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Old 01-22-2009, 08:00 PM   #1
ehlfg
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Steam shower insulation - how important?

Greetings. I'm looking to install a steam shower and am wondering about the insulation called for in SR613. I'm not going to do this myself, so it will be installed by a tile professional. My tile installer has done steam showers before, using bituthene, then chicken wire and mortar bed, then tile. There will be all the standard sloping of ceilings and such. I've spoken to a local building inspector, and this will pass muster.

However, I have a copy of the TCNA 2008 Handbook and see that SR613 appears to call for insulation between the vapor barrier membrane and lath. I've asked the building inspector about this specifically, and he doesn't regard the insulation as necessary. How important is it? I'm in California, if that matters.

A different tile installer I spoke with suggested a similar technique but with RedGard on top of the mortar bed as well. Is that worthwhile or just an unnecessary cost? I've done some searching, but the answer wasn't clear to me. It looked like some people recommended a membrane under the tile and others thought it would create a vapor sandwich.

The shower will be done using full body porcelain tiles, if that makes a difference.

Thanks!
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Old 01-22-2009, 08:28 PM   #2
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I'm looking at an '07 book and it states in the third point under requirements:

"all steam rooms will require adequate insulation on walls and ceilings to reduce moisture condensation at temperature variations."

Says the same for SR614 thinset method.
I would trust the TCNA's techniques over others.

Redguard; while normally a good product is inadequate for steam rooms. You should look into using Nobleseal TS, Schluter Kerdi, or TEC Tripleflex. These three surface applied membranes have vapor ratings of < 1 which is about the accepted standard for this application. I personally would prefer the Kerdi because of cost to benefit and ease of use.
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Old 01-22-2009, 09:12 PM   #3
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Welcome, elhfg. Please put a first name in a permanent signature line for us to use.

Unfortunately, I think the only good way to demonstrate the need for insulation around a steam shower is to build and use one without it. I think you'll pretty quickly recognize the need for it.
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Originally Posted by Royce
Redguard; while normally a good product is inadequate for steam rooms.
I think the manufacturer, Custom Building Products, will strongly disagree with Royce's assessment of the suitability of RedGard for use in a steam shower, but that wouldn't be my choice for that purpose either.

And while I have no doubt that it's possible to comply with SR613, including the total vapor barrier with sealed penetrations only for the wires supporting the pencil rod and metal lath for mud on walls and ceiling, it ain't for the faint of heart. Use of a good bonded sheet membrane on the interior seems a whole lot more effective and easier to install.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Old 01-22-2009, 11:02 PM   #4
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Thanks for the feedback. Is Bituthene not a suitable vapor barrier membrane? I thought I had read of others using it on these forums. I checked the Bituthene 3000 data sheet, and it appears to have a permeance of 2 ng/m.s.Pa. If I am doing my math properly, that would be about 0.035 perm. My tile contractor likes Bituthene because it seals around nail holes.

I forgot to mention that the walls of the shower would be exterior walls, which will have insulation. The shower is in a single story house, which will also have attic insulation. Given that, do I also need the insulation between the vapor barrier membrane and the lath/mortar bed?

I was advised by multiple people to go the cement mortar (mud) route with the flat porcelain tiles, so that the walls would be straight and plumb. But the SR613 technique seems to want the vapor barrier membrane behind the mortar bed, not a surface membrane on top of the mortar bed.

FWIW, the local building inspector didn't really like steam showers. His opinion was that they all will rot, and that it would be better to skip the steam shower entirely.
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Old 01-23-2009, 05:54 AM   #5
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http://www.custombuildingproducts.co...er=arc&lang=en

I apologize. Looking at their data sheet it says that Redguard's numbers do appear to be below accepted numbers. Either .02 or .06. Not sure which is the correct number.

Never heard of or used Bitoothane or whatever it's called. If it meets standards and your installer feels good about it; It should be good if properly installed. I would still choose Kerdi though.

First point under requirements for SR613 "....Consult membrane manufacturer for placement."
That means put your membrane where the manufacturer says to put it.
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Old 01-23-2009, 09:48 AM   #6
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The .02 figure is for Water Vapor Transmission, Royce, a measure not considering vapor pressure, I do believe. Not at all sure that's meaningful to our use. The .06 is the permeance rating, which should be a measure of grains/hr/ft2/in Hg. But I don't know how they get it that low on their liquid-applied membrane. I've discussed it with Custom before, but I'll give it another try.

I do know they indicate it for use in steam showers and there has been some discussion as to why it doesn't say that onna bucket. If it's not on the product, lotta folks are gonna presume it's not so rated, just as you did, eh?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ehl
FWIW, the local building inspector didn't really like steam showers. His opinion was that they all will rot, and that it would be better to skip the steam shower entirely.
Prolly because he's never seen one properly constructed, ehl.

The biggest problem with Bituthane is that it is not stable in contact with Portland cement. If you build your shower per SR613 there should be no such contact so your choice of vapor barrier may not be a problem. Emphasis on may. Your installer's use of it as a vapor barrier without sealing the penetrations is a bit suspect, too. Is he not planning to use pencil rod and seal the wires attaching them to the framing per SR613?

As for the insulation, I would certainly want that gap filled with some sort of rigid insulation if I were you. If for no other reason than to keep the wall mud off the Bituthane, eh?

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Old 01-23-2009, 01:00 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Royce
First point under requirements for SR613 "....Consult membrane manufacturer for placement."
That means put your membrane where the manufacturer says to put it.
That's what I thought it might mean, but it wasn't entirely clear.

I'll check further with my installer regarding the installation technique. Does anyone here actually build SR613? Or is it pretty much all SR614?

Regarding the suggested technique of the other installer, which has both the Bituthene and RedGard, would having two barriers (Bituthene and RedGard/Nobleseal TS/Kerdi/TEC TripleFlex) be (1) a good idea, (2) throwing money away unnecessarily, or (3) bad because it would create a vapor sandwich trapping the vapor between two membranes?
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Old 01-23-2009, 10:05 PM   #8
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Forgot to mention: the building inspector (the one who doesn't like steam showers) wants us to use Dens-Shield behind the Bituthene as well. My tile contractor thinks that's unnecessary because the Bituthene would provide the waterproofing.

Doing a search here, it looks like some people here were very negative on Dens-Shield. Is that still the case? Would Durock be better?
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Old 01-23-2009, 10:24 PM   #9
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You'll get mixed replies on densshield. Some people claim it will break down over time since it is a gypsum based product. I personaly really like densshield, and use it quite a bit. It is light, and easy to cut with a razor. I have seen it used around here for 10 plus years, and no deterioration. I have soaked it in water over the winter, and it was still dry in the middle after I broke it. It's made of a water resistent core. It is not just sheetrock with a waterproof layer. I don't understand why the same people who dislike the product because of the gypsum, will put kerdi right over sheetrock. I actually have seen ,wonderboard crumble apart over time, more than densshield. I use different products, for different apps. I am building 2 steam showers right now, where I am using denshield, then kerdi. I like the combination, and I like the clean hole you can cut into the d.s. I think it's easier to completely seal when finished, then cement board. I also like the double layer of waterproofing. I take the time to go over the screws with Vulkem, before I kerdi. I was even thinking about doing regular showers with a kerdi pan, and densshield walls where the kerdi just comes up 8 inches or so. I know it would void the warrantee, but I think warrantees are a little bit of a joke. Good Luck
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Old 01-24-2009, 09:50 AM   #10
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I think the DensShield behind your vapor barrier is of little or no value at all, ehl. I'd ask the inspector upon what industry or manufacturer's requirement he's relying upon for that addititon. But you could also axe him what standard he's relying upon to approve your use of the Bituthane, eh?

I wouldn't build a steam shower with DensShield any more than I'd build a steam shower with Kerdi over sheetrock. Just doesn't sound like a good idea to moi.

Kerdi over sheetrock for a regular shower I have no problem at all with, though. And DensShield, properly installed, is likely to work well, too. I just see no advantage at all in using it.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Old 01-24-2009, 11:21 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CX
I think the DensShield behind your vapor barrier is of little or no value at all, ehl. I'd ask the inspector upon what industry or manufacturer's requirement he's relying upon for that addititon. But you could also axe him what standard he's relying upon to approve your use of the Bituthane, eh?
Not just approve, the building inspectors here apparently want to see Bituthene. That's what my tile installer tells me, at least. I'll double-check with the building inspectors to see what other techniques they approve.

When I pulled my permit, the local development office handed me a copy of their steam shower guidelines. It appears to be the TCA page with SR613-98 and SR614-98. Differences from SR613-07 include not having the "consult membrane manufacturer for placement" statement and saying only that some membranes require insulation for heat protection (as opposed to all steam rooms having adequate insulation to reduce moisture condensation).

So going strictly with SR613-98, the water membrane (not vapor barrier membrane) is shown behind the mortar bed with no option to place it anywhere else (no "consult membrane manufacturer for placement"). I don't know if that affects what the building inspectors want to see.

However, I asked about using SR613-07 instead, and the building inspector had no problem with that.

Regarding the DensShield, the building inspector said not to use a paper-faced board and suggested the DensShield. I asked about Durock, and he said that would work as well.
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Old 01-24-2009, 01:53 PM   #12
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One thing I'll point out here, ehl, is that if a fella were to search our forums diligently he'd discover many, many discussions about the two steam shower "methods" in the TCA and TCNA Handbooks over the years.

And each of the discussions will have some indication that those methods as depicted need some work. And I believe that's still the case. The industry could benefit from a good bit more clarity to my thinking.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ehl
So going strictly with SR613-98, the water membrane (not vapor barrier membrane) is shown behind the mortar bed with no option to place it anywhere else (no "consult membrane manufacturer for placement"). I don't know if that affects what the building inspectors want to see.
That's a good example. Do consult the manufacturer of your Bituthane (which your inspector wants you to use) or the manufacturer of polyethylene sheeting and ask'em about the proper location of their product in a steam shower using TCNA Method SR613-98 or -07 (08 is the current method). And tell us what useful information you gather.

(Method SR-613 does indicate a "Vapor Barrier Membrane" as far back as 2003, the oldest version I have on hand. SR614 does not).

Do ask the inspector whence his requirement that you not use a paper-faced gypsum behind the metal lath and mud. Might go further and ask him how you're s'posta do the proper mud for SR113 with the metal lath tied to pencil rod that's wired through the required insulation board if you've already attached your lath to the DensShield through your Bituthane if that's what he has in mind.

As far as code requirements and local compliance are concerned, a fella's usually gotta do the best he can. It's usually pretty difficult to change things even at the local level. Hell, sometimes even more difficult at the local level. Fighting city hall is generally pretty unrewarding even if you manage to prevail on a small issue.

Anyway, not s'posta be discussin' this kinda stuff here inna shallow end. Proper venue is the Professionals' Hangout and all are welcome there.

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Old 01-29-2009, 06:34 PM   #13
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Vapor barrier membrane vs. waterproofing membrane

I hope this is the right forum for this question. I'm just a homeowner, not a pro, but I was advised in a previous thread that the topic was more appropriate here than at the Tile Forum/Advice board.

I'm looking at a steam shower project, to be professionally installed, and I have been discussing possible installation approaches with my tile contractor. We are considering doing SR614 with a full cement mortar bed rather than the CBU, but we are still considering membrane choices. One question I have is in regards to the vapor barrier membrane and waterproofing membrane.

One possibility is TEC Triple Flex or HydraFlex. I've called TEC, and the rep told me that both Triple Flex and HydraFlex are suitable membranes for SR614 -- but as waterproofing membranes only. They are not vapor barrier membranes. However, that is said to be fine because SR614 calls for a waterproofing membrane, not a vapor barrier membrane. The rep said that only SR613 called for a vapor barrier membrane.

Is that the understanding for people here as well? I'm having difficulty understanding why SR613 would require a vapor barrier membrane but not SR614. For that matter, I don't understand why insulation is called for in front of the vapor barrier membrane in SR613 but there isn't a similar insulation in the diagram for SR614.

The issue of vapor vs. waterproofing membrane is particularly relevant for HydraFlex. From the data sheet, Triple Flex appears to have a permeance of < 1 perm, but there is no rating for HydraFlex. I asked about that and was told that HydraFlex does let at least some vapor through. That is why HydraFlex can be used on green concrete. Nevertheless, the rep recommended HydraFlex over Triple Flex due to easier installation (and shorter cure time).

TEC says that both Triple Flex and HydraFlex are suitable waterproofing membranes for SR614 and that SR614 does not require a vapor barrier membrane. So would people here feel comfortable using HydraFlex (or Triple Flex) as the membrane in method SR614?

On another subject, my installer also suggested Protecto Wrap. Does anyone have experience with Protecto Wrap in this application? (Yes, I already know about Kerdi and NobleSeal TS.)
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Old 01-29-2009, 06:59 PM   #14
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Complicated area. I will try and shed some light on it. A residential steam shower receiving intermittent use would probably be fine with a liquid waterproofing system. As the rep said, waterproof is not vapor proof. Vapor is a gas. There is no rating system for a vapor proof membranes with current waterproofing standards as used in the tile industry. However, under building codes, something is classified vapor proof if it has a perm rating of 1 or less. Most liquid systems properly applied have a perm rating between 2 and 3. The rating is created by a test known as ASTM E-96. Most sheet membranes have a rating of 1 or less.

Bottom line, if you are going to use it a lot, use a sheet membrane. If it is a once or twice a week for a few hours, a liquid will probably work. If you PM me I can send you a manufacturers file or two that explain it further in their view. Everyone is gun shy on steam because if they don't work, it gets real expensive.
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Old 01-29-2009, 07:24 PM   #15
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That is a area that a committee is currently working on.In the future it would be a safe bet that both details will specify Vapor membrane.
As for SR 614 I would get it in writing that it is suitable to be installed in a steam room as in SR 614 ,with out the need of a Vapor membrane ..
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