How hard is it to build a shower?

Discussion in 'Shower & Bathtub Forum & Blog' started by Dorrough, Sep 7, 2009.

  1. Dorrough

    Dorrough New Member

    Messages:
    30
    Location:
    Southern Indiana
    I put in my first tile floor this year and it went great. I put down cement board, mortar bed, tiles, laid it all out square and bedded everything level like the book said. It went totally well. The tiles are perfectly flat and level, no edges sticking up anywhere, grout joints are great. So I'm thinking that maybe I CAN do the shower. This is new construction: the bathroom is framed in and right now we have a shower base we got from Lowe's for $10 because there was a chunk broken out of a front corner.

    I'm a bit intimidated by the process ... all the books say this is not trivial, you can screw it up. The toughest part seems to be laying out the mortor bed for the tiles on the floor - it has to be just the right angle to drain, and flat enough so the tiles don't crack, and never leak. I don't want to screw it up, but I do want to do it myself if I time and patience can make up for lack of experience. So do you all think it's do-able? Is there an especially good how-to guide? Any sneaky thing that won't be documented?
  2. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    I'm not sure how anyone can correctly answer your question...

    The only thing I will say is that pros that do it for a living were taught by pros and watched the process many times before doing it and when they did do it they were being guided and watched for mistakes...
  3. Cookie

    Cookie .

    Messages:
    5,658
    Location:
    .
    I think you can do it. My husband and I put our shower in, in the basement. We broke up the floor, installed the plumbing, and we bought one of those showers that are made from plastic. We didn't have a problem, and the only clue we had on doing it was from a book. That has been nearly twenty years ago, and it still is up and running, and to be very honest with you, we have never, ( and I knock on wood here) had a problem. I love showering in it, because it reminds me of camp, and I love to camp. Good luck to you.
  4. philp

    philp New Member

    Messages:
    41
    Location:
    Ontario
    Don't be intimidated - I'm no expert but I did my own shower (having never laid a mortar bed before) and if you are patient it is very do-able. I put in a Kerdi shower with bench seat, alcoves for shampoo etc., three different jet systems (not steam) - the whole family uses it and we've never had any problems (4 years now). You could also have a look at the John Bridge forums to find plenty of people who have taken on a shower build but I'm sure you can get just as good advice here.
  5. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,266
    Location:
    New England
    For help in building a tiled shower, go to www.johnbridge.com. All sorts of people have build some pretty fantastic showers there with their help...lots of pros and skilled DIY'ers. The first thing is to understand the basics...they have good articles in their 'Liberry'. Their forum has LOTS of activity - you might get 4-5 answers in minutes to a question (depends on the time of day and the type of question you ask).

    I've done a couple, and they turned out well. I do like Kerdi from www.schluter.com, but a conventional shower would be less expensive. A kerdi shower is totall waterproof, and you could shower in it without any tile, except you'd never get mortar to stick to it after it got contaminated with soap, and other crud. In a properly built shower, the tile is more the decorative layer than the waterproofing layer.
  6. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,045
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    shower

    A bit of confusion. If you have a shower base from Lowes, why do you have to worry about how to tile the floor?
  7. Dorrough

    Dorrough New Member

    Messages:
    30
    Location:
    Southern Indiana
    Long story!

    Thanks for all the good advice...the last post cracked me up! Yes, it's a good shower base, but it's just temporary. We're building a log house - well, the crew erected the logs, and the roofer put on the roof, but we're doing everything else. So far, two of us washed the walls (you should see the supports we put under some of the scaffolding to level it), stained 2 coats, clear finish 2 coats, caulked, have installed all the windows (some of them 20+ feet off the ground), all the window outside trim, the insulation in the two truss roof areas, the tongue and groove ceilings in those areas, the plumbing for bathrooms, 1 toilet, 1 kitchen sink, some temporary used cabinets (until we can make our own out of the trees we cut down to build the house, the electric panel and most of the wiring, the wood stove and chimney pipe, the drains to the septic, water softener, water heater, some of the lights, and bathroom fans. 1 tile floor, in the half bath. So far only one room (one of the bathrooms) has sheetrock and paint, and a door.

    Seeing as how "install door" involves sanding the unfinished door that came with the log kit, finishing the unfinished door, hanging the door, cutting and finishing the trim ... we've been working on it 1.5 years and still not done! So the shower is something we slapped together out of this fiberglass base that only cost $10, plus some heavy, good grade plastic, a shower rod made out of conduit, with nice curtains and rings. It's just to tide us over until I can make a beautiful one out of tile. I like things that last forever, and have some handwork in them. I met up with some tile artists, and hope to trade some other handcrafts in exchange for them firing some handmade tiles for me. Seeing how long it took me to do the other tile floor, I figure I better start planning now! Once it's up I can always sell the old pan on craigslist and get my $10 back, or use it to build an outdoor shower.

    It amazes me how long it takes to do things if you have no experience. For example, I bought these great porcelain tiles on sale - they had a kind of golden stone pattern. Then I realized that I didn't want to just put them down in any order. If I arranged them just so, I could get the light/dark pattern to flow nicely across the tiles so it looked like a continuous piece of stone. Doing that for two tiles, no problem. Doing that for 35 tiles took me hours! Then clip the corners with the tile saw, number them all so I could be sure to put them down in the right order, etc.

    Maybe we're nuts. Once the lumber we had sawn out of the trees is dried, we'll mill it into floor boards and put down a poplar floor, and use the rest to build the kitchen cabinets. I guess we are nuts. But it's a wonderful thing to be able to look around and see things you built with your own hands.
  8. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,045
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    log cabin

    Have you allowed for "shrinkage"? I have heard of log houses that shrunk up to 2" when the logs finally dried. Made for interesting plumbing situation when the bathrooms were on the second floor, and doors had to be continually shortened.
  9. philp

    philp New Member

    Messages:
    41
    Location:
    Ontario
    Then you should definitely build your own shower - mud is incredibly easy to work with and very satisfying when done and the result is totally custom. Kerdi is so good you can use sheetrock even inside the shower and the Schluter drain is square so that tiling around it is a breeze. The best thing is that by bulding your own shower you can incorporate your own themes - you could even use some of that wood - go creatively nuts!:D
  10. Davebutch

    Davebutch New Member

    Messages:
    16
    Location:
    Richmond, VA
    I was thinking the same thing. If the logs shrink even a little bit, it will be disastrous on the finished tile work.
  11. Dorrough

    Dorrough New Member

    Messages:
    30
    Location:
    Southern Indiana
    Shrinkage!

    Ah, good point. I am good to go with shrinkage for the floors and showers, but backsplashes I haven't figured out yet.

    For those who aren't familiar with log construction, most of the settling in a log house takes place in the first few days/weeks of construction, when the weight of the logs compresses the wood. After that, there can be additional shrinkage, depending on the climate and on how dry the logs were before construction. All door, windows, have to be constructed with sliding T-joints so they don't get crushed. Wallboard has to be stopped just short of the ceilings, and the gap covered with molding, so the walls don't buckle. Same for interior framed walls: these are actually constructed on two sections with a horizontal gap near the top. Oh, and we plumbed all the supply lines with PEX, so that's flexible. Drains are all attached to that subfloor, and that sucker's not going anywhere.

    The tile floor in the half bath is set onto a concrete board which is screwed onto a thick OSB subfloor which is set on glue-lam beams and joists which are set on the concrete walls of the basement and on steel piers inside the basement. Just like a normal house. I haven't yet put any cove-type tile on the wall (baseboard) because the house will continue to settle. Since this is just a half-bath, no shower or tub, we will probably put a wood baseboard in with caulk underneath to allow for just a bit of settling.

    The shower will be OK because it's on an interior framed wall. Should be standard construction.

    But there is going to be a sink along one log wall, and a tub, and there's the kitchen sink which is along a log wall along with a backsplash, and those I haven't figured out yet. I'm guessing I can do something with concrete board, and use flexible sanded caulking where vertical surfaces join horizontal ones, or maybe attach concrete board to the back of the cabinets, attach the tile to that with bullnose on top, and then caulk between the top of the bullnose and the wall? I'll be over on the Texas Tile Territory asking about that, for sure!
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2009
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