Monday, 26 March 2012

How To Correctly Build A Tile Shower Floor Pan

The most important part of the entire shower project to get right is absolutely the floor pan!

And, not surprisingly, this is where most do-it-yourselfers, make a mistake, try to make a shortcut, or just flat out get it wrong. Building the floor pan incorrectly can lead to leaking, of course, but also mold growth underneath the tile and mortar bed if a proper "pre-slope" isn't installed. But, I don't want to get ahead of myself, I'll cover all the details how to do this later in the article. Let's start here: What is a shower pan?

The term "pan" originates from when contractors used to install a copper pan in the base of where the shower was being built.

The "Before":

The use of the copper pan transitioned into using 4 lb sheet lead (weighs 4lbs per sq ft, giving it that name), because it's very malleable and could be shaped easily on site. A contractor could measure up the size needed, go out to the garage or driveway, bend up the corners as needed with a 2×6 and rubber mallet, folding corners over each other and overlapping so all the edges were at the top. Weighing 4lbs per square foot, it was quite a chunk to lug through the house, but could be done with two guys, and it could be folded in on itself, since it's so malleable, in order to get through tight hallways and around corners.

Using the rubber mallet again, they would hammer an impression of the drain into the lead, giving a mark to cut out the drain hole. Once the hole was cut out, the drain flange could be attached, making a watertight seal. An adjustable shower drain was then threaded into the flange, and pea gravel placed around the weep holes to protect them from the deck mud that was installed next. Deck mud is a dry cement, wetted just enough to let the cement hold shape, allowing it to be packed in creating the slope needed for water to flow toward the drain.

The "Pre-Slope":

Here is where many who take on the task of building their own shower, without any experience doing so, go wrong. The pre-slope is a slight slope of the floor draining toward the shower drain, created with dry-pack cement before the shower pan is installed. Despite what you may think, water can and will penetrate all the way through the tile, mortar and concrete above the shower pan, making its way down to the shower pan. In the absence of a pre-slope below the shower pan, the pan will be flat on the floor surface, keeping any of that water in the concrete from percolating down and into the weep holes of the shower drain. When the concrete remains moist, mold growth will occur over time, eventually causing considerable damage.

To create the pre-slope on a plywood surface you must first lay down a layer of felt paper (isolates concrete from floor movement), then staple down a layer of Metal Lath. Mix cement with enough water to get it to hold shape, and pack it down creating a slope from 1/8″ thick at the drain, up toward the shower edge at a slope of about 1/4″ per foot. On a concrete floor, the felt paper is not needed, concrete can be directly applied to floor.

Some point in between The "Before" and Now:

Labor time was greatly reduced when the use of vinyl membranes replaced the old lead pans. It can easily be rolled out, shaped into place in the shower, excess liner folded over itself in the corners, folded over the front shower curb, and a CPE bonding adhesive (in a can like PVC cement) used to seal up patches over corners. A newer kind of Tile shower Drain was used with the vinyl membrane, like the one shown to the left.

The rubber membrane is to be wrapped up the wall NO LESS THAN 3 INCHES above the intended finished height of the shower threshold (curb or dam). Before wrapping the membrane up the sidewalls, install 2×10 board pieces between studs to give a solid support to the liner and places to nail the liner to the wall. No nails or other fasteners are to be used anywhere except along the top perimeter of the pan liner, in order to prevent eventual leaks from occurring at the nail holes.

After the pan liner is installed, metal lath can be wrapped around the shower curb, which is made of 3 2×4′s nailed one on top of the other creating a 4.5 inch high threshold, and cement packed into the lath and on top of it, shaping the concrete into a smooth squared off surface for tile to be applied to.

I always go an easier route, however, and use the Kirb-Perfect product made by Mark E Industries: a plastic a product easily assembled to form a cage around the lined shower threshold, instead of forming the metal lath.

Concrete board, 1/2″ thick 3′x5′ sheets, can then be measured, cut, and installed on walls using weatherproof screws (to keep rust stains from coming through grout later on as regular screws rust). The concrete board should be installed leaving a 1/2″ space between it and the pan liner, pressing the liner on the wall against the studs and 2×10 boards.

The Actual Concrete Slope:

Once the threshold is finished, create the concrete slope inside the shower pan liner, being careful to make the surface as smooth and even as possible to allow small floor tiles to lay better when tiling. A chalk line can be made around the concrete board on the walls for a guide line, giving about a 1/4″ - 1/2″ slope per foot up from the adjustable shower drain to the shower walls.

Again, I take the easier and quicker route, using Mark E's Quick Pitch kit, which includes a plastic ring to place around the shower drain (protects weep holes from being filled by concrete), and slope plastic sticks that fit into the ring and are placed around it to radiate out to the corners and sides. They can easily be cut to length with tin snips or a saw. This gives me a perfect pitch every time, and fast!

Now: The Next System MOST People Will Transition To:

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the method I just explained to you. It is still used my the majority of contractors and, at this point, is the least expensive route to go. However, as you probably know, new technologies are coming along every year, revolutionizing ways things have been done in construction for decades and centuries.

A system I use now, when homeowners have a bigger budget, utilizes products made by a German brand named Schluter. They have competitors in their market, but they have led the way and own most of their market share. Their products all work together to make a completely waterproof shower, and can be installed much quicker than the old system just explained.

Schluter contends that even if your properly install a shower with the old system as I just described, water can still stay in the concrete for a prolonged amount of time causing mold problems. With their system, the floor and walls are waterproofed with a plastic membrane and there is no exposed concrete to absorb water below the tile. Water that goes through the tile will drain directly along the plastic membrane to the drain.

Here is how it works:

First, once plumbing and all else is ready, install concrete board to your walls, from floor to ceiling. I purchase Schluter's Kerdi shower-Kit that has almost all you need to build a waterproof shower ready for tile. The first item out of the kit to use is an expanded polystyrene shower base. It's already built with the correct slope, all you need to do is cut the foam (quite easy to do) to fit the opening. Mix a batch of Thinset and apply with notched trowel to the subfloor, then set the shower base firmly into the mortar.

Next, you can set a Schluter Bench in place where desired, which is basically a big block of expanded polystyrene, and it too can be cut to fit the space quite easily. This is not included in the shower kit, so many times I still build my own bench with treated 2×4′s and concrete board.

In the shower kit is a product called Kerdi, a plastic sheet with bright orange fleece webbing adhered to both sides. The plastic membrane waterproofs the shower, and the webbing provides binding contact surface for ThinSet to adhere to on both sides; one side to the concrete board wall, and tile on the other side.

Apply the 3″ wide Kerdi Strips on all corners with ThinSet. After all corners are sealed, apply the Kerdi to the walls, and bench if you have one installed.

One Key Point About Applying Kerdi to Concrete Board Walls: Mix the ThinSet thinner than usual, pancake batter consistency, because otherwise the concrete board will suck the moisture out of the ThinSet before it ever sets up, and the Kerdi will peel right off!

Next, insert the included shower Drain disc into a generous amount of ThinSet in the center hole and glue onto drain pipe below the floor. Then clean off excess ThinSet that oozed up through the holes around the ring of the disc.

Now install, with ThinSet, a piece of Kerdi on the floor, cutting out a hole for the drain. Then install the included Schluter Kerdi shower Curb, cutting it to length, and setting with ThinSet. Again, this is easy to cut and install because it too is expanded polystyrene. Once it is set, install a piece of Kerdi up and over the shower curb, and seal corners with Kerdi-Kereck, also included in the shower kit. Also, at the openings around shower valves, install included Kerdi Seal pieces

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Bathroom Floor Tiles - Best Flooring Material For Your Washroom

Ceramic bathroom floor tiles are simply the best because they are durable, beautiful and available at cost effective prices. Price is a big concern for everyone whether he is an average working professional or a businessman. A majority of homeowners choose affordable ceramic slabs and you will be amazed to know that these slabs are also preferred by eminent architects and seasoned home interior designers. These slabs are convenient to install as they set decently on every kind of surface. The good thing about these slabs is that they are highly resilient towards moisture and they can also withstand mild chemicals available in detergents, shampoos and hair colors.

Ideal bathroom floor tiles are ones that are anti-slippery. Ceramic slabs are anti-slippery and one will be amazed to know that these pieces remain anti-slippery even after coming into contact with water and soap. There is no harm in walking over wet ceramic slabs. If there are children and old members in your family then you should be careful when selecting bathroom flooring material. Children and old people can't balance their body on a slippery surface. Families with kids should choose ceramic slabs for their wash rooms because these slabs are anti-slippery.

If you want to give your bathroom the look and feel of a royal bath then consider remodeling you shower room with designer travertine or granite slabs. Travertine bathroom floor tiles are just perfect for every setting. Travertine is a natural stone that is found near hot springs. It is lightweight and beautiful. The great thing about travertine is that it comes in natural colors and you can't two similar stones. Travertine flooring material is expensive than ceramic but you can buy this material at cost effective prices on leading online stone and tiles stores. Granite is also a good choice, if you are willing to spend some extra dollars in your home renovation.

Prior to installing bathroom floor tiles, you should get your plumbing pipes checked for any fault or leakage because a leaking joint or a broken pipe can render all your renovation work redundant. When installing slabs, make sure that are properly grouted and all the gaps between the slabs are filled. It will be much better if you could seal the bathroom slabs. Sealing will provide added protection to the slabs from water and moisture. Or you can choose polished slabs. Polished pieces don't require sealing.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Are Tiles Suitable for a Bedroom Floor?

A friend of mine works as an interior designer for the rich and famous and I happened to mention that I needed to replace my bedroom carpet as it was a bit old and threadbare. He then told me that more and more people are opting for porcelain floor tiles in the bedroom. At first I thought this was pretty funny. I told my friend in no uncertain terms that I didn't want to sleep in a bathroom!

He then went on to convince me to look into it though as he had a solution for every objection I raised.

My main concern was the look of it. My previous comment about the bathroom still stuck with me, but he then went on to tell me about all the gorgeous new porcelain floor tiles you can get that look like marble or resemble natural stone. I have to say it's a good few years since I went shopping for tiles and I could only really picture the glossy small square bathroom wall tiles you used to get. My friend fired up his laptop and showed me some of the tiles you can get these days and I have to say they looked amazing and really there were tiles to suit any room at all, even a bedroom!

My next concern was safety. I'm not the most alert first thing in the morning and having to negotiate slippery floor tiles underfoot didn't seem like such a good idea. My friend assured me that you could get plenty of non-slip porcelain floor tiles. He reminded me of all the hotel bathrooms I'd used on my frequent business trips and he was right of course, they all had non-slip tiles on the floor.

Then my concern was that it would be cold. Floor tiles are great in summer, that's why they work so well in warm countries. I'm happy with terracotta floor tiles underfoot when I'm on holiday in Spain, but not in the UK. I want a warm cosy bedroom, not a cold one! Of course there was a simple solution to this objection too. Under floor heating. Apparently it works especially well under porcelain floor tiles as they warm up quickly then retain the heat well. He also suggested that if I wanted a cosier feel I could simply add some rugs.

There were some other good reasons to tile the bedroom floor that I hadn't thought of too. floor tiles are much more hygienic than carpet. They simply don't harbour dust and germs like a carpet does. Tiles are also much easier to keep clean and they are a lot more hard wearing than carpet so it would mean a much longer time before I'd have to replace the flooring again, so it would also probably work out pretty economical. So anyway after all these facts he convinced me to give it a try. I could always lay a carpet on top if I hated it, and I have to say I actually love my tiled bedroom floor. The underfloor heating is amazing; it's so warm and cosy on the coldest of winter days. I'm really glad I chose this option now.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Shopping for Flooring - Wholesale or Retail?

Of course when you're shopping for flooring for a job or contract you want to be sure that you're getting the best deal. For years the thought was to just go to your local hardware store and pay what you pay. Then when big box chain stores and wholesalers came around, the thought was that buying wholesale was where you would get the best deal.

Since the advent of the Internet the playing field has been somewhat leveled. Yes, you may get a deal on flooring wholesale which may be slightly cheaper than your market rate retail price, but what are you giving up in quality? Where can you go to find the best mixture of value and quality?

It was not long before websites began popping up promising contractors and designers the best mixture of wholesale value with boutique retail quality. Many online sites provide the perfect mixture of luxury retail names and rock bottom wholesale prices. You just need to seek out the best name websites which are going to offer you the best name flooring at the lowest prices before you commit to one website or another.

Another thing to consider before you go opening up your purse strings for a flooring retailer is you need to be sure that wherever you decide to buy from, the outlet will have all the colors and styles that you need. One of the things about going to a wholesaler which really earns demerits is that you can spend all your time finding the best prices, settle on the one with the lowest price, and discover that they don't have the style of products you need.

For carpet you know you need to consider types of finish, color, and whether you can get this carpet cut to the size you need. If not watch out; there's nothing worse than taking 8x10 squares and having to have that fit your space.

Hardwood floors run much the same risk as the carpets. If you need cherry birch laminate finish and you can't get exactly the shade and the finish that your customer wants you could lose the job. You should always be mindful of what your customer wants and make sure you deliver this product at the lowest cost. Make sure your retailer or flooring wholesalers. has what you need before you quote a price. There's nothing homeowners hate more than last minute price adjustments.

Flooring wholesale and flooring retail have really sort of melded thanks to the introduction of the World Wide Web. If you're looking to make a statement on your customers floors with a flooring retailer or wholesaler for quality and price you should be sure that your customers are willing to spend what they need to for one and able to sacrifice what they can afford for the other.