Dear James: My children are getting older, and we need another shower. There's space in the utility room for a shower stall. It is built on a slab. How can I install one with a ceramic tile floor? — Sonia M.
Dear Sonia: A shower stall with a tile floor is very attractive, but it can be a complicated home improvement project. Before you tackle a job of this magnitude, do some research to be sure you will be able to handle it with your level of expertise and available tools.
Unless you are dead set on a shower stall with tile, consider installing an acrylic shower stall. These come complete with a door and a floor and, if installed properly, will not leak. Most homeowners with minimal do-it-yourself skills should be able to easily install one. They are also reasonably priced.
Most home centers should offer several models of these shower stalls, and they can give you some installation tips. If you have trouble finding one, the following companies offer acrylic shower stalls: Aquatic Bath, 800-945-2726; Maax, 877-438-6229; and Zoe Industries, 888-287-1757.
If you still decide to go with the ceramic tile floor in your shower stall, it helps to understand how water, tile and a concrete slab interact. If any water gets through the tile to the concrete slab floor, you can be pretty certain it will end up leaking out onto the utility room floor.
When you lay a ceramic tile floor, it seems to be hard and waterproof. The tile itself actually is, but the grout between the tiles can allow water to pass through it. Over time, as the grout gets pitted and wears, water passes through it even easier.
Even though it is a little more work, definitely install a pan liner over the slab floor. It covers the entire floor surface under the shower and runs vertically up the wall for a short distance. If any water does leak through the grout in the tile or any other gaps, the pan liner will direct it to the drain in the floor.
For many years, plumbers made the shower pan with lead sheets because lead is easy to solder and form. You can probably still do it this way, but now, thick CPE (chlorinated polyethylene) plastic sheets are often used. They tend to work better than PVC (polyvinyl chloride) sheets because CPE does not spring back when you bend it. This makes the sheets easy to run up the wall and to form corners.
When you frame the corners of the shower stall, leave some small gaps. This provides space to stuff the excess film where it is folded and doubled over. If you can keep the lumber all aligned with no lumps from the film, it will be much easier to attach the cement backer board.
Chisel or rout a groove around the drain opening in the floor so the drain will be recessed into it. If its edge is raised, it will trap water. After you install the CPE liner, cut a hole at the drain opening. Use a plastic plumbing drain with a clamping ring to seal it to the liner. Install the cement backer board and apply the ceramic tile and grout to the walls and the floor.
Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com. To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.