drywall, backerboard transitionWhen you tear out and rebuild your shower walls you are left with a transition between the old, existing drywall and the new stuff – cement backerboard or drywall (if you’re using kerdi). Whaddya do with it? And how do you do it? And why am I the one asking questions – that seems backwards.

If at all possible, when you remove the old stuff you want to cut a straight line down the drywall to make for a clean transition. If it isn’t straight or was simply torn out without any regards to actually rebuilding it, then find a spot where you can cut a straight line from top to bottom. You want to have a level line for your transition.

So before you begin you want something similar to that horrible graphic right there I just created with a bottle of scotch and my toes. The left side is looking into the wall cavity with one stud, that big brown looking thing? Yeah, it’s supposed to be a wall stud. You are not allowed to give me crap about my lack of Photoshop skills!

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Another request from one of my readers, this time concerning weep holes. As you may know I answer every question I’m asked here on my site when I sober up get home from work. I have tried to explain in the comments section several times where to create weep holes in a tub or shower (acrylic base) tile installation and now realize it’s a difficult thing to do with words.

So when Kurt asked me to clarify exactly where they go a stroke of genius hit me! (Yeah, I’m slow sometimes) I have pictures. Well, not exactly pictures of the weep holes themselves, but I can at least let you know where they are.

When you have a tub which does not have specific spaces for a weep hole you need to ‘create’ them in your caulk line. Let me back up here a second and explain what weep holes are and why you need them.

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How to Drill a Hole in TileMake a hole!!! Ummm, sorry, had a little flashback there for a second. Where was I? Oh yeah, drilling a hole in a tile. When you tile your shower wall you will usually have at least one or two holes that need to be taken out of your tile. This is often a huge pain in the ass and sometimes difficult to do without cracking the tile. So I’m gonna show you how I do it. This will not guarantee that your tile will not crack! It does, however, greatly diminish the possibility. This method works with all ceramics and porcelains as well as natural stones such as granite, marble and travertine.

If at all possible try to lay out your tile so that any pipes or fixtures fall on a grout line. If you can do this you can simply cut a small square out of the edge of it with the wet saw and forgo the whole drillin’ a hole thing. I know, it’s not always possible. In fact it rarely happens in a normal tub surround. So lets drill a hole in that sucker!

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Different types and styles of shower niches

Completed simple shower niche

Completed simple shower niche

Here is a photo of the niche I’ve used for these posts and these series of photos. If you simply want a regular hole in the wall the exact size of one tile this is all you need. If you don’t have any idea what the hell I’m talking typing about, start at the beginning here: Building a Shower Niche Part 1. More likely you’ll want to bling that bad boy out in order to make the neighbors and in-laws jealous, no?

That is what I will cover in this post. Hopefully you are reading this before you’ve cut a hole in your wall or anything else. The size, shape, location, just about everything depends on what you want your niche to look like.  I will only be able to cover some very general examples since there are, literally, endless possibilities for a shower niche.

If you have any questions pertaining to your particular installation you can always leave a comment below. I do answer every one of them – I’m just super-cool like that. :cool:

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Installing the tile

So now that you have a big waterproofed hole in your shower wall whaddya gonna do with it? (If you do not have a waterproof hole in your wall start with Building a Shower Niche Part 1 and Building a Shower Niche Part 2.) I’ll just kick back and finish my beer Pepsi while you read those.

Once your niche space is waterproofed you can do just about anything you want with it as far as design is concerned. That is not to say you should cut out and build the niche space then decide what to do with it – you need to know what you’re going to do with it before you start.

Finished waterproof shower niche

Run tile up to niche sides

The niche I’m using for these posts is simply an empty shelf in the wall. There are no additional shelves or design elements incorporated into it. We’ll get to that in a bit. This one is very simple, though. We will just place one full tile in the back and install bullnose pieces on the sides.

You can start by running the remainder of the wall tile up to and around the bottom of the niche and the sides. (I did not do both sides of my niche yet because of the distance to the back wall – you should.) Do not run the tile over the top of the niche yet.

If you’ve planned it correctly your grout lines should be lined up with the top and bottom of the niche like they are in the photo. Depending on your layout, design, or framing this is not always possible but if you can line them up it looks better most of the time.

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Waterproofing

Just look at you! Sitting there with a hole in the wall of your shower. What are we gonna do with you? If you do not happen to be sitting there with a hole in the shower of your wall read How to Build a Niche for your Shower – Part 1 and join all the cool kids. We’ll wait…

There, now you’re one of the cool kids. Now take your beer Pepsi off that niche shelf so we can waterproof it. You have a couple of different methods with which you can accomplish this.

Liquid Waterproofing Membranes

These products are usually readily available and fairly simple to use. Products such as Custom’s Redgard and Laticrete’s 9235, Hydroban, Hydrobarrier, etc. are all a thick, paint-like product which is brushed or rolled on to your substrate to waterproof it. You should only use these products if you are using a cementious backerboard as your shower substrate, they should not be used over regular drywall.

If you do have a cementious backerboard and choose to use one of these products for waterproofing simply follow the directions with whichever product you choose. Make absolutely certain that you get enough of the product in your niche to effectively waterproof it. The specifications vary but the best way I can explain it with a general rule would be the thickness of a credit card. Two or three good coats and you should have a layer on your substrate equivalent to the thickness of a credit card – that would be the correct amount.

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This four part series describes methods to create a niche in your shower wall for tile. Please read through all four parts before starting. Your layout dictates the size and placement of your niche. You need all this information before making a hole in your wall! Or don’t – it isn’t my shower, eh? :whistle:

How to build a built in shower niche / shelfFraming

A shower niche, shelf, cubby, beer Pepsi storage, whatever you want to call it is one of the most requested add-ons for any showers I build. After all, everyone needs a place to store the important stuff – like your rubber ducky, as well as the unimportant stuff like soap and shampoo. So being the super-cool, quirky, lovable (with a healthy dose of jackassery) guy that I am – I’m gonna show you how to build one.

To the left you will see a photo of a niche with a shelf – we’re not gonna build that one. It’s just there to show you what you can do with the technique I am describing. I will explain how to do that in the last part of this series.

With any shower niche there are a couple of details you should pay attention to which will make it look like it belongs there rather than something you looked at drunk one night and thought “Hey! Let’s cut a hole in the shower wall so I can put my rubber ducky in there.” That’s not really a good look – rubber ducky or not.

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Yup.

End of post.

Fine, I’ll elaborate . . .

To understand this you should understand what designates a particular tile as a ‘floor’ tile. A couple of different things determine this including the PEI Rating and Static Coefficient of Friction (that’s just fancy ass talk for how slippery a tile’s surface is).

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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. [click to continue…]

Installing cement backerboard is one of the more popular choices for a shower wall substrate. Cement backerboards include Hardiebacker, Durock, Fiberboard, wonderboard, and similar products. These materials bridge the gap between expense and effectiveness. When installed properly they will give you many, many years of durable shower construction.

The advantage of cement backerboards is that, while not waterproof, they are dimensionally stable when wet. That just means that when they get wet they do not swell up. Any swelling behind tile is a bad thing. It will lead to cracking grout, tile, and all sorts of bad things.

Waterproofing your studs

To install the backerboard you must have a vapor barrier between it and the wooden wall studs. While the backerboard will not swell when wet, your wall studs will. You must prevent any moisture from reaching them. The preferred material for a vapor barrier would be 4 mil or thicker plastic sheeting which can be purchased at places like Home Depot or any hardware store. You can also use tar paper or roofing paper, the thick black paper used under shingles. Although I personally do not use that, it is an acceptable barrier. [click to continue…]

If you need to decide which method is best for you I have a free shower waterproofing manual that you can download here. Shower waterproofing manual. Go get it – it’s free! And I’m not gonna use one of those damn annoying pop-ups! I hate those things…

There are several ways to prepare the wall of a shower for tile. Depending upon what was originally there, what stage the shower rebuild is currently in, and what type of tile you plan to install plays a minor part in choosing which method to use.

The most critical aspects of which product to choose are: how much work you’re willing to put in and how much money you’re willing to spend. The end result should be the same – a waterproof box. The methods used to accomplish that vary in effectiveness and cost. So we’ll start with what I consider the most bullet-proof method.

Kerdi Shower System

A company called Schluter makes a shower system called Kerdi. The entire system, which can include everything from the wall membrane down to the entire shower base, is considered by many professionals to currently be the top of the line in shower substrates and waterproofing membranes. And no, I don’t work for them. I don’t owe them money. And they don’t take me on those all expense paid vacations to Bermuda – bastards. I like their products anyway.

The waterproof membrane made by Schluter is called . . . well, Kerdi. It’s bright orange and you can see it from space. It is installed over regular drywall or cement backerboard with regular thinset. It makes your shower a big bright orange waterproof box that glows in the dark. Okay, it doesn’t glow in the dark.

The material is difficult to describe with words, it’s kind of like a fleece-lined rubber(ish) membrane. I like it for two reasons: It is the best available and it happens to be the easiest, least work intensive option (once you are used to working with it). While there is a fairly large learning curve to effectively work with it, Kerdi is fairly easy and very well documented. There is a wealth of infomation on the internet about it. Just Google Kerdi. Go ahead, I dare ya. Noble company also makes a similar membrane called NobleSeal, but it isn’t pretty bright orange.

Liquid Membranes

After Kerdi, a brush or roller applied liquid membrane such as RedGard works very well. It is applied with a brush or roller like a thick paint. It’s bright pink. You coat it once, after it changes to red, coat it again. Usually two coats is sufficient for any shower (except steam showers). After is sets overnight just go in and stick the tile to the membrane itself. It is a bit expensive, but they are also simple and quick to install.

There are several of these membranes on the market, the most common being Redgard. My favorite is Laticrete Hydroban. Laticrete also makes Hydrobarrier and Mapei has Aquadefense. They are all pretty much comparable.

Preparing shower walls with RedGard

If you are building a shower and want a manual describing the entire process you can find it here: Liquid waterproofing membranes for shower floors and walls

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