Installing Ceramic Tile in a Shower

Published: 02nd May 2006
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Installing ceramic tile in a shower starts with a proper foundation. The foundation consists of WonderBoard or Durock cement board on the walls and a Shower Pan Membrane Liner in the base of the shower, if the shower floor is to be tiled too.

WonderBoard or Durock cement board, also known as backerboard, are resistant to water and are ideal materials for applying ceramic tiles to high-moisture areas. Durock can be applied directly to wall studs and ceiling joists using hot-dipped galvanized nails or galvanized wood screws.

Thin-set or an adhesive mortar can be applied directly on the WonderBoard or Durock cement board for attaching the ceramic tiles. However, fiberglass mesh tape should be applied over all seams and smoothed out with a latex thin-set prior to the application of ceramic tiles.

If ceramic tile is desired on the floor of the shower as well, then a shower pan membrane liner should be installed prior to the installation of the WonderBoard or Durock cement board.

The shower pan membrane liner is used to ensure a leak-proof shower. Shower pan membrane liners are used to funnel any water that seeps through the floor or wall grout to the shower drain below. The shower pan membrane liner is made up of a flexible type of plastic material that sits below a bed of mortar, and the tile, in the shower floor area.

Prior to installing the shower pan membrane liner, the floor of the shower needs to be pre-sloped to ensure that the water will flow towards the shower drain assembly. The pre-slope is accomplished by applying a layer of mortar to the floor of the shower unit area. The layer of mortar is troweled in such as way as to create a gentle slope from the shower wall edges to the center of the shower where the drain resides.

Once the pre-slope mortar has cured, the flexible shower pan membrane liner can then be installed. There are a couple of types of shower pan membrane liners on the market, with each having their own benefits. With either type of membrane, the homeowner needs to form and fold the material into the base of the shower area and secure it to the sides of the shower wall frame with staples and/or nails. In addition, an opening in the membrane should be cut out to allow the adjustable shower drain assembly to slip through.

With the shower pan membrane installed, the cementitious ceramic tile backerboard can then be secured to the framed shower walls. The backerboard is a rigid material that is ideal for attaching tile in wet areas such as a shower stall.

After installing the ceramic tile backerboard, a final coat of mortar needs to be applied on top of the shower pan membrane to protect it and to provide a solid base for laying the ceramic floor tile.

With the final coat of mortar cured, the ceramic tile can then be installed in the shower.

Once the tile and grout have been installed, the shower drain assembly should be adjusted so that the drain height sits flush with the finished ceramic tile floor.

For more information on installing a shower pan membrane liner, see the Shower Pan Membrane Liner Installation EBook from The Shower Pan Membrane Liner EBook will quickly teach you the step-by-step process for installing the shower pan membrane liner correctly. It includes instructions on framing the shower stall, pouring the pre-slope and shower base mortar, and installing the shower pan membrane liner.

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