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Tiling a Shower Stall

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How Do I Tile a Shower?

Currently we have a one piece fiberglass double shower stall. After years of abuse and fiberglass patching, the floor of the shower is damaged, beyond repair. We would like to have the entire unit torn out and a double tile shower area installed. I also recognize that due to the cracking, there may well be some water damage to the floor and walls behind the current shower. Anyway, I have never had to deal with tile. I have no idea where to begin. Any advice?
Nancy G.

D-I-Y Shower Tiling Experience

My husband and I recently remodeled our laundry room, turning it into a bathroom. We completely gutted the room, jack hammered through the concrete floors to put in drain lines, installed a large fiberglass shower, and a juccuzi that is 6 feet. long.

We did everything ourselves. I was a bit apprehensive about doing tile work but decided to go for it after watching it done on a few home repair shows. You may have to replace the sub floors, | recommend against using chip board. Plywood is much more durable around water areas. When I did the tiling I used a new product called tile backer board. After screwing that up against the studs the next thing to do is start the adhesive process. Don't use too large of a notched trowel. Only do a small area at a time, like for 20 tiles or so. Make sure that you use the + markers to keep the tiles spaced evenly. Start in the front most visible area on the bottom. Use a long level very frequently to assure your tiles are level because your floor may not be exactly level. If you don't finish at one time make sure you don't leave any adhesive exposed beyond the finished tiles. If you do you will have to peel it off and apply new when you restart. I used the cheaper tile scorer from a hardware store to cut the tiles. Last is the grouting. You just mix it up and spread it over all of the tiles making sure to get in the grooves well. You can buy colored grout if you desire. After grouting you sponge wipe the walls getting the excess grout off. Its actually a fun job and a rewarding one at that because you'll get to enjoy your masterpiece when you finish!
Elizabeth H

Do Shower Demolition Yourself

Demolition, typically, is cheap. With a water problem, the first order of business is to remove *ALL* of the water damaged material, and that means*ALL* of it. Any wet material that is left in place will simply continue to rot, and spread to any new material installed. The homeowner can most likely do this himself, without having to do any plumbing work. Take the fiberglass shower out in whatever size pieces can be managed, remove any wet insulation, and remove any other, non-structural damaged materials. If the homeowner is doing the new work himself, then he will have to install any appropriate shoring for damaged structural element replacement/alteration. If the homeowner is having the new shower installed by a contractor, removal of all of the damaged material before the contractor arrives will allow the contractor to give the owner a firm price for the work, as all concealed conditions will have been exposed; hence, no surprises!
Tom H

Related: Is It a DIY Job?

Things to Consider when Tiling a Shower

There are several solutions for a proper replacement. To install a tile shower first you must choose a base, either a solid prefab or a conventional lead pan (nowadays you can use vinyl sheeting) with a wet bed mortar floor poured over it. The walls should have all the old sheetrock replaced with a cement backer board. Then the tile can be adhered using a material called thinset (an inexpensive tile compatible mortar). Once the mortar has set sufficiently, grout may be applied. Since you say this is a double shower because this was at one time a bathtub stall, I would recommend replacing with a tub since they are less prone to expensive leak problems, a good water diverter for the addition of a shower head, and then tiling the wall in the same manner as described above. and I recommend a CAST IRON model for longevity and durability and comfort.

Start by Learning How to Tile a Shower

Go to your local Home Depot. They are always having FREE "how to" clinics and I am sure they are having one on tiling. They also have a video they will let you use. They will answer all your questions. I did my bathroom all by myself and it looks great! Do it. You will be glad you did. Remember to be very precise with getting it square and measuring everything out. Also when finished wait 2 weeks and be sure to seal your grout. Also give yourself at least 2 WHOLE days of not using that tub!.
Tool Girl

Compare HELOC rates.

Before Tiling a Shower, Don't Forget Permits

First of all, if there is water damage, file a claim with your insurance company. Usually dry rot is not covered but the replacement of the leaking plumbing device is ( ie the shower stall) .

You will likely need to pull a building permit, especially if the replacement of major structural rot is necessary. If you are doing the job yourself, you can go to the building and safety department at your local city hall and pull the permit yourself. When you remove the shower stall, you will most likely have some damage to the walls which will need to be repaired after the tile is installed. The room may also need painting.

Prior to the tile being installed, the tile man will install a "hot mop" shower pan. This is a wood framed pan that is mopped with hot tar. Make sure the dams (framed wood forming the pan) are made from pressure treated lumber or redwood. These will resist rot. Have the tile man bid to install a recessed panel in the wall so you can store stuff like shampoo , also a soap dish might be a nice compliment.

A new shower door enclosure will also need to be installed. Do not attempt to use your old door. Chances are you will not get it to seal correctly. Here is a rough estimate of your costs based on what a general contractor might charge.

Plumbing labor to remove and install shower head, control valves ( two trips ) $300.00
Hot mop shower pan $ 125.00
Tile labor and material standard 3' x 3' shower stall ( $1200.00 )varies with quality of tile
Framing (carpenter labor and material ) $400.00
Plaster dry wall repair ( $250 )
Painting ( $150.00 )
Cartage and clean up and mask/cover for dust control ( $ 75.00 )
Contractors overhead and profit Varies by geographic area 10-20%

Note: If you do this yourself you can save a lot on the labor and just hire the tile man.

Should I use a HELOC for home remodeling and repairs?

This job will take twice as long as you think it will , especially if you have to get various building department inspections along the way. Some inspectors may want to only see the job once and then call them when you are done so they can sign off on the permit. If you do the job yourself, call them to find out at what point they want to inspect the job. Don't plan on using this bathroom while the work is being done. Chances are it will be dusty and unusable.
Sean H.

Updated September 2013

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