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Replacing a stall shower surround with tile

orangecamera
5 years ago

I'm going to have my (I think fiberglass) shower surround removed, and then have the space tiled. So far, I've had one contractor come take a look and tell me what he recommends. Before I go further, I'm asking for the collective wisdom of my fellow houzzers, so I can make sure I'm heading in the right direction with this project.

The contractor has done this same job for several of my neighbors. Our houses were all built at same time, same builder, etc, about 30 years ago. According to the contractor, there is no backing behind the shower surround, just studs. His suggestion is to put up Hardie board, and then tile. We didn't discuss additional waterproofing. He'd replace the current pan with a new pan (not a tile shower floor).

Questions:

1) Is Hardie board a good (best) product behind tile in this application? I reallllllllly want to avoid any type of mold situation in the future. Does it need any additional waterproofing after it's installed? If not Hardie board, what would you recommend?

2) Are there any types of wall tile that are recommended over other types for a shower? Anything I should avoid? The tile I'm leaning toward is a large format ceramic tile with a shiny glaze. Any issues with that? Anything I need to know about grout?

Besides the waterproofing question, what other things should I ask the contractor? What do I need to know in order to avoid "if only I'd known" situations?

(picture isn't my shower, but it's the same type)

Comments (82)

  • Kris Mays
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    If you hire a contractor who specializes in bathrooms and it is permitted in your state, he can do everything, including the plumbing, but Id still have a tile installer, too. If your contractor specializing in bathrooms already works with a plumber, so much the better. If you find one who seems good after a search, he or she will point you in the direction of the other tradespersons. It's so important to find one good person and start there. If you don't want to act as GC, get a general to babysit the rest of the trades, do your demo and blocking for your handrails.

    orangecamera thanked Kris Mays
  • Bruce Crawford
    5 years ago

    The GC who did my K reno recommended a great plumber. I didn't need a GC for my bathroom as it was only tile, shower & tub fixtures, and a new comfort-height toilet. I called the plumber who did the K, but he wasn't available. The tile guy who did both projects recommended a plumber with whom he'd worked in the past. Second plumber did great job, too, and was actually better b/c he lived a lot closer. I'll be using same plumber when we do the family room bath, but I'll have original GC back as this will be bigger scope. My experience is good craftsmen will only recommend other good craftsmen b/c they don't want a bad referral to taint their project.

    orangecamera thanked Bruce Crawford
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  • Kris Mays
    5 years ago

    Exactly!

    orangecamera thanked Kris Mays
  • PRO
    Stefanie Zanow- Kitchens Plus
    5 years ago

    We use green board and traditional mud for all walls. It's the best install with consistent tile application. You can do just the backerboard...it's a cheaper install and overall good, but mud is always better.

    orangecamera thanked Stefanie Zanow- Kitchens Plus
  • Kris Mays
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Most installers don't use green board anymore. At least not here. Why would you do all that work to make it waterproof when you can just buy Hardee which already is?

    orangecamera thanked Kris Mays
  • _sophiewheeler
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Greenboard is expressly prohibited in any wet area.

    Hire a small GC firm that has relationship with a plumber and tiler. The studs behind your current surround will need some attention and tidying up to level if you want good tile job.

    orangecamera thanked _sophiewheeler
  • Kris Mays
    5 years ago

    Yes, it's what we used before there was cement board.

    orangecamera thanked Kris Mays
  • PRO
    Beth H. :
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Kris, the reason they do mud is because of level/plumb. A good mud guy can mud a shower in about the same time it takes to to hardi. they are so good that they can make it perfectly flat, corners match, walls are plumb, and it's level. No wall is square/plumb and there is no way to make the hardi board level on top of it. That's why. My shower is huge. My tile guy does both but he's choosing to mud because of all the tile work. A smaller shower would be easier to adjust tiles. In a large shower with a herringbone I'm doing, it's imperative I have flat, straight walls.

    orange, I'm in Cal so we do a hot mop shower pan. There is a hot mop guy who does it after the plumber has set the drain. That is black tar, like what they put on your roof, that is sloped 1/4" each foot. This is waterproof. Then the tile guy comes in and dry packs a cement mortar on top to make a cement foundation for the tile.

    here's mine. after I get my shower valves and the plumber installs them, then my tile guy will come out and mud everything (walls/floor). I've already had a self leveler concrete poured on the entire outside of the shower floor to make sure that's level for the marble tile.

    **(oh, you must have your shower valves first, before the walls go up. the plumber will have to set the plumbing w/the new valve. (if you are keeping old stuff, never mind)**

    just to give u an idea of how large it is. I have tiled many showers myself, but on this one i'm getting some help! It's just too big for me alone to do. Plus, I'm getting too old for it! lol.

    do you plan on tiling the floor or just leaving the fiberglass liner pan? I don't care for those because after a few years they can get grungy and now you're stuck with them because you've tiled 'over it".

    and yes, green board is not for wet areas. you are also supposed to have a barrier (like tar paper and sometimes plastic sheeting, over your wood studs, then the CB, then taping and mudding the seams, then RedGard, now you can tile! Kerdi System is an entirely different application, and very good. You can google it and read about the "orange waffle" stuff.

    orangecamera thanked Beth H. :
  • Kris Mays
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    She is replacing the one piece unit with a new fiberglass pan, which is sensible for her situation.

    Assuming when you are all saying mud, you really mean mortar, right? Finding skilled labor to do that kind of work is a challenge these days. I remember chicken wire, too.

    orangecamera thanked Kris Mays
  • _sophiewheeler
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Cement board, tile and grout are not ''waterproof''. They are resistant to damage from water, which is not the same thing. They will still allow water to pass through and damage the wood framing behind them. That is why waterproofing is needed.

    The waterproofing can be poly sheeting behind the cement board, that then overlaps the tiling flange of the shower pan. Or it can be a topically applied fabric or roll on membrane on top of the cement board. I prefer fabric membranes over paint on ones, because very few people actually have a thickness gauge to know that they have applied enough coats to achieve proper thickness for it to perform correctly.

    Getting cement board flat and true isn't that difficult. That's why sistering studs or shims are for. But, that isn't the province of a tiler. Which is why you need a GC to coordinate all of the different trades needed. Or, a small GC who happens to be an expert tiler. The big issue is that most localities do not require a contractors license for tile. You really want the license and insurance, no matter what pro you choose.

    orangecamera thanked _sophiewheeler
  • Sue Burns
    5 years ago
    I agree with Beth on putting the tile on mud. We have redone several leaky showers in our homes and the last one was done with mud. That was over 20 years ago and it is still perfect, no leaks or mold. In our case, we were doing a whole house remodel, so had a GC who worked with a local tile shop where we bought the tile, designed the space and they installed it. They only do mud for bathrooms and floors. We know many people who use this company and are extremely happy with their work. The GC did the rest of the bathroom, they were just doing the tile. I don't know if that is helpful to you or not. We live in Green Bay, WI just to give you an idea of what part of the country we are in. I know many use the cement/concrete board and are pleased with the results, but I am sort of old-school and wouldn't do it any other way. Just my opinion!
    orangecamera thanked Sue Burns
  • orangecamera
    Original Author
    5 years ago

    Thanks again, everyone. I'm more confused now. I need to re-read so I can make some sense of it and start to make decisions. I'm heading out of town for the weekend so will revisit this on Sunday evening or Monday.

    To clarify once again, I WILL be using a one-piece shower pan for the floor of the shower.

    Happy End-of-Daylight-Savings to those who will be changing their clocks this weekend.

  • PRO
    Beth H. :
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    fiberglass pan is fine. but they also have preformed pans that are tile ready. Wasn't sure which one she was going with.

    and yes, it's a mortar application Kris. there is a once coat application where it's applied to a solid backing and the 2 coat method where a 'scratch coat' is applied to wire lath and then the mortar is applied on top of that. All of those old homes where you see that cool art deco tile and the tile of the 40's and 50's were all done with the 2 coat method. They last forever.

    The very best method for the installation of wall tile is a direct bond to mortar bed. But it's not always practical.

    orangecamera thanked Beth H. :
  • PRO
    Mint tile Minneapolis
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    backerboards can work with the proper approach. On this shower I spent around 2-3 hrs getting all the framing Plumb and in plane and square as I could via shimming. This is just one of dozens of details you want in A waterproof shower build and almost always gets skipped with backerboard installers.

    Lately ive been using USG durock shower systems foam board and surface applied membrane with old school mud/lath curb and pan. It works very well if installed properly...

    Plumb > in plane and Square is the key along with a proper flood test. -best

    orangecamera thanked Mint tile Minneapolis
  • Kris Mays
    5 years ago

    Especially so when no one has those skills anymore, Beth!

    Tundra, nice job!

    orangecamera thanked Kris Mays
  • PRO
    Beth H. :
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    that looks so good Tundra. Too bad you're in MN.

    This is what I meant about getting the walls square and level. 95% of the regular tile people won't do this. You have do get an actual tile setter who takes pride in his skill and looks at it as an art. This is the difference between an OK tile job and a WOW, look at this! tile job.

    orangecamera thanked Beth H. :
  • Bruce Crawford
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Couple comments. I was at work when our tile guy was here so I didn't see every step. He put up cement board, then firring strips (correct term?), mudded, then leveled w/ metal bar that looks like giant level. He put membrane on floors but I don't know about tub surround. One can see top of firring strips on edges (pic above). Second comment re waterproofing. Our original surround had only tile over drywall. One can see in my pic above there is no evidence on studs or oppsite drywall of contact w/ water. I can see waterproofing would be essential where there's standing water, as in pan & where wall tile meets pan. Our house was built in '73.

    orangecamera thanked Bruce Crawford
  • PRO
    Dragonfly Tile & Stone Works, Inc.
    5 years ago

    Real "tile guys" might just be who you need.

    orangecamera thanked Dragonfly Tile & Stone Works, Inc.
  • Bruce Crawford
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    @OrangeCamera, in a false sense of word economy, my earlier post became confusing. The exterior of my house is stucco. When I said "front of house" I was referring to the floors in the front of the house. We'd had a patchwork of surfaces, different ones in LR, entry, K & DR. In conjunction w/ K reno, we resurfaced all 4 areas in 18x18" travertine-esque tile in diamond pattern w/ Emperador dark marble borders & baseboard. After flood, used same tile in 12x24" down hall w/ matching bullnose for baseboard. The bath is small, so we used same tile in 18x18" in a straight lay pattern w/ Emperador dark baseboards & threshold. I'm on my tablet which doesn't pics but my Houzz page has some.

    orangecamera thanked Bruce Crawford
  • orangecamera
    Original Author
    5 years ago
    As stated above, my home is modest. I live alone, and the shower I'm asking about here is in the master bathroom. It's not going to be a "showpiece" no matter what I do. I'm planning to live here for a long time, so resale isn't a big consideration.

    The more I think about the complications of finding the right people and materials, the more I'm leaning toward replacing my shower surround with another fiberglass one. Still not sure one way or the other, but I think I'll get some quotes to do a (simple?) replacement.

    Besides the look, are there pros and cons I should consider - fiberglass vs tile?
  • _sophiewheeler
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Don't do fiberglass anything. Do a solid surface material. Cultured marble has come a long way these days. You can do both the pan and the walls in it.

    orangecamera thanked _sophiewheeler
  • smit2380
    5 years ago

    As Sophie indicated, there are other options. Koehler choreopgraph has some neat options. I have cultured marble in baths in the last two houses. It is nicer than fiberglass. Corian is even a nice alternative.

    orangecamera thanked smit2380
  • _sophiewheeler
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    A modest, decent quality, shower only, properly constructed, will 5-8K by the time the demo, mold remediation, plumbing pipes and valves, waterproofing, and wall cladding are done by professionals.

    Tile materials are less, but the labor is more, even for something simple. A solid surface material like cultured marble will have a higher material cost, but lower labor costs. It all equals out. A solid surface shower like Corian or Swanstone would be a step up in costs. A fancy tile shower, with niches, glass doors, and decorative details would be a step up in costs.

    If you are DIY handy, you can reduce the costs somewhat, but you need to be able to do plumbing and lift heavy things.

    Personally, if it were my home, I'd do a Kohler cast iron pan, and pay a plumber to set it and deal with the pipes and valves. I'd DIY the fussing with the walls to get them right, and do my own waterproofing and tiling. I'd choose an acrylic pan and surround over fiberglass every single day of the week and twice on Sunday.

    orangecamera thanked _sophiewheeler
  • Bruce Crawford
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    We had fiberglass tub/shower combos in a couple rental units before we bought. I swore I'd never have another. They're noisy, but living alone, maybe that's not such a big factor. Over time they get harder and harder to keep clean. If you have hard water, they seem to be a magnet for the dissolved solids in it so they get crusty, making keeping looking good more difficult. Follow Sophie's and the others' suggestions just above. You can't use abrasives to clean fiberglass as you'll eat up the gel-coat.

    orangecamera thanked Bruce Crawford
  • PRO
    Mint tile Minneapolis
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    @sophie

    um, a wee bit light on your figures

    orangecamera thanked Mint tile Minneapolis
  • Kris Mays
    5 years ago

    Orange, you could do a solid surface. Easy to clean and looks good. Less installation labor. I would not put in a another fiberglass unit. Sometimes it's not possible to put a one piece unit in (I could be wrong since it's a stall shower), and you don't want to put in one in that isn't a one piece. Plus, what's the point of replacing what you have with the same thing? Check out cultured marble or other solid surfaces available in your area.

    orangecamera thanked Kris Mays
  • PRO
    Reach Design
    5 years ago

    If you can afford it (and the time to find a good tiler) don't do fibreglass surround, they get really gross looking as the gelcoat gets damaged. Now you can fix it by applying a compound and buff it with a grinder wheel, but nobody ever does.

    Kerdi board is a board that is made of foam. It's completely waterproof all the way trough. The joints then get kerdi tape applied to it with mortar and there is no further waterproofing needed. Lots of companies that use them give lifetime warranty because it's that good. Cement is not waterproof as anybody who ever hosed of a set or stairs will tell you. It needs painted membrane on. Worth mentioning that painting it on stinks to high hell, so if you live in a house it might be a consideration. Talk to your tile store about all that, they should be able to help you find a good tiler and plumber. I don't think you need GC.

    orangecamera thanked Reach Design
  • Kris Mays
    5 years ago

    Cement board on its own will not be damaged by water was the point. Of course all showers require additional water proofing

    orangecamera thanked Kris Mays
  • orangecamera
    Original Author
    5 years ago

    Alrighty, I didn't even know that there were other options besides fiberglass and tile! I'm so thankful for everyone weighing in. As soon as I have some free time, I'm going to head to a kitchen and bath store. I'll take a look at all the available options and talk about prices. Will a solid surface product need to have kerdi or some sort of board behind it, or do they get attached to the studs like fiberglass?

    My thought about replacing with "the same thing" is because the current one is 30 years old and recently I found a small crack in one of the panels. I don't want to wait till it becomes a major issue, and I didn't know I had other options (besides tile). Budget is a big consideration.

    Now, a plumbing question: How much of my current plumbing should I expect to replace? Without moving anything, I know I want to replace the handle/water controller unit. And I will get a replacement handheld shower head. Of course it's impossible to tell what the plumbing looks like behind the shower wall, but typically would that all need to be replaced? The drain is in the slab, and it better NOT need to be replaced!!!!


  • PRO
    Reach Design
    5 years ago

    In theory you won't need to touch anything but the fixtures, but only a plumber will tell you after he opens it up. Make sure you get a good plumber.


    orangecamera thanked Reach Design
  • PRO
    The Cook's Kitchen
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    We removed the tub here and converted the bath to a shower only. The shower pan is 32"x 60" in a white on white cultured marble. The walls are white on white cultured marble. The materials on this were about $4500. The labor, including the demolition, the wall tweaking, the plumbing to do the valves and the drain, and the installation of the cultured marble, was about $3500. You could probably subtract about 1K for keeping the same location of the drain and valves and just installing the new parts and pieces. The overall bath project, including the rest of the demo, cabinets, flooring, lighting, etc., was right at 16K. We are in a relatively low cost area of the country.

    Upstairs Serene Blue · More Info

    orangecamera thanked The Cook's Kitchen
  • Kris Mays
    5 years ago

    Yes, you will still need some cement board behind there, I think.

    If you choose the same brand shower faucet, etc., you might save some money if they don't have to replace the valves. But since it's 30 years old, I might be wrong about that since products do change. Check with a plumber.

    orangecamera thanked Kris Mays
  • PRO
    The Cook's Kitchen
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Never ever put old plumbing behind new walls. It's one of the most penny smart and pound foolish ideas ever! Any project that involves a redo, means redoing the valves and drains. :)

    orangecamera thanked The Cook's Kitchen
  • orangecamera
    Original Author
    5 years ago

    Okay!!!! I just had a guy come out from one of the bath companies. Thanks to all the wonderful information I received from everyone, I was able to listen to what they offer, and ask the right questions. I'm happy with what I heard, so I've decided to go with this company.

    What I chose is a solid surface shower surround and pan. All new plumbing behind the walls, plus green board (there are just studs there now) are included. I chose just plain smooth white walls, the floor pan has a safety texture. The price includes a corner shelf unit and a soap dish, a new faucet and shower head, and a shower curtain rod. The price includes taking care of any mold or anything else behind the existing shower, and removal of all debris.

    The cost is still a bit shocking, but after reading here I do think it's reasonable for what I'll be getting - just over $6,000 all included (in central NJ).

    A huge thank you to everyone who patiently answered my questions, and especially to those who suggested solid surface as an option. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it's the right option for me. My existing vanity top is a solid surface with the sink molded right in, and I love how easy it is to clean. I just hadn't realized it was an option for the shower.

  • Bruce Crawford
    5 years ago

    Congrats!!!!!!!!!!!! Give us pics of the after.

    orangecamera thanked Bruce Crawford
  • _sophiewheeler
    5 years ago

    Now, think about the shower parts and pieces. I always like a hand held on a bar. From a good American brand like Delta or Kohler.

    orangecamera thanked _sophiewheeler
  • Bruce Crawford
    5 years ago

    We're both 70-y.o. & my wife had a hip joint replaced a couple years ago. When we reno'd front bath, we added grab bar to tub/shower surround. Will soon put one in ensuite by tub. Don't know country, but we used all Moen.

    orangecamera thanked Bruce Crawford
  • orangecamera
    Original Author
    5 years ago

    @Sophie Wheeler, that's a good point. The shower fixture is part of the package I purchased, and comes with a lifetime guarantee ("lifetime" = as long as I own the house, and I'm planning to stay for a very long time). I did specify the color that I want, and that it has to be a lever handle. I've had the bars before and I do like them. The problem I had with them is that the part where the handle on the shower head inserts isn't standard. I had nice shower heads, but when I went to replace them I couldn't find anything with the right shape and size.

    For now, I'm keeping my Moen hand-held shower head. Moen has excellent customer service and they honor the warranty. Because there's nothing special about the plumbing for this, I can change/replace it at any time.

    @Bruce Crawford, I have a grab bar in just the right place now, and luckily it won't have to be moved for the new shower install. The bar is vertical, just outside of the shower, and directly across from the toilet. I use it all the time.

    I've been reading that thread about the crooked tiles (LynnM) - it's making me even more glad I decided against using "the neighborhood guy" to put in tile. But it did bring up another question for my situation. Do I need a permit and inspections????

  • Bruce Crawford
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    OrangeCamera, codes vary, but you may b/c you're changing the drain & pan. Where I live they're so greedy they want you to pull a $60 permit to change a light bulb. Well, a bit of an exaggeration, but they're out of contol. You can call the permit desk at your city, & if you live in unincorporated area, at the county permit desk.

    orangecamera thanked Bruce Crawford
  • orangecamera
    Original Author
    5 years ago

    Thanks, Bruce. I'll call them on Tuesday. I'm getting a new pan, but it'll be in exactly the same place and not moving the drain.

  • Bruce Crawford
    5 years ago

    OrangeCamera, call at a time when you can afford to be on hold. The guys working the permit desk are often handling people physically at the desk at the same time. Our company used to provide inspectors to the county to work their permit desk. They were always busy. My son works for a solar company and part of his job is pulling permits. He often has waits.

    orangecamera thanked Bruce Crawford
  • _sophiewheeler
    5 years ago

    An in person visit, mid morning, NOT a Monday or Friday, is usually more informative. You have the chance with some back and forth questions, and the luxury of more time.

    orangecamera thanked _sophiewheeler
  • orangecamera
    Original Author
    5 years ago

    Thank Bruce and Sophie, I'll go in person, thanks for the suggestion. I only have till Wednesday to cancel the contract if necessary, so I'll go on Tuesday (Monday is a holiday... that may mean I have till Thursday to cancel...hmmm).

    Hopefully I won't need a permit. I looked on my town's website but it's unclear (to me).

  • wannabath
    5 years ago

    If you are not moving or altering wiring, plumbing or walls you might want to pass on the permit. The reason being in certain places when you remodel you are also required to upgrade to current water saving and safety accys. Which might mean changing out your faucets and adding grab bars in places you might not want them. CA has some odd laws in certain counties and once they are in your house they will also make judgements on other violations.


    I am all for getting permits and hiring licensed professionals. Ask your contractor for advise.

    orangecamera thanked wannabath
  • orangecamera
    Original Author
    5 years ago

    My new shower was installed yesterday, and I'm really happy with it! It turns out there was no mold behind the shower walls (as I'd feared), but the peace of mind is worth the price paid for the new shower floors and walls. Goodbye almond fiberglass, hello shiny white acrylic! It's not a fancy shower, I'm not a fancy person, so I'm really happy with my decisions. The entire thing - demo to completion - took about 4 1/2 hours. (plus 24 hours for the caulk to dry before I can use the shower)

    Thank you to everyone who answered my questions along the way, and even let me know there was another option besides tile and fiberglass! While I chose the plain white, I was impressed by the many options that are available in acrylic for people who want something more..."more".

    Before and After

  • orangecamera
    Original Author
    5 years ago

    Oh, and the town said I didn't need a permit.

  • loubelou
    5 years ago

    Looking good

  • PRO
    Reach Design
    5 years ago

    Looks so great! 4.5 hours gotta be the best renovation story I've ever heard!

  • PRO
    Adolfo pena.contractor
    last year

    Wow 41/2 hours that's unheard of I'd have to be skeptical but that's just me I do all bath renovation and I will not skip anything, anything but again that's

  • orangecamera
    Original Author
    last year

    Adolfo, this is an old thread. What are you skeptical about? I had no problems with the shower in all this time. (Sold the house last month, shower still looked brand new).