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Old 07-12-2009, 01:55 AM   #1
mramos327
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Steam Shower: Travertine or Porcelain?

Hello All,

My name is Miguel and this is my first time posting. I'm trying to decide what kind of tile to use in a new steam shower. I hear 2 different stories. One that sealed travertine is fine in a steam shower and another that only porcelain should be used to minimize the possibility of leaks. Which is right?

The designer in the tile store said that it would be a shame to have that nice new bathroom and you've used porcelain instead of natural stone which would increase the resale value.

Should I consider using porcelain in the steam shower and try and match it with a travertine for the rest of the bathroom?

Also, we're going to have a bench in the steam shower and my wife and I just saw some nice marble that we wanted to use for accents and possibly the top of the bench. I read in another thread that marble could possibly warp in the steam shower environment and it should not be used in big slabs like on the bench. Could we use 12x12 sized marble for the bench top and be OK?

Finally, I read most of the Laticrete steam shower manual where they advocate using a double moisture/vapor barrier. Is it the majority opinion here that only a single barrier (either plastic sheet over the studs or Redgard/Laticrete over the backer board) is enough? I don't want to have to go back later and repair this. I also saw the post about using a "film thickness gauge" if using the Redgard/Laticrete to ensure the minimum thickness is achieved. Have there been instances where the double barrier has been used and moisture is trapped and you've verified this by having to tear something out and you've seen damage? Please advise. Thanks.

I appreciate any help/advice members can provide.

Regards,

Miguel
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Old 07-12-2009, 06:42 AM   #2
ddmoit
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Welcome to the forum, Miguel.

In a properly constructed shower (especially a steam shower), the tile is just a wear surface and does not contribute to making the shower waterproof. Either choice is fine. Natural stone tends to come with more regular maintenance issues though.

If you use the search function, you will find plenty of reading on the topic of steam showers here.
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Old 07-12-2009, 08:21 AM   #3
mramos327
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Dan,

Thanks for your reply. Assuming that you have a good waterproofing system behind the tile, my thought was that since the porcelain is not porous the only potential water entry point is at the grout line and if you have a tight grout line that is sealed properly then that would be better in the long run. But I'm also thinking about the total value of the bathroom and if I can safely use travertine then I might do that.

On the other hand since you do have to seal the grout line then why not use a stone like travertine and seal everything? Since this is a steam shower what grout sealer do people recommend and if I do go with travertine, what sealer should I use there? Can I use one sealer for both the stone and the grout?

Has anyone come across threads where someone has used travertine in a steam shower successfully or maybe you've built a steam shower with travertine?


Any other opinions are appreciated. Thanks.

Miguel
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Old 07-12-2009, 08:47 AM   #4
ccarlisle
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Look, no matter what the tile no matter what the grout or if it's sealed or not, it's the waterproofing system as a whole that makes the shower last or not. And if Laticrete says a double waterproofing layer, why do you think they might say that?

If I were you I'd spend more of my time investigating the rights and wrongs of my steam shower construction from a waterproofing angle than worry about water infiltration through the grout lines. Or about travertine vs porcelain...

Oh and by the way, you'll have issues with the electrical, the plumbing, the structure and any fasteners in a steam shower that are just as relevant - if not more. So spend the time and money there.
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Old 07-12-2009, 06:51 PM   #5
jadnashua
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I'd feel safer with a sheet membrane like Kerdi. Noble also makes a good one for this application as well. A steam shower puts a severe strain on the waterproofing...steam will drive moisture into any defect and any material that isn't impervious. I'd prefer to limit how deep it can go, and a surface membrane is the way to go.

Steam will drive moisture into stone, regardless of any sealer you install. Porcelain will be much better. I haven't looked it up, but I'd guess travertine might absorb as much as 5% moisture, while some of the porcelains are down much below 1%. The porcelain will be much easier to keep clean, and won't show color changes that a stone tile might in a steam shower. It would depend on how often it was used, how long, and whether you used a surface membrane or waterproofing system and post use ventillation.

The TCNA has several methods described on how to successfully build a steam shower...I'd make sure one of those was used. They are the gold standard.
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Old 07-12-2009, 11:30 PM   #6
mramos327
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Jim,

Thank you for a concise, informative & professional answer that actually addresses my questions while at the same time provides your informed opinion to key areas. This is what I expected from this forum.

I am seriously considering the Kerdi system but had also been looking at Redgard/Laticrete. Is the Kerdi system just easier and more foolproof? Also, aren't all these barriers underneath the tile at the same location if you look at a cross section? Just curious.

All good points concerning the porcelain and we will likely be using the steam daily and with a transom next to a vent to help air it out.

I went to the TCNA web site but it wasn't clear where they have the docs to describe building steam showers. Could you please post the link.

Thanks very much,

Miguel
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Old 07-12-2009, 11:56 PM   #7
Hamilton
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Do not use natural stone in a steamer. It can be done, yes. I have seen,
and repaired wineries with natural stone steamers. After a few years the fill
is popping out, the surface is etched. A lot of this has to do with the water
in your area. The chemicals added to it and the content of calcium.

Keep in mind this scenario is a continually running steamer for the most part.
Damage in this case is the easiest to find. Most residential steamers do not
see the same kind of abuse.

As far as construction goes, you may want to check up on kerdi. It is a vapor
proof barrier applied to the surface of your substrate. In fact I used it on my
steamer project and I typically install old school mud work. Here is a link
to the thread here with pics of my steamer project:http://www.johnbridge.com/vbulletin/...=kerdi+steamer If you decide to go the Kerdi route, do read through
my thread there are lots of good pics and info from myself and other people.
Best of luck.
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Old 07-14-2009, 05:57 AM   #8
mramos327
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Jack,

Thank you for the reply and the experienced advice along with the link. I ran into someone locally here in the Tampa area that like you has had a lot of experience with steamers and he echos your words. It'll be porcelain in the steam shower and we'll be using the Kerdi system as you advised. I'll take a look at the link. Thank you again.

Regards,

Miguel
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Old 07-14-2009, 06:35 AM   #9
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Travertine is considered 'moderately absorptive' as a stone, with rates something like 0.5% to 1%, in its natural state. This is about twice the rate for an avergae marble and knowing how it is formed, remains quite consistent from country to country.

Polished travertine is another matter altogether because of the polish's effect on the surface characteristics of the stone; furthermore several centuries-old monuments and fountains are made from travertines, so a 5% absortion rate seems high.
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