Shower tile

The most exciting thing lately has been the shower. Over the last two weeks our tile setter has been working hard and doing a beautiful job tiling our shower.

Andrea and I decided to invest a lot of our savings from building our bathroom DIY into some nice finishes. Such as expensive, high-end tile. We found out later that the tile we picked out is truly an exclusive item: the factory in Italy went out of business, and we bought the last seven boxes of tile available anywhere.

Since we had a lot invested in the tile, finding a good tile setter was critical for us. We needed a pro who knew how to properly waterproof the shower. If the shower were to leak, our pretty and very expensive tile would have to be torn out to effect a repair. Our tile is irreplaceable, so a shower failure is not an option. We want this shower to outlast us.

Our shower had some challenges that we wanted handled by professionals:

  • There is an exterior door in the shower enclosure. Waterproofing around the door would be an important detail, even though we would need to protect the door with a shower curtain.
  • The shower floor is supposed to be barrier-free and wheelchair accessible. Because of the flood zone, I was only able to recess the concrete slab floor by 1-3/4″ in the shower area, so the mud bed under the tile floor would have to be thin and a topical waterproofing membrane applied. Read: you need to know what you’re doing with this and use the right materials to reduce the risk of failure.
  • The exterior insulation on the outside of the bathroom is “vapor impermeable”, so the wall cannot dry out to the outside. Any moisture that gets into the wall cavity will escape very slowly to the interior. After consulting with a number of professionals, the consensus was that the shower could be and needed to be absolutely waterproof. Read: you need to have amazing attention to detail and use bomb-proof products for waterproofing.

In the end, Toro (the tile setter on our job) did a fantastic job. He showed up to work early and stayed late when necessary. He worked hard and the results are fantastic. But hey, it’s the pictures that tell the real story, so here they are:

Mercrete waterproofing

The black stuff is a topical waterproofing called “Mercrete”. It is brushed on over the cement backerboard screwed to the wall. All the joints are taped with mesh to prevent cracking.

Tile

Here is the tile installed. It goes on directly over the Mercrete in a bed of thinset mortar. There were a lot of cuts to go around the door and window openings. Note the decorative glass tile insets at eye level.

Shower controls and shelves

Here are the shower controls and the stubout for the hand shower. We put the shelves here because the only other possible location would have interfered with the shower curtain over the exterior door. The shelves are made from the same tile as used on the walls.

Shower floor

We put 2×2 mosaic tiles on the floor. Kiko suggested cutting a few pieces of wall tile to 2×2 and dispersing them randomly in the floor, which looks totally awesome. The 6×6 tiles on the wall are because we ran out of full-size wall tile and there is no more available anywhere. The grey band on the wall is the last bit of unfinished business: a row of special-order glass tile will go there, but it is coming from New York and shipping is delayed due to the weather. Also note the marble threshold that dresses the edge of the tile, permits a wheelchair to pass, and provides just enough lip to prevent water from spilling out onto the stained concrete floor.

Detail of glass tile

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