Shower Pan Construction -- The Muddy Part

Published: 19th August 2009
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Shower pan construction the traditional way uses masonry products to build the shower floor. Now there are other ways to build a tile shower floor. Some methods are easier in some ways. But for low cost and proven performance, it's still hard to beat the multi-layer masonry shower pan. Here's the way the mortar is made to build the floor.

The trade people call the mortar used to make the shower floor "deck mud." It's also called dry pack mortar, floor mud, and screed. It's not the same as "fat mud." I'll tell you why later. The shower floor is built in two layers. One layer is below the actual shower membrane. The second and top layer is above the shower membrane. Both layers are made from the same mortar.

Deck mud is a simple mix.

It's just made with portland cement, sand and water. Nothing else. Now some installers add other ingredients to the bottom layer to make it stronger. This is not necessary. In fact, the additives often do more harm than good. That's because the mortar gets stickier and it's much harder to get a smooth surface than with just the simple mix.

So, all you need are the 3 ingredients.

The basic recipe is 5 parts sand to 1 part portland cement. Some installers use more or less, but 5 to 1 is the place to start.

Then water is added to the dry ingredients to make a mix that's just wet enough to stick together. Moist, but not soupy.

There are quite a few details to work out. A special kind of sand works best and whatever you do, don't use masonry cement. Plus, there's an easy way to mix the ingredients. See, it's easy to use too much water. That makes for problems since the mortar shrinks as it dries and too much water makes for too much shrinking.

Shower pan construction is a step-by-step process. Each step is simple, but each step must be right. The deck mud is a simple mix, but you must get it right for the best results.

Shower pan construction is easy if you get started right. Getting the deck mud mixed is easy once you know how...

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