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Leak-Proof Showers

Tile shower installations are beautiful, but it’s important to use the proper installation techniques and materials to ensure water stays inside the shower where it belongs. Renovate Your World looks at the latest technologies for long-lasting success.
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a tile and stone installation products company in Plattsburgh, N.Y., created its Schluter-Shower System for professional installers and do-it-yourselfers who want to install ceramic tiles on shower walls or tub surrounds made of standard drywall instead of cement board or other specialized tile backers. The system

Farrell Gerber and Joe Cook of Tile Redi show their one-piece shower pan. Photo courtesy of Tile Redi.
Farrell Gerber and Joe Cook of Tile Redi show their one-piece shower pan. Photo courtesy of Tile Redi.
consists of four primary components: a prefabricated tray, a shower curb, a waterproofing membrane and a drain. When used together, these pieces make a watertight seal, says Andy Acker, director of training for Schluter Systems.

The shower tray and curb are used without a mortar bed. Comprised of expanded polystyrene, they are lightweight and easy to install. The tray has a pre-sloped base that can be cut to size and affixed using a thin-set mortar. Schluter-KERDI is a sheet-applied waterproofing membrane made of pliable polyethylene that is covered on both sides with fleece webbing. The sheet is applied to the walls, corners and floor of the shower using thin-set mortar in much the same way wallpaper is installed—without the challenge of matching patterns. KERDI must be overlapped by a minimum of two inches at all seams in order to create a totally watertight system. Tiles are then set directly onto the membrane using thin-set mortar.

Andrew White, a homeowner in Rochester, N.Y., used the Schluter system for a custom tile shower he built to replace a fiberglass shower that was leaking in his master bath. “I knew I wanted a custom tile, glass block shower that would last me for years to come, so I started educating myself on the basics of traditional shower pan building,” he says. He chose Schluter’s system because, as a do-it-yourselfer, it went in easily and the drywall was less expensive than using cement backerboard on the walls.

A Prefab Shower Base
Joe Cook, president and CEO of Tile Redi in Coral Springs, Fla., wanted to find a way to get around having to build a custom shower base from scratch every time a contractor installed a tile shower. His innovation was Tile Redi shower pans—pre-formed, one-piece molded shower modules that come with fully integrated drains, curbs and splash walls. Each unit comes pre-pitched ¼-inch per foot to the drains. These shower pans are l00 percent leak-proof when manufactured and no additional waterproofing is required on the job site.

“Ceramic tile, marble or other natural stone is set directly on the surface of the pan, using specifically formulated and tested epoxy installation materials,” explains Farrell Gerber, Tile Redi’s executive vice president of sales.

The company recently introduced “barrier-free” shower pan products that are produced so that there is no raised “wall” as you enter the shower. Rather, the one-piece unit is slightly pitched so that all water, upon hitting the shower’s floor, instantly runs downward to the drain. This eliminates water running over onto the bathroom floor, minimizes ponding in the shower. It also creates a safer bath environment for the elderly and disabled as they get in and out of the shower.

“It’s tough enough for anyone to step over a bathtub wall when getting into the shower,” Gerber says. “Imagine how difficult it is for a disabled person to do that? And accidents can even happen with people walking into a non-bathtub shower and tripping over the raised entryway “lip,” which is positioned to keep water from leaving the shower’s base and wafting over onto the bathroom floor.”

Where to Get Help
Overall, there are a large number of waterproofing membranes on the market today, and what you use relies on your budget and the product you’re most comfortable using. If you’re not up for the task of installing a tile shower yourself, there are plenty of skilled installers who can do it for you. “There may be some individuals who could handle this project, but a seasoned professional is always a good choice,” Carothers says. He suggests getting a recommendation from a local tile retailer, a tile distributor or the Better Business Bureau. “Get references and call them,” he says, “I can’t stress that enough. Make sure that the work they are proposing is work they can complete properly.”

Text by Tanja Kern
© 2009 Renovate Your World

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