Tiled Showers
N
There are two types of tiled showers. The custom tiled base with tiled walls and the pre-made base with tiled walls.
The shower at right has a custom "mud" base, and tiled walls. The curb has been "capped" with granite. Our 3/8" frameless enclosure was installed over the granite. Curbs can tiled, capped with granite, corian, marble, or any of the manufactured stones. Remember to tip the tiles or granite into the shower so the water drains back. You would be surprised at how many we see that are tipped the wrong way.
Camden - Custom tiled base and

walls.  Curb is capped with granite.

Here is a simplified drawing of a typical "mud" base. The membrane (orange) is layed over the floor and carefully folded in the corners and wrapped up the walls and over the curb. Some professionals even slope the floor before they put the membrane down. Seams are avoided where possible, and special cement "glue" is used on the membrane when a seam cannot be avoided.

 

A special three part drain is always used. The bottom two parts of the drain are clamped to the membrane so that water that has made its way down through (or around) the tile and grout at the top of base can be safely drained away. A height adjustable screw down top completes the drain. Most professionals use a cast iron drain like a Zurn, but cheaper plastic drains are available.

 

There is a liquid rubber polymer kit on the market that takes the place of the membrane. It is troweled on under and over the mortar bed and has gained popularity over the past ten years or so, but we are not the experts on this. If you are within driving distance of Bangor, stop in at Keniston Tile and ask Bob Goulet about it. I know he has used it for about ten years on his custom bases.

These systems have been used sucessfully for many years, but if not done correctly, can fail and cause severe damage to your house and will need to be torn out. They cannot be permanently repaired. Short term fixes like siliconing around the tile joints where the walls meet the base sometimes work for a while, but eventually they too fail.

Mud bases are best left to the professionals, or to the very serious and clever homeowner. Do your homework if you want to try one.

Note: We recently were called to a one year old house in Northport to remove two of our custom shower enclosures so that the custom mud bases could be ripped out and reconstructed.

The carpenter who originally did the work used "Grace Ice and Water Shield" as a membrane and it only lasted a year.

"Grace Ice and Water Shield" is a fine product for roofs, but was never intended to be used for showers.

The shower at right shows a 60" x 42" acrylic base by MTI and our custom 1/2" sliding Kinetic door. Tile and tiling was done by Keniston Tile out of Bangor.

There are many shower bases on the market, made out of many materials. We only recommend acrylic bases. Northport Bath has a nice display on their second floor that shows the differences between some of these bases and why you should only buy acrylic.

Acrylic bases come in many sizes. Some even have built in seats. Check out our Shower Base page for more information.

 

Northport Bath Showroom

Cement Board:Wall tile in a shower is always placed on cement board. This board is made of cement and fiberglass, is unaffected by moisture, comes in 3' x 5' sheets and is 1/2" thick. The joints need to be taped with a special tape. This cement board is unaffected by moisture and need be installed only where water will be running down the walls. Usually five feet up is satisfactory. Cement board comes in several brands; Durock and Wonderboard are two of the most common.

If you have ever seen tile falling off the walls in an older shower you can bet it was put over sheet rock or some other substrate that was susceptible to moisture retention. Small cracks in the grout have allowed water to get behind the tiles and rot the sheetrock causing the tiles to fall off. With the advent of cement board this problem is no longer a concern.

Tile: Tile is made for various purposes and is beyond the scope of this web site except to say some tile is more suitable for walls and some is more suited for floors and some is suited for showers. You should talk to a professional about this.

We do know that we are seeing more "porcelain" tile in showers. This is an extremely hard tile which absorbs very little water and presents some problems drilling holes for shower door fasteners. Hammer drills with good quality masonry bits like Bosch are a must for drilling these tiles. A regular drill would take a long, long time to drill one hole. Even with a hammer drill it takes a fair amount of pressure to drill a hole and the bit will only do about three holes in the hardest porcelain tiles. The only tile we have broken in the past few years are porcelain and set with mastic rather than with thin set. More about this in the next section.

Glass tile is becoming popular in showers too, particularly as accent stipes.

Thin Set or Mastic:

All of the professional tile setters we know in this area use thin set (the modified kind with the acrylic latex additive) exclusively. If they use mastic at all, it is used only for backsplashes.

Mastic takes a long time to dry and if it gets wet later on (like in a shower) it will re-emulsify and turn to mush. We were recently on a shower door installation in Brewer and broke a tile. It was a porcelain tile which requires a fair amount of pressure with a hammer drill to drill, and the tile (unbeknownst to us) was set with mastic. Because mastic takes so long to set, and remains soft so long, the tile broke very easily. I could pick the tile right off the wall. Thinset is a cement product and sets up in a few hours giving a very hard base for drilling. We have never broken a tile set with thinset.

I called four tile shops in the area and they said they would only use mastic for kithen backsplashes and never in a wet area. The particular flooring outfit responsible for the Brewer shower were new to the area, subbed out all their work, and the woman who answered the phone said she'd worked at six different flooring places and with twenty different crews and they all used mastic. I told her she might want to check around and talk to the other shops, especially if she was going to sell porcelain tiles which need to be drilled for shower doors.

If your "tile guy" is still using mastic, I guess I'd tell him he needs to use thin set on your job.

Epoxy Grout or Regular Grout?

Epoxy grout is a two part grouting system that will not mildew or stain, does not absorb water and is easy to clean. On the other hand it is somewhat harder to apply and clean up. It was originally invented for the food service industry where they were looking for something easier to clean and more sanitary for their tiled floors and countertops. Regular grout is a portland cement product that needs to be sealed, and re-sealed periodically, and even then has a tendency to absorb water, stain and mildew.

One of the best tile shops in our area is Bob Goulet's Keniston Tile in Bangor. They have been using it for years and stock about thirty different colors. They use tons of it on their jobs and the installers who have worked with or for Bob use it all the time.

Bob gave a short training session to one of our men who was doing a really nice bath room remodel and after he did the floor, tub deck and shower said he didn't mind working with it at all. In fact he liked it and the job turned out great. He said the clean up, which must be done thoroughly before the epoxy dries,(woe to those who wait till the next day) was easy because he could use plenty of water. Too much water is a problem with regular sand grout but not with epoxy grout.

If you are in the Belfast, Camden, Rockport area and need a good installer who uses epoxy grout, try calling Mark Mentz in Brooks. He is another great tile installer that uses it all the time. Yesterday, 4-11-2008, I was measuring for a shower door on a job in Rockport and Tony, from Sukeforth Builders was using Epoxy Grout and said that was all he would use.

Many installers don't like it for all kinds of reasons, but if you want a shower that is very easy to take care of insist that your installer use epoxy grout. Even if you have to pay a little extra. Don't let them talk you out of it; some will try.

 

Bangor - Oversized Neo-Angle

shower, MTI base, Glass by Maine

Shower Door, Tile and tiling

by Keniston Tile - Shower, floor,

and walls done with  Epoxy Grout
You can always tell the professional installer from the part-timer. We see a lot of tile jobs when we are installing shower doors: both good and bad.
In this example (right), the installer paid little attention to detail and as a result the cubby is a mess. Nothing lines up and it could look a lot better.
In this example (right), all of the grout lines, line up and the cubby looks great. The tile installer on this job was Dan Jameson from the Bangor area. Dan is out on his own now, but trained with Bob Goulet at Keniston Tile. If you are doing your own tiling and want to know how to do it right, I'd suggest taking a trip to Keniston Tile in Bangor and talking to Bob. Of Course he might be a little reluctant to share his time or tips with those who have no intention of buying anything. But if you are one of his customers, he will bend over backwards to help make your job perfect.