Tile over cultured marble bath surround

mdodJuly 15, 2010

We currently have vinyl flooring and a bathtub with a cultured marble surround. We had a tile guy come for an estimate on putting in floor tile and replacing the marble surround with tile. He said it would be easiest to remove the backsplash section but put the tile right on top of the cultured marble deck and butt it up to the tub. That way he wouldn't have to take out the existing surround.

He said the marble was a solid base for the tile but I was worried that the tile wouldn't go under the lip of the tub like it currently does. Will that be a problem if we ever replace the tub or is there any other reason why we wouldn't want to do that?

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Hello Mdod,
If I'm understanding your contractor's suggestion, he wants to removed a "cultured stone" backsplash and replace it with tile over the existing wallboard. Is that correct? I also understand from what you've written that he wants to adhere the tile directly to the "cultured marble" which is currently cladding the platform where a surface-mounted tub exists presently. Is that also correct?
Assuming these to be correct understandings of your situation, there are some issues to be concerned about. The "cultured marble" is an acrylic composite and so it will require an epoxy setting material after the surface has been roughed up with either a grinder or sandpaper. Epoxy is expensive but there aren't any other settings materials which I'm aware of that will give you a reliable bond over this plastic surface. As well, your installer should be planning to lift the existing tube and install your new tile under the lip, with the tub then being re-installed with a fresh setting bed underneath. If he's not planning on do this, then he's not the right person to have in your home. The tile backsplash can be installed in place of the previous "cultured marble" splash as long as the wallboard is undamaged. If the wallboard is loose or crumbly you'll have to replace it before tile can be installed.
Best of luck,

    Bookmark   July 15, 2010 at 2:36PM
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What Shaughnn said, from start to finish.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2010 at 5:34PM
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Thanks Shaughnn (and Bill)! Yes, you understand correctly and no, he wasn't going to lift the tub. I specifically asked about that and he said he would just butt the tile up to the edge of the tub and caulk it. I didn't think that sounded like a good idea but may I ask why you think it's not? It is because of issues with replacing the tub in the future or water getting in at the gap, or both? Our tub is 19 years old but I doubt it's been used more than 50 times.

This guy was recommended by a neighbor. I already suspected he wasn't the right man for the job when he was talking about the layout. I'm using 6" tile on a knee wall that has two angles on it and he warned me that there would be 1 1/2" pieces on both sides on the middle section. I asked, "don't you just move it over half a tile so there's a 4 1/2" piece on each end?" He said "no, you can't get around having small pieces there." Hmmm...OK. I was surprised that he would have enough sense to think about the layout and warn me, but not enough to know how to avoid that problem. Isn't that tile layout 101?

Back to the cultured marble surround. Can you even raise the tub without tearing up the surround? It seems like I remember them setting the tub base in some kind of concrete.

Also, you said the epoxy was more expensive but tearing everything out and putting a backer in costs too and the marble is solid. Is the epoxy so expensive that it would be smarter to tear the marble out anyway?

Thanks again. You guys rock!

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 9:22AM
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mdod -- doing something similar -- acres of cultured marble on the bath walls and around the tub (tub deck and a stair that goes all the way around).

first of all, I do remember a poster who tiled over the cultured marble on their walls -- glued/screwed CBU to it, then tiled. I think that is probably do able -- but

I was concerned about pulling the cultured marble off the walls around the tub here, too (it went to the ceiling) -- actually came off quite easily using a pry bar and a sawzall (easy to saw through). In my case there was a plywood wall behind and it was still quite intact after pulling the stuff off. Honestly, I'd just tear out the fake marble and replace it.

Around the tub deck -- in my house the cultured marble doesn't go under the tub (been that way since new, 40 years ago). So similarly, pulling it up is pretty easy -- just requires brute strength.

But in my bath, the deck is like a stair -- projects about 2" and then there is another stair -- both go around the tub and are curved.

So I had 2 tile guys come over -- both said better to use slab material, so I'm doing granite. Around here its pretty reasonably priced.

Lastly I see that the REAL tile guys didn't mention anything about your floor -- but tiling over vinyl -- that won't work! For more info on what will/won't work -- go to the johnbridge .com forums!

Good luck - Pete

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 9:33AM
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peteinsonj: thanks for the information and yes, I know the vinyl has to come up. I think I need to put the whole tile thing on hold and do some research. We have always done ALL the work on the house. My husband and I are both perfectionist and it just kills my husband to pay someone to do a job and then not have them do it right. We mess up sometimes too but we can justify it as a learning experience ;-).

Unfortunately, the house is 19 years old we just don't have the time to do everything that needs to be done, especially when my husband goes crazy over the dumbest details. We're finishing up a kitchen remodel, that started in October, and I won't get into the last 3 weekends he spent turning the floor vent into a toe kick vent in our expanded island!

So...I decided to just pay somebody to put in the backsplash and be done with it. But we also got new cabinets for the bathroom so I figured I'd see what it costs to have them tile the bathrooms at the same time. We have Scherrs cabinets with the adjustable feet and removeable toe kicks so I think we'll just put in the new cabinets and hold off on the flooring until I can figure out exactly what I want to do.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 10:14AM
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Hi mdod,
Epoxy runs about $100 for a 2.5 gallon bucket but there will be a lot of waste as it has to be mixed "whole batch" and has a relatively short pot-life. Sorry I missed the tile-over-vinyl question but you are correct that vinyl is not a suitable substrate and that it will need to be removed.
If you pull off one of the side panels from the tub surround, you should be able to release the tub from it's concrete pad using a small roto hammer and prybars. With the tub removed, reinstall the panel or replace it with cement board. Actually, the whole thing should peel away fairly easily and give you the opportunity to install a more suitable substrate AS WELL AS correcting and plumbing or waterproofing issues which might be present but not evident.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 11:18AM
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shaughnn: good to know that the stuff should peel away fairly easily. I doubt we would see any plumbing or waterproofing problems because the tub is never used!

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 11:33AM
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I once wanted to add a shower to a tub in my old house. of course the plumber said " Once you put up that new tile next to the old cast iron tub you wont be happy." So I said " OK replace the tub" Then the walls had to go to get out the tub and reset a new one. Then I wanted to add an electrical outlet by the vanity "OK take out all the walls...Oh my that linoleum will look cheap next to all that shiny new tile on the walls...

I ended up gutting the bath to get a shower in the tub. If your a perfectionist like I am then just gut the room. You know you want too!!!

The moral of the story is that there are no cheap fixes for perfectionists. Beware of the cascading domino effect.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 8:03AM
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Best thing to do is remove the old marble and sheeting and replace with new. It is not a smart Idea to just add more layers to your house. That's how you end up with 6 layers on a leaky roof or an uneven floor with 4 different types of flooring on it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Removing Tile

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 11:33AM
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Citywide, an uneven 4 layer floor is what we just pulled up. NOT.FUN.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 6:53PM
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Thanks Citiwide: That's an excellent point.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 10:22PM
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