Building Shower Base

 

How to build a proper shower base is critical to prevent having water damage, black fungus and mold issues developing in your home.

 

Building Shower Base

 

Building a shower base is a lot simpler than most people would think. There are a few different options, but I find that one works better than all the rest. Below I will list three main ones that I run into all the time.

 

  • Membrane with compressed sand
  • A cement base and membrane
  • Schluter Shower Kit system

 

The membrane with compressed sand is medium in total floor weight for heaviness on upper levels for residential homes. This system is the most problematic of all the types I have photograph of sand baseseen around. You see from an install perspective it is one of the quickest and easiest to do. The problem is it can cause the most damage and problems when done wrong and left in place for too long.

 

If you use a particular product that has the silicon sand in it, you just shape the sand bed ( dry pack) to the required size and slope of the shower stall. You would then wet the sand that would take away its mobility and cause it to harden or stiffen up. Your doing the same principle as a rock patio outside where you would use this product as grout between them. For the final part, you would apply your rubber membrane over top of the sand and seal it at the drain and all your walls and curb face.

 

The problem is most installers place the rubber waterproofing underneath the sand to make their job easier. When water gets past the tile and grout on the floor, you start to get that funky smell, and the problems continue from there. One of the main reasons installers will do this is to avoid the possibility of the membrane on top of the sand bed from getting a puncture causing a leak.

 

Personally I never use this system; I only rip them out due to failure.

 

A cement base and membrane tend to be the heaviest of these three types. This system works well when it is done right. I find that this system can take the longest to install due to the
thickness of your cement bed depending on the size of the custom shower.

photograph of cement base

Depending on which products you use and the design of the shower this method requires more cure time before you can start applying the membrane to the finished floor tray. The larger the shower, the more you need to set the grade causing a thicker bed along all the extremities. This thickness will determine how many hours, days or layers it will require due to product type.

 

Any problems of leakage from this kind of base directly come back to what did the installer do wrong when sealing up the membrane to the base, drain and walls. There are rare cases from improper mixing of the base product for creating the tray; this causes the pan to broke up so the membrane will lose its seal and cause a leak. I’ve never seen one but have heard of it, usually improper membrane installation.

 

This system I have used on concrete floors where weight is not an issue on basement floors for residential and mainly in condos.

 

Schluter Shower Kit system is the lightest weight system to use with a expanded polystyrene foam. This system is one of the most widely used systems that I have seen and knew existed. Other companies using the same principles in design and application just different colours of membrane and names for the product exist as well.Photograph of building custom shower

 

This system can be modified to fit different designs to accommodate your requirements. This system is fast and easy and comes with its membrane product as well called kerdi and is set up with two types of efficient drain systems. One type that is original requires 4″ inch tiles or smaller to slope all around the drain for proper water flow. The second is a newer design that allows for the larger format tiles to slope to a trough type draining system.

 

Again if you are going to have any issues with this kind of system, it is usually errors made with the membrane sealing process method used by the tile setter during installation.

 

This system is the one I use most of the time for creating regular or custom showers.

 

Building the shower base

 

Whenever I do a shower using the Schluter system, I always try to get the base package that is the closest in size and style.

photograph of schluter shower kit

  • Remove a tub I use the offset tray 32″ x 60″ inches
  • If it is a new shower than the centre drain system works 32″ x 60″ inches
  • You can also get a 48″ X 48″ inches try for square showers

 

Now let’s say you need only a 42″ x 42″ inches then you can centre up the drain and cut of the perimeter excess that you do not require to change the 48″ inch square tray into a 42″ inch square pan.

 

If you need a neo-angle shower tray, you just measure up for your drain again and cut away the excess perimeter sides again.

 

Let’s say your tray is the centre drain 32″ x 60″ inches after measuring up the drain location it’s fine, but you see your not big enough to fill from wall to wall because this new shower measures 42″ x 72″ inches, what now. Well your not able to buy a larger kit so this is what you do. Cement your tray and curb in where they need to be and fill the extremities with a floor leveller good for a 2″ pour. Leave it for the day so it can cure then use another product like “Sand Topping Mix Quikrete” that you can feather from basically nothing to a sloping grade that will cause the water to run to the drain. You can usually follow the slope from the tray itself and continue that grade to the wall and once that sets you are done creating your custom tray.

 

What it boils down to is if you’re lucky you can use the tray straight out of the box, or you will be customizing the tray the way I do 98% of the time. I’ve had people request I create an “L” shape trays angled something like a hockey stick etc. Anything is possible, it’s all up to the design you want to have installed.

 

So when it comes to building a shower base, you have some different options but I would suggest using the Schluter shower kit to get yourself the actual professional look and security of knowing you have a waterproofing system that’s been tried and test proving that it works. All you need to do is make sure that you have it installed correctly.

 

For more information on this go to Schluter Shower Installation

 

To find more information on this subject and all others!

Go to my site TD Remodeling!

 

 

 

 

24 Comments:

  1. Great info here and very informative.

    My sister and her husband just ripped out the old shower and put in a larger one. This would have been great info for the new shower they had built.

    • Travis Smithers

      I have a lot of customers that ask for information so I decided to do this site to be able to help even more people like your sister so they may have a better understanding of what to look for and do.

  2. TheDopestMatrix

    Well one thing is forsure, I’ve never actually installed a shower base, but it really doesn’t look that hard once you read these instructions.

    Looks like you’ve been building stuff like this for some time! Do you do a lot of how-tos for in house projects? I’m about to check out more of your site!

    Thanks for sharing,
    Matt TheDopestMatrix

    • Travis Smithers

      Yes I have done as little as one custom shower to 4 a month averaging 3 1/2 ft deep and 6-8 ft long floor to ceiling with quad controls, over head showers with handheld sprayers, body jets, steam jets you name it people have had me install them.

      As time goes on I will be adding more and more how to projects around the house.

  3. Travis,
    This information will help the homeowner decide what type of base to get for their new shower. Coming from a home improvement background, I see the advantage of building a shower base from the Shluter Shower Kit system. Looks like it will take less time to install and last a lot longer with little or no failure rate, depending on the installer.
    John

    • Travis Smithers

      Hi John and what you say is exactly right about the time it can take to build the schluter base system over previous versions. The life expectancy is longer with next to no failure rate where it does come down to the installer’s experience level.

      In todays market where time is money its best to use better materials and systems that get the job done faster without sacrificing quality and potential failure.

  4. It would have been nice to have found this website a year ago! I had a “friend” come in to remodel my bathroom, as it was exhibiting some water damage in the shower. After demo, he realized that it was worse than we thought. Anyways, the floor was completely ruined and the concrete was destroyed. He decided to put in a floor kit and everything looked great; then the leaks.

    After several attempts to fix the leaking floor (flowing into my garage), he let me know that he couldn’t come out anymore due to the drive and other engagements. So, now I have a nice looking shower that is unusable for the past year.

    Maybe I’ll give him your website for future projects.

    • Hi Dan and sorry to hear about your shower. I actually run into the same issues with other people where they have had showers done only to find out they need to rip them back out to be redone properly. This is one of the reasons I have decided to do my website this way to help as many people as possible for DIY, people wanting to get into becoming a contractor themselves or they just what the overall knowledge. If your friend is out there doing renovation jobs then he needs to get up to date with how to do things right. He could always take the full course to learn the bulk of what he needs to know from the Remodel your Bathroom video package at the bottom of my posts or right hand column to save himself and others thousands of dollars from simple mistakes. Either way You know where to find me if you have any questions.

  5. Hi Travis,
    I had never considered to build my own shower base.
    Yet you make it seem so easy and with your tips I’m pretty confident that I can actually build it myself.
    It’s no secret that my house could do with some refurbishments.
    No better place to start than the shower!
    Will you touch on other subjects as well?
    Marcel.

    • Hi Marcel and as time keeps moving on I will keep adding more information on home renovations covering many different tips on lots of topics. My first goal is to deal with where people have there biggest problems with renovations and I will spread out from there.

      Bathrooms and kitchens are some of the most expensive renovations to deal with then its all about how much you actually want to put into other rooms etc that will determine just how expensive they will turn out to be. I will keep covering topics on a monthly basis.

  6. Darn, I wish I would have found this article sooner. I just finished developing my basement. I tiled the bathroom using a tub for the shower baser to save myself from getting an expensive shower base at Home depot. If I had know I could have done this myself, and cheaper.

    One question: what is the best all-in-one instant grout that obviously does not need to be mixed? Cheers!

    • Hi Michael and to answer your question, I do not use premixed grouts for any of my tile work. I always mix my grouts with TEC sanded or unsanded Boost. Boost is used instead of water for stain resistance unless it is a power grout that has built in inhibiters that do not require grout boost.

      So I would not be able to recommend the best all-in-one instant grout that is a premix, sorry I can not help you with that one.

  7. Hi Travis and thanks for the super informative post regarding building shower base. I have been considering putting in a shower in my basement as my home only has one shower/tub in it. I’m not sure if I will do this myself or hire somebody to do it, but I am more confident in giving this a try after checking out your website. Should I go with the Shluter Shower Kit system or the cement base for my concrete basement? Thanks for your help with this and thanks again for the informative post. Keep up the good work.

    • Hi William and I find it is always easier to make a decision from knowing what your up against in a renovation by understanding the steps so you know if you want to do it yourself or hirer out for someone else to do the job.

  8. Hello, Travis,
    I took a special interest in visiting your site. I’ve been in the construction business for several years. Presently, I am taking a break from this type of work.
    l like the way you give detailed information on the different ways of installing a shower base. I haven’t done a lot of these bases, but I will be sure to keep your information handy.
    Giving readers information about the required permits needed by the city to do jobs is important.Information to help with DIY jobs. You don’t want any problems with code compliance.
    Great job, Travis, your site is well organized. Take care.

    • Its always good hearing from other contractors, I find that when our customers know what to expect it actually makes our job easier. I find the more correct information people know about the different types of renovations that they would like to do the better. It is easier for them to budget for what they may like or want to do. They will also have a better idea of whether or not they can do anything themselves or hire out the full job.

      Codes do vary from place to place so some procedures may be done a little differently but the concept is the same. Each contractor should be up on the codes for their area etc.

  9. Hey! Great post you have created here.
    Man where have you been last month, I just insalled my new shower cabin and base, I thought it will be much easier, I couldn’t do it on my own so I called a freelancer to fix it for me…us internet guys…great article!
    I’m sure many people will find this article useful and interesting as I did.
    Thanks for sharing this and have a great day!
    Cheers and good luck

    • Even though I do this as my full time job, I have a lot of customers who like to do what they can for themselves and have me do the rest. The best thing is being able to learn what is required so that way you can make an informed decision on whether it’s something you want to tackle. There is nothing wrong with DIY but sometimes it’s best to hire out the work. This is part of what this site is all about, do what you feel comfortable with and source out what your not comfortable with. Knowing is half the battle then the decisions are yours to make and I’m here to help as much as I can.

  10. Wow this is great information to know. I will bookmark this for when and if we ever decide to redo our bathrooms. I have been discussing this lately with my husband and he doesn’t want to put a lot of money into having someone come do it. But these steps look pretty easy, may be something he can handle on his own. I will show him this tonight and see what he says. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Tanya, and glad you liked the post. There are a few posts that go into the customizing of a shower which you and your husband can check out. Like I always say, once you know all what is entailed you’ll have a better idea whether it is the type of renovation you want to do or have a professional do. If your husband already knows how to use tools for doing renovations then he could certainly do a bathroom once he has the knowledge of how to do it.

  11. Hello Mr. Smithers, I like the layout and use of visuals on your site, it held my interest. Great concept going to a blog for more interaction.

    Regarding tile shower designs, my wife and I have been looking into replacing our fiberglass tub with a tiled shower. If I have basic carpenter skills would you say its feasible for me to attempt this type of bathroom renovation myself?

    • Hi Scott, if you have carpenter skills then most likely you’ll also have the ability to take on a shower renovation. The biggest thing is understanding all the procedures you will need to know to design and build the type of shower you want.

      Figure out what you want, know the procedures for building it, how to waterproof then take your time tiling and you’ll have a good looking shower just the way you what.

  12. Hello,

    Thank you for the great info!!
    It’s definitely going to help me.

    But, I would have liked to see a video where you are doing this for real.
    The visual helps me a lot more, than the written.
    Hope to see a video pop up in the future.

    Cheers,
    Rian

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