Tiling conundrum - Question about construction of niche

maryann_mApril 17, 2012

We're in the thick of a bathroom remodel. We were hoping to create a custom niche in our tiled tub/shower surround, and we're running into some issues resulting from our unique situation.

Our house is a split level. The back wall of the tub area is partly facing the lower level of the home and partly facing attic.

For the tub surround we're planning to screw Hardibacker to thin strips of wood (to bring it out past the tub flange) which will be attached to the studs. We were planning to use modified thinset, and then Laticrete Hydro Ban.

Based upon our proposed niche location, the bottom half of the niche location is currently backed by drywall-- the lower level of the house. The top half is backed by fiberglass sheathing--the attic.

My question relates to the piece of Hardibacker that would become the back surface of the niche. Is it even OK to do a niche since it's so close to the drywall on the other side?

Should we use plywood to cover the fiberglass and drywall before attaching Hardibacker? How should it be attached? Is this even feasible or should we give up on the niche idea?

Here's a photo of the tub area.

Here's where we were planning to put the niche. What do you think? Can this be done?

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Why don't you just use prefab niches, such as Duk liners?

    Bookmark   April 18, 2012 at 8:48AM
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Hi house_elf...
We had originally looked into prefab niches, but they seemed expensive, plus we like the idea of creating exactly the size and shape we want.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2012 at 8:56AM
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Not to throw a wrench in, but have you considered putting the niche on the back wall of the tub surround? It would take all that guess work you're dealing with out of the equation + you won't have to deal with water constantly streaming into the niche possibly making a big mess with the soap and rust marks with the shaving cream can when the shower is on. We have this setup in the boys' baths and LOVE it. The niches stay so neat, clean & dry!

Something to think about!

    Bookmark   April 18, 2012 at 9:40AM
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1) Backing: Yes, add a small piece of plywood on the attic side of the studs. The piece of ply just needs to be wide enough to hit the two studs, and tall enough to go from right above the 2-by joist to a height above the top of the niche.

2) Insulation. Though it's not the perfect way to detail the vapor barrier, take your existing kraft faced insulation that is in the niche stud bay and peel away the FG batting from the paper. Don't separate them into two independents pieces...just pull them apart so they are still connected and hinged at the top, like two pages in a book connected by the book's binding.

Have the kraft paper go on the bathroom side of the plywood and 2-by joist. Have the insulation go on the attic side of the plywood and 2-by joist. From the attic side, if you can, add additional fiberglass batting behind the niche area. That'll help insulate the transition area where the batting is between the studs in the two bays adjacent to the niche stud bay, and where the insulation is "in the attic" in the niche stud bay so to speak.

I'd give you different advice were this a true exterior wall versus what it is; conditioned space (bathroom) versus unconditioned space (attic). Or if your barrier were something other than kraft. No worries though.

3) The hardie in the niche: Install the back piece first. Construction adhesive to adhere it to the drywall and to the 2-by. You can use a couple of screws to attach it to the plywood.

Use your hardie pieces that line the sides, the top, and the bottom of the niche to "pinch" the edges of the back piece of hardie in place. You can screw your liners into the studs.

Aside: When framing the niche, I pitch the bottom piece of 2-by-4 a bit for drainage into the shower versus installing it flat. Then when I set the hardie liner on that I know the liner piece will be pitched, and as a result, the tile or stone on the bottom of the niche will be pitched.

4) Here's an excerpt from an old thread where I framed a niche that just so happened to be on a wall lined with plywood. This was on a Kerdi Shower versus a HydroBan though.

ABOVE: Niche construction. Cut into an existing wall, I had to remove portions of two studs in this partition wall. You can see the stud marks on the drywall in the back of the niche opening. Use kiln-dried lumber, not green or pressure-treated. This wall is skinned with 3/4" ply. But that's another story in and of itself!

ABOVE: It doesn't show in this photo, but even the framing is pitched for drainage.

ABOVE: Though the shower walls are lined with cement board, the niche interior is lined with strips of hardie. Cment board tends to crack/crumble when cut into thin strips, hardie is a bit more accommodating. I then pretty it up with thinset, squaring the corners, etc. You can see the shelves are pitched for drainage.

ABOVE: Finished niche. Finished dimensions; the top opening is 11" tall, the bottom is 14-1/2" tall. Both are 36-1/2" wide and 4-1/4" deep.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2012 at 2:13PM
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mydreamhome, the wall that is opposite of the tub faucet will have a pocket door behind it, so that location won't work. I'd definitely put it there if I could.

mongoct, thank you VERY much for taking the time to respond with such a thorough reply. Your photos and explanation are very clear and detailed. I truly appreciate it! I like how the brown border goes right through the niche in the bottom photo. Very nice!

    Bookmark   April 18, 2012 at 2:38PM
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For clarifiction...the middle shelf, if you have one, it does NOT need to be framed like I show in the photos above. That was done simply because the shelf in that niche is 32" long.

Since your niche is narrow, you can simply use a piece of tile or stone for the shelf. sort of like this:

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 4:41PM
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Thanks again, mongoct. We'll soon be framing out the area for the niche--maybe later today.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2012 at 11:40AM
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