Building a shower from scratch- how?

irishlaw1April 14, 2012

I would love some advice. Maybe the advice will be: call a contractor, or your plumber, and that is fine--but maybe someone will know what I need.

The background to the story is extremely long, but the bottom line is that we are remodeling a small 3/4 bath. It has a stall shower that measures 28 inches square. We took some space from an adjoining room and can get the shower as big as 28 by 40 inches. We could not get it to 36 or better on that one side. In any event, we are budget minded, but I know the shower itself is not a standard size. I don't really even know where to begin. I figure the walls can be tiled, but what about the floor? If I don't want a tile floor, what are my options? Any information you provide will be better than my feeble attempts at googling this. I just feel lost! Thanks.

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The smallest allowable shower only by code is 32"x32" or 36"x36". It will depend on where you are located. You can find standard sized shower pans for the floor that fit these dimensions, but first you have to find the room for them. Anything smaller won't pass inspection and you can't find shower pans for it.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 9:44PM
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When you put in a tiled shower floor, you have to have the base built in the right shape with concrete so that it drains right. It must have a dam. Then you hire a person who can hot-mop it with tar for you. After the tar dries, you can use thinset to lay the tile.

It is much easier to buy an acrylic or cast iron shower base and then either tile the walls or put up acrylic panel walls. You can also get custom bases made with the drain hole where you want it and in the size you want. I imagine that might cost some money, but I don't really know.

A final option is to buy a pre-made shower and have it installed, but the drain has to be in the right place already.

So if you are doing this yourself, and you are not pulling a permit, your cheapest bet would be to go the tile floor route and hire someone to do the tar. That's what I did. It was a pain in the butt, but it's not rocket science.

There are other shower pan systems now that use rubber membranes too, and that might be something to look into. I think one is made by Laticrete.


    Bookmark   April 15, 2012 at 1:52AM
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@GreenDesigns Thanks! Hadn't even considered that issue. That could be a game changer.

@hosenemesis thanks for all of that info. That is exactly the kind of stuff I don't know that I need to figure out.

The messy background is that the shower abuts the kitchen and our project really started as a kitchen reno, but since we hate the size of the current shower, we tried to incorporate a bigger one into the plan...but taking the width from the kitchen didn't make sense, so we wound up with a space that is about 28 x 40. It's not ideal, and wasn't my first choice, but the other options we were given included leaving the shower as it is, or eliminating it in the reno. We actually use the shower, despite its size, so eliminating it wasn't a good option for us. So, here we are, with a really wacky amount of space for the shower and no idea what we should do next.

I guess if it is not going to be to code, I can just forget about it. So, that will be step one. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2012 at 9:16PM
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If you are a competent DIYer you can build a fully waterproof, leakproof shower with the Kerdi system. I did one myself several years ago. They didn't have the sloped trays at that time, so I built my own from deck mud (cement). You can save money by building your own slope or cut down the sloped tray to fit your space. There is an excellent tile forum that you should check out. Unfortunately, I am not allowed to post a link or mention its name here. :(

There is also a new system from Laticrete that sounds very promising and probably easier to install than Kerdi. Bill Vincent created a thread about it here.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2012 at 11:22PM
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@terriks- i appreciate all of that info! My husband and I are certainly competent DIYers (ok, fine, husband more than me...) but we have two toddlers and both work full time. So, i planned to get a contractor to do the work just because our free time is limited.

I just find that I am woefully lacking in knowledge in this department. I guess I'll continue scanning this website and others and hope I am knowledgeable enough to not get taken the cleaners when we have the work done!

Oh, and I remeasured the shower, and I guess maybe I don't know what I should be measuring. While the interior is 28 inches square, my husband thinks the base or pan is 30 by 30.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2012 at 4:19PM
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If you can post a layout drawing, we might be able to help you squeeze a few more inches out of somewhere.

We've DIY'ed a couple shower installations. Here's a few photos to lead you through the route we opted for:

Swanstone shower pan (have also used Onyx)
1/2" cement board screwed to studs
Redguard waterproofing liberally painted on walls

Tiled up the walls

And on the ceiling

Prefab Swanstone niche
Custom glass doors

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 12:35PM
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Second lazarus's suggestion. The pro guys *and gals* there are SO knowledgeable and the fact that they post there means that they're generous with their knowledge as well, Bill V. being an excellent example : )

    Bookmark   April 21, 2012 at 12:15PM
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Second lazarus's suggestion. The pro guys *and gals* there are SO knowledgeable and the fact that they post there means that they're generous with their knowledge as well, Bill V. being an excellent example : )

    Bookmark   April 21, 2012 at 2:06PM
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Avanti Tile & Stone (Stonetech)

You can build a monolithic bence with nothing more than cinder blocks, some mason brick morter and some broken bricks. I like to cover mine with Kerdi, but it's "dealers choice" on that. They're anal about links here, but you can Google the 'Tile Your World' or JohnBridge website and go to the "Liberry" and find the article about "benches" and that will give you a step-by-step on exactly how to do it.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 7:16PM
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They apparently have loosened up a bit, because I got a strongly worded warning when I tried to mention John Bridge here a few months ago

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 8:19PM
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Thank you, thank you, thank you all! I am very appreciative for the advice & suggestions. Sounds like I need to start lurking and reading up on the John Bridge site.
I should have figured that out, I have googled other issues in the past and always found links where people asked similar questions over there.

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 8:44PM
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Avanti Tile & Stone (Stonetech)

Terriks~ No, they haven't "loosened" up at all. I tried to post a link to "Tile Your World" with a comma unstead of a period so that it wasn't, strictly speaking, a "link." and got a warning about Spam. Sorry, John Bridge is NOT "spam" and we are there only to help the DIY'ers. Unfortunate that the Mods here won't allow us to openly help people with their tile problems. As the "Friendliest Tile Forum on the Internet," one would think they might check us out and join arms...... Oh Well....

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 10:21PM
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