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.
In my previous post I showed you how to make a niche for your shower out of Kerdi-board. If you haven’t read that you probably should. It’s gonna be really difficult to install a Kerdi-board niche if you don’t have one.
When I install shower niches I prefer for the edge of the niche to be lined up with the grout lines in the tile installation. This way it looks like it belongs there rather than looking like something that was an afterthought (I HATE that…). So it requires planning.
When I build my niche I make it the same size as the tile I’m installing (or a multiple of those tiles, like two tiles high by one tile wide). This will be the INSIDE dimension of your niche when you build it. So again – more planning.
Previously I’ve shown you how to build a shower niche using backerboard (or drywall) and Schluter’s Kerdi membrane. I did it that way for years – and still do on occasion. However, I have discovered a way to create a niche very easily with much less work and time involved – Kerdi-board.
For the purposes of this post you will need 1/2″ kerdi-board (3.5-4 square feet for a 2′ x 1′ niche) and a tube of kerdi-fix. Kerdi-fix is a urethane sealant made specifically for kerdi products and waterproofs seams. I am building a 2 foot high niche by 1 foot wide.
If you want a little something unusual in your shower installation you can always put glass mosaics in the back of your niche. It looks cool. The problem, however, is that when you buy a sheet of mosaic tile it may be one square foot of tile, but it has all those funny mismatched edges that aren’t straight. Every row of glass is offset.
This is done in order to not have grout lines in the installation line up (it’s supposed to look random) and to allow each sheet to interlock with the one next to it. In other words the left side of the sheet interlocks with the right side of the one next to it.
But if you only need one or two square sheets, like for the back of a niche, it won’t really fit in there in the stock sheet form. A reader asked me a while back if she had to order three or four of those sheets to do her one foot by two foot niche. Like the one on the right there.
(You can click on any of the photos for a larger version.)
Because the sheet is actually more than one foot wide (each row is offset) but there is no way you can cut one or both sides off and end up with a 12″ wide mosaic she thought she would need to order more to fill in the missing pieces. You actually only need two pieces, it fills itself in.
One of my readers has handcuffed me to the radiator in her basement and won’t let me go until I describe how to build a corner shelf in her shower. And she keeps giving me dirty looks. I guess I’ll do it, then.
See those little shelves right there? (You can click on it for a larger version) They’re made from the same tile that is on the walls – it matches that way. If you have a two-walled shower with only exterior walls it’s nearly impossible (or at least not very probable) to build a niche – frozen shampoo sucks. It’s also difficult to build niches if you have two exterior walls and one wall with all your plumbing – not much room there, either. So a corner shelf, or shelves, may be the way to go.
And they’re easy to make. And I don’t have pictures of the process.
The only difference in the way you install the tile on your walls is that you need to only install up to the row beneath where you are placing the shelf. You need to install tile up to that point on both walls that meet the corner. The bottom portion of the shelf is going to sit on top of those two rows directly against the walls in the corner. The next row of tile is then cut around and on top of the base shelf piece to lock it into the wall.
First decide how many shelves you need. Cut a full tile diagonally, corner-to-corner, in both directions. This will leave you with four identically-sized triangles of tile – these will be your shelf base, the part that’s locked into the wall.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.