How to Build Tile Shower

Tile shower construction requires both patience and skill. Having the right tools on hand and the right materials will yield professional results. You will be pleased with the outcome and using your new tile shower very soon.

Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Instructions

things you’ll need:

Hammer

Chisel

Shower Membrane

Concrete/cement

Portland concrete

Concrete Board (option 1)

Wire Mesh (option 2)

Thin Set/Mortar

Sanded Grout

Tiles

Tile Spacers

Trowels

Rubber Float

Tile Cutter

Level

Water

Tiling Sponge

Bucket

Utility Knife

1 Prepare your tile shower base by demolishing any existing floor, especially if it is damaged. Use the hammer and crowbar to chip away at the old base. Seek the advise of a professional if you are unsure about the drain and water pipes.

2 Once the area is prepared, make sure your sub floor is sturdy and rot-free. If it is in poor condition, you will have to remove the old and replace with a new sub floor. Follow the same pattern of the old sub floor if you have to replace it.

3 Next install the water barrier membrane, which should be a thicker grade membrane. Make sure it is several inches higher, all around, above the level of your tile shower floor. You need this extra room for adjustments as you begin to pour the concrete later on. Carefully cut around the drain opening, and secure with glue or silicone caulking to prevent any gaps between the membrane cut and the drainpipe. Secure the membrane around the perimeter base of the tile shower, as well, on the underside of the membrane, with silicone caulk.

4 Next prepare to mix your concrete, which may be done directly in the tile shower form, provided that this is an existing one that was previously framed to have a base. Start by pouring a heap of dry concrete into the tile shower base, away from the drain, and make a well in the center. Gradually add water and mix in the concrete from the sides. Repeat this process until the consistency of thick peanut butter is reached.

5 Once the concrete is mixed well, you are now ready to evenly spread it throughout the tile shower floor. Pay attention to the grade or pitch of the drain because the water must be able to flow towards it. Also, leave about 1/2 to 1 inch of room below the drain top to allow for thin set and tiles.

6 If your tile shower drain is at one end, you may consider using a cement board on top of the cement base. The advantage of this is that the floor will be evenly laid, even if the board is slightly pitched at an angle. If you have the confidence and patience to level the cement with your hand tools, then you will have to add the wire mesh layer to this first layer of cement, while it is still wet. Make sure to pre-cut the wire mesh before attempting to place it in the tile shower base. The purpose of this mesh is to prevent major cracking of the cement over time.

7 Once the wire mesh is in place and the first layer of cement was allowed to harden somewhat, the next step is to mix another batch of cement. You may want to use Portland cement at this stage, because it does not have rocks or sand in the mix. With this layer, you will be concentrating on leveling the tile shower floor to receive the tiles, as well as pitching the floor to drain properly.

8 Mix the cement in the same manner as the first batch, then take your time to evenly spread it across the tile shower floor, leaving just enough of a gap for the tiles to meet the level of the drain, once it is laid. If you are planning to use small, 1-inch tiles, you will have a lot more flexibility than with the large 12, 13, 15 or 17-inch tiles, which may actually be better for your base.

9 Once this concrete is set, prepare your space by pre-cutting and pre-fitting your tiles. Take extra care to make a circular cut in the tile for the drain, and pay close attention to how each tile lays. Use your level to determine where extra thin set may be needed to adjust the pitch of your tiles.

10 Once the tiles are cut, remove them, a section at a time, then apply the thin set and set your tiles in place. Double check the level of each tile, horizontally, vertically and diagonally for the best placement of each tile. Once all tiles are laid allow them to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions for the thin set.

11 Once the tiles are set into place by the cured thin set, they are ready to be grouted. Before grouting, cut away the excess membrane so that its edge will be hidden under the grout, if it is not going to be extended up the tile shower walls. Using a rubber float, apply the sanded grout around the perimeter and in between the tiles, using pressure to make sure the grout really fills in the gaps. Using a diagonal motion, wipe away the excess with the rubber float.

12 Clean up the tile, as you go along, with a wet sponge, removing the excess grout by wiping diagonally across the tile.

13 Once all the grout is filled in and the excess is wiped away, allow to dry according to the grout instructions before buffing away the grout haze. Allow the tile shower to cure for 24 to 72 hours, according to the instructions, before using the tile shower.

Tips & Warnings

Use tile spacers to get an evenly spaced look for your tile shower floor.

Only use sanded grout because this will give a stronger bond for the floor.

Wear gloves to protect your skin.

Wear a face mask when mixing the concrete to avoid breathing in the dust.

Do not attempt this project without consulting a professional and having your tile shower floor inspected. Make sure that this plan of action is doable for your space Always follow manufacturer’s instructions for all of the products required for this project.

Resources

How to Build a Tile Shower Pan

Building the Shower Floor Pan