Shower Remodel Process

You may be thinking about remodeling your shower because the shower pan is leaking and/or it is just finally time to update the look and feel of your shower. Either way remodeling the shower can be a daunting and expensive project. You can hire a General Contractor to manage the entire project or you may be thinking of doing it on your own. In this article we briefly go over the general steps for putting up an all-tile shower, as outlined below.

  1. Demolition
  2. Framing and plumbing
  3. Hot mop
  4. Tile backing and setting bed
  5. Laying Tile, Grouting, and Sealing

Demolition: If you have a leaky shower pan you may be tempted to just replace the bottom portion of the shower. However, trying to link the old moisture barrier with the new often does not work well. The safest way to prevent a leak is to start fresh with new shower walls and all. This will require that you remove the old tile and the cement backer. Everything should be removed to the framing on the walls and the subfloor. If you decide to take the risk and only remove the bottom portion of the shower; you still need to remove all tile and cement backer to the wall studs and foundation floor at least 12 inches up the wall and the whole curb at the entrance.

Plumbing and Framing: Once you have everything removed down to the framing, the next step is to get the plumbing ready. The plumbing usually requires putting in a new shower valve mixer and a new tile-in shower drain. If you are converting from tub to a shower, the drain will should be moved closer to the center. It is also a good to change the trap and riser for the shower drain, as these sometimes get damaged in the demolition and can leak or clogged from old buildup.

After the plumbing, the next step is the framing. The framing entails 10 inches of backing around the base of the shower walls and a water threshold (dam) where there are no walls. The dam MUST be higher than the drain (usually 4 inches high). If you are framing-in any benches, they must be solid on all sides with blocking around the bench on the wall. You can find more details and pictures of the framing requirements in our Site Prep page.

Hot Mop the Shower Pan: Call us to take care of the hot mopping. An alternative to hot mopping is laying down a vinyl membrane that you can find at discount home improvement stores. However, most professional contractors prefer to hot mop because it is time tested to provide the best protection. By hiring us to hot mop you are getting trained specialists who guarantee your shower pan will be being built right.

Tile Backer and Mud Base: Once the hot mop is complete, the next step is to put up the tile backer and base. Laying tile is a state regulated trade that requires a license for jobs in excess of $500. We are not licensed tile setters. There are several options for tile backing. Whatever method is used it always needs to come AFTER the hot mop. On the walls the tile backer needs to overlap the hot mop to make sure moisture flows into the pan. ALWAYS MAKE SURE THAT THE HOT MOP IS NOT PUNCTURED BELOW THE DAM/FLOOD LEVEL. This means you should not screw or staple below this level. On the hot mop floor it is best to float a lath reinforced mud base that is sloped. It is on this base and backing that you will apply the adhesive and begin laying the tile.

Grouting and Sealing: Once all the tile has been set you will need to fill the gaps. This is usually done with grout. After grouting, the final step is sealing the tile. Some stone tiles are more porous than others but you should always apply a protective sealer. This lessens the amount of water that gets soaked up by the tile and keeps it looking nice longer.

These steps are a basic overview of the shower remodeling project process. You can try to do it all on your own, you can act as your own contractor and hire someone for each unique trade, or you can hire a general contractor to manage it all for you. Whatever path you take it helps to have a general understanding of what needs to happen before you begin.

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