142) Tiling the Shower

by Gail on October 6, 2011

Regular readers will wonder how many posts about tiling Gail can possibly write.

We’ve had a few guests lately, so the demand on our one shower has been high. We decided to prioritize the guest bathroom on our still-two-pages-long job list. I’m doing a post on this bathroom because its design raised some questions about how I might proceed, and I hope it might help someone else with some of these decisions.

Because it’s designed to be a wheelchair-accessible steam shower, the access and water-proofing had to be thoroughly thought out. There is a concrete base, installed by the plumbers, covered by a rubber film, then another layer of relatively dry concrete, sloped to the drain and to the rest of the floor outside the shower.

The second layer of concrete over the rubber dam. You can see how "dry" the mix is.

Two coats of RedGard waterproofing were applied on top of the second concrete and onto the cement-board walls and ceiling, which had been prepared with taping and cement.

The lighter pink is the third coat of RedGard which is still wet.

In corners and whenever air bubbles developed, a third layer of RedGard was applied.

The white bubble-holes had to be re-coated

If this shower leaks, it will be a miracle.

I chose to use mosaic glass and marble tiles to accommodate the sloped shower pan, and large white tiles for the walls and ceiling.

Turns out the glass tiles are very challenging to cut because they crack and splinter. The Home Depot staff had no suggestions on how I might cut them. I took some to the local glass shop, but they couldn’t help me. They did cut a 4″ circle for the drain, which was the biggest hole they could cut, but it wasn’t  big enough, so I had to re-cut as best I could with my wet-saw and angle grinder. I used the electric grinder to smooth the cut edges of the glass. Frustrating indeed. I bought a 1.5″ diamond hole saw for the numerous pipe holes.

So, do I tile the walls first or the floor? In the last shower job, I did the floor first, then slopped the mortar all over, even though I had covered it with cardboard. This time, I decided to start with the second row of wall tiles, and tile up.

Then the floor, then the bottom row of wall tiles to cover the floor tiles.

I’m always thinking of where the water will go: it will slide down the wall and onto the floor, then, obviously, to the drain. I sloped the “floor” of the little shampoo nooks so they won’t collect water.

I had to make oodles of decisions about aesthetics, too – what do we see when we enter the room? On the diagonally-tiled main floor of the bathroom, do I center the floor tiles to the door?

Do I have a flat-cut tile presenting first, or the point of the 12″ tile (bad Feng Shui)?

In the cases where partial tiles must be cut, do I put the partials in the corners, equally divided on each side? Where the tiles’ edges will be exposed, I put the one white-glazed edge facing out. Do I allow any cut edges to be seen, or must they always be concealed by another tile?

When applying the diagonal floor tiles, I  drew a straight line from the center of the door to the shower, then lined up the corners of the tiles along this axis.

Then I drew in the placement for each tile and row of mosaic accents. This took a lot of figuring and careful measuring and squaring, but it still has flaws. Hopefully, our guests will not nit-pick!

I used the white thin-set mortar, because I like the way it keeps the tiles in place and doesn’t allow slippage. (Two 30-lb bags of MegaLite, for 250 sq ft of tile.) Also, the glass tiles are translucent, so a dark mortar would produce a darker effect.

I won’t bore you with a photo after the grouting and sealing is done. But, expect another guest bathroom post when it’s all finished, because I will be re-using some old building materials, and this is, after all, a blog about building green!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Joy October 7, 2011 at 10:45 am

This shower/floor/wall is like a painting. How are the fingers? Beautiful steam shower/bathroom.
– Joy


Gail October 7, 2011 at 7:03 pm

Thanks, Joy
The fingers are great, because I haven’t done any grouting yet.
And, speaking of a painting, stay tuned for a bathroom surprise!


Vancouver Doug October 10, 2011 at 7:14 am

I have seen this shower up close. It’s beautiful. It’s like something you’d find in a Roman villa (if they’d had plumbing, of course). It makes me want to be guest or maybe move downstairs.


Charlene March 10, 2018 at 12:57 pm

I love the diagonal floor tiling with the mosaics in between. I bet that took a lot of extra time but was definitely worth it!


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