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Old 06-28-2011, 10:07 AM   #1
kfstoltz
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How should we tile the seat/shelf behind our Bathtub?

Hi there! I've been browsing John Bridge since we started our bathroom remodel and I have found it to be an excellent resource - we're so thankful this forum exists. However, we've run into something we can't seem to find an answer for.
The 60" bathtub in our guest bath was installed in the 68" space by the previous owner. Originally there was an 8" deep shelf/seat that came up from the back of tub at a 90-ish degree angle like any other wall and was about 12" high.
The seat was originally made up of 3/4 in plywood, 1/2 greenboard, 1/2 hardiboard and mortar/thinset and tile - all of which, besides the plywood, were installed in front of the tub flange which meant the deck of the tub was shortened to about an inch at the head rest. This prevented the bather from reclining her head at all. We decided this was a big enough problem that the seat/shelf had to go.
We've lowered the seat/shelf as pictured below and want to tile it flush with the tub. We need to cover the flange (don't we?), so we're thinking about using mudcap bullnose tiles to achieve this (Image 1).
We're using 3x6 white subway tile and dark gray grout in the rest of the surround, using 3x6 short-side bull-nosed tiles as a border. We want a clean, classic look similar (though not exactly) like the shower pictured (Image 4, found at bathroomtiledesigns.com) and are concerned the mudcap tiles will either date the look or take away from the aesthetic we're going for (Images 2 and 3).
Do you have any suggestions for another way we can handle this seat/step? We've decided we really want to keep it flush as opposed to rebuilding it as a taller seat since it makes the tub much more comfortable and visually pleasing, but we're open to using a different tile/material for the top of the step. We're also open to using different sized white ceramic tiles, etc.

Thanks so very much for your advice,

Katherine
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Old 06-28-2011, 10:56 AM   #2
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Welcome to the forum, Katherine.

The design part...well, if you prefer the lowest possible profile, the mud cap idea is about as low as you can go and still accommodate the tiling flange.

But about your construction. I see a some things I'd address if I were you before tiling is started. First, a bench like that is just aching........actually, more like dying to be a point of failure to let water in. You need to address that. One proper method of handling this would be to:
1) Build the framing on a tiny bit of a slope...1/4" per foot (which translates to a 3/16" drop from the wall to the tub). I'd like to see that framing just a tad sturdier...not along the wall where you have a horizontal cleat attached to the studs, but I don't like gaps in the framing because it allows wiggling. Tile is far too brittle and it needs rock solid support. Then...
2) Install 3/4" plywood,
3) Then install the cement board (using thinset under it). Plan the height of the framing so that the top of the cement board is at the height you desire,
4) Then waterproof the entire surface of the bench, along with another foot or so of the walls within the enclosure. A paint on waterproofing like Hydroban would work very well. RedGard could also be used. Make sure to apply two coats, per directions, and...
5) Apply a good bead of 100% silicone between the now waterproofed cement board and the tub.
Then tile it. Directly under the bench, you don't want or need the plastic. The plastic can stay on the walls. Only if you were waterproofing the entire surface of all the walls (quite a desirable method, by the way) would it be advisable to eliminate the plastic on the studs entirely.

By the way, there is an unsupported seam to the left side of that Hardibacker on the back wall. There needs to be support (like a stud) at that seam so it doesn't flex. Your subway tile is rather weak and you don't want a hairline crack to form over there.

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Old 06-28-2011, 10:23 PM   #3
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Cement Board Issues

Thank you, Tonto!
Obviously, we're novices.
I thought I had done sufficient research and knew how to hang the cement board correctly, but I neglected probably the most important step: reading the instructions on the product's website.
So, we now know the seams in the cement board that run parallel to the studs need to be supported by a "structural framing member." My question, which may be a long shot, is can we use something other than a stud??? For example: Can we take down the 3/4" furring strips on two studs and replace with 3/4" plywood that covers the area where the parallel seams occur (the blue rectanlge in the picture) and screw the cement board into that?
We didn't know we needed to look for 4x8 cement board when we bought our 3x5 and we've already cut it to fit into our space. Is there any way, even if our example won't work, to salvage the pieces (including small pieces that will fill in the L shape pictured along the back wall)??
Or... should we just scrap it and search for the 4x8 1/2" cement board which would fit much more nicely into our space?
I'm leaning toward scrapping it, but we hate to just waste all that cement board...

Thanks for your help (and patience with my ignorance),

Katherine
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Old 06-28-2011, 10:25 PM   #4
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Sorry, Tonto - forgot to mention we're full-steam-ahead with your bench suggestions. Thank you for that as well!
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Old 06-28-2011, 10:30 PM   #5
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You're welcome.

If you put up plywood like you proposed, that would work just fine.
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Old 06-28-2011, 10:36 PM   #6
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Really?
Thanks again!
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Old 06-28-2011, 10:42 PM   #7
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Wow, Katherine, you're putting a big smile on my face from your excitement. Lots of folks are appreciative of the help we give them, but you're outstanding! Thanks! Give yourself a raise on this project!

And don't forget to use alkali resistant mesh tape and thinset over all the cement board seams and corners before you pull out that bucket of paint-on waterproofing. Give it a good day to dry before waterproofing.

What thinset are you guys using? There's tons of good stuff available, just wanna keep you guys away from that evil pre-mixed stuff in a bucket that isn't good for a tub surround like this.
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Old 06-29-2011, 04:26 PM   #8
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Well, great! This site is such an excellent resource for those of us attempting to DIY. Where else could we get FREE, reliable advice from a variety of professionals who do for a living (or have experience with) exactly what we're trying to do on the cheap!? It's a very generous thing, in my mind, for you all to chip in and help us with your expertise!

In answer to your question, we're using Versabond unmodified thinset mortar. It came in a bag. My husband bought it. I bought the crappy kind in the tub, but wouldn't have known it was crappy if a little birdie hadn't told me.

We are using alkali resistant cement board tape as well.

I'm going to ask another question since I have your ear - What do we do to seal the cement board where it meets the tub surround?? We're keeping the plastic on the parts of the wall that don't join the bench. We have a layer of plastic which is longer than the flange (which we'll trim), and cement board a little less than 1/4" above the flange. I read that we should caulk behind the plastic to adhere it to the tub flange, trim it, then tape and thinset over the plastic and the cement board to close the 1/4" space, then tile, then caulk the seem where the tile meets the tub. Is that accurate?

Thanks a lot!
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Old 06-29-2011, 04:33 PM   #9
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Whoops - I meant modified. It's modified thinset mortar.
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Old 07-01-2011, 08:51 AM   #10
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I hope we're on the right track!

We haven't heard from anyone so we're going to go ahead with the above plan! I hope we don't regret it!

Thanks again for all your help!
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Old 07-01-2011, 09:29 AM   #11
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The plastic over laps the tub flange and gets adhered to the tub flange. The CBU sets above the flange and there is no need to silicone that closed. Some would argue about leaving it open for drainage, but we'll gladly skip that can of worms for now. Its too close to the weekend.
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Old 07-01-2011, 09:51 AM   #12
kfstoltz
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Thanks a lot, Paul! Have a great weekend!
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