Correcting a shower pan slope & drain height

ranchalowJanuary 23, 2012

We're in the final stages of a DIY bathroom renovation. A plumber built a mud shower pan for us when we had the plumbing roughed in, and now that we're about to tile it we're noticing that the drain is too high (i'd guess by about 1/2") for our tile, and the slope seems to put the low point a bit away from the drain.

Is this normal? Should I correct it with thinset, or apply additional mud?

Thanks!

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mongoct

One thing to confirm...do you have any adjustment height left with your current setup? The drain height is normally adjustable. It should be a threaded fitting, you can rotate the upper part of the drain assembly to "thread" or "screw" it further down into the lower part of the assembly.

Is that not an option? Just asking. Depends on what you have, and how it's currently positioned.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2012 at 12:27PM
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ranchalow

Thanks! I will definitely try adjusting as a first option. It seems pretty well-affixed in the mud, but will give it a little elbow grease.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2012 at 4:03PM
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ranchalow

Okay, the drain appears non-adjustable. I measured the slope against a level straightedge (pictures attached) and the pan falls away about 1/8 over the first foot before sloping up.

It seems like what I need to do is fashion a screed to raise this up about 3/4 of an inch, and I can correct the slope in the process.

Any suggestions or wisdom from the GW collective intelligence is very much appreciated!

Here is a link that might be useful: Pictures of the shower pan

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 3:30PM
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bill_vincent

I'd be calling the guy back to do it right.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 7:23PM
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antss

+ 1 - that shower is doomed from the start.

get the guy back.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 9:41PM
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ranchalow

I've been unable to get the plumber to return my calls. Now I understand why.

Can someone elaborate a bit on the risks of trying to correct the slope with an additional layer of mud?

Thanks again.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 9:17AM
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mongoct

I'm going to ask a dumb question.

What type of waterproof membrane was put in the floor? Was it put in by the plumber? Was it put directly on the flat subfloor, or on top of a mud preslope?

The curb...I see screws on the top and outside faces of the curb. Are there screws on the inside face of the curb attaching the durock to the curb as well?

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 2:12PM
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Lynne Reno

If this is a real plumber and not a craigslist handyman, I would call whatever agency in your state regulates licensing of tradesmen and contractors and file a complaint, he needs to fix it and his not answering your calls is unacceptable

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 4:03PM
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antss

"I would call whatever agency in your state regulates licensing of tradesmen and contractors and file a complaint"

...........except if you, um , "forgot" to get the thing permitted in the first place. Then you'll have a second project dealing with the local construction police.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 5:04PM
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live_wire_oak

Rip it all out and start over. It wasn't done correctly from the beginning is all that you need to know. If you read enough here and at John Bridge, you can probably DIY it, or if not, you'll know enough next time to properly evaluate the tile setter you hire to do the job.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 7:57PM
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ranchalow

Thanks, gardenweb. We really appreciate the frank input on our shower trainwreck. To answer the specific questions:

1. There's a custom fabricated copper pan under the mud, which was installed by the plumber. This is in a a basement, and the copper sits directly on the slab with nothing else underneath it.

2. Yes, we may have forgotten to pull a permit. This turns out to be a pretty forgetful town. I'll deal with the plumber who caused this mess, but priority #1 is keeping this project on track.

3. There is no corresponding cement board on the interior of the curb, yet. It's just exposed copper right now. I'm planning to attach durock there, but please let me know if that's a bad idea.

4. The attached picture shows the "corrected" mud job. We spent a good deal of time measuring and fabricating a form which would allow us to achieve a good slope, and I'm pretty confident this will drain (and plan to test before tiling).

So I've at least got one vote for ripping it all out and starting fresh from live_wire_oak. Frankly, that scares me a little, and I'd appreciate any further thoughts folks have about the pros and cons of tearing it out vs proceeding with the added mud.

Please don't be shy if we need a little tough love here.

Here is a link that might be useful: Corrected mud job

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 9:21PM
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mongoct

On the walls...did you put 6-mil poly sheeting or lapped tar paper between the durock and the wood studs, and at the bottom lap it over the copper pan where the copper turns up the walls?

Your latest photo...your shoe looks familiar. Are you in Massachusetts?

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 10:51PM
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ranchalow

Thanks Mongo -- yes, there's 6mil poly between the studs and the durock, running down into the pan. And yep, we're in Mass. Do we know each other?

    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 7:59AM
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live_wire_oak

We use a plain mud pack and rubber membrane over a preslope here for a custom pan. I'm not at all familiar with using copper as a shower pan, so I'll defer to those who have experience with that. I do have to say that it would be a horrible idea around here to use copper as the water barrier because the water conditions will put pinhole leaks in copper within 10-15 years. Especially copper in contact with a cementitious base like your shower pan. And any flat pan sitting on a flat floor won't drain. The pan would need to be custom sloped and resting on a mud pack base for proper support. Sounds like Mongo can advise you better on this aspect though.

But, the rest of the project is sounding better than your first post sounded. A proper vapor barrier was installed and lapped over the pan. That's more than some do.

I know what I could live with and what I couldn't. You need to do the same. If you'll always be questioning and fearing this installation, then sometimes the best step you can take is to take a giant step backwards.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 11:00AM
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mongoct

livewireoak, welcome to Massachusetts, where the plumbers union is strong. And flat copper pans are king, despite them actually violating code and being inferior. But it is what it is.

Ranchalow, sorry about the "shoe" comment. No, we don't know each other. Copper pans are pretty much exclusive to MA, so I figured I'd pull your leg (via your shoe) a bit.

The problem as has been mentioned is that the copper pan lays flat on the floor instead of being sloped to the drain. Not good. And a code violation everywhere in the world but in MA. But it is what it is.

Second is copper versus deck mud. The chemical makeup of portland cement (deck mud) will slowly erode and eat away at the copper. A lot of times installers will coat the copper with roofing cement (or hot tar) to act as a barrier between the copper and the deck mud.

Adding another layer of mud over your poorly sloped original mortar bed: if you used a cement slurry, or a bonding agent, between the first and second layers, that could help with bonding. Otherwise they could delaminate. But it does depends on the amount of "tooth" between the two layers. You could be fine as is.

It sounds like your on your way with this shower, it's good to read that you got the slope issue resolved.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 1:35PM
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antss

how long do you plan to stay in this home and how often will this shower be used ?

I'd look into removing the drain ,pan, & mud deck. I'd replace it with a new, properly sloped deck and a topical membrane like Schluter Kerdi, or NobelSeal, or a paint on product like Hydroban. You'll need a new drain assembly too, easiest with a Kerdi drain, but doable with a clamp style too.

That way you can save the wall work/tile.

The raw copper on the bare concrete with no pre-slope is a trainwreck , no doubt about it. MA plumbers union be darned. DOn't think we have to worry about local custom or code since this is flying under the radar anyway.

If that were installed in AL or MS, you'd get labeled a dU&%b A$s redneck by the polite, and run outa town by the not so nice.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2012 at 11:33AM
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