My curbless steam shower project

Discussion in 'Shower & Bathtub Forum & Blog' started by kholsme, Mar 29, 2013.

  1. kholsme

    kholsme New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Toronto, ON
    Seeing as I used this forum extensively to prepare for my project, here is my attempt to give back a bit. This project had a lot of firsts for me. First walk-in shower build, first steam shower build, and first linear drain install. I figured since this was a bathroom in my own basement, I should try to learn as much as I could from it. Go easy on me if things are not totally flush. Also this is my first time posting, so bare with me.

    So my first challenge was the shower pan. Unfortunately I did not take pictures of the shower pan assembly. I will try to describe the process. When I poured the new basement floor I formed out the shower pan area (see first pic) so that I could create the pan below the floor level after the floor was poured. This would allow for a curb-less design. The design of the pan is one that slopes from both the wall and the entrance to a center linear drain. If I had the choice again, I would have roughed the drain line over more so that I could have had one slope to a linear drain on the wall side.

    The linear drain was a great choice. It allows for large format tiles, which result in a seamless transition from outside to inside the shower using the same tile. Besides that, the look is unmatched. Hopefully the price of these drain systems will go down. The sand mix pan in the pictures has been covered with a thin coat of thinset to create a smooth surface for my waterproofing. At this point I would like to give a special thanks to John Whipple for answering some questions via email, as well as all the posts he has put out there to help people with the designing of linear drain shower systems. My linear drain attaches to a standard adjustable shower drain on the left side. The linear drain will sit in the trough created in the shower pan, this trough is sloped toward the drain, so that any water not making it down the linear drain will be able to make it to the weep holes below the linear drain.

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    Last edited: Mar 29, 2013
  2. kholsme

    kholsme New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Toronto, ON
    continued

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    I chose to use Aquadefense. I know that there is a debate on whether or not to use this product for steam rooms, but most of these debates were geared towards commercial style steam rooms. All I will say is that I have been using this steam room at least once a week for about a year. I still have access to the cavities around the steam room. I have yet to find any signs of moisture. I did at least four coats, not including corners, so it would have been cheaper to go with a sheet membrane but the ease of installation of Aquadefense is unbeatable. Corners and change of planes were treated with the reinforcement mesh as suggested. (to be continued)


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  3. e3

    e3 Jr. member

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    Mi.
    Did you install a vapor barrier behind the board, there is no debate about that ,its required by both Mapei and the TCNA.
  4. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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    Post(s) deleted by John Whipple
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2014
  5. kholsme

    kholsme New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Toronto, ON
    The fact that Hydro Ban and Red Guard are allowed for steam shower application, and Aquadefense was not, seemed odd to me. I would have used Hydro Ban, but I couldn't find it in my area, and Red Guard got mixed reviews when I was looking into it. John you are right, I ended up buying 4 gallons to achieve about the thickness of a credit card. I did not install poly behind the CB, which could have been a mistake. The old moisture sandwich debate had me guessing. Also was unsure of how the transition from wall to floor would work with the poly. The next time I do a steam shower I will be sure to use a product like Noble, which would eliminate the guesswork. Hopefully I will not have to rip apart my bathroom. So far So good.
  6. kholsme

    kholsme New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Toronto, ON
    Continued

    So after multiple coats of Aquadefense I created a dam to flood test. A piece of scrap mdf covered with mesh and waterproofing served as the dam, which could easily be cut out after the flood test. The last pic is a scrap fitting that I marked the water level on. Left the test running over the weekend and everything was fine. Tiling time.

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  7. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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    Nice job on the flood test.

    Did you install the top portion of the clamping drain over the bottom later or did you omit it altogether?

    Looks like a TheramaSol steam outlet. Is that right? What unit did you buy?

    JW
  8. kholsme

    kholsme New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Toronto, ON
    Yes I used the complete drain system. the screw in allowed me to set my drain height, and prevent stuff from falling in the drain when I back filled around the linear drain. I went with the full-on light and sound package as you will see later. The square cutout in the angled part of the ceiling is to accommodate the light and sound unit. I will have access to the unit from some false backed built-in shelving on the other side of the wall. You need access to the light and sound unit for any maintenance issues, and since cutting an access hatch in my hardwood floors upstairs was not an option, this design worked.
  9. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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    Nice planning tip.

    Access through a rain head ceiling mount fixture is another good idea.

    Don't you love the sound!


    JW
  10. suceress

    suceress Member

    Messages:
    159
    Location:
    LA
    Very nice! I look forward to seeing more pictures of the finished steam room. I had never even heard of the different types of coating used, so this is informative for me. I guess I need to read more posts from Mr. Whipple.
  11. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

    Messages:
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    Location:
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    You will be reading a lot. I have been posting information on my shower builds for over five years now I think. A ton of information is online. Some good. Some bad.

    A little information is a dangerous thing. The steam shower above looks great but as mentioned is not really built by the book.

    Personally in a basement shower renovation I would have used a sheet membrane from Noble to cover the entire floor in one piece. Most likely I would use Nobel Deck or Noble TS.

    The Perm Ratings for commercial steam showers has been lowered in Canada and now Kerdi is not acceptable for this application. Kerdi DS is being brought into Canada to fill this void and I have one of the first rolls. Todate we have only built one shower with it and I like it so far. The Kerdi DS is about 22mil thick or roughly 2/3 the thickeness of Noble Seal TS and roughly 1/2 the thickness of Noble Deck. Kerdi DS is more than double the thickness of regular Kerdi.

    We dropped Mapei as our primary supplier last summer after a disagreement with my local rep and some more bubbling concerns on a September flood test.

    Checking your products is key. Look at the dark colour in the Mapei above (original posters steam shower pictures). Clearly the installer used multiple coats and built it up. I would not worry personally myself with this work but its a smarter bet to use a liquid membrane approved for steam showers like Hydro Ban instead. In the Hydro Ban instructions it requires a poly layer behind the backer board and working with a rubber liner I think a safer bet than trying to figure out how to tie a poly layer into Hydro Ban. When selecting a rubber liner look for a 40mil one - Noble Company makes premium products here again and products far superior to what would most likely be included in your plumbers quote or from your local box retailer.

    Before building your steam shower it is wise to reach out to a few suppliers. I would email these three men and ask for some guidance.

    Henry Rothberg (Laticrete) <HBRothberg@laticrete.com>

    Eric Edelmayer e3 (Noble Company) <eric@noblecompany.com>

    Anyone of them can help guide you to a proper system. Each job is unique. It is rare for me to come into a project and just get going without fine tuning the design or overcoming an obstacle. It is important to understand the complete project and the building requirements of every material choice before going forward.

    I have many planning Ideabooks on Houzz.com that talk about tile selection and such for a steam shower.

    The TTMAC requires this type of work to be done with someone with five years experience. Specifying a steam shower build is not something you are going to research and learn overnight. And for the love of God do not blindly follow anyone's advice without first double and triple checking it. If you are getting help somewhere online - find out who's advice your following. It is so common for posters to post random facts they pick up or portions of an installation sheet. It is another thing completely to build them - lots of them. Do not follow the advice of someone who does not build these for a living. Chance are the person answering your question is as clueless as you at the beginning. The blind leading the blind very common.

    With summer around the corner be very careful with these liquid membranes. I have found they can flash dry trapping moisture between the layers of product themselves.

    JW
    Last edited: May 16, 2014
  12. kholsme

    kholsme New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Toronto, ON
    Is this what happened with the aquadefense in your pics? I never had any bubbling. Looks pretty gnarly.
  13. kholsme

    kholsme New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Toronto, ON
    Continued

    Tiling began. I am pretty happy with the layout. Glass mosaics in a bunch of different sizes. These would not exist if tilers were designing tiles. I had the "light and sound" hooked up at this point just to make sure it would all work before tiling.

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  14. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

    Messages:
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    Location:
    North Vancouver, BC
    Not sure why this happened. This bubbling has happened to me on about five occasions over the past 3 years. Never noticeable till about hour 50-72 of a flood test. Always in the summer this has happened - this leads me to believe it's heat related.

    Apply the product two thick is a no-no.

    Applying the product over fresh shower pans a no-no.

    This summer was the final straw for me on the liquid membranes - I still love them but the risk factor on a shower floor to me is to great to risk using a liquid membrane by itself.

    Lately we have been using Ardex 8+9 for our regular showers - I love this new product but have found that it is tricky to mix and that over an extended flood test I can get a slight film over the water. Still have not worked this out but I think I'm getting close to dialing this in.

    We have been using Noble Seal TS, Noble Flex Flashing, Noble Deck as our primary waterproofing measures. From there we switch out to Ardex 8+9.

    Last summer the framers smashed out a wall we waterproofed and I was shocked to see how easy the liquid membrane peeled back. We have done a little testing and found we are getting a much better bond of our waterproofing to backer boards that have been fully scratch coated and dried before waterproofing. I need a little more time but have got a series of tests ready to go for the actual bond strength of these different products. I'm curious how strong these products are over different backer boards.

    Products should always be tested - you should know what they look like fresh so if you see something like this your radar goes off.

    Why this product looked like this is beyond me. Could it be how it was transported? Maybe how it was stored? I don't know.

    Each shower is only as good as the products used. How you know the products are good is by product testing.

    Products need to be fresh.

    Laticrete makes wonderful products - use the best bags in the industry. That said I just bought a bag of 209 that was 13 months old. This is not the fault of Laticrete nor mine. It is however an easy way to screw up a shower build.

    "One Test is worth a thousand expert opinions" This is so true. If something does not look right, feel right - the chances are it's not right. If you want to be sure your products work - test them.
    Last edited: May 16, 2014
  15. kholsme

    kholsme New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Toronto, ON
    Continued

    I chose to go with epoxy grout. It was my first time using epoxy grout. It was more hassle, and definitely more money. Hopefully it was worth it. My thinking was that it would give me another layer of defense against moisture, as well as less maintenance, as it does not need sealing. The bench top is a remnant piece of quartz. Floor hasn't been grouted yet, that will be regular un-sanded thank you very much. We went with the tile-insert linear drain. There are lots of options for these drains including water sensing led lights. We were more interested in hiding the drain. Had the shower measured for glass (one thing I will leave for someone else). Seeing as the bathroom is not finished (home projects always seem to drag on) I have yet to take pictures with the glass and fixtures in. I will try to get on that to conclude this post.

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  16. suceress

    suceress Member

    Messages:
    159
    Location:
    LA
    Kholsme, that looks very nice! I like the long white tiles. What material is the top of the seat? I think it looks neat. Is there any way to access the space under the bench from the other side of the wall? I would think that would be a cool place to store things. I think I've watched too much "Wasted Spaces".

    Johnfrwhipple, thank you for the advice. Also thank you for showing the pictures. I never even heard of the liquid membranes before. I confess a lot of what I "know" about this sort of thing came from watching "Holmes on Homes" and "Holmes Inspection". I always see him using membranes that look like plastic. They don't always go into great detail on the products used though. I love that you constantly test things and adapt to find better techniques and materials. It's a sign of someone who truly cares about the quality of the end product and getting things done right.

    A steam shower is not anything I would ever have in a home. I have no tolerance for steam because it makes me feel like I'm suffocating. I live in a very humid climate so I get enough moisture. LOL.
  17. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

    Messages:
    4,509
    Location:
    North Vancouver, BC
    I have never once see Mike Holmes build a shower and flood test it. TV reno's are designed to sell people on products in my opinion - not teach people the best way. Building a shower to exceed TCNA or TTMAC guidelines is hard. That does not sell magazines. That does not sell product in the store.

    People want to hear the words;

    Easy,

    Quick,

    Fast,

    Cheap

    And they do not want to hear they need hundreds of dollars in tools. Not when "This saw is on special for $45.00"

    JW
  18. kholsme

    kholsme New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Toronto, ON
    Thanks Suceress, the bench top is a remnant piece of 1-1/4" quartz. We were going to go with corian, as it would be a bit warmer to the tush. I don't really like the plastic feel of corian and we couldn't find a remnant piece of 1-1/4 corian we liked. When I use the bench I just sit on a towel.

    I was thinking of using the under-bench space as a place to store towels, but I gave up on that and ended up tiling it. There is still a possibility of using this space from outside the bathroom.
  19. kholsme

    kholsme New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Toronto, ON
    Continued

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    So this is it. I have learned a lot from this build, but given another chance I would do it differently (properly). In the case of steam rooms I would use a sheet membrane type water proofing. Although I have yet to run into moisture problems, the use of a proper sheet membrane would eliminate any doubt of "vapor proof-ness" (I don't think that's a word).

    The placement of the "light and sound" unit catches water running down the slope and drips toward the end of a 20min steam. This is just a minor gripe a few drops and just towards the end. When looking into designing my steam room, sites recommended sloping ceilings to avoid water drops. Typically I have a 20min steam and not one drop of water falls from the flat section of the ceiling. I would imagine if a doubled the length of my steams I might notice a few drops, but overall I think residential designs can skip sloping ceilings altogether.

    My steam room is a bit dim. The "light and sound" unit does not put out as much light as I thought it would, but again, a minor issue. With the price of steam room rated lighting, I would have still opted for my current setup.

    So that is it. I would like to give another thank you to this forum (and esp. Mr. Whipple on the linear drain conundrum) for providing some great perspectives on things that I would have been clueless about. I can only hope that this post might help a little in giving back.
  20. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

    Messages:
    4,509
    Location:
    North Vancouver, BC
    I hope you are enjoying the steam shower sessions. I wish I had mine finished! Looks great.

    Thanks for the kind words and thank you for sharing!!! JW
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