Remodeling a bathroom is a significant expense and one you’ll only want to do once. This is never more true when it comes to shower enclosures. Done right, your new shower will provide years of enjoyment and comfort. It is important to understand the correct way to build a shower. Even if you hire a contractor to do this job, you’ll be able to sleep better at night knowing your shower was installed correctly.

Traditionally, shower floors are constructed by first installing a rubber liner and mortar bed. The finished tile is installed on the mortar bed. Virtually every shower that we have seen that was built using this technique leaked water. This is a bad situation, as the water promotes mold and mildew growth and has the potential to rot wood, providing a home for nasty things like termites.

Another common problem is shower curbs leaking. It’s easy to understand why if you know how they are built. If you cover the wood with a rubber membrane and then nail the membrane down, each nail hole is an opportunity for water to penetrate and cause damage.

The shower walls aren’t much better. Most shower walls are built with green or cement board as a backing. To make matters worse, standard drywall screws or nails are used to attach the backing to the wall instead of rust-proof stainless steel screws. Tile grout is not impervious to water infiltration. Over time, the grout can crack and allow water to seep in from behind or under the tile. This will cause deterioration of the tile backing that has been used.

And last but not least, many showers have built-in nooks for things like soap or shampoo bottles. They are a common source of water problems in showers because they are difficult to waterproof.

Installing an exhaust fan in your shower is a very good idea, as this will remove the excess moisture that is created by taking a hot shower. Many ventilation units also incorporate a light.

Before you install your new shower, you should inspect the frame for existing water damage and repair as necessary. Minor mold or mildew can be cleaned with bleach.

Wood that has rotted must be replaced. Using a straight edge, check wall studs for bow studs. If you find any, replace the stud.

If your shower will incorporate corners, purchase one in the size that fits your needs and install it in the frame cavity.

Installing a vapor barrier is very important and something many contractors will forgo. Apply a thin bead of construction glue to each stud and wall plate. Using 6 mil plastic, secure sheet to wall studs. Be sure to seal the top and bottom of the vapor barrier to the top and bottom wall plates with duct tape. The vapor barrier prevents condensation from forming between its walls.

Fortunately, there is a way to build a leak-proof shower that will last forever. Schluter Systems is a company that offers an engineered solution for creating shower enclosures. They make a shower kit that contains everything you need to create a waterproof shower stall. A waterproof composite floor pan with integrated drain is used to create the shower floor. The floor tray is pre-sloped to ensure that after your shower, any remaining water flows down the drain, leaving your shower floor dry. The shower curb is also constructed with a composite curb.

Install cement backer boards on shower walls (using stainless steel screws), then attach waterproof membrane with a 1/4″ trowel and a thin layer.

The shower floor tile must be installed first. It’s a good idea to use a 4-6″ square tile on your shower floor. Using a smaller tile means more grout lines and therefore more chance of water getting through the grout. One more tile Large will not conform to slope of Floor must be installed with thin-set mortar Do not use Mastic adhesive in shower.

Install the shower wall tile below. Your tile supplier sells a product called grout-mastic. This should be used where the shower walls meet (the corners) and where the shower walls meet a horizontal surface (the floor, the ceiling, the shower bench). Homes move slightly over time and grout putty will not crack due to minor movement.

Finally, grout your tile with a sanded grout. Be sure to use a tile sealer on all tile surfaces after grouting.

If you’re in the Atlanta area looking for a professional remodeling contractor, we’d love to hear from you.