We’ve come to the second part of the DIY shower adventure, and it’s only taken me four months from when I framed in the walls to get here. Hey. Don’t judge… things will be moving much quicker from here on out, which means I might get to shower once this year.
Hey, I’m kidding. Like Queen Elizabeth I, I bathe once a month ‘whether I need it or no. ‘
Let’s talk about the shower, shall we?
When I was done framing, it looked like this.
Since we had the drywall installed professionally, I marked the tile level for the drywallers, and they left it like this:
You might have noticed the addition of the pan liner in this image. It doesn’t necessarily need to be done before the drywall. We’re working with some awesome plumbers on the house and they installed the liner for us. (They are all about letting me DIY, but they strongly recommended that I let them to the liner and have a pro do the pan… but we’ll get to that later.)
Regarding the drywall, we talked to our installer about needed to use green-board or anything special around the shower. As a DIYer, I’d have done it with the green-board, but he deemed it unnecessary. I’ve read up a bit on green-board (essentially gypsum board with a wax coating) vs mold resistant drywall, vs plain old wall board, and here’s the thing… It’s a personal choice. We may regret it, but we do trust our drywaller so we went with his recommendation. A tile guy I talked to said even if he wasn’t going to tile to the ceiling, he’d still probably just use cement tile board to the ceiling and then finish it off like drywall at the top.
So there are some options out there, and I think it’s a good idea for everyone to make their own informed (or in our case, sleep-deprived) decisions about what materials to use around a wet space.
Shower Pan Liner
The shower pan liner is essentially a piece of thick rubber that is attached over the subfloor and will be covered by a mortar shower pan. Everything I’ve read on showers suggests that even if you have a concrete or otherwise “water impervious” floor do not skip the shower pan liner, or you will experience leaks.
If you’re building a standard sized shower, there are some pre-made, ready-to-tile options out there. For a custom sized shower (or one with a seat, like ours) using the rubber liner was necessary. Here’s a version from Oatey that can be purchased online.
As you can see, the plumbers used one full piece for the entire pan, including the bench.
Adhesive was used to secure the liner to the subfloor, and any corners were reinforced with something I can only refer to as “heavy black sticky material”.
I’m assuming it’s similar to these dam corners sold at Home Depot.
The corners of the liner were folded a lot like presents, and I’ll tell you, it really added to the thickness in those spots, which was challenging during the installation of the tile board.
The last thing to keep in mind about the liner is basically what the plumbers drilled into my head after they installed it: You DO NOT poke holes in the liner. No screws, no staples, no shooting lasers out of your eyeballs, okay?
Layer 1: Tar Paper
I’m going with a three layer system here… tar paper, tile board, and then a Durock tile membrane. Overkill? Maybe. But then again I don’t want my shower to leak and eventually collapse through the floor into the basement because if you haven’t heard, I plan on living in this bathroom when it’s finished.
Tar paper is basically your last ditch insurance plan in case anything else leaks. You can also use other waterproof membranes, but I read tar paper was the most common, and I also had some leftovers handy from the roof. Here are the basics.
- Install from the bottom up, lapping the paper like you would shingles.
- Staple to studs.
- Seal seams with roofing tar.
Here’s the first layer:
The tar I used:
And here’s a seam getting tarred. We skipped the feathering for this portion of the program.
The shower with all tar paper installed. (Ignore the super dirty piece please. We ran out of “clean” stuff at the very end.)
Since we’re doing the tub surround for our second bathroom at the same time, here’s how that looks.
The tar paper is overlapped onto the tub nailing flange.
Layer 2: Tile Board (aka Cement Board)
After the tar paper is on, joy of joys, it’s time to install the tile board. Like drywall, this is not exactly my favorite activity, but it was a small space and it only took the better part of a day.
First off, the thickness of the tile board should match the thickness of any drywall it adjoins, which most likely will be 1/2″.
- Drywall square
- Tape measure
- Sharp utility knife
- Drywall saw
- Tool for cutting holes if necessary (I used a combination of my drill and the Rockwell Sonicrafter. A Dremmel would also work.)
- Drill & drywall screws
I enlisted this bearded dude to help with holding the square:
Scoring the piece:
And here are the first several pieces attached to this wall. I have to say that I did this part on my own, and like the drywall incident last year, I should have had the video camera set up for getting that top board in place. Can we say awkward? Yeah.
But, it got where it needed to go. A couple of things I want to mention about attaching the wallboard:
- I used as few screws as possible (less holes the better)
- No screws went where the liner meets the sides (5-6″ from the bottom)
- Spare pieces of wall board were used to shim the bottom piece off the shower floor. The guy who is going to do the pan recommended 3/8-1/2″ space.
One of the trickier things was cutting the board to fit around the bench. You might remember from when I framed it, we gave the bench about a 3/4″ slope forward. To try an make an accurate cut I used a level and a tape measure.
Then, since I was removing the board from two directions the whole score-and-snap method wouldn’t work, but a drywall saw did the trick just fine.
I also took advantage of the fact that I have my Own Personal Engineer and had him mark the holes for the plumbing.
Holes for pipe were drilled with a 7/8″ drill bit, and I got to use my Sonicrafter for the square holes. (Love that tool.)
And that’s really all there is to it.
Here’s how the bath tub surround looks in our full bath:
Next up: Using the Durock Tile Membrane for a third layer of protection.