If you are considering building a custom ceramic tile
shower that will include a ceramic tile shower floor then there are a few things
you need to understand up front.
Ceramic Tile Shower Floor Site Preparation
subfloor underneath the shower needs to be solid with little to no deflection. A
tiled shower floor will not last long if the subfloor is not completely stable.
If you determine the subfloor has any deflection or bounce in it, include an
additional layer of either ½” or ¾” CDX exterior grade plywood over it before
Make sure to
fasten the extra layer of plywood with 2-1/2 inch screws and that they penetrate
into the floor joists. In addition, install additional 1-1/4’ screws on 6”
centers around the entire area of the shower floor.
Second, at the heart of a custom ceramic tile shower with a tiled shower floor
is a mortar shower pan. A mortar shower pan basically consists of a flexible
shower pan membrane liner sandwiched in-between two layers of sloped mortar. If
you want to learn more about installing a mortar shower pan see my “Shower
Pan Membrane Liner Installation Ebook”.
Tiling a Shower Floor
Once you have
installed the mortar shower pan, and cement backer board on the shower walls you
can begin your ceramic tiling job.
Prior to tiling the shower floor, first lay cardboard on the shower floor and
then tile the shower walls. Tiling the shower walls is a messy business and
inevitably you will be spilling some thinset mortar on the shower floor. In
addition, you may inadvertently drop a wall tile. Consequently it is best to
tile the shower walls first.
Once you have completed tiling the shower walls you can
begin to tile the shower floor. I recommend using smaller tiles, e.g. 1 square
foot sheets of 2”x2” floor tiles.
Using larger tiles on shower floors is wrong on multiple levels. First, large
tiles can be naturally slippery. Smaller shower floor tiles, on the other hand,
can offer greater traction due to grout lines spaced every two inches. Second,
large tiles will not contour well to the slope of the shower mortar pan and thus
you may end up with either reduced slope or odd angled shower floor tiles.
Another side benefit of using the 1 square foot sheets of
2”x2” ceramic tiles is that they are already pre-spaced so no tile spacers are
Depending upon the area of the shower floor you can either tile from the center
and work your way outwards to the shower walls or you can simply start on one
side of the shower and work your way across the shower floor. If the shower
floor is larger than 3’x3’ then I would recommend finding the X and Y centers of
the shower floor and drawing center reference lines. Once the center lines are
drawn you can tile outwards from these lines to the shower walls.
Photo by Mark Donovan
If the shower floor is 3’x3’ or less in area and the shower walls are square,
then I would suggest starting in one corner of the shower and working your way
across the shower floor.
Use a thinset mortar of a pasty like consistency and a ¼” notched trowel to
apply the mortar to the shower floor. Then simply lie in the ceramic tile sheets
and press them firmly into place.
As you get over the shower drain area, mark the tile sheet for the drain opening
and then cut the tile sheet(s) accordingly using a tile saw/cutter and/or tile
Once you have completed tiling the shower floor, allow the thinset mortar to set
up for 24 hours.
To complete your shower floor tiling project I recommend applying grout first to
the shower walls and then the shower floor. Make sure to wipe the ceramic tiles
down with a sponge and water within 10 to 15 minutes after installing the grout.
Continue to wipe the shower walls and floor every 15 minutes or so until the
tiles are sparkling clean.
Finally, seal the shower floor and walls with a tile sealer to help reduce mold
and mildew growth.
My Shower Pan Installation Ebook to Learn How to Install a Mortar Shower Pan: For a 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
information on tiling a custom ceramic tile shower, see the
How to Tile a Custom Ceramic Tile Shower Ebook
from HomeAdditionPlus.com. It provides detailed instructions for every
step in the process of tiling a custom ceramic tile shower and is loaded with
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