Shower: Tile the floor or wall first???

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Old 02-05-15, 05:27 AM
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Shower: Tile the floor or wall first???

Hi,

I'm in the process of a complete gut-job of our tiled shower. I have the pre-pitch, membrane, and backer board installations completed. The new tile installation will go right to the ceiling.

I have had several differences of opinions for the next steps from so-called pros as well as the many you-tube vids.. My confusion lies with the final-pitch, floor tiles, and wall tile installations. In what order should they occur and why? All of them use ledger boards. I guess for the weight and establishing a level line, but why not just lay the first row of wall tiles on a finished tile floor which will be level (and hopefully parallel to the ceiling)?

Any tips would be appreciated.
 
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Old 02-05-15, 05:55 AM
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As level as you think the final slope will be on your mortar bed, it will not be perfectly level. Therefore, plan on starting your tile such that the grout line works for the tile that will fall on the OUTSIDE of the curb and be visible from the room. This will almost always insure that you will have a partial row as the bottom run inside the shower. Even at that, I always make sure my bottom rows are cut to size regardless of in or out of shower. Also keep in mind how the math will work out as you near the ceiling. You don't want to end up with a small sliver cut up there as well.

Wall grout lines are also relatively tight and don't provide a lot of wiggle room for correction. To be positive you have the majority of tile perfectly square in relation to the room start with a ledger board set at the grout line of the first full row or tile (or higher if small tile you you don't nail thru the membrane). This also ensures that the bull nose is perfectly straight and won't be a distraction when the glass doors go in. Keep a 2' and 4' level handy and constantly check to make sure nothing is drifting. Check both horizontal and vertical. This procedure also helps keep grout lines straight and lined up in the corners.
 
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Old 02-05-15, 06:09 AM
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So is it ok the tile the floor first, or doesn't it matter? Also, if the final slope of the mortar bed is not perfectly level, and you start with a level ledger board, won't you see that imperfection where the wall tile meets the floor tile?
 
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Old 02-05-15, 06:24 AM
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Install the shower floor first, leaving a small gap slightly thinner than the width of the wall tile. Then the wall tile will sit on the floor tile and bridge that gap so that it is not noticeable and the transition looks smooth.

won't you see that imperfection where the wall tile meets the floor tile?
No - in all honesty, the small imperfections will be lost do to the angle of view. At most you may be off 1/16th of a inch from left to right on a single tile, you can't detect that without a square.

Also, drop a vertical line from all corners to find out what your wall does, as it will most likely not be perfectly plumb. Therefore, don't start with a full tile in the corner either or the wall may drift away from your tile as you go up the wall. Find the furthest point along that line and start with a full tile from there and cut all others to fit. you won't notice those cuts either.
 
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Old 02-05-15, 12:08 PM
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onthegulf,

You seem pretty knowledgeable on the process but I would like to double check something. Did you install a vapor barrier/retarder before the backer board and which board did you use? Or, do you plan to use a surface waterproofing system?

Did you leave a gap between the backer board and the membrane? No fasteners near the bottom, 6-9" from the floor? How did you build the curb?

You can place the final deck mud first then start the wall tiles as Z said, leaving out the bottom row (s). Then install the floor tiles followed by the bottom row of wall tiles so the wall tiles better hide that grout line. Or finish all the wall tiles then tile the floor butting within ⅛" of the wall tiles. I never liked working on newly installed shower floor tiles, protected or not.

Please reply so we can make sure it's going right. There's many more things to know than just the few discussed here today.

Jaz
 
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Old 02-05-15, 12:33 PM
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Hello Jaz and thanks for the reply,

There is a vapor barrier, The backer board is made by Perma-Base. There is a 1/2 gap between the backer board and the membrane.

The closest fastener is 8" from the membrane.

The curb is made from 2 x 4's, lagged to the concrete slab and screwed into each wall. 30-yr silicone on all seams. The membrane comes up and over the curb. I applied backer-board all around it, taped & thinset on all seams.

My concern at this point is the uneven (potentially) grout line between the floor and the wall. I just had lunch with a long time tile guy who said he does the ledger / wall first, then the first course tile on the wall. He then does the floor mud, then the tile. This allows you to plum and draw a level line on the first course tile. The drawback is that the grout line at this point can never be allowed to fail, since the wall tile does not overlap the floor tile. It solves the uneven mud job on the floor though.
 
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Old 02-05-15, 01:30 PM
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The membrane comes up and over the curb. I applied backer-board all around it, taped & thinset on all seams.
I'm afraid to tell you, this is wrong! Backerboard does not go on the curb and you do not puncture the membrane with nails or screws anywhere, including the curb. Lath should have been bent into an upside down "U" and placed over the curb and nailed only on the outside. Then you install your final mud base inside the shower to hold the lath on that side tight. The curb is then shaped out of an additional mud mixture. Or you install a pre-fab curb and then the 2nd mudbed. Pre-fabs are styrofoam based covered with mesh and cement. What you have done, will lead to early failure.
 
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Old 02-05-15, 02:29 PM
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Yup that's wrong alright. All is not lost though. If you build a curb the way you did, now is the time to apply 2-3 coats of a liquid membrane such as Redgard or Hydroban. Follow directions be sure you apply the correct min. wet-film thickness. I think it's 60-70 mils? Three coats will be plenty.

Next time you build a curb on a slab you might try using mini blocks instead of wood, or as Z said.

As for the other question, it's easier to install all the tiles on the wall first, then tile the floor. I've done it both ways.

Jaz
 
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Old 02-06-15, 05:58 AM
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I'm not sure why Z said you can't use backer board on a curb, it's every where else, so why not the curb? I taped the curb & thinset the curb seams all around. Anyway, it's done. I applied a dab of silicone over all the screws on the curb. The 2x 4's will never get moisture because the membrane goes over the entire curb. I was planning on Redguard for the curb and the walls.

Thanks for the answer on the walls, I will do them first.

Thank you all for your help
 
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Old 02-06-15, 06:23 AM
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Gulf - Its the screws/nails through the membrane that are the problem. You are in fact making a small tub to hold water and channel it to the drain. Water does get past the tile and grout which precipitates the need for a pre-slope. By running fasteners through the curb you breached the "bow"l so to say. Caulking is a sealant but not a waterproofer. They do fail and would advise that you check the tube and make sure it is compatible with cement based products. Jaz can advise if your caulking would be compatible with the Redgard or if it would compromise that area as well.

The curb actually sees quite a bit of water from normal splash near the door and it is a common issue with mysterious leaks being attributed to failed caulk around the door on the curb. That as well as people grouting instead of caulking in critical areas.

Here is a picture taken just after I removed the old curb on a shower I remodeled last month. Like you, they had backer board on the curb and had used a ton of caulking to make up for it. You can see the damage to the floor. Fortunately, you are on a slab, but that doesn't mean you can't have issues with the wood you put down or adjacent walls. It was pressure treated wood you used that is touching the concrete, right?

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Old 02-06-15, 11:17 AM
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I understand your concerns. The 2 x 4's are pressure treated and are lagged to both the floor and walls (rock solid). The membrane on the 3 walls are fastened 8" above the floor with galvanized roofing nails. The curb is nailed 4" above the floor and the heads of the roofing nails are covered with 30-year 100% silicone caulk. This, in my opinion will never fail. Prior to putting the backer board on, I siliconed the area where the backer board screws would go. The heads of those screws were also coated. The joints were silicone caulked. The entire curb and surround walls will have 2 coats of Redgard. After tiling, all wall corners and where the walls & curbing meet the floor will be caulked with "Pro-Caulk" unsanded tile & grout caulk which is 100% Acrylic Siliconized.
Assuming that someday, the grout may fail, I'm hard pressed to understand where the drips may go other than on top of the pre-pitched membrane.

The entire area is sealed.
 
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Old 02-06-15, 12:33 PM
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The entire area is sealed.
We will wait for Jaz to chime in as he has more experience with redgard, but I have my reservations about your plan. I prefer to build most of my showers kind of old school with a vapor barrier behind the cement board. However, nothing sticks to 100% silicone - this includes paint, redgard and possibly thinset mortars as well. There are sealants specifically designed for the application you performed (such as Nobleseal 150 http://noblecompany.com/products/noblesealant-150/), but I would be hesitant to advise that you are in the clear here. I've had too many instances where people have used silicone thinking that it would waterproof, only to have water issues. I can usually take a bead of silicone that has been down for a while and pick at one end, lift and proceed to pull the whole 5ft long bead up with one pull. It is a useless product IMO. It is also sometimes difficult to get caulking to stick to cement based products due to the amount of dust inherent in the product. It too will lift off in one big pull.
 
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Old 02-06-15, 07:13 PM
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Gulf,

You should not have both a vapor retarder behind the CBU and also apply a surface membrane on top. One or the other, not both. The surface membrane system such as Redgard, Hydroban, Kerdi, Noble etc. is by far the best. It's better that the substrate doesn't get wet in the first place than to protect only the wall cavity by using tarpaper on the studs.

Too late now. What would I do? I think I would go ahead with surface membrane anyway, but not go all the way up. Maybe just go 4-5 ft up. Hopefully any trapped vapor will equalize. I don't guarantee it though.

The mistake in using panels for the curb side and curb is you poked holes in the membrane. But since you're gonna apply Redgard, you're fine. Another issue is silicone caulk. Glues and thinset do not stick well to silicone. Hopefully the spots are small and the tiles aren't.

Originally Posted by gulf
The entire area is sealed.
I wouldn't go that far, but the surface membrane will fix the errors. The silicone on the fasteners was a waste of time cuz moisture goes through all CBU's. You're treating this like it was your roof, doesn't work that way.

Originally Posted by gulf
The joints were silicone caulked.
Does that mean you didn't mesh tape the joints/seams and filled with thinset?

Jaz
 
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Old 02-07-15, 06:00 AM
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ok, thanks for the info. I was planning on Redgard 2 - 3 ft up on the walls and the entire curb. I've been using silicone since it was invented (showing my age here), but I know how to apply it, and I know what doesn't stick to it (mainly paint). I only used it on the heads of the roofing nails and the joints where the curb meets the walls and the seams on the curbs. The silicone beads are about 3/8" in width. I taped and thinsetted everything. After reading some of the concerns about the silicone in this forum, I went and tried to scrape off the thinset from one of the seams and it was rock-solid, absolutely no problem.

The curb I tore out was entirely made of mortar and the membrane was molded in the middle of it. This is the preferred method of many so called pros, yet it still failed. The fasteners on the old shower were well above the membrane too, yet it failed over time. I'm very confident with what I've done so far and I'm sure it will last a lot longer than the previous method. I guess we all got side tracked with this curb discussion, and I appreciate all of the opinions. My original question was how the tile on the walls should be applied.(before the floor or after) and you answered that to my satisfaction and I am going with that.

Thanks again. (I send pics when complete)
 
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