Metal Shower Stall [Archive] - Ceramic Tile Advice Forums - John Bridge Ceramic Tile


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Jim H.
07-24-2001, 08:39 PM
A year ago I bought a 1915 craftsman-style home here in Astoria, OR . The bathroom features an old galvanized steel shower stall that has held up well over the years (I'm not sure when it was installed). It consists of a fairly thick-walled metal box 34 x 34" on the floor & ceiling and around 8 feet tall. The seams are welded. The interior is painted.

Like many old houses around here, the walls of the house are constructed entirely of wood: framing with fir "shiplapping" nailed over. This is what surrounds the 3 walls of the metal box, and two of the metal walls are nailed into the wood. When we moved in, the floor of the stall had lost its slope so that water pooled there constanly. The paint had peeled away in places and there was a bit of surface rust on the floor.

I had a reputable tile installer come out at that point for an estimate. He pointed out that the floor was unstable because of the buckled metal due to the loss of slope, and that one of the metal walls was also wobbly. Therefore, in order to tile we'd have to rip the whole thing out and start over with a new enclosure. We couldn't afford that (and still can't).

But we coudn't put up with the water not draining properly. We considered a pre-made plastic shower floor, but the drain is off-center and I didn't want to have to replumb it. I guess I ought to mention I'm not the handiest guy in the world. Most people do 'home improvement', but I often engage in something closer to 'home improvisation'. The results aren't always pretty.

As a temporary measure, I screwed down the floor where it was loose, caulking the screws and washers as I went. I sprayed some rustoleum primer over the whole thing, and then poured a few inches of concrete in there with some of that fiber stuff mixed in to reinforce it.

The drain opening was 3 1/4". I got a slightly smaller piece of PVC pipe and caulked it into the old one before I poured. Then I trimmed the PVC pipe down afterward and stuck the old drain cover on. I waited a month and then painted over the concrete with sealer and epoxy paint.

I realize this wasn't a workmanlike solution, but I couldn't come up with anything better and it seems to have worked okay for a year. I sloped the concrete, so at least it drains.

But mold is a problen in the shower, and we can't use strong cleaners in there because the paint will flake away (it's already starting to flake away anyway). So I'd like to tile the shower myself.

The floor is stable now, and I've put some 2x4's behind the wall that was formerly wobbly. I figured I'd put mortarboard on the inside walls and nail or screw it through the metal into the studs or shiplap behind. It's the floor I'm puzzling over. Can I leave the concrete there and simply lay some waterproofing material over it and go from there?

The drain also has me stymied. I've been reading the posts here regarding the necessity of a drain that allows the cement under the tile to drain. I'm not sure if I'll be able to wangle some arrangement of this type of drain together with the cobbled-together drain I've got now, or whether I'll need to rip the whole thing out and start over.

I've read Michael Byrne's article cited several times here, and I've ordered his book. But situations like this aren't likely to be covered there, and I wondered if any of you guys would mind setting me straight here before I proceed to improvise another boneheaded solution on my own. I guess what I need to know is:

1. Whether it's a good idea to tile inside a metal shower stall, and;

2. If so, whether I'll need to tear out the concrete I poured in the bottom first.

Any advice at all on any aspect of this project would be very much appreciated. And thanks for slogging through to the end of this post.

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Bud Cline
07-24-2001, 09:16 PM
"Boy" I gotta tell ya Jim H. you are one determined Oregonian.

Jim you said you can't afford a new enclosure, if that's the case my friend, Then you also can't afford to tile the metal monstrosity you've got.

My opinion is your waisting your time and your money. You could have that tin can replicated at a sheet metal shop for less money than it would take you to slap some tile on it.

To "glue" tile to metal requires epoxy adhesive and this product alone is very expensive.

You might be surprised at the cost of building yourself a brand new tiled shower from the ground up. We can help with that from the studs to the shampoo shelf.

What do you think guys, does he really want to do this?

Rob Z
07-24-2001, 09:21 PM
Hi Jim

I see Bud beat me to the punch. I can't think of any good reason to keep this thing or to try to work with it.

Demo and proceed with a new installation is what I would recommend.



PS On a postitive note, my wife and I travelled through Oregon on our honeymoon and love our stay. Portland is a nice city. Where are you in relation to Portland?

07-24-2001, 09:23 PM
I think he mentioned putting concrete board over the metal..but even so, it may be easier to start from scratch....maybe even out in a ...well..I won't say it.

Jim H.
07-25-2001, 10:56 AM
I appreciate everyones' candor.

Bud, I see your point. What I was proposing really doesn't make any sense. I mean, if I'm already going to put mortarboard inside, why not just delete the metal; it serves no purpose. Plus this way I get to replace the valve while I'm at it. One quick question: After I rip the metal out, do I nail up plywood and then the mortarboard, or can I skip the plywood. Like I mentioned, I've got Byrne's book ordered, so hopefully that'll get me through the pan and onward.

Rob, thanks for weighing in. Yes, Portland is a nice city, as far as cities go. We're about an hour and a half northwest of Portland, where the Columbia River meets the sea. If you ever get another opportunity to visit OR, I hope you'll e-mail. The Oregon coast is a great place to visit, and we enjoy playing tour guides.

Bri, thanks for your input. I'm not sure where you were heading there in that last line, but it's probably just as well.

Thanks again all of you.


07-25-2001, 02:40 PM
Hi Jim
I was sort of hinting at putting in an acrylic shower stall...but then I would have to feel the wrath of the others here... it may be cheaper in the long run..but not as nice of course.

Jim H.
07-25-2001, 03:20 PM
Hi Brian,

Thanks for clarifying. I had thought you were sparing me a snide remark regarding Oregonians or something (which I would have richly deserved). You guys just saved me from making a major mistake.

I've considered the acrylic, but I've got the time to do it myself now and I find I'm really kind of excited about learning to set tile. If it goes well, we'd like to do the bathroom and kitchen too down the line. Now I'm trying to figure out how to cut all that metal out of there...

07-25-2001, 03:30 PM
Hi Jim
Your the only "Oregonians" I've ever met(sort of)..but no..sometimes easy is the way to go...I just thought that since you were going to rip out everything...well anyway..once you get the metal out, then you won't need the plywood..the backerboard will be strong enough, as long as you have plenty of studs to nail or screw it to. What's your plan after ripping out everything?

Jim H.
07-25-2001, 04:03 PM
Well, I was kind of hoping the book I ordered would tell me what to do step-by-step, but I don't know if it'll cover those first steps, like exactly what kind of framing needs to be behind the boards. I figure I'll just rip out the stall and see what it looks like.

Not knowing much about this kind of stuff, I'll probably have some dumb questions, (like: is fir shiplap solid enough hold the boards?). I'll take some pictures once I get it ripped out and post them here.

07-25-2001, 04:08 PM
Great! I love pictures...we'll be able to give the best advice possible..good luck!


John Bridge
07-25-2001, 05:35 PM
Hi Jim,

I can make some snide remarks about Oregon if you like. I'm originally from Washington State (Seattle) :)

Mike's book is great. Good investment. The regulars on this board can't be beat. I'm not too sure about Bri, though. :D


Oh, Trask, one of the members, is in Astoria.

07-25-2001, 05:37 PM
I new that acrylic shower comment would get me in trouble!

Bud Cline
07-25-2001, 06:08 PM
Jim H,

The new shower framing: 2X4's not more than 16" on center if you want to support cement coard.

Jim H.
07-25-2001, 11:23 PM
You guys are great!

Bud Cline
07-26-2001, 12:00 AM
"OH HELL"....... make that "cement board".

Coard, what's a coard?