I get quite a few questions here concerning cracking grout on a shower bench. In some form or another people are mostly asking whether they should caulk or grout the outside corner, where the bench top meets the vertical tile on the face. The reason for asking me this, however, is what I will address in this post.
Most people begin with something like ‘my grout has cracked and now water is getting behind my tile and my bench is starting to swell, there was an eclipse, my dog has burst into flames…it’s a whole thing. Should I grout or caulk that?’
Unfortunately this happens a lot (the bench, not the eclipse or k-9 flames…), and everyone thinks about it backwards. It is not the grout (or missing grout) that caused water to leak into your bench and swell the framing, it was the swelling of the framing that caused your grout to crack. Tile and grout are not waterproof. The reason you have this issue is because your bench was not properly waterproofed before tile was installed.
This post describes the top, or overlay, of the curb for your traditionally waterproofed shower floor with a liner. The stuff you stick the tile to. It assumes (my posts often assume quite a bit – they are condescending little bastards…) that you already have the curb substrate built, your preslope in, and the liner installed. Those steps are described in the first couple of posts showing you how to build all that stuff here: How to create a shower floor for tile.
First I’ll answer a few questions I get constantly:
NO, YOU CAN NOT INSTALL HARDIBACKER TO YOUR CURB FOR YOUR TILE! (Unless you are using a topical waterproofing method for your shower floor.) There is no way to attach the hardi to your liner without puncturing it, which renders your waterproofing efforts useless. You need to have wire lath over your liner to hold it to the curb and wet mud installed over that to form a substrate for your tile.
The wonderful folks at Laticrete sent me a linear drain to play with. And you know me – I bastardized it until it was virtually unrecognizable, ran it through the paces and did things you really shouldn’t do with nice, high-end products like this.
And it survived. Word on the street is that they read my blog, probably for comic relief and to instruct people what NOT to do with their products. So I’m sure they knew this when they sent it… I mean honestly, I soaked their grout in cherry Kool-aid for a week, how could they NOT know?
I did, however, put it to good use in a very cool shower. This is a brief overview of the installation of that drain.
I’ve finally gone and done something worthwhile! Well, that’s a matter of opinion, I guess, namely mine. I have written complete manuals on properly building and waterproofing your shower utilizing the different waterproofing methods.
Each manual describes a specific method so you don’t get bogged down with a bunch of information you don’t need for your chosen project. Not sure which method you want? Not sure which methods are available? Didn’t know there were different methods? Start with the free manual here: Shower Waterproofing Manual. That will help you decide which one you want to use based on time, skill and cost.
Once you figure that out you can get the manual that is specific to your particular project. Although these are all mostly completed it’s a whole process to get them ready for you guys. It’s difficult to describe but it includes half a watermelon, platypus eyelashes and a full moon – weird, right? Let’s just say I’ve been writing the damn things for close to two years – it’s not a short process.
Anyway, I do have two of them all finished up, uploaded and ready for you to devour!
I have the complete shower manual utilizing the traditional waterproofing method for walls and floors. This will walk you through the entire process for complete shower floor and wall building and waterproofing. If you are going to have a tiled shower floor and walls and need to construct the entire thing – this is the one you need. You can get it here: Complete traditional shower waterproofing method (Price goes up next week!)
And I have the manual using the traditional method for just your shower walls. If you already have a tub or pre-formed base (like acrylic or Swanstone) this is the one you need. You can get it here: Traditional waterproofing for your shower walls
You can always just click the yellow highlighted ‘Library’ tab at the top to see what’s currently available. If you have any questions just feel free to ask them in any of the comment sections on the site. I always answer them – I’m just super cool like that. I will add the new manuals to the library section as I finish them up.
Since I’m just a tile guy I”m not usually up on all the new technological crap that has nothing to do with tile, like online video or the ‘SlapChop’. I’ve decided that since I spend most of my days in other people’s showers that I should get out more and learn something else.
So naturally, since I own kitchen knives, I decided to make a video about a tile subject. So here is my first video, sans sound because in audio I sound like a drunk leprechaun, for my readers. Umm – that’s you.
And since I actually have a day job and bills to pay all you get is a time-lapse photography of the creation of a mud deck for a tiled shower floor. But I’m gonna call it a tile video ’cause Google loves that shit.
Well now we’re ready to waterproof your curb. If you have reached this post before reading the previous two, start with How to build a shower floor from the beginning. Now that you’re ready to get the curb cut and waterproofed lets get it done.
And yes, I know my pictures suck – I’m a tile guy for cryin’ out loud, not a professional photographer. Until you try to balance a liner, a razor knife, a margin trowel, and a camera while trying to take a photo don’t give me any crap about it. Oh, and you can click on any of the images for a full-size version – partake in the full glory of how much my photography sucks.
We need to start by finding the inside lower corner of your shower pan and making certain that the liner is pressed firmly against it. Then follow it up the corner of the curb and wall to the top inside corner of your curb. This is the spot at which you will start the cut in your liner.
The following five-part series gives a basic overview of building a shower floor for tile. If you would like a complete step-by-step of the entire process with all the little idiosyncrasies and details 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.
There are a couple of options to create a shower floor for tile using deck mud. The first is a single-layer shower floor which can then be coated with RedGard or a similar product or covered with kerdi to waterproof it. The other is a normal shower floor with a liner which will have two layers – a preslope, the liner, then the top slope which is then tiled. This series of posts will describe the latter.
Before we start I should note that unless you are using the kerdi waterproofing method or utilizing a liquid membrane as your floor liner you should not have the backerboard installed in the bottom part of the shower. Your waterproof membrane for a shower floor will be installed behind your backerboard. The curb and pre-slope need to be completed before installing the lower wall substrate.
Creating the curb for a wooden floor
The first thing you must do is create the outside curb of your shower. You need to create the “box” which will become the inside of your shower floor. Depending upon whether your shower will be created on a wood or concrete floor will dictate what material you use for your curb.
If you have a wooden floor you want to use regular dimensional lumber. The 2 x 4’s they carry at Home Depot – those. That is the easiest and most readily available material. Ideally you want to use kiln-dried lumber. That is lumber that is, well, dried in a kiln. By removing moisture in this manner the moisture content of KD lumber is normally between six and eight percent compared to regular dimensional lumber at close to 15%. Why does that matter? Well moisture and wood don’t mix. As it dries wood has a tendency to warp and twist. The less moisture initially in the wood the better. KD lumber is best and regular air-dried dimensional lumber is also acceptable. NEVER use pressure treated lumber – ever.