Ceramic tile above fiberglass shower

jasper60103November 26, 2012

I'm considering installing ceramic tile above my fiberglass shower surround. I wish the surround was a little higher because the walls above is getting a little wet after showers.

Has anyone done this before? Any advice or other suggestions?
I've thought about just using some exterior paint, but I heard that wasn't a good idea.

This post was edited by jasper60103 on Mon, Nov 26, 12 at 15:00

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The spammer has a point. People don't put tile above a fiberglass shower unit because it looks really odd. Like high waisted pants underneath the armpits of an old man. They either remove the unit and replace it with tile entirely, or they choose something like a cultured marble product to cover the walls from floor to ceiling.

Not saying you can't do what you envision, but tile by itself isn't waterproof and you would need to rebuild the walls behind the tile, so at that point, you might as well rip out the shower and do the whole thing in tile.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2012 at 8:42AM
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Your shower and shower door look very similar to mine. I'm in the process of remodeling my bathrooms, but I intend to leave my fiberglas shower enclosure as is because it's held up so well. I have tile above the fiberglas that covers the walls and ceiling in the shower. The tile matches the fiberglas and I think it looks just fine. This unit is original to the house, which is 35+ years old and even my plumber has remarked how well it's held up. I should mention that, for whatever reason, there is a soffit above the shower that lowers the ceiling by about a foot. The tile may not be waterproof, but it's held up very well, the grout is clean, there's NO mold, and I think it looks just fine. In fact, in another bathroom I'll be replacing the fiberglas tub/shower enclosure with a new one (bye, bye harvest gold!), and I intend to tile the wall up from the fiberglas enclosure. Different strokes for different folks.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2012 at 9:59AM
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Thanks, msbrandywinevalley.
The shower unit is only about 7 years old.
I agree, I can't see why ceramic tile wouldn't work and look just fine.
It would serve kinda like a backsplash above a sink.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2012 at 7:52PM
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Chemocurl zn5b/6a Indiana

Has it always gotten wet? Might the shower head just need cleaned? I know sometimes mine gets a lime build-up inside and sends out some spray rather wildly to the sides instead of spraying down.


    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 6:26AM
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I just did exactly what OP is proposing. I don't think it looks 'odd," everyone says it looks great. I made it easy on myself though, I refinished the battleship grey shower with white, and used white tiles with a blue feature tile.

I removed the drywall above because it was in poor shape, and used an Easyboard type product.

Although it's not best practice, you can tile over regular drywall. Personally, at the very minimum I'd use something like Humitek, a water-resistant drywall.

I also used Redgard as a waterproofing undercoat.

If you just want to do the minimum, you could use a Schluter edge to run the tiles up to.

The setup you have there is just like my bathroom, I tiled completely around the shower, plus the little wall adjacent to the toilet. Gives you a nice, logical place to end the tiles, and you just caulk the corner there (no grout) as a nice, crack-free transition.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 1:55PM
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yes, the shower head works fine and it has always gotten wet. This is a basement shower and not used often. Unfortunately, I didn't notice the problem until much later after the contractor completed the job. Otherwise, I would have had him correct it.

thanks for the tips. I think I will use Redgard undercoating. The wall dampness is minimal so it should provide great protection. Also, I'm leaning towards plain white tile. If I may ask, what size tile did you use?
I'll take some more pics, so you can see the area better.

Thanks again.


    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 3:24PM
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I actually used 8"x8" tile, for no other reason than my neighbour had a bunch of leftovers he gave me. It's a fairly small bathroom and I worried about using such large tiles, but they look great. I actually did the shower wall, plus one other wall where the vanity is...the whole wall.

I had to buy more tiles to do the whole thing and noticed when I got the new ones that there was a slight colour difference. I had a boatload of the blue feature tiles (on sale, $20 for a whole box) so we hit on the idea of doing the back of the shower wall entirely in the blue tiles, and using the different coloured tiles from there on. With that blue separating them, you really can't tell the difference.

White tiles with white grout allowed me to caulk with white bathroom mould-resistant silicone (which was my preference over regular caulk.) It looks great and very clean.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 4:03PM
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If any of the shower walls are outside walls, you will have to either NOT use Redgard, which would be silly, or remove the drywall and cut away the vapour barrier where Redgard will be applied, you can't have both as moisture could get trapped.

How bad is the drywall? If you're going to the trouble of tiling, you don't want a bad substrate. Removing the drywall isn't as hard as you think, if you're careful.

That being said, I tiled a part of a dropped ceiling - just one row- above my vanity because it was very close to where my light fixture was going, and I was concerned about heat discolouring the ceiling, because of the proximity, so I put a row of tiles there. They adhered perfectly to the existing drywall.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2012 at 12:40AM
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yes, the shower has all interior walls. I took a few more pics below so you could see the water marks.

Also, after thinking more about Sue's comment on the shower head, I decided to take a shower. Yes, believe it or not, this is the first time I ever used this shower. It's a basement bath and has mainly been used by house guest. On a side note, I was very impressed with it.

Anywho, I now have a better understanding of my problem. It's not the walls being sprayed or splashed during showers, but I did notice condensation from the steam. I think the problem is magnified if the shower was run w/o the exhaust fan, which I believe was the case when my in-laws came to visit for a couple weeks! :(
In the pics below, those water marks are permanent.
edit: Actually there are just on the paint surface and wiped clean.

With that said, now I wonder why the condensation? Could the fan be too weak? I checked it and is drawing air. The first thing I will do is wire the fan to the light switch. Any other ideas?


This post was edited by jasper60103 on Fri, Nov 30, 12 at 20:40

    Bookmark   November 30, 2012 at 7:58PM
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Good call, wiring fan to light, except it needs to run for an extended period in order to clear the room up. Are those marks staining, or actual condensation?

I left my existing ceiling, it was sound. The bottom of the drywall (drywall in bathrooms and above tubs here in BC is pretty much universal, and it's not even moisture-resistant, stupid I know.

If the drywall isn't squishy, and, like I mentioned, none are outside walls, you could go the cheapy way and paint on Redgard, then tile.

As for the fan, I'd use the Dewstop switch. It turns itself on, therefor bypassing the idiot factor. I have to confess I'm sometimes the idiot, when I'm showering and hear the fan turn itself on, I go "oh yeah" but am pleased it figures out for itself it needs to be on.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 2:45PM
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Jasper, I don't know if you're still considering tiling above your shower surround, but I have this pic saved for just that idea. I could see you doing this in plain white tile, without the arch. We have the same situation on our wall above the surround from the built-up steam, I was contemplating doing this to save the cost of ripping out a perfectly good surround.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2013 at 1:45PM
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Nice job on that, abfabamy. It looks really beautiful. I may consider doing that in my other bath now.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 1:52AM
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I wish I could claim credit for this job! But it's just a picture I saved off of this forum. The poster said it came from a local Tour of Homes type thing. I thought it was pretty clever!

    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 8:24AM
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