Custom tub/shower instructions [Archive] - Ceramic Tile Advice Forums - John Bridge Ceramic Tile


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09-07-2001, 01:15 PM
We have an older home (1908) with interior bathrooms added later (groan!). Our bathroom now has an unbelievably small (4ft) cheap tub (plastic that keeps cracking). It was squeezed in the old pantry, I believe, and opens into the main bedroom (closed off from the kitchen). It is built under the stairway going upstairs and over the stairway going to the basement. My husband (6ft) is wanting to rip the old tub out ASAP. I can't imagine a larger standard tub fitting there as well as I would like some special features. I have heard of people who have made their own tubs and I can visualize ours in that space... open shower, deep tub space, bench for shaving, large enough for two... I can see that working in our awkward space but what materials to use? I don't even know how to ask! I've heard of fiberglass (as in boats) or using a vinyl membrane (like for tile) but the details are sketchy. Please guide!

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Rob Z
09-07-2001, 01:44 PM
Hi MommyDi

I would suggest a mortar bed shower to fit into this unusual location. A custom build "Roman Tub" is time consuming, expensive, and quite a challenging project.

Start of by reading the article by Michael Byrne at JLC's webiste:

Can you post a picture of the current installation? It makes for a better discussion around here. John can coach you through the posting procedures.


John Bridge
09-07-2001, 02:40 PM

Back in the seventies I tiled dozens of "Roman" tubs. These were built in the ground -- a hole left out in the concrete slab. We didn't waterproof them. The builders figured any leakage would be absorbed by the soil. In this case they were probably right, as there was no wood framing anywhere near the tub. This, of course, won't help you, but it'll get me to my point.

I've only tiled one tub over a wood framed floor. The tub was built of plywood. I waterproofed it (hopefully) with a Laticrete product that was available back then. Obviously don't remember the product name of number.

After waterproofing I more or less draped metal lath into the tub and applied a thick bed of mortar in two stages, shaping the inside of the tub as I went along. After tiling the walls of the tub I made the floor out of deck mud, sloping it toward the drain.

I don't know whether this tub ever held water, and I never went back to find out. I had my doubts then, and I still have them. I would not build such a tub in my own house.

The modern Laticrete products might do the trick. The problem is: if the thing should start to leak after you put it to use, there is really no feasible way of repairing it.

Get my drift, Di?

Here's what I think you ought to do. Get us a picture, as Rob suggested. And start thinking about a custom made tub. It might be made from cultured (fake) marble. It won't be cheap, but it will be less than what you had in mind. Or, you might find an acrylic tub that will work in the space.

We can then take you step-by-step through the process of converting the whole thing into a shower. And we'll be able to guarantee you the thing wont leak.

That's what I think, but mine isn't necessarily the final word around here. Maybe someone else has a better idea.

Tom Sands
03-17-2008, 06:59 PM
I've been a tile setter for over 35 years. Twenty years ago I specialized in Roman Tubs. They usually took about 3 weeks to build, almost all of them were on the third floor of the house (I don't know why). I do know that I lost my butt on all of them. They were all a challenge with 15 years of experence. but I was trying to make a name for myself. I just started a roman tub last week. I havent been challenged in a long while. I know I'm an old timer but, have a hot mopper do your waterproofing it will last 30-40 years. If anything leaks, its on him. I've never had one leak, and I've been back to almost every job I've done to do more work. The only advice I can give people is: Scratch and Float with cement before you Tile any wall and it will last forever. I've never seen a hardie backer or wonderboard or etc... last more than 10yrs. without some major problems. Spend the extra $300.00 it cost to float.

03-25-2008, 11:16 AM
Is anyone willing to post pictures of roman tubs that they have created? A project in process would be most helpful for those of us who are determined. Thanks, Mike