enough. It’s up to you.

These products shrink a bit as they dry so you must make sure that it has not shrunk enough to create holes or voids in places such as corners and seams. You need a full coating for the product to be effective. When you are finished you should let the walls completely dry for a day before tiling.

Your tile can then be installed directly onto your walls over the membrane with a proper thinset mortar. When these products set they will create a rubber-like coating on your walls that is waterproof. When used on shower walls it is a (relatively) quick, effective water barrier for your installation.

These products can also be used as waterproofing on your shower pans in leiu of a regular pan membrane. Make sure your specific product includes specifications for this application if you choose to do that. Check the respective website for your particular product. I do know you can do this with Redgard, Aquadefense, and Hydroban.

I also use these products for main or additional waterproofing on things like shower niches and concrete wall in basements, places where it is difficult to have a plastic vapor membrane behind the backerboards. Basically any place that does not have waterproofing between the tile and shower framing. I always have Redgard with me. The versatility of these products make them a integral part of my shower waterproofing toolbox.

The only drawback for these products, if you choose to look at it that way, would be the price. They are a bit expensive. You may be able to get better prices by ordering online but make sure you take shipping costs into consideration. You can get a gallon of Redgard online for about $45.00 plus shipping. That should be enough to do a regular tub surround. That is a five foot back wall with two 3 foot side walls. For larger showers you can also get a 3.5 gallon bucket.

Make sure to check the website for your product, they have a load of information for them. As always, if you have any questions feel free to leave a comment for me.

RedGard website

Laticrete website

Need More Information?

I now have manuals describing the complete process for you from bare wall studs all the way up to a completely waterproof shower substrate for your tile. If you are tiling your floor and walls and using a liquid membrane you can find that one here: Liquid Topical Waterproofing Membranes for Floors and Walls.

If you are just tiling around your tub or pre-formed shower base you can find that manual here: Liquid Topical Waterproofing Membranes for Shower Walls.

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Paul

Help! Okay my first shower build, and already I have a big problem. I have two windows (glass blocks) that I have already installed. I know now I should have wrapped the frames. Any suggestions short of cutting them out? They are siliconed in. Of course inside and outside. Sorry if this is not the right place to be asking this question.

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Blg

I applied my red guard and I have a few fishes that I missed and a couple of large gloosnof the stuff that dried on. Do you have any advice for removing high points or ridged in dried redgard?

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Roger

Hi Blg,

You’ll need to slice them down with a razor blade, then go back over the area to ensure it’s waterproof.

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Ryan

Could I go overboard and coat my pan liner with aquadefense or would it mess up the pan?

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Roger

Hi Ryan,

It shouldn’t mess up the pan at all, but there’s really no reason at all to do that.

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Justin

Roger,
Should I use RedGard or any other product on the plywood subfloor around the tub? Or is it unnecessary? Thank you for all the help.

Reply

Roger

Hi Justin,

You can it you want, but it’s not necessary.

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Goodnightjohnboy

How did people waterproof a shower/tub enclosure tile installation in the past before there was any waterproofing membrane available anywhere? These products are pretty new & expensive. Are they more effective than just running a bead of silicone in all substrate corners/crevices before tiling?

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Roger

They used plastic or roofing felt behind the backerboard, it’s called a traditional waterproofing method. Maybe read through my free shower waterproofing manual? You can get it in the library. Before that tile was installed over mud walls (wall mud), behind the wall mud was wire lath and roofing felt or tar paper.

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Gilles

Hi Roger
I want to fix my shower area, for the backer board can you use Gypsum (Mold Resistant drywall) with Redgard waterproofing, or are the cement products (Durock / wonderboard my only option? Thanks.

Reply

Roger

Hi Gilles,

You can use a product like dennshield if you want, but not any type of drywall at all. It’s that or cement board.

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Dave

I have a PVC pan liner in my walk-in shower under the the pre-slope. I’m red guarding all the cement boards and skipping the tar paper or plastic between the backer boards and the studs. Question is, should I red guard the final slope as well? Heard some talk about that being a bad idea because of a possible mold sandwich developing between the PVC liner and the shower floor.

Reply

Roger

Hi Dave,

You mean you have a liner OVER your pre-slope? If that is the case then no, do not install redgard on the final slope. If you do in fact mean you have a liner UNDER your preslope I would ask you why.

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Brett K

It will not adhere to redgard. Siliconized caulk, latex caulk, or Lexel will adhere to redgard. Terrastone over redgard will create a moisture trap, so you may be in a bit of a future problem if moisture wicks up the wall behind the Terrastone.

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bob nine

I have a shower constructed of Terestone which calls for a silicon adhesive caulk for securing the wall panels. I am reworking the riser board below the bench seat due to a leak and will install cement board and then Redgard. Will silicon adhesive stick to Redgard? Thanks very much.

Reply

Roger

Hi Bob,

Yes it will.

Reply

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