whirlpool tub installation and surround [Archive] - Ceramic Tile Advice Forums - John Bridge Ceramic Tile


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02-21-2003, 10:32 AM
I know this is slightly off-topic, but since it does involve "mud," I'm hoping it passes.

Before the wall and floor tile, I will be installing a Kohler acryilic whirlpool tub with front panel access. Installation instructions allow use of 2" cement or mortar, or of construction adhesive. Glue would seem to be a lot easier - are there reasons why cement/mortar is better? Vibration would be less of an issue with glue, wouldn't it?

Any tricks or cautions for this installation? Do I connect drain to elbow through front panel, after tub installation? Other than keeping level, use of glue or mortar, and making sure the drain connects, what else typically goes wrong?

Looking ahead: I would like a 4" horizontal shelf/lip around the 3 sides of the tub top. How do I tile this area? I presume 2x4 frame, then felt or 5 mil plastic (one continuous sheet from the wall?) then CBB, 1/4 " silcone caulk to tub surface, thinset, then tile, keeping tile 1/8" or so off tub horizontal surface. Right?

Has anyone ever constructed a removable tile wall to cover the tub front access panel? Seems a shame to tile the whole bathroom, and keep the acrylic in full view. Given the space, though, I have to keep front access to the tub mechanicals. Seems like I could frame up the front so that a 5'x20" removable plywood panel could slide or be attached to the front, and install the tile to the plywood (or CBB?)

Thanks in advance.

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02-21-2003, 11:07 AM
Hi, Ed!

I would use the sand mix (cement without the rocks) to form the bottom support for your tub. It will be solid, and won't shrink. It will be a heat sink, which is good and bad. You can use a spray in urethane foam, just besure there's enough weight in the tube to prevent vertical displacement as the foam expands to fill the area.

I think you can reach the drain thru the front opening.

You sound like you want a 4" shelf around the perimeter of the tub. Are you talking about a deck 4 inches bigger than the tub, or a shelf above the tub surface? The tub deck will be easy to construct, using 2x4 and plywood. We recommend a waterproofing membrane for the deck. Tile it first, then drop in the tub and caulk in place.

As for the access panel, one of our moderators (who will remain nameless :D ) tried using CBU without any structural backing. It warped. So use plywood. Or use the one that came with it. It will contrast nicely with your tile, and coordinate with your tub.

Good luck with your project, and come back to this thread with any other questions you have.


02-21-2003, 11:17 AM
I just got through setting a new jetted tub. I used Quikcrete Mortar's Mix (as was recommended here) with no problems. I fit check the drain and overflow several times before I finally set it in the mortar.

I earlier asked about "tiling around" my tub. It sounded simply building the deck, tiling, and then dropping the tub in. I bought a tub made by a company named Jetta (great tub!) that is fully insulated. The spray on insulation keep the water hot without an additional heater. But the insulation makes it impossible to drop the tub in. The manufacturers instructions and the local dealer even state that you have to set the tub, connect the plumbing and then build a deck around the tub. I have done that much so far, but have not started the CBU or tile work yet. The frame is build from #2 pine like walls and joined together. The top has 3/4" plywood that meets the lip of the tub. I am planning on installing CBU next, then thinset, then tumbled marble tile (yes - I've read about the problems with marble). I will probably leave a 1/8" gap between the tile and the lip of the tub that I will fill with color matched caulk after I have grouted the tile.

Hope this helps, and if anyone has more input for both of these installs, please tell us.


02-21-2003, 11:18 AM
There are Several ways of dealing with an access panel.But before we discuss a front panel,do you have a basement and can you create access from it. This is getting to be a very popular way of dealing with access issues up here in the north.By doing this you can build a permanent front panel.Ive even seen guys go so far as to put a light fixture in to light up the access area in the event of a malfunction.(now thats forethought)

Ive seen tubs set in norter mix-expandafoam,and adhesive.

The morter mix in my thinking is the best.its solid!!
Expandafoam is very messy!!
Glue will ruin your tub if you ever decide to remove it or move it. A fiberglass tub can be broken away from a mortermix with relative ease!!

All connections for plumbing should be made after tub install.
An outlet should be installed(GFI) for plugging in your pump.I think you will find all the relative instructions on your installation booklet.

Build your deck framing from 2x6 material if you can.Use 3/4" Plywood for the deck.Thinset your CBU to this.Use a paintable membrane over the CBU and up the walls a few inches.Then tile the deck and walls.Now install your tub!!If you want to install your tub first,be sure to shim it up so your tile can slip underneath.this makes tiling the deck easier and gives you a cleaner finish.

Let us know if you can access from below. Also the size tile you will be using.
There are a few Panel clip systems on the market,I'll see if i can dig you up a contact name. :)

02-21-2003, 02:08 PM
Thanks, all, for the quick responses.

No luck with basement access - this is a second floor bath with kitchen soffit and ceiling underneath. For various reasons, I couldn't use a "drop in" tub. The tub is an "alcove" installation, and has flanges along 3 sides that the finish wall drops over - so the tub goes in first. The flanges extend 1.5" above tub surface.

I'm planning a 4" wide shelf above the tub surface on the back wall. Exact height will be determined by the tile we choose (though it will be at least 2" (1.5 flange + .5 CBB + tile thickness) above tub surface.) That back shelf will flow into the left side of tub, with a shelf (same height as back) that will double as the end wall of the mortar bed shower that will abut the tub. Width of this shelf area can be more than 4". A half wall glass shower enclosure will be installed on this left side shelf/wall. (I've attached a picture similar to what I am planning (with left/right reversed.)

TGTodd, my biggest concern is waterproofing the horizontal shower and tub surface. In an earlier post, you recommended use of surface-applied membrane (JB id'd Laticrete) - which I assumed would go on over plywood, and then CBB over that. If I put the membrane directly on the CBB, will it bond with the thinset? I always thought 1 function of the CBB was to be a thinset bonding surface.

I've ripped out ceilings and walls, cut up subfloors, ran electric, re-routed plumbing, and choked on fiberglas insulation on this little bath project. I'm looking forward to actually beginning the processes needed to finish it. Thanks again for helping me get there.


02-21-2003, 02:14 PM
oops, the picture. (My own personal grail....)

02-21-2003, 02:44 PM
Paintable membranes go over the CBU, thinset will stick to it very well. Your shelf needs to slope in toward the tub. Cover it in CBU, then paint on the membrane.

John Bridge
02-21-2003, 05:31 PM

I'll get to the access issue in a moment.

Setting the tub in deck mud will work, but only if you can somehow pack the deck mud under there after the tub is set. You can't squish down deck mud from above. It'll go so far and then stop cold.

Use the fat mud (mortar mix) and make is loose enough that it will squish down with the weight of the tub but firm enough to be mounded up in piles directly under where you are going to need the support. I usually make about six mounds and then push the tub down onto them. Put about ten gallons of water in the bottom of the tub to hold it down while the mud sets overnight.

Access panels: I've tried everything and determined that regular old sheetrock works about the best. You don't need a panel clear across the front. I like to make two smaller panels -- one for each end. One takes care of the plumbing, and the other services the motor and pump. The panels are caulked in with a matching caulking. Slit the caulk is you need access.

I'll post a couple pictures.

John Bridge
02-21-2003, 05:32 PM

02-21-2003, 06:23 PM
Well, I might git myownself Tile Rangered here, but I ain't askeered. :D

I think it's time for somebody to try some of that new Wedi board stuff for one of those panels. Sounds like a real good application, to moi.

How 'bout you be the pig, Ed?

Bill Vincent
02-21-2003, 07:25 PM
John-- I do them alot like yours, but I'll give ya one guess as to what I set them on!(pics at http://photos.yahoo.com/creativetile )

John Bridge
02-22-2003, 10:09 AM
Nah, you're gonna hafta tell me. ;)

I've done them on cabinet grade plywood the full length of the tub. I've never gotten them to remain flat, though.

Bill Vincent
02-22-2003, 12:29 PM
If you do a full length access panel, you need to reenforce the back of the plywood with a 2x4 or two. I even did one one time that the conttractor actually screwed normally spaced framing to the back. A little heavy as well as being overkill for my taste, but it worked.

John Bridge
02-23-2003, 09:47 AM

Get a piece of Wedi and do a test for us, will ya? ;)

02-28-2003, 01:50 PM
elodublin, great shower, I really like the way you have the bench.
A couple questions for you, or anyone else who would know. What is the tile, on the bench setting on and what steps did you take to ensure that it was waterproof, and how deep is the bench? It appears to be ~16".