Tips for Framing Shower Walls for a Ceramic
Tile Shower and Shower Pan
By Mark J. Donovan
Framing shower walls properly is the
first step to building a quality custom ceramic tile shower with a mortar shower
base. To frame shower walls all you need is a hammer, 16 penny nails or 3 inch
screws, skill saw, framing square, a 4 foot level and some 2x4s and 2x6s.
Framing shower walls is really no
different than framing any other wall, with a couple of exceptions.
Whether you plan to stick build the
shower walls in place or pre-frame the shower walls on the floor first, it is
extremely important to make sure the framed shower walls are straight and plumb.
Use a framing square to mark the
location for the shower walls on both the floor and the ceiling, and use a 4
foot level to ensure they are plumb.
To frame a shower wall into an
existing finished bathroom, it is probably best to stick build the walls in
place. To do this, first install the 2x4 foot plate and a 2x4 top plate.
Fasten the foot plate and top
plate to the floor and ceiling respectively using either screws or nails.
Photo by Mark Donovan
When fastening the top plate to the
ceiling, make sure you fasten it into ceiling joists and not just the drywall.
Depending upon the orientation of the framed shower walls, you may need to
include additional blocking in between the ceiling rafters.
After installing the top and bottom
plates, next measure the distance between the two plates for determining the
wall stud height.
Next, using a framing square mark the
locations of the 2x4 wall studs along the top and bottom plates. The wall studs
should be located 16” on center from each other. Note, however, that you may
need to adjust the location of the wall studs if they may impede into the area
where the mixing valve and plumbing pipes are expected to go.
Once you have marked the locations
for the framed shower wall studs, cut the necessary number of 2x4s and install
them one at a time in-between the top and bottom plates. Use either nails or
screws to toe nail them into the plates.
Note that if you are framing shower
walls into an already completed bathroom use screws to prevent nail pops in the
existing drywall walls.
Repeat this process for all of the remaining shower walls.
If you are framing shower walls
on a new home construction project, you can alternatively build the walls on
the floor and then lift them into place.
additional lengths of 2x4 for Shower Stall Doors
After framing in the main structural
shower wall studs, it is important to install additional wall studs where shower
doors are expected to be attached to the shower walls.
In addition, make sure that where one
framed shower wall meets another that there is a wall stud on the adjacent
shower wall such that the two wall studs form a framed corner. This is necessary
for having sufficient wall framing surface for attaching backer board.
Walls – 2x6 Blocking
Once you have framed in the shower
wall studs, it is now time to add 2x6 blocking in between the 2x4s, along the
base of the shower stall. The blocking is necessary for building the ceramic
tile shower pan. The shower pan membrane liner attaches to the upper edges of
the 2x6 blocking. In addition, the 2x6 blocking also helps to hold the mortar in
place as it cures.
Photo by Mark Donovan
Framing the Shower
Finally, frame in a shower pan curb
using 2 or 3 laminated 2x4s. To do this, again nail or screw a bottom plate
along the shower curb area, and then mount either one or two additional 2x4
plates on top of it, depending upon how high of a shower curb you desire. Alternatively you can use a 4”x4” to
frame in the shower pan curb.
With the shower curb installed your framed shower walls are ready for the next
step, installing the rough plumbing; including the mixing valve, hot and cold
supply lines, drain lines, and an adjustable shower pan drain assembly.
My Shower Pan Ebook for More Details on how to Install a Mortar Shower Pan: For a more detailed set of
instructions on building a shower pan, including pictures and a detailed
cross-sectional view of the make-up of a shower pan, see my “Shower Pan Membrane
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