Tiling A Shower -- Tile Ready Shower Pans Versus Mortar

Published: 02nd June 2010
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Tiling a shower that does not leak means building in a shower pan to stop the water. Maybe you already know that all shower floors leak. The grout will not stop the water and often tiles won't either. To stop the water you can build in a waterproof layer using traditional mortar construction or you can use a tile ready shower pan. Read on to see how they compare.

The traditional way to build a shower pan consists of installing a waterproof layer between two layers of mortar. The two layers are necessary to slope the floor and to properly support and protect the waterproof liner. Today most everyone who builds showers like this uses a vinyl sheet as the waterproof layer.

Building a shower floor like this begins with laying down a sloped mortar bed over a properly supported floor. Included in the installation goes a special drain with two drain levels.

Above the base mortar layer goes the waterproof membrane. Key to the floor staying waterproof is the sealing of the liner to the base of the special shower drain. If that happens, the water that makes it to the liner gets moved down to the drain and away.

The final mud layer goes over the liner and serves as the actual base for the tile itself. As you can probably follow, there are several tricks to getting this right. Getting the liner sheet in without any leaks is key.

This method works well when done the right way, but you still at the best have the top mortar layer almost constantly wet. That means mold can grow in the floor above the liner.

The other basic approach to tiling a shower uses what's normally called a "tile ready shower pan." TileRedi and Schluter are two main suppliers of these pans.

What both do is replace all the mortar base with a dense foam base. TileRedi bases are coated and ready for tile. The Schluter system uses a base that gets covered with a waterproof liner material over which tile is installed. In both cases the only mortar work is just putting down a thin layer of mortar to set the pan in.

By using a tile ready pan, you avoid the skilled work of building in layers of mortar and trying to get one layer perfectly sealed. Also with these pans you eliminate the soaked first layer where mold grows. Water only can soak into a thin layer of mortar and all the rest of the water goes right down the drain at the top of the floor.

The tile ready shower pan sounds like an ideal solution to building a shower pan that won't leak and in some cases it is. Two problems arise though that keep the traditional method going. First, the cost of tile ready pan materials almost equals the cost of a completed traditional pan including all parts and labor. That is quite a problem. Also, the TileRedi system only comes in standard sizes. Custom sizes presents a problem for the easier method.

Tiling a shower can go one of two ways. Using traditional shower construction methods takes more skill but costs far less. A more modern tile ready pan eliminates water build up in the base and goes together easier and faster, but it costs far more.

Get the scoop on the best tile ready shower pan at this article.

Check out our website for tips when putting in tile ready shower pans.

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