best way to get a 48x34 shower pan for tile?

mahatmacat1October 5, 2012

Hi folks,

Before I sigh, take the plunge, and consider doing an actual mud pan with the preslope etc., which just seems Sisyphean to me, I want to ask if there is any one of the pre-formed pans, e.g. Wedi, etc., that are trustworthy, can be cut to size, and won't crack. I read that two people's Tile-Redi pans cracked,which would be a big bummer.

And re cutting: granted I haven't mocked one out yet completely, but I try to visualize it and just don't see how would you cut a 48 x 36 down to 34 without creating some funky non aligned edge at the far I just thinking of it wrong?

Thanks--if I can avoid the mud thing I'd be very happy--I am not trusting myself to do that right, even though rationally I know that I could probably do it, no problem. If I do go that route, are those wedges, kind of like stencils or jigs, that you put in to the shower pan area to help you know the grade as you're leveling the concrete useful? Or are they a gimmick that is less than it's advertised to be?

Thanks so much. I could ask over at JB but I don't want to start a whole new thread on this shower. I will say that I'm pretty darn thrilled about finding all the tile at massive discount at a Habitat store :)

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ooh, what kind of tile did you find? Post pictures please.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 8:56PM
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Weeelll, the tile for the floor of the bathroom, and the walls of the shower, is Atlas Concorde Fibra in Canvas. I've got some basic, no-frills unglazed porcelain 1x1 that relates to it well for the shower pan, and then there will be a line of Brazilian Green gauged slate going through the shower at some point, along with some 2x2 Interstyle Glass Splash in a color that's like the ground of the Fibra. All of that stuff was either .50/sf (the porcelains) or 2.00/sf (the slate and the glass tile). A high end commercial flooring seller/installer was moving and just decided to donate overstock to the Habitat store next door to it rather than move. These are all overages from various commercial jobs in the city, so it's fun to see where our tile has been installed : )

In the rest of the room, somehow either the Interstyle or the Green slate will be involved near the Labradorite counter I will have over our walnut vanity (the lab. is a remnant I've been storing for years at the fabricator -- I pay it visits periodically -- but I really have to get moving!). They both relate gorgeously to the colors in the Labradorite.

The vanity will be custom made to match an amazing tall modern cabinet I found at Goodwill, of all places--high quality--even the back is finished, but no one will see it, unfortunately, since I'm sinking it partly inside the wall. Undermount Kohler Ladena sink, undecided on the faucets yet.

Does it sound gorgeous? : )

So back to the shower pan--any thoughts, please? I want to get this *moving*! Thanks again.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 1:24AM
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Kohler makes several sized in cast iron. Wouldn't be tiling the floor with one of these. I think one is 48x36 though, maybe too big. These have tile flanges on them.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 10:34AM
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Well, yes, I'm aware of the Kohler pans but I can't cut those down : ) 34" is definitely the max size I can use. I've also decided I want tile rather than a cast iron pan so as not to interrupt the flow of the color on the floor, since it's a powder room-3/4 bath.

So has anyone used a Wedi base? Can I *make* a Wedi base? Is that a silly amount of work compared to just sucking it up and making the mud bed?

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 11:35AM
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And re cutting: granted I haven't mocked one out yet completely, but I try to visualize it and just don't see how would you cut a 48 x 36 down to 34 without creating some funky non aligned edge at the far I just thinking of it wrong? "

You're thinking of it right...but maybe over-thinking it too. The thing in your favor is you are only cutting 1" off each side. Most people want to cut 4" or 6".

Now, for the assumptions:

Assuming a center drain, the 48" by 36" pan will have 24" and 18" from the respective edges of the pan to the drain.

Assuming the 24" run is sloped at 1/4" per foot, that'll be a vertical of 1/2" drop over the 24" edge-to-drain run. Dividing that same 1/2" of drop by the 18-inches of run on the other dimension, and you have 1/2" of rise divided by 18" of run, or 1/36th of an inch of drop per inch of run. That's the dimension that you are planning on cutting down.

So if you were to cut 1" off of the two opposing edges of the pan, those two cut sides would be 1/36th" lower than the uncut sides.

If my math is off and it was a factor of x2, x3...that drop really isn't significant.

What can sort of be a player is the four corner-to-drain lines that are formed in the pan to give the "perfect" inverted pyramid shape.

Since you are cutting 1" of foam off of two opposing sides, the lines will not run perfectly from drain to corner. They'll run from drain-to-3/4" from the corner.

If you were planning on using a large format tile that would perfectly conform to the shape of the bowl, then theoretically you'd have to honor those the lines and the tile would indeed have to follow the drain-to-(3/4" from the) corner lines on the pan or you'd get rocking tiles and lippage. That's your worst case scenario so to speak, and it's only a worst case if you were to do a literal translation on how to tile a shower pan. You can always take a few liberties with adding a little more thinset here and there to get the lines you rally want.

If you were going to do what's more typical, say 2" tiles on a mesh backing, those sheets can float right over the corner-to-drain lines in the pan. You'd never see any inconsistencies in the pan come through to the tile layout.

Hope that makes sense.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 1:59PM
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mongo, thank you so much! You're not only able to visualize, you're able to communicate your visualizing so I can see it too. Very, very rare.

We'll be using the 1x1 daltile unglazed porcelain (in Urban Putty -- I even found cove base pieces for the change of plane)--it should be very easy to ease over the 1/36th".

So all that said, if you had never done a complete freehand concrete preslope before, would you choose that or a Wedi base (or another base, just not tile-redi)? I'm a big fan of wedi board for shower walls just because it's so darn easy, but I do know it costs more...but there's less possibility for things to go wrong or clumpy buildup to happen in corners than there is with Kerdi.

So would you recommend the Wedi (or other) base? Or those wedge-shaped right triangles that provide the template, as it were, for the slope?

I hope you and yours are doing well, btw -- your (younger?) DD must be in college only is a sophomore. Sure wish I'd been able to have more than one, because I'm already able to see the empty nest just over the horizon...

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 3:40PM
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Fly, Before we sold our old house 7 years ago I replaced the gross fiberglass panel shower with a Kerdi shower that I did virtually all by myself, with mud pan. The only help I had from my husband was plumbing, and carrying the heavy bags of cement upstairs. My shower was roughly the same size as yours. It wasn't really that hard - you can do it! If I were to do it today though, I think that I would go the mud floor and Hydroban route.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 5:46PM
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Also, Laticrete makes a pan, and it can be cut to size. Though I think that mud would be much less expensive. I didn't use any doohickeys for the slope. I think that I just drew the perimeter line and used a straight piece of wood for screeding it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Laticrete shower pan

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 5:53PM
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"So all that said, if you had never done a complete freehand concrete preslope before, would you choose that or a Wedi base (or another base, just not tile-redi)? I'm a big fan of wedi board for shower walls just because it's so darn easy, but I do know it costs more...but there's less possibility for things to go wrong or clumpy buildup to happen in corners than there is with Kerdi. "

Doing your own mud pan? It's a hard call for me to make on your behalf. You have the knowledge, the understanding. You're certainly capable. And it's not a huge pan. But it can be demanding on your wrists/arms/shoulders when you pack the mud is place.

Remember that Kerdi Shower thread I posted years and years ago? That was the first mud pan I'd ever done. And it was 5' by 8'. If I can do it...know what I mean?

It can be mentally daunting. But more of a "Challenge of the Unknown" than anything else. You set your elevations. You pack your drain elevation, your perimeter elevation, then you fill in the in-between to establish your slope. A little low in one spot? Sprinkle a little mud on top and pack it down. A little high? Scrape some away.

It's more like sculpting with dampened beach sand...forming it, packing it, adding a little, removing a little, repacking, etc...than working with wet concrete.

And for the "packing part", instead of incessantly pounding the mud with a wood trowel (which is the part that can be tough on your arms) you can use a 12" long piece of 2x6 on the flat and tap that with a mallet to pack the mud.

Screed strips around the perimeter of the pan make it very easy to set your elevation.

Wedi? Sure you can go with that. I'm not terribly familiar, as their distribution was limited out here, and their prices sky high. So I haven;t touched it in years. But sure, if that's your comfort product, go with it.

If you don't like Kerdi, certainly take a pass on that.

Have you seen the Laticrete flanged drain? It's like Kerdi's drain. But you can use it with Hydroban.

Laticrete flanged drain with Hydroban

My once tiny infant than toddler then teen now twenty-something daughter is grad school! She's in Boston, just had her "white coat ceremony" yesterday. In case you;re wondering...she's the one on the right. lol

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 6:27PM
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Mongoct, you have to be proud! What a wonderful thing. She is a beautiful young lady.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 7:56PM
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Mongo, are you serious?! This is the daughter you were touring colleges with? It hasn't been that long, has it?? We certainly haven't aged that much : ) Your daughter is a lovely young woman -- and obviously accomplished. (I can't read the logo - what is your daughter studying?)

So now your all's nest is officially empty, yes? Are you thinking of staying in your home or maybe eyeing a new set of projects in a new home somewhere? Wait, though--I think you built the house you have now, right? Probably not going to leave that. I'm already getting nostalgic about the fact that when this bathroom is done, I won't have any spaces here to play with or tile -- merely cosmetic things to do (finish replacing carpet w/hardwoods, etc.--the LR fireplace will be a fun project, though) -- we just may have to move when DD goes to college : )

I think I'll show this wonderful pic to my DD to prove that you can be gorgeous and intelligent too : ) She is fighting the fight of not wanting to be thought a 'nerd', so dressing and creating a polished teen look which confuses her teachers, but being really interested in music, astrophysics and poss. medicine--it's the hiding-intelligence problem that teen girls suddenly have to grapple with because of the messages our society sends :( Maybe it will get easier in college, although I just read Tom Wolfe's _I am Charlotte Simmons_ and it's given me anticipatory dread (not that DD is anything like Charlotte, but just the college atmosphere he describes. ay ay ay.) Your DD is a clear, real-life example of creating your own path and being your own person, beautiful and feminine *and* a graduate student at the same time : ) Good on mongo and Mrs. mongo : )

And back on topic, I still have that Kerdi demonstration--it's one of the epic posts of all g'web, IMO. Although of course you know the logical fallacy of saying if you can do something, then anyone can (which you *didn't* actually completely say, I notice -- I completely understand why you can't actually force yourself to type that one out!)--but I am thinking, though, after your description, I am inclined toward using the little template pieces and doing the mud shower base, just because I want the challenge but with clear support : ) *and* I won't have to ask either DH or a plumber to move the drain, I can make the slope fit where the drain is now (we're transforming a 39" neo-angle to the 34 x 48 rectangle) . Cool to know about the Laticrete drain -- I'll have to see if I can use it with the supports I have in mind (Mark E Industries). I definitely want a square drain if possible.

And one more question: *is* it o.k. to use 1" porcelain on the shower floor? I love the size--looks more 'modern' and intentional, iykwim, than the 2" which looks more institutional and merely quotidian : )

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 1:44PM
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omg terri, I just saw your posts - thank you! I now remember dimly that you had done that. I think I'll do a non-shower-pan mud job because I can keep the drain in the same position. That's a mighty big plus in my budget and/or bother book.

And thinking on the template pieces -- I just realized that if I do a pan with the drain offcenter, as it will be, the template pieces won't be any use, will they? Because the end height all around has to be the same, right? Have to go figure that out...

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 5:43PM
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As I recall, I drew my line around the perimeter of how high the mud should go. Then I built a rim of mud that high all around the shower, the I filled it in, using the piece of wood to scrape and level it to the drain. (hope that makes sense)

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 10:31PM
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Yes, she's the same daughter from "way back when". Time certainly flies, doesn't it?

She never had any issues from her peers in high school regarding being a smart or a hard working girl, or being geared towards STEM. She's well-rounded. Not musical, though she was in the ensemble for the school musicals. Very athletic. An "All Star" in Field hockey, An All Star, All-State and Academic All American in lacrosse. Team MVP for both sports.

No issues in college either in terms of her being committed to her academics. A nice transition for her in her freshman year is that she was in the "honors dorm". So she was surrounded by serious students. But they also knew how to party. And they certainly did!

She really is on her way, so to speak. In some ways it's easy, in that a STEM-type education easily leads into a STEM-type of profession down the road.

My son is the complete opposite. Very musical, in a few bands, he was the lead in the high school musicals, etc. Also athletic. Also team captain, team MVP, etc.

While he is intelligent and does well academically, he does well "when he wants to". He's totally a liberal arts kind of guy. Zero, and I mean ZERO interest in STEM. After his freshman year in college, he took a year off to go out-of-country to do volunteer work. He's back in school now. I wont say he's disillusioned...but he's trying to put together "liberal arts education" with "career after graduation" and he's seeing that they don't line up as well as a STEM-education does.

There's always the argument that a liberal arts education is just that...a basis for a well-rounded education. He's a prolific reader. While he's on a path, and doing well on the path that he is on, he's trying to figure out where the path leads. So he's still searching.

But yes, we are empty-nesters! Good and bad. Miss the kids, but it's fun being adult-ish again. We're not sure what we're going to do long-term with regards to the house. I love this house, the grounds, everything. It's all "us". But I could move. I just have no idea where to move to! My only requirement would be to remain on the water. Ocean, lake, whatever.

Both kids have said if we ever sell this house that they want their bedrooms "pulled out of the house" for their children to eventually sleep in. lol. I told them I'll build them new ones.

Good news is long-term the kids want to live near us, or want us to live near them. So we'll see how things shake out down the road.

Back on your shower topic!

If you want to do a mudded pan, you can make your own pitch strips. For example, let's say you're going to use the Laticrete flanged drain. It needs 1-1/4" of mud under the flange. If your drain is off-center, no worries:

1) Take the longest drain-to-wall (not drain-to-corner) measurement. Let's say it's 30". For a code-minimum 1/4" per foot pitch over that 2-1/2' run, you need 5/8ths inch of elevation change.

2) Add 5/8" to 1-1/4" and you'll have a perimeter elevation of 1-7/8", or 1-7/8" thick of mud at the base of each wall.

Now the steepest pitch you can have by code is 1/2" per foot. So as long as none of your other wall-to-drain distances are less than half (3) Make your screed strips that will run from the drain flange to the walls or from the drain to the corners. Your screed strips will all go from 1-7/8" tall at the walls (including corners) to 1-1/4" tall at the drain. No matter what their length they will all be 1-7/8" tall at the wall and 1-1/4" tall at the drain.

Since your drain is slightly off-center, the four different "triangular-shaped" parts of the floor that make up the inverted pyramid will have slightly different pitches from one another, but each pitched part will be in it's own plane. And you'll have a consistent mud depth around the perimeter of the shower.

If you used those manufactured pitch strips, you'd have the same pitch (1/4" per foot throughout) on all four sloped parts of your floor, but the depth of the mud at the walls would vary throughout the shower. So your bottom course of wall tile would have to be scribed for it to fit.

Easiest way to make your sloped screed strips is to rip the required slope on a table saw. It's very easy with a home-made scrap wood tapering jig.

Some folk like to have a perimeter screed strip (in your case 1-7/8" tall) around the entire perimeter of the shower. They pack the mud against that, then pull the strip, and fill in the gap with mud and pack the gap full. If you do that I recommend tapering one side of the strip (wider at the top, narrower on the bottom), it's easier to pull a tapered strip out of packed mud than a rectangular shaped strip.


Pack your perimeter mud.

Pack your drain flange mud.

Fill in the remainder, using the screed strips as your guide.

Pull the strips, fill and pack the gaps.

Clear as (deck) mud?

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 3:41PM
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Thanks, mongo - just as I thought. The info about *max* pitch is really important; I've seen illustrations of showers made out of former bathtub areas without moving the drain, though, and I'll be curious about the pitch measurements. Your specific measurements help immeasurably (I really didn't intend that; found myself typing it : )).

Re kids: sounds like your kids' school was better than the one here. Ours used to be highly regarded about the time we moved here--it was the new high school in the area and the best teachers were recruited to it, it was all-IB, etc., but now it's swollen in size, the IB has gotten diluted, and the atmosphere has grown distinctly less intellectual...I could go on but it's too depressing... but it's a good idea about the honors dorm; I'm sure that set a great tone for your daughter for the rest of her time.

And ah, yes, a 'liberal arts' education...As I've discovered through my multiple graduate degrees in the liberal arts, that and $2.25 will get you on the subway. On the other hand, maybe your son will find himself similarly to how my brother did, and end up making a huge difference for good in the world by following his own path. I still remember the video you posted; he has The Spark. I get the feeling that he'll land on his feet and start getting traction soon. He is *your* son, after all! : )

    Bookmark   October 9, 2012 at 12:23PM
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Thanks for the words of encouragement. I agree, he'll find his way.

"I've seen illustrations of showers made out of former bathtub areas without moving the drain, though, and I'll be curious about the pitch measurements."

The pitches in the premade pans can be all over the place. The example of the tub replacement pan that you mentioned? Schluter's tray shows pitches of .6, 2.6, and 6.6 degrees on their CAD drawing.

When you consider that 1/4" per foot is about 1.2 degrees, you may have to employ the "don't ask, don't tell" policy in wondering how that got approved.

So set your screeds, pack your mud, and have at it. If things don't look right...squint!

    Bookmark   October 9, 2012 at 1:37PM
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*Fascinating*, mongo -- I wonder if Schluter pans have ever been found unacceptable by inspectors...

I will definitely make the screeds and make a pan that is *better* than Schluter : )

    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 11:50PM
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