Sometimes I get asked how to backbutter mosaic tiles. I constantly have to tell people that you really don’t need to. There are very few instances when you’ll need to backbutter a mosaic tile. Normally if you feel the need to backbutter mosaics it is easier to simply use a larger trowel on your substrate.
Everything I normally write is about building your brand new awesome shower. However, to do that you must first remove the old, outdated, non-awesome shower. There are several ways to do this, I’m gonna show you the easiest.
A lot of people will go in and chip every tile off the wall (don’t laugh, they do it…), then remove the drywall (or what’s left of it) to get down to the studs in order to build the new stuff. You don’t need to do that. It’s time-consuming, messy and will give you a fairly crappy attitude about the project right from the get-go. (Did I just type ‘get-go’??? I need a beer…)
Most existing tiled showers being torn out are ‘builder’s grade’ showers, that means 4×4 or 6×6 tiles with a bullnose tile, normally 2″ wide, along the edges. Chipping each tile off the wall will waste an entire day. So you’re going to remove entire portions of the wall at a time.
The first thing you want to do is chip off the bullnose, or little rounded pieces, along the edges (and top, if you’re not going to the ceiling) of the shower. If you notice in the photo to the right I’ve already done this. [click to continue…]
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.
But you can do it if you wanna.
One of the most frequent questions I get asked is ‘What size and type of trowel should I use for…?’ The proper answer to that is ‘whichever trowel gives you the proper coverage for your particular installation’.
So there really isn’t one perfect answer to that question, a lot of factors are involved. But I’ll try to help you out.
Proper thinset coverage
The first thing you need to know is what constitutes proper coverage. As stated in ANSI A108.5 3.3.2 for installation of tile on floors; “Average uniform contact area shall not be less than 80% except on exterior or shower installations where contact area shall be 95% when no less than three tiles or tile assemblies are removed for inspection. The 80% or 95% coverage shall be sufficiently distributed to give full support to the tile with particular attention to this support under all corners of the tile.”
Let me translate that for you:
When you build a shower you will eventually need to make some holes in it – it’s just part of the overall process. You’ll need to install frames or hinges for your shower doors, grab bars, shower curtain rods, a picture of your pet iguana – whatever. The problem is that now you have that completely waterproof shower you really don’t want to go poking holes into the waterproofing.
No matter which waterproofing method you’ve used any fastener penetrations will have to punch a hole into it. You want to make sure you install your screws properly in order to maintain the integrity of the waterproofing. You don’t want to ruin all your hard work because you need to drive a screw through it!
The first thing you need to do is mark the exact locations of your screw holes. Most things like grab bars come with little templates you can hold up and get exact placement. With shower door frames and stuff like that you can hold up the frame piece and mark the correct location.
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.
I’ve just received another question in the comments section asking how to cut larger holes in tile. Holes for things like the controls in the shower, shower lights, toilet flanges, etc.
My normal smart ass answer is: Mark the circle and remove everything that is not a tile with a hole in it.
The short answer is with a grinder and a diamond wheel.
The slightly longer answer is to draw your circle, take the grinder and plunge it into the tile,, straight down, inside the markings of the circle. Continue this around the entire circle until the large piece is out. Then go back around the circle at about a 45 degree angle and take out the rest of the circle just around the markings.
See, difficult to visualize, isn’t it? (I understood it perfectly well…)
Glass! Awesome! (I like glass tile…)
It is, however, fairly spendy. It is also a highly specialized installation when used for the whole installation. You need to understand the type of glass (there are three different manufacturing processes), acceptable processes, proper installation procedures and what type of glass can be used where.
It’s a lot.
So when you’ve found that perfect glass tile that would look great in your shower three things will happen:
- You will look at the price and multiply that by the square footage of your shower
- You will immediately go into shock
- You will decide that maybe a porcelain shower will look okay after all…
Proper Expectations and Applications
In Tile and Stone Sealers Part 1 I explained how sealers work. If you haven’t yet read that please do so. It will give you a base understanding of how they get into your tile and what they protect against. It will help you understand what you’re looking for and also help decode some of the terms you may find here.
When choosing a sealer the first decision you should make is what you are trying to protect against. Silicone-based sealers protect against water-based stains – coffee, tea,
beer Pepsi, stuff like that. Fluoropolymer-based sealers protect against oil-based stains – cooking oil, body oil, shampoo, stuff like that.
Easy enough so far?
One of the problems with waterproofing a shower is the fact that you NEED to have holes in it. The cutouts for the shower head, shower or bath controls and any other fancy stuff you saw in that magazine. The problem with holes in a waterproof shower is that they make it not so waterproof.
So how do you waterproof a hole? (Please DO NOT email me with the punchline to that joke!)
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.
I get a LOT of questions from my readers about basic shower construction. I understand that my readers don’t consider this stuff basic and there’s no problem with that. The problem is that I end up answering the same questions over and over and over… So, to save what very little is left of my sanity (which is a number roughly equivalent to absolute zero) I will cover some basic things here so I can simply reply ‘read this’.
If you’ve been channeled to this page by one of my smart-ass comments please take no offense to it, I’m here to help. Please understand that I currently have over 12,000 comments (questions) on this site (seriously) which I’ve answered – every one of them. I’m just trying to make your life (mine) easier. I will continue to answer every question I’m asked, I’m just super cool like that. If, after reading through this, you still have questions feel free to ask them in the comments below.
You can also download my shower waterproofing manual which should answer a lot of questions and cover basic techniques and methods you may be confused about. Go ahead, it’s free. So without further ado (doesn’t even look like a word, does it?) let’s get on with it. (For all my readers who feel the need to correct me: I KNOW it’s actually ‘adieu’ – I was being facetious. Thanks. )