River rock/pebbles for shower floor?

dyhgardenSeptember 4, 2007

Hey, I've not been over here in awhile since we built our home in 2005.

I saw a new construction upscale home built in a cottage style with an unusual (to me) floor in the shower. It is rounded river rock. The rocks were probably averaging around 2 inches in size, but random sizes were in the floor. I couldn't tell what they used to set the rocks -- grout? It seemed too wide to be grout. Mortar like outside? Something else?

Has anyone ever seen/done this? It looks great, but I just can't help but wonder about cleaning it and how it feels to the feet.

Just curious.


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Ive seen that before but I dont understand how they would keep Fungus from growing on the rocks. Its problably river rocks which are round and easier on the feet. LOL

    Bookmark   September 4, 2007 at 10:02PM
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you already said it was river rock. Did you do a search because a few interesting articles came up.
I bet someone here will have an answer.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2007 at 10:08PM
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I did a search but must not have worded it correctly. Now, I've found the thread here on river rock shower floors.

Here is a link that might be useful: river rock thread

    Bookmark   September 4, 2007 at 10:19PM
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River rock and other pebble-type flooring can look great in the shower, and feel great underfoot.

You will have more grout, and with the slightly rounded rocks, there will be slightly more resistance to water flowing across the floor to get to the drain.

Water on the floor for a longer time and more grout to absorb the water?

If this is a traditional pan, then consider increasing the pitch of the floor by a bit to aid on the water draining.

Have your installer get your approval of the rock installation PRIOR TO GROUTING.

These rocks come in sheets. Some installers have a knack for installing them so they look individually placed, others have a knack for ruining the installation by careless placement of the sheets. You look at the floor and you can see the outline of the individual 12" sheets of stone.

As required, individual stones need to be pulled off the mesh backing and reset to make everything look okay.


    Bookmark   September 5, 2007 at 9:00AM
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Oh, I never added (duh) the stones are set with thinset, just like tile. And they are grouted with grout, just like tile.

Some advocate epoxy grout for better water resistance. You can go that route, but your installer had better know what he's doing before trying out epoxy grout for the first time in your shower.

Were I designing this shower from the start and knew this type of floor were going in, I'd have Kerdied the shower.

Disclaimer: I Kerdi everything!


    Bookmark   September 5, 2007 at 9:04AM
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Wanted to add yet again...

Some people end up with a bit of residual water on their pebble shower floors. Depending on the (lack of) skill of the installer, you could end up with small areas that drain slower than others.

After showering, towel off in the shower, then drop your towel to the floor and use to to swab up any water off the floor.



    Bookmark   September 5, 2007 at 9:08AM
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Depending on the rock mosaic being installed, the joints can sometimes be too large for conventional pre-packaged grout and you need to modify things a bit.
Custom Building Products recommends adding 3 pounds of #30 (by weight not volume) Silica Sand to a 25 pound sack of "sanded" grout for joints larger than 1/2" but smaller than 3/4". Other manufacturers might recommend slightly different ratios but the function is all the same.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pebble mosaic path through slate

    Bookmark   September 5, 2007 at 9:17AM
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Shaughnn, did you do all that fabulous cutting? With what--a band saw?


Great info about the silica sand--I didn't know that.

We did a floor with onyx slices (less space than the pebbles) and I'd like to emphasize the point mongo made about epoxy grout: my guy decided that since there wasn't a simple clean line (as there would be with tile) to leave open at the change of plane, he would just epoxy grout all the way to the vertical walls.


It cracked along the angles within about 3 months (hadn't used the shower yet).

DH and I have had to heat up and dig out a small channel at the edge of the epoxy grout and put color-matched sanded caulk in, because he said it was too difficult and he couldn't do it. Lovely response from a 20-year professional--let the homeowner make the installation meet industry standard. We have done it, btw. PITA, but it's now protected from cracks.

So if you do a pebble floor, MAKE SURE the angles at the changes of plane are *somehow* left open for a thin line of caulk to accomodate house moves, maybe grout shrinkage, etc.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2007 at 11:35AM
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I don't think that Shaughnn should be allowed to get away with posting two teaser pictures of his work. I think he should have to post more pictures of more projects like the other tile guys for us to drool over. He's been here long enough now ;).

    Bookmark   September 5, 2007 at 2:20PM
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Those pebbles look great!

We've just installed a pool and have an outside shower system on order. I was thinking of doing something around it, but we've decided now not to put it under a roof. It will be open air, so I guess outdoor mortar products will work in our application.

BTW, that upscale house with the rock floor was gorgeous. The wall curves around into the shower. I suppose due to the curve, they mounted the aqua colored glass tiles in a vertical pattern and put the rock on the floor as "squares" wouldn't work in that configuration.


    Bookmark   September 7, 2007 at 11:34AM
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We have it in our shower and across the bathroom floor as well. It feels wonderful under my feet! I have no issues with draining or cleaning. I love it! We've been in for a couple of months now, but I haven't yet taken pictures because we're not quite finished - still need the glass shower door and accessories...

    Bookmark   September 7, 2007 at 11:35PM
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I have showered in a river rock shower and will avoid that experience in the future. The rocks became slippery when wet and my feet hurt from stretching over all the bulging rocks. It was not a nice shower. I think if they had put the flattest sides of the rock facing up rather than the rounded sided up, it would have been a much more pleasant feeling. Ugh!

    Bookmark   September 8, 2007 at 3:06AM
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Were they polished rocks? Ours are not and they are not slippery at all. Maybe it depends on how they are set in the grout as well - or how tender your feet are - but everyone who has used ours loves it. No complaints of hurting tootsies.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2007 at 2:40PM
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Thank you Lisa and Flyleft,
I carved the path contour using a 4" angle grinder after setting the path pebbles. Much of it was done using the back side of the blade and I tried to give it the feel of a natural flowing creek bed by including very slight ebb margins as the path rolled toward the door.
I'll include photo examples where it can help clarify a point or demonstrate a technique but I want to respect Gardenweb's restrictions on advertising and I'm generally not a fan of self-promotion. I guessyou'll justm have to keep you're eyes peeled. :)

    Bookmark   September 8, 2007 at 2:47PM
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So thrilled I found you all! Thought I'd never find a place to tell my tales of tile!

Question for all you tile guys (and girls): We live in Rhode Island on a rocky beach covered with zillions of pebbles. Rather than purchase pebble tiles from someone else's beach, my 3 kids really want us to use our own pebbles. I have amassed enough of them to cover the 60 square feet that is my front hall and powder room, with uniform size, shape and thickness of pebbles (3/8" - 5/8" thickness across the board). I was planning to work from one side of the space to the other, sticking the stones into thin-set on top of the plywood sub-floor. Then, (once dry) grouting with the mix that Shaughn recommended last month (adding 3 pounds of #30 Silica Sand to a 25 pound sack of "sanded" grout for joints larger than 1/2" but smaller than 3/4"). I guess my question is...are we nuts?? Would any of you do this? If so, would you do it this way, or mount the stones to some sort of screening first?

Many thanks in advance for your pondering of this!


    Bookmark   October 22, 2007 at 8:13PM
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Hi Cheri,
You aren't nuts, but this will take some care. Ocean and river stones can have deposits which will inhibit the mortar's bond. The most obvious culprit with ocean stones is sea salt and organic matter, but there are oils and waxes that also get into the mix, sadly enough. ALL of your pebbles will need to be washed aggressively!! I'd use a solution of Tri-sodium Phopsphate (hardware-grade TSP) in a wheelbarrow and REALLY stir those rocks up. Use a garden hoe or some other long-handled "mixer" to churn the stones so that they rub against each other. Not only is the TSP working to remove "bases" from the surface and pores of the stones, but the abrasions of all the stones against each other will expose fresh surface area too. Be rough! :^)
With all of that done, then rinse the stones very very well and then let them dry. If they dry chalky, churn them again in just plain water until the TSP is completely washed off.
Then you can start setting them.
Remember that you should wear protective clothing and equipment when working with TSP. It's caustic and will irritate your skin and can damage your eyes! Gloves, long sleeves, and eye protection are a must!
Best of luck,

    Bookmark   October 22, 2007 at 10:53PM
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how low should the drain be set with river rock tile?

    Bookmark   April 2, 2011 at 8:32PM
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