Joe's New Shower Project [Archive] - Ceramic Tile Advice Forums - John Bridge Ceramic Tile


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02-29-2008, 12:15 PM
Hello all, let me start by saying that this is by far the best DIY web site I've ever seen on the web. I've been finding just about all the answers to all the questions I have without needing to post (well i did post one other question several weeks ago, and it was answered within a couple of hours). The moderators and professionals that monitor and contribute to this board are extremely patient and always seem to be willing to help even the most inexperienced "weekend warriors". :clap1:

As a matter of fact, I was at Home Depot with some questions about the schluter products they sell. The associate in the flooring department there didn't have any of the answers. I then suggested she go to this site and that she should recommend it to her customers if they have tiling questions. Hopefully that's one "Home Center" that will at least be giving a competent response to tiling questions -> Visit the johnbridge web site :D

OK, that's enough of that. My situation is this:

I have been using a borrowed, cheap 7" $88, home center special, wet saw for ceramic tile (some porcelain, some regular ceramic). I've done a laundry room floor and a bathroom floor and the saw does well for the cuts that will be hidden behind trim. I.e. The edges are not clean and they've all got miniature chips all along the cut edge.

The problem is, I'm going to be tiling a shower next and I will have visible cuts on the inside corners of the walls and at the ceiling and floors. So I need to get clean cuts without chips. I noticed my angle grinder with the 4" dewalt wet/dry blade cuts very cleanly without chipping (I just cant hold it steady enough to do the straight cuts).

All that to ask, is the problem with the chipping likely being caused by the under-powered saw, the cheap diamond blade, or user error? If it's the blade, what brand of blade should I buy that will give me a cleaner cut? Dewalt sells the same wet/dry diamond blade in a 7" would I get a similar edge with that blade in the wet saw that I get with the grinder?

If user error, can someone explain to me the proper way to push the tile through the saw?

Thanks in advance for the help.

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02-29-2008, 01:46 PM
Hey Joe,

Home depot has made a "strategic" decision to replace all knowledgeable store personnel with "clerks" moving forward, so it's no surprise that they don't have the answers you are looking for.

Realistically for the average DIY warrior - most cuts can be accomplished with a score and snap tile cutter. For those intricate cuts - the die grinder with 4" diamond blades are indispensable, especially for vent cutouts and toilet flanges.

Remember to always start with full tiles on the exposed sides if you can and work back to the corners as long as you aren't leaving slivers of tile. Try to end with at least half a tile if possible.

Regarding the chipout - most common problem is a cheap/worn diamond blade or the forcing of the tile through the saw. Let the saw do the work, not you. I also like to butt some scrap tile against the edge where the blade will come through the tile to help with chips on the through pass.

02-29-2008, 02:13 PM
It's most likely caused by a worn blade. Can't recommend a brand; I just go for the middle of the line on each new project.

Personally, for all the tiling you do, you might consider a better saw. I love my Felker TM75.

02-29-2008, 02:37 PM
I was thinking the blade might be the problem, so I'll go get a new one. Any recomendations on a good, mid priced blade? Based on the "clean" cut i get with the wet/dry dewalt blade on the grider - I used it to cut out for the toilet flange and for the tile around the oval whirlpool I put in - I was thinking of getting the same blade (7") for the wet saw. Of course the grinder does spin quite a bit faster than the saw...

And I'll be a little more patient when cutting, and if that doesn't work, I'll use a second tile to guard against "chip out". Would masking tape work instead of a 2nd tile? Just to save on the blade and the time to get through the blade.

As far as getting a better saw, I figure buiding this entire 800 SQ foot addition myself has saved me probably 40K, so I could justify the cost to my wife. However, I am quite cheap, and I'd rather put the $$ tward that $1500 cabinet saw I've been eyeing :).

I do have a score and snap cutter along with a good set of nippers, but I ran into some problems with the tiles breaking in the wrong places (User error, not scoring the whole way accross). So I've been using the saw for all the hidden cuts up to this point.

03-01-2008, 05:59 AM
I've been using that same type of saw and have found some of the chipping was being caused by the table halves not being perpendicular to the blade. Also, the two halves of the table may not be in the same plane. This can cause the tile to not be fully supported near the blade. The blade pushes down (somewhat) on the tile and if it's not supported near the blade it will flex and chip along the cut line...especially near the end of the cut.

My saw is borrowed too, so I can't really experiment with permanent fixes to this problem. What I do is shim and/or bend the table halves so that they are as close to being perpendicular to the blade as possible. This seems to reduce the chipping to an acceptable degree.

Rd Tile
03-01-2008, 08:13 AM
If the blade isn't getting enough water, that will cause chipping.:)

03-01-2008, 09:02 AM
I hate dewalt blades period. Too thin. Get the Husky or MK or whatever is in the $50 price range. Get continuous rim not the slotted discs. The thin blades of dewalt deflect on cuts coming in at an angle to the edge of tile if laying tile at a 45 so thats why i hate them. They get way off line.

03-01-2008, 02:47 PM
Ok, now that i've got my tile cutting problem worked out, I'm going to be starting my shower. And I've got a couple of questions:

1) I've got some fiberglass reinforced pvc membrane roofing material that is used for comercial flat roofs i was going to use as a moisture barrior instead of poly or roofing felt behind the cement backer board. It's approximately 1/64" thick. Does anyone see a problem with this?

2) When, in the construction process, should I install the shower fixtures? I'm putting in 2 shower fixtures one on each end of a 5' wide shower, and i'm also installing the tub faucet on one side. Should I install all of the plumbing, including the valve prior to installing the cement board or, if i have have adequate access from behind (and i do -- Havent installed the wall board on one side, and i have an access "closet" on the other) would waiting until after the cement board is up have any advantage. I was thinking I'd have less of a chance of damaging the plumbing and valve.

Would it be possible to retitle this thread "Joe's new bathroom project"

03-01-2008, 06:41 PM

03-01-2008, 08:28 PM

Don't see why your roofing membrane wouldn't work as a vapor barrier. Go for it. Just make sure the membrane goes over the top of the shower pan liner.

Typically the rough plumbing is installed prior to shower construction. The valves need to be installed so the fixture is flat with the tiled walls. I don't see the need to install it afterward and think it would be more trouble.

Perhaps one of the moderators can help you with the thread changes - or you could just start another thread.

03-02-2008, 11:30 AM
Thanks Juan.

Ok for another question. I installed my Dry pack mortar bed last night, finished up around 11:00PM. It stll looks fairly damp and i'm a little (more than a little worried :twitch: ) that I did somthing wrong when I put it down.

I've read all I could find about making the mortar and packing the deck. So here's what i did:

First, I started with "play sand" in bags and portland cement. I used 1 50lb bag of sand to about 10lbs of portland (i weiged it using a regular stand on bath scale holding the cement and subtracting my weight).

Next, I dry mixed the cement/sand mix.

Now I started adding water and raking with a hoe until it looked like, well, like the picture in the "how to make deck mud" thread in the liberry. I only mixed enough to do about 1/2 the floor as I read it has a max open time of 45 min. OK so 30 minutes later, i was satisified with the back 1/2 of the pre slope and mixed the 2nd half of the mortar (I did a dry mix of the entire amount then divided it and added water in batches)

Now i would have thought the surface would look a little dryer - 12 hours later. I know it's going to be sandy, and i don't want to mess it up if its ok, But i guess what i'm asking is: How do i know if its ok or not i.e. how do I know if I need to rip it up and start over?


03-02-2008, 11:47 AM

are you just doing your pre-slope prior to waterproofing membrane ?

it will dry and should be dry easily in 24 hours.

03-02-2008, 12:02 PM
Yup, this is the pre-slope. I've done a lot of diy work with concrete, block & block mortar and several floor tiling jobs. So i'm fairly familiar with "wet" cement based products. But this dry pack stuff Is strange... So I'm just worried.

So i'll wait the 24 hours until this evening to make a determination. So are you saying, if it's not dry to look at and hard by then, i should rip it out and try again? If so, I think i do some experimentation with the stuff (wetness and such) before actually laying another pre slope. Also, If i do need to pull it up, should i staple some new wire mesh (i'm guessing i will no doubt not be able to get the morter ouf of that) on top of the existing before the next attempt?

Thanks again!!

03-02-2008, 06:06 PM
Joe, 24 hours may not be enough time for your mortar bed to "dry out".

Brian is in Florida and he says 24 hours down there. I'm in Washington State and it can take several days up here. I'll say 3 days for the surface to look dry. Where are you? Florida, Washington, in-between, or off to the side?


03-03-2008, 07:21 AM
I'm in "Lower Slower" Delaware. So are you saying wait 3 days before checking for hardness? And as far as hardness goes, how do I know if it's ok or not. I don't have a problem taking it back out and starting over, because i'd hate to see my shower floor tiles start popping up because my pre slope was no good.

Also, since the same procedure is going to be used for the more criticle (at least from a tile movement perspective) 2nd layer, I'd like to know what to look for. I.e. Take a screw-driver and if i can "easily" erode to the floor, Do i have a problem (haven't tried this, but ...)

Does any one have a good rule of thumb for the amount of water to add? Say a ratio of 20lbs portland cement, 100 lbs pre-packaged dry sand and ??? water? Sorry if i'm :deadhorse

Also, can i get a moderator to change the title of this thread to "Joe's New Shower Project". I'd start a new thread, but I've read that is discouraged.

Thanks again!!!

John Bridge
03-03-2008, 11:40 AM
Joe, if the pre-slope has any substance at all I wouldn't worry about it. As long as it holds together you'll be okay. Did you find this article?

I renamed the thread. :)

03-03-2008, 11:56 AM
Thanks John!!
Actually, that was my main source of information. But I tend to be a little on the "Paranoid" side when doing things like this. For all my paranoia I was doing this job late and I don't recall spending alot of time with the "compacting" part. So the next day the bed seemed fairly soft (i.e. i could rub the surface and dig into it with a finger nail)

I just want to make sure all is good before moving on.

03-04-2008, 07:41 AM
With John's advice on the pre-slope, I'm going to go with what I've got and move on.

Now for another question: How is access to the shower head drop elbow usually handled in a tile shower? I was thinking, for the tile that the shower arm comes through, just calking it and attaching it with a couple decorative screws? Or should i just make the hole through the tile large enough to get to the elbow (i.e. so i can un-screw it and replace it (we've got acidic water, so i figure i will have to replace it eventually)


03-04-2008, 11:37 AM
Maybe this isn't neccessary. I'm attaching the brass drop elbow to a 1x4 that is screwed in from behind, so i guess if i've got a problem in the future, i can cut out the drywall behind, cut the cpvc and unscrew the mounting board from and replace the elbow that way.

With the acidic water, i've already had to replace 2 of those brass elbows. One when i first moved in and then again 3 years later. The shower arm just corrodes through and then breaks off in the elbow.

Hmm, maybe i should get stainless for everything. I did look for a Stainless shower arm, but i could not locate one.

Brian in San Diego
03-04-2008, 05:07 PM

If the shower arm breaks off inside the elbow you may be able to get it out with an internal pipe wrench. You also may be able to "collapse" the piece using a fine punch. An easy out may also work. I'd try a bunch of different things before cutting out drywall. I agree that stainless may be the way to go.


03-04-2008, 06:57 PM
Brian thanks for the advice. And that will be the first thing i try next time. (Long story on why I didn't go that rout the last 2 times :twitch:

So now i'm back to the pre slope problem. I waited the recomended 3 days now and i vacuumed up the sand. Only problem is more than just some "loose sand" came up from just dragging the plastic shop-vac hose end against the floor :cry: . So i rubbed it a bit in a couple of spots and here are some pics to show the result. I'm thinking now i HAVE to rip it out and start over. But i'm back to my original question of what did i do wrong (Best guess here)
1.) To dry? (I"m sure it wasn't too wet)
2.) Not compacted enough?
3.) Bad mix? -- I did use pre measured sand and i weighed the portland cement to 10lbs/50lb bag of sand. So i doubt that's it?
4.) Somthing else?

03-04-2008, 07:07 PM
One more pic. The areas that the mortar came up are about 1/4" deep and all the areas seem very loose, as in if i continue to rub with the shop-vac hose, the mortar continues to erode.

Brian in San Diego
03-05-2008, 12:23 AM

I am by no means an expert but if the mud bed continually sloughs off with the vacuum cleaner nozzle I think I'd be replacing it. I can't put a finger on the reason but I wonder if you compacted the mud properly. It seems like you did everything else right. There has been some discussion of weight vs. volume for mixing deck mud. What you'll normally see is someone taking five shovelfuls of sand and throwing in a shovelful of portland. Is that 5:1 in weight? I don't know. I think you need to smack the mud pretty hard to get it compacted porperly and generally when you smack it moisture will come to the surface and if you gently smooth the surface with a flat steel trowel it smooths it and "seals" in the sand so the sandy texture you describe is not as prominent.


03-05-2008, 07:16 AM
"generally when you smack it moisture will come to the surface" -- Hmm, well while i was able to get the mud to stick together in my hand, I doubt that there would have been any noticeable moisture coming to the top no matter how much smacking I did.

This tells me 2 things:
1.) I believe I made the mix too dry (My dad loved working with cement products and i've done quite a bit of cement/concrete work myself, so my experience/paranoia told me "Don't add too much water". I think this translated to "Don't add enough water" I was afraid of reaching that point where the mix actually gets wet. For concrete it usually goes: Still to dry, still to dry, still to dry, Oops to much water :bang:

2.) I definately didn't compact it enough. And that was my sneaking suspision from the next day. I think I did ok with the 1st half of the mix, but I sure don't remember doing much with the 2nd half.

03-05-2008, 08:04 AM
While we hear about this problem frequently, Joe, I gotta admit I've never actually seen it. I've done a bit of floor mud in my time and just never saw the part where a layer would vacuum off after it was set. Can't say just what it is that makes that happen.

If you mix a 5:1 sand:Portland mud just wet enough that it will make a ball, and you can jostle that ball in your hand without it coming apart, like toss it up an inch or so and catch it gently, there ain't no way you shouldn't be able to make a proper mud bed with it.

It'll never be hard like concrete, but it'll be hard enough your vacuum won't bother it. I recently had occasion to tear out a small section of one of my mud floors from 20+ years ago. If you smack it with a hammer, it still crumbles, but as a monolitic section it's still sufficiently hard and compacted to be quite durable.

You are correct in not wanting to use too much water, just like your daddy tole you, but you do need enough to make it work correctly. But that's all. Too much water and you'll have a hellofa time trying to shape that slope.

When I do mud, I always make me one or more mud balls and set'em aside in a shady place to cure so I can show my customer what's under the tiles. You do not want somebody should hit you with one of them mud balls. :shades:

John Bridge has a good article in the (Liberry) under the Shower Construction thread, I think, that shows nothing but how to mix deck mud. Might wanna look at them pichers and see do it look like what you made.

Sand and ceement are cheap. Might wanna consider that first one practice and give it another go. :)

My opinion; worth price charged.

03-05-2008, 09:47 AM
Thanks CX,

The description of being able to toss the ball from hand to hand without it crumbling helps. I don't think i would have been able to do that, while i was able to compact it together to form a ball, it did come apart rather easily. From the decriptin in the liberry, I thought it said it will "crumble easily", I probably missread, or missinterpreted that.

As for the look, my eye's told me it looked like the picture (I even printed the picture so I could reference it while mixing), but my eye's have been wrong before. :bonk:

And like I said before, I don't think it spent enough effort compacting due to sheer exhaustion. This time, i'll be sure and do it when i'm not so distracted by the the prospect of SLEEP.

Brian in San Diego
03-05-2008, 10:46 AM

You don't want to go into a mud bed installation with a sleep deprivation problem. It's some intense work in a short period of time. It'd also help to have a helper keeping you supplied with the mud as you pack and shape it.


03-06-2008, 07:15 AM
I broke up and removed the pre-slope last night. It only took me about 1/2 hour to complete. All of the cement came out easily and most of it seemed ok (solid smack sound when hitting it with the mini-sledge), but there were some spots that just absorbed the impact of the hammer, confirming my suspition of poor bonding due to not enough compaction.

I'll post an update when i get it finished correctly.

03-09-2008, 12:09 PM
Now, thanks to everyone here, I've got a much better looking (and feeling) pre-slope (I added about 2xs the amount of water this time that i did for the 1st go round - made a much more compactable mortar, while still not being "wet".)

Now it's :yipee: on to the liner.

First, where should I buy the corner dams? I thought the places that sold the liner would have to sell the corner dams. WRONG. None at home depot, lowes or the local plumbing supply place.

Next, I didn't notch out the studs for the pan liner and I've read about "furring out the studs" for the liner. What should be used there? I've got some luan in my shop, i know that's not ok for a sub-floor, but how about on the studs for the purpose of furring the cbu?

Also, i was considering just using some cedar shims just above the liner so the cbu has a more gradual slope back to the walls, instead of shimming all the way up. Will this make my tiling job more difficult?

03-10-2008, 07:14 AM

Brian in San Diego
03-10-2008, 07:26 AM

I'm not a convential shower expert, well for that matter I'm not an expert at anything tile but I'll see if I can help. First of all, I'd try the Noble Company store ( for your corners.

If you didn't notch the studs and set your blocking back for the pan liner I would think that you'd have to furr the studs out. I don't think the shims would be the way to go. You want plumb and square walls for a tiling installation. I think the gentle slope from the bottom would give you gently sloped tile, too.


03-10-2008, 08:00 AM
Thanks for the reply, and after thinking about it I think you're correct. If i was shimming the other way (i.e. if i had only the bottom 6" or so that went back a little further than the rest of the wall, i could make up for it with thin-set. But if I've got the bottom out further, I'd have to make up for that with the entire rest of the wall, not much fun.

How about using the 1/4" luan for the studs? - Or should i just rip some 2x's to 1/4" and use those?

For the corners, I'll order from noble, price seems reasonable, hope they get here quickly. Interesting note on this, I work close to a home depot and lowes, so i went there for the corner dams first, not surprisingly, the people in the plumbing departments had no idea what I was talking about. So I figured the plumbing supply place was the wat to go. To my surprise, not only did they not carry the corner dams, they had no idea what I was talking about either. To quote (or paraphrase) "We sell alot of them liners, but I've never heard of dam corners, and no one around here uses 'em"

Now that's a little scary ... :suspect:

Brian in San Diego
03-10-2008, 08:04 AM

In the drywall section of HD they sell bundles of 8' shims. They may be easier to use than ripping 1/4" strips. I'm not sure about the luan. I don't think it'd be a problem because you aren't going to walk on it.


03-11-2008, 10:46 AM
Thanks again Brian. I'm still considering using the luan I've got laying around (unless i get a negative response on that one)

While I'm wating on the dam corners (and diamond hole cutters) to arrive, I've got a question on the outside edge to drywall transition:

I'm tiling the celing and 3 walls of the shower, to recap this is a 3'x5' shower. I was planning on only tiling to overlap the edge of the drywall one the side walls of the shower making an outside corner of one side tile the other side drywall at the celing, and on each side wall of the shower (The ceiling will be 1.5" - lower than the rest of the bath and that exposed area will be visible at the front of the shower)

Any ideas on what should be used to cover the tile edge/drywall transition? I was considering a stained Oak or painted pine frame to cover. Thoughts on this. Other BETTER ideas? I cannot just use an edge treatment on the tile, becuase i've got the rough drywall edge... I guess i could caulk and paint right up to the tile, I'm not sure how that will look...

By the way, i found this ( on Overstock, any thoughts on the price/brand?


03-11-2008, 05:30 PM
Anyone? :uhh:

03-11-2008, 08:24 PM
You can continue the tile around the corner onto the drywall and then use a bullnose.

Or, you can tape the corner between the cbu and the drywall and then u wouldn't have the rough edge to prevent you from the conventional bullnose or edging of the tile into the corner.

You can probably get away with the lauan in this case. The best would be to rip a 2x4 down for the shim. But that's just prejudice on my part against lauan.

If you 'taper' the shim, then just be cognizant of what it's gonna do to the backwall/sidewall corners. You want those corners to be straight and plumb or you'll end up with a tapered grout/caulk line there.

03-12-2008, 06:23 AM
Thanks Shawn,
Only problem with the bull-nose option is that the tile does not come in a bull-nose, i did use an angle grinder to make a sample tile with a bull nose, but I wasn't happy with the resulting color on the edge.

Taping the corner, I actually hadn't thought of that :dunce:
I can tape it before tiling, and use an edge trim on the tile. Then mud and finish the drywall right up to that edge after tiling.

Any opinions on using a wood edged trim instead i.e. framing the outside of the shower?

03-12-2008, 08:06 AM
I used wood trim and haven't had an issue. Check out my thread (post#202 shows it a little, as do some of the earlier pix show it a little too)

I used a 2-part molding: I framed the shower in 'cap' molding which looks like picture frame molding but it has a little lip on the edge. This went over the corner nicely. Then I framed the cap with standard door casing.

The cap 'lip' was about 3/8" thick, so it provided the perfect abuttment for the jamb-side tiles.

I was conselled that wood is bad close to the shower, but this falls outside of my door, and I've never had an issue with it. Worse comes to worst, it's easy to replace.

03-12-2008, 08:52 AM
Thanks again Shawn,
That looks exactly like what I was picturing. Nice job on the tile work too.

Now I have a couple of good options...and, of course, another question.

I'm going to shim out my backer board with 1/4" shims ripped out of 2x's. So my next question is, I've bought some 1 1/4" screws for the 1/2" cbu (as per recommendation by the manufacturer - can't remember the brand at this time)

Now do I have to calc the thickness on the shimmed cbu to be 3/4" (1/2" backer + 1/4" shims) thus requiring 1 5/8" screws for proper attachment to the studs?

Thanks again for all the advise!!!

03-12-2008, 09:56 AM
Use the 1 5/8 to be safe, no?

03-12-2008, 10:15 AM
Normally I like safe...And if it is neccessary, I'll buy the extra screws. I do not, however, have the receipt for these screws and they are $7.30/lb. So if I can I'd like to just use the ones I've already paid to much for :complain:.

OK, now that I've said that. Is there any REAL advantage to using those "made for the cbu" screws over the regular decking screws? -- There is anonther place in town, Tractor Supply, that sells decking screws at nearly 40% lower than the BIX BOX stores (Same brand in the same box). They do not sell the "special" cbu screws.

03-12-2008, 10:28 AM
OK, Just thought of another question:
I'm going with the traditional Mud bed shower with the pvc pan liner and a fiberglass reinforced pvc moisture barrior on the walls under the cbu. On account that the moisture barrior must overlap the pan liner and the cbu must go on top of the moisture barrior and then the final mud bed over the pan liner:

How do I protect the pan liner while i'm installing the cbu? :scratch:

03-12-2008, 02:01 PM
I'm getting ready to leave work, and I was going to stop by the store on the way home for the screws, if I need them. Any of the Experts have an opinion on this one?

And about the shower liner protection while hanging cbu?

Thanks again for all the help!!!

03-12-2008, 05:50 PM
My dam corners should be here tomorrow. Still looking for answers on screw lenghth for 1/2" cbu that is attached to studs that have been furred out 1/4" and also suggestions for protecting the liner while putting up the cbu.

Anyone? :uhh:

Brad Denny
03-12-2008, 05:59 PM
Hi Joe,
Piece of drywall cut 2"-3" short protects the liner well. 1 1/4" board screws ought to work. :)

Brad Denny
03-12-2008, 06:03 PM
Just read those past posts. You do need backerboard screws. They are dipped for corrosion resistance, have a larger designed head to secure the less dense CBU, and have a hi/lo thread that grabs the metal/wood/CBU well.