I get a LOT of questions about how to build and waterproof a bench in your shower. I’ll touch on the easiest method here, but there are a couple of different methods you can use.
I will describe simple framing of a bench with your substrate over it. You can also use after-market, pre-fabricated benches. Better Benches (google it) attach directly to your wall substrate, the top gets filled with deck mud and it gets tile. There are also several different Styrofoam products available from companies like Schluter and Laticrete. They are made from the same type of foam used for their shower bases. Although they are ‘foam’, once tiled they are more than sturdy enough to support your tile.
While you ‘can’ build a bench in your shower after you form the shower floor with deck mud, it’s always easier to make your bench first. Your floor substrate is flat, your shower floor (should be) sloped. It’s difficult to build a level bench on a sloped floor.
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.