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Old 09-08-2017, 04:39 PM   #1
Chris in Redlands
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Small Bath Complete Remodel - Questions

I have a small (5' X 9') master bath demo'd to the studs and am nearly done with relocating the drain (slab on grade), rough framing, electrical, and plumbing. The plan is for a very simple bathroom with the shower occupying the last three feet of the room, and a curb (57 inches wide) separating the shower from the rest of the bath. I have all the materials to complete the job now, and intend to lay black penny round tile on the floor of the shower and bath, and white subway tile from the floor to ceiling on all walls of the bath and shower. Simple.

My original plan was to top the shower curb with a slab of marble. I had an idea the other day though, and wanted to see if folks had thoughts about the practicality and potential pitfalls of doing it. What I'd like to do is build transitions into the floor where the curb meets the shower pre-slope and where it meets the bathroom floor. This would allow me to run the penny round tile continuously over the entire floor of the bath and shower and over the curb. I sketched a cross-section of what i had in mind over my coffee this morning. I've attached that, and a couple of photos of a sheet of the tile draped over a bottle to illustrate one of my concerns.

My questions:

1. Aside from the transitions, this curb will be constructed per the "best practice" for curbs described here, in the liberry. Am I overlooking anything that might be a problem because of the addition of the transitions? Intuitively, it seems not, but I've learned that intuition doesn't always pan out when it comes to planning this work. I intend to install a "frameless" sliding glass door above the curb. I did think it might be worth adding some fiber to reinforce the mortar on the curb, since it'll be thicker in spots than it would be with a traditional curb design.

2. When laid flat (and correctly), the tile gives the illusion that the individual pieces of the mosaic tile were laid individually, rather than in 12X12 sheets held together with a fabric. I'm worried that at the transitions (even with a pretty large radius) the reduced grout lines on the concave curves at the bottom and the increased grout lines on the convex curves on the top of the curve will not look "right." An aesthetic, rather than practical question, but I'd still like to hear people's thoughts on whether or not that should be a concern.

This is my first post here, but i've referenced this forum countless times already for information on how to do this remodel, and for validation of my approach, so thanks for all the help you've given me so far (without even knowing it!).

Chris
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Old 09-08-2017, 06:07 PM   #2
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Welcome, Chris.

I don't get involved in aesthetic considerations as the onliest one needs be consulted about that would be Mrs. Chris, but from a technical standpoint I don't see a problem with what you have in mind. Might take more than one pass to get the fat mud shaped properly and I can see the fibers helping to prevent any cracking.

Maybe use some of them wine bottles to make your rough curb and get started on your final shape.

Biggest problem I can see is where you would, if it's in the plan, install any fixed glass on the curb top. But even then you could easily enough just cut a slot in the tiles while installing to accommodate that.

I think I'd like the look of the whole thing and hope you'll post photos of the finished product for us.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Old 09-08-2017, 07:12 PM   #3
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I'd make a plywood template the shape you want the curb to be. Then lay a 1x4 on the inside and outside of the shower to drag the plywood against. That will cut and shape the mud the way you want. Hopefully that makes sense.
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Old 09-08-2017, 08:25 PM   #4
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You're just sayin' that on accounta I suggested the wine bottles first, Davy!
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Old 09-08-2017, 09:03 PM   #5
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For you to bring that up must mean it's in the book somewhere.

Gobis may not let you live this one down.
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Old 09-09-2017, 10:45 AM   #6
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Thanks!

CX,

You are 100% correct. And Mrs. Chris agreed heartily with your assessment. I haven't selected a specific sliding shower door, but your point is well-taken. Best I make that decision before installing the curb. I had envisioned a setup where neither door is fixed, and both are kept perpendicular to the floor with small, unobtrusive guides near the center of the curb. I had hoped to use a hinged frameless door, but doing so in this small space would create a situation where a person using the shower would be unable to turn the shower on without at least an arm being in the path of the cold shower. No bueno.

Wine bottles in the curb would be an interesting discovery for a future tile guy! Ha!

Davy,

The template I imagined was just what you described. It's a sculpture technique that I'm familiar with and without it, I don't know how I'd ever get a uniform shape for the length of the curb. I'm not that good. Getting the mortar mix correct (mostly the amount of water) is my main concern. Luckily, I have all the time in the world... I've found that the most important ingredient for success in these sorts of projects isn't technical skills or fancy tools. It's a patient wife, and in this case, a second bathroom. Ha!

Thanks, both of you, for you input. I'll be sure to post some pictures if we go this route.
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Old 09-09-2017, 10:58 AM   #7
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We've seen some pretty fancy barn-door type sliding glass doors on here in past, Chris. Hung from a top rail for support and need only some sort of guides at the bottom.

Most important consideration is not to have any penetration through the waterproofing membrane on the curb top. You remember the old military training about "any penetration, no matter how slight"? That applies here, too.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Old 09-09-2017, 11:08 AM   #8
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The important thing when using the template is having the 1x4's (or whatever you have) in place to guide the template. It may not look exactly like my drawing, it will need to be shorter on the shower side since the shower floor is higher than the bathroom floor. Anyway, you get the idea. Hold the template straight up as you pull it along the step. Add a little mud to any voids and drag it again. This will take many pulls to get it right. The next day, you can go over it lightly with a rub stone and knock off any high spots. Fine tune the shape using a cement patch or I've even used thinset if it's a thin patch.

After looking at it, it would probably be best to apply a scratch coat of mud to the curb and let it set up overnight. Looks like some of the areas will be fairly thick and a scratch coat would help keep the fat mud from slumping. Don't forget to scratch it to give it a rough surface.
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Old 09-09-2017, 11:15 AM   #9
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Penetration

Quote:
Most important consideration is not to have any penetration through the waterproofing membrane on the curb top. You remember the old military training about "any penetration, no matter how slight"? That applies here, too.
Yes. That, and ensuring that the doors' dripline is positioned where water drips onto the curb and runs into the shower instead of onto the bathroom floor. That would be a fun one to explain if I got it wrong. Ha!

I've spent a lot of time looking around online at guides and videos from professional installers, and I can't believe how many of them screw CBU through the pan liner on the inside and on top of the curb. Then they "seal" it again with silicone or liquid membrane, but man...it seems like a really bad idea. Lath and mortar isn't that much more work. Seems like cheap insurance to me, but then I'm not a pro, and my time is, in fact, not money.
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Old 09-09-2017, 11:22 AM   #10
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Template and Scratch Coat

Davy,

We're thinking on the same path. I even figured I would attach a guide to the template's bottom edges to force it to stay perpendicular to the guides. In my experience, even a little "wobble" when you're dragging a template like this is pretty disastrous. I'd image, too, that the thinset and tile would "telegraph" and amplify those defects, rather than hide them.

I like the idea of a scratch coat. Thanks for that!

I made a sketch of my template yesterday morning along with my diagram, but it was a bad enough sketch that I didn't bother sharing it. Here it is. Ha!
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Old 09-09-2017, 12:55 PM   #11
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Yep, anything you can do to keep it standing straight up will help. Like we talk about quite often here on the forum, you want any imperfections taken care of before installing the mosaics. The mosaics will follow the substrate. Large tiles are more likely to bridge over voids and imperfections, mosaics won't.
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Old 10-10-2017, 10:54 AM   #12
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A consideration i hadn't accounted for

I'm (finally) ready to put in the curb and the final slope. Last night I was drawing the template for the curb as described above, and a potential problem occurred to me...

in order to make the transitions smooth enough for the mosaic tile sheets to lay without tiles touching each other on the tightest parts of the curve, and keeping at least 3/4 inch of mortar at the thinnest spots over the brick-and-mortar curb foundation, the curb has to be built in a way that puts about (at least) 14 inches of distance (transition to transition) between the flat shower floor and the flat bathroom floor.

I marked this on the floor of the patio and both my wife and i stepped across it, imagining that there was a 7-inch tall curb midway in the step. It seemed like a LONG way to step to get from a wet and potentially slippery shower floor to the flat floor of the bathroom after a shower.

As much fun as this was going to be, i'm leaning back toward a more conventional design...like, a simple marble threshold.

Am I being too cautious?

Chris
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Old 10-10-2017, 11:21 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris
and keeping at least 3/4 inch of mortar at the thinnest spots over the brick-and-mortar curb foundation
14" certainly seems like too much. But I think in the initial design you should ignore the constraint quoted above.

I would start by figuring out what contour would work with a sufficient height and a sufficiently large radius of curvature so that the mosaics will fit on it well. Then check if that provides a more reasonable step-across distance. If it does, I'm sure people here will help you figure out how to construct your curb.

What waterproofing method for the curb and pan are you using? If you are using a PVC liner and you need a rectilinear curb substructure, you can take your contour and draw a new contour 3/4" inside of it. Then figure out the largest rectangle that fits in the shrunken contour. For example, you might be able to use bricks on edge or cut down some other masonry unit.

Cheers, Wayne
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Old 10-10-2017, 11:52 AM   #14
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Thanks, Wayne.

Unfortunately, the curb substructure is already in place. I built it with bricks and mortar. It's the width of a standard brick (4 inches) and five inches tall. So that's a limiting factor.

The pre-slope makes the inside bottom of the curb an inch higher than the outside bottom of the curb. I'll be adding about 1 3/4 inches with the final slope, so the finished shower floor will be almost three inches higher than the bathroom floor. I used these assumptions when I drew up the template, and that's how I arrived at 14 inches, and that's using the tightest acceptable radii for the curves on the transitions.

The shower is of traditional construction, using most of the standard advice on this site. I used a 40 mil PVC Oatey liner for the shower pan, with Merkrete's Hydroguard 1 over hardibacker cementboard walls.

Man, that Hydroguard is messy, sticky stuff! Ha!

Chris
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Old 10-10-2017, 12:35 PM   #15
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So what minimum radius of curvature is required for your mosaics? A wine bottle has a radius of about 1.5".

And if 3/4" is the minimum mortar coverage at the curb corners, would 3/4" coverage everywhere be sufficient, or should the average coverage be higher than that? I'm not that familiar with traditional curb details.

I'm having trouble duplicating your 14" measurement, using a simple contour of lines and quarter circles, with a 4" wide substructure and 1.5" radius of curvature, I'm getting 9-10" before tile.

If your plans are flexible, or if you really value the idea of the rounded curb, you can certainly save some width by modifying or replacing the existing brick curb substructure, and/or by switching from a PVC liner to a surface applied waterproofing (liquid or sheet).

Cheers, Wayne
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