design and transition advice needed, please [Archive] - Ceramic Tile Advice Forums - John Bridge Ceramic Tile


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12-10-2011, 11:17 AM
I have to say that good design is more difficult than building and construction. My wife and I are butting heads on this. She thinks there is nothing wrong with the existing tile layout and I should just tile the master shower and be done with it.

While I'm more of a perfectionist and I think that there is currently great discontinuity between parts of the bathroom. Look at how the tile was ended near the tub under the window. Piss poor, IMHO. Then you have this 4 foot gap of empty space with no tile behind the toilet. Kind of like no mans land. Then there is the gap (again) between the tub and the vanity.

That's all fine and dandy, but I'm thinking of the future when I rip out the countertop and put in a marble top, and add some type of tiled backsplash above the vanity. Now you get into the "flow" of the master bathroom. Does everything flow nicely from the vanity to the tub to the shower. Does it look like someone threw on some tile and made the whole room disjointed or does it look like some planning and design was involved.

I'd like it to look like some planning and design was involved because it's a reflection of MY work.

I have a few ideas, but none that scream out at me saying, "yes yes, amazing":

1) add another row of identical tile above the tub and continue all the way around past the toilet and into the shower. Then add about 3 inches of accent tile above that.

2) finish the tile all the way up to the ceiling

3) give up trying to make it look good and just finish the shower.

I can do the work, I just can't figure out how to fix the existing tile layout with minimal amount of re-work. In other words, I suck at design.

Yes, I'm using Kerdi, as you can see from the sample I created to determine wall thickness for the nipples. The base of the curb will be a cream marble. The shower floor I'd like to do in small black and white pebbles. And yes, I probably should not have pre-built the niche, but I did anyway. I'm not concerned about where the grout line is going to end up in my 16X10 tile with respect to the niche. When we have more money, I'd like to put in a cream marble top for the vanity with some kind of backspash design. All fixtures are from the Kohler Stillness collection, including diverter and handshower. Polished chrome.

Any help or pictures greatly appreciated.

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12-10-2011, 11:24 AM
Just to clarify, the off center drain is the builder's doing. I'm going to fix that. And yes, the shower curb is water stained from mould when the shower leaked into dining room ceiling below.

Hence the whole reason I ripped out the shower. All I've done so far is reinforce the wall with more 2X4's, move the light switches, put up some cement board, build a niche and finish the plumbing. None of the existing tile work is mine. Original builder's finish.


12-10-2011, 11:53 AM
I think your choices are limited if you are committed to keeping all your current tile. But it can't hurt to look around at possibilities. Go over to the Pro Hangout forum and look up the Works in progress and craziest custom tile threads. Sit down with a beverage and go through pages and pages of professionally designed bathrooms. You will be full of ideas before you're done.

12-10-2011, 02:44 PM
If its design ideas and pics your looking for, also take a look at

Select Bathrooms, and your preferred style(I.e. Traditional, contemporary, etc) and you'll find some 1,000's of pics to get ideas from.

12-10-2011, 04:03 PM
Wow. Thank you very much for the link. Just so happens that many of the color schemes are neutral... just like mine.... really gives me an idea of what I can do with accent tiles.

I'll even cut out pieces of the floor tile, if I have to... just to jazz it up a little. Sure beats flipping through magazines any day.

thanks a lot.

01-10-2012, 04:43 PM
Novice mistake. Looking for advice to fix it. Discovered yesterday that the cement board I put up is severely bowed inwards (1/4"-1/2") in the middle due to studs not plumb behind it.

Further investigation with 8 foot long straight edge revealed the entire 12 foot wall, not just the 6 foot shower portion is bowed and wavy all over.

I don't want to rip out the entire wall to fix this 6 foot section of shower wall.

Thinking of some solutions:

1) soak the crap out of the cement board, and use thinset or fat mud to build up the cement board and make it flat using my 8 foot long straight edge. Then apply the kerdi membrane as usual. I'm worried about the fat mud or thinset cracking or not adhering well enough.

2) soak the crap out of the cement board and apply the Kerdi membrane first. Then use thinset and my 8 foot long straight edge to flatten the wall. Advantage here is that the fleece in the Kerdi provides a better bonding surface for the build up thinset. I made a test and it holds up really really well.

Additional note: I have some plaster bonder, or weld bond, or whatever you want to call it, diluted 5:1, but I'm not sure it's appropriate or needed in this case.

I also have some Durabond 90, some Diamond Veneer Basecoat, and Diamond Veneer Plaster, a bag of cement, and sand from a previous project laying around.

Any brilliant ideas? Ripping down the entire wall is not what I want to do because I'd have to remove the toilet, and remove the wall above the bathtub as well. Way too much headache. One thing leads to another. Been there, done that.

I only need to make up for about 1/4" to 1/2" thickness in about a 6 foot by 6 foot area.

Anyone with similar experiences trying to get existing cement board to flatness, I'd appreciate your help.


HooKooDoo Ku
01-10-2012, 04:55 PM
Is it possible to rip out just the CBU that covers the 6' area, then plumb the studs by attaching sister studs?

01-10-2012, 05:24 PM
I would use thin set and a strait edge. It can be done, but how good it turns out will be determined by how much time you invest :)

How big is your tile? If its large enough you may be able to float out the dip as your setting.

01-10-2012, 05:26 PM
Not possible because then the plumb section of wall won't line up with the rest of the bathroom wall. I'd have to feather the seam with Durabond probably 5 feet to get it to look flat. I've done that before as well, and it's not pretty feathering out 5 feet to join 2 surfaces 1/4" out of alignment.

I'm actually leaning towards waterproofing with Kerdi membrane first. The shear strength of fully installed Kerdi membrane is massive and there is no chance of it coming off. Then at that point, I can build up slowly using thinset.

So the million dollar question, for which I've read many different opinions, is how thick can I build up the thinset. Some say 1/4". Some say 3/4". Some say it's not meant for buildup at all. But really, what is thinset anyway? Sand, cement, and perhaps lime in varying proportions. Probably just less sand than a standard 4:1:1 mix of fat mud.

Anyone try fat mud over kerdi membrane to make the wall flat before tiling?

01-10-2012, 05:44 PM
Yes, floating out the dip as I'm setting is also an option since the tile is big - 10"X16".

But I've done that before and hated every minute of it. Ooops... pushed too hard, gotta pull it back out.... and I'm not good at it. Last time I wasted 1/2 bucket of thinset doing it this way because I suck so bad. I spent hours cleaning the thinset out of the grout lines.

If I had checked the stupid wall before putting up the cement board, I would have ended up using metal lath and Diamond Veneer Basecoat... just like I did for a section of my kitchen ceiling that was totally out of whack. Scratch coat, 1 hour, done.... 2nd coat, 1 hour done.... then final plaster coat with a straight edge... you must finish quickly, or resort to using plaster bonder the next day for adhesion. Have to admit, though, really hard to get a super smooth surface. You need lots of experience for that. To solve that problem, I used sheetrock compound as my final super thin coat because it's much easier to sand. Plaster is impossible to sand. It's hard as rock.

And actually... now that I'm thinking about it.... I still have the metal lath... but at $45 per bag of plaster.... it's just more money I'm throwing away. And more work.

Jack Bauer
01-10-2012, 06:37 PM
Rip it out. Make plumb, by whatever means, but rip it out and do a "Do Over". You'll be much happier with the results and fret less.

01-10-2012, 07:05 PM
And there's the problem - make it plumb by whatever means. The wall is so out of whack that I'd have to use metal lath and wall mud to make it flat.

Or spend a day cutting and gluing shims to the studs. Or remove the fiberglass and fasten new studs alongside the old ones.

What a headache.

There's got to be a way of working with what I have now.

Thought of another idea - what about slapping on 1/2" thick thinset before I apply the Kerdi membrane? Never put up Kerdi before. Nor wallpaper. No idea how that would work out. I'd have to lay on the thinset with the flat side of a trowel and be careful when I use my straightedge to remove bubbles.

Raymond 57
01-10-2012, 08:07 PM
is there any way you can send us some pictures of the situation?
I Would take off the cement board and fix the studs. I have done quite a few times to fix out of plumb studs so the drywall or cement board or what ever will look better when it is done. break out the table saw and a straight edge and start ripping some strips down. yes you may even have to do a freehand taper in some as well if you are good with the table saw.
I realize you said the you would have to feather the joint compound out 5ft. I need to see what it going on to need that much feathering.

Square pusher
01-10-2012, 09:10 PM
I tried both methods,

IMO Best method is to remove the hardibacker,
shim or plane the studs to plumb and flat,
then re-install the hardibacker.

01-10-2012, 10:12 PM
Cant use 1/2" mud under KERDI.


01-10-2012, 10:20 PM
Brian, it'll help if you'll keep all your project questions on one thread so folks can see what you're working on and what's been previously asked and answered. We can give it a more generic title any time you'd like to suggest one. :)

Judging by the previous photos it looks like it would be pretty simple to remove the wall boards and correct the framing as has been suggested. By far the best repair for what you're describing.

My opinion; worth price charged.

01-10-2012, 10:47 PM
Thanks for taking the time to look at my situation, everyone, I appreciate it.

I know it sounds like I'm being a pain, but I've done repair work in this house before and every single time I embark on a repair job, it turns into a Holmes on Holmes episode and the only way to properly fix the issue is to gut the floor, or ceiling, etc.

To properly fix this wall with a big depression in the middle, I'd have to remove not only the cement board for the shower, but also the rest of the wall, upon which I open up another can of worms - toilet - window - and bathtub - all on the same whacky wall. I'd be removing the toilet, breaking tile below the window. That's the worst case scenario, but from my experience with this house, that's what's going to happen. I really want to avoid all that.

I've shimmed before, and perhaps I'm just not very good at it, but it takes forever for me. Shimming probably 2 days for me. Another day to buy new durock and cut it to size, fitting nicely over the curb. Even then I'm not confident the wall will be plumb. Even after all the work, I'd still have to feather out to the rest of the wall which is still 1/2" depressed in the middle, so that step cannot be avoided.

I just want it to become one big build up and feathering job and be done with it, build up the 1/2" depression in the center. That's what I did for my kitchen ceiling using lath and plaster. I could have shimmed and used 1/4" drywall, but shimming was a pain for me, and no one sold any 1/4" drywall in my area. I'd still have to build up the ceiling with sheetrock compound anyway so I gave up the sheetrock solution and opted for lath and plaster. I could easily transition a whacky ceiling with plaster in 2 coats. More than I could ever do with smaller straight sections of drywall.

I think I have a solution that might guarantee greater chance of success. I have some very fine metal lath which I can nail directly into the center of the cement board wall with roofing nails. Wet down the wall and proceed to make it plumb with wall mud in 4:1:1 ratio. 2 hour fix. Hard part is making the wall smooth. Not so good at that.

What you all think about the last idea? Seems a safer way of adhering wall mud to existing cement board. Anyone have any idea how well wall mud adheres to cement board?????

01-10-2012, 10:53 PM
Hammy: 1/2" thinset under Kerdi membrane would not work? Why not? It should cure properly through the cement board. Take longer to cure, but I'm not in a rush.

Ahhhh... I just imagined trying to overlap the kerdi with itself with 1/2" of thinset underneath..... what a dumb idea... thank God I have a good imagination. Kind of like being able to look at ingredients of a recipe and taste it before you make it.

01-12-2012, 11:14 AM
Hammy: 1/2" thinset under Kerdi membrane would not work? Why not?

Not according to manufacturer, just sounds like a bad idea.


01-20-2012, 01:06 AM
How I mudded the out of whack cement board and what I learned:

1) made cheap 8 foot straightedge using left over drywall strip. yes, edges are very flat

2) used a 1/8" shim to mark out all low spots with straightedge and cut metal lath accordingly.

3) wet the hell out of the cement board with spray bottle, 3 times in 1/2 hour, and filled bathtub with hot water to increase humidity

4) used a 1/4" X 3/16" V-notch trowel and applied grey unmodifed thinset all over cement board. Then quickly screwed on metal lath

5) probably didn't need thinset under the lath, but I did it anyway. It wasn't that much to interfere with the mud later on. Thinset sticks to cement board very well. I'm guessing thinset has a lot of cement in it.
Too tired to continue at this point, probably should not have let thinset completely dry. So next day thinset has dried.
6) wet the thinset
7) made a bonding paste using cement and water and brushed it on the thinset. Cement is a glue.
8) made my mud in 4:1:1 ratio (sand:cement:lime)

Not so sure this is the greatest ratio for wall mud. The lime makes it very sticky the longer it sits, and the course sand seems too course, sticking and yanking at itself. And water has to be just right. Too wet and the mud slides off the wall and my trowel. Too dry and it falls off the trowel in clumps. Eventually it wouldn't stick to my trowel at all. Maybe too wet, but it was still sticky on the wall. Who knows. Need to really push it into the mesh hard once, and don't fool with it too much afterwards or it will yank itself out.

If I had other walls to do, I might try a 4:1:1/2 ratio (sand:cement:lime), ending up with something between a type S and N mortar. Less sticky.

I would even do another batch using a bit less sand. Or maybe a finer sand. Who knows.

9) applying the mud was tricky. I almost had to push it off my hawk with the trowel. End result was not that great. I had to leave it alone because the more I worked it to make it flat, the more I'd mess up the surface and occasionally pull away from the wall. Wall mud did the bulk of the fill.

10) I let the wall mud strengthen for about 3 hours and took a break and tended to my blisters... then mixed up a batch of grey unmodified thinset and applied a thin coat to even things out. Half way through, I ran out of grey thinset, and mixed up a batch of unmodified white. Wow, what a difference. White thinset is so much better than the grey. Easier to smooth out, easier to apply... finer sand I guess. End result is much better. Periodically I would use my straightedge to check my progress. It's not perfect, but good enough, I think. A little sanding to get rid of the small ridges and I should be good to go.

11) most important lesson - wear latex gloves... wear any gloves... after my hands were already raw, I got out the gloves.

12) don't do this in the winter when it's 10 degrees below zero outside and you have to wash your tools and bucket. What a PITA.

13) plaster is easier to work with than "fat mud", at least for me, anyway. The sand in the "fat mud" gives it strength (with the cement as the glue), but man is it a pain to apply. Not for the faint of heart.

Now I understand why they invented sheetrock and cement board and why you should shim and level the studs before installing the cement board.

01-20-2012, 01:26 AM
Oh yeah, and I realized half way through the project that if I spray the back of my trowel, I can smooth out the wall a bit better.

Another observation is that unmodified thinset will adhere to a properly wetted cement board very well. Dried thinset can be wetted and a cement paste brushed on for extra insurance and bonding. Wall mud sticks to thinset + cement paste VERY well. I had virtually no peel back of the wall mud over the thinset during application of the wall mud.

As much as I like to make fat mud from scratch, I still prefer to make my sourdough pizza from scratch. It doesn't stick to the pizza stone.

01-20-2012, 12:52 PM
Got a recipe for that? We're still looking for the perfect pizza crust.

01-31-2012, 11:14 AM
I was tired, it was late, the entire drain assembly was perfectly dry fitted and I went through the gluing order in my head 20 times. Last glue operation was supposed to be the easiest - the P-trap. My mind went blank and POOF - I forgot to glue the middle section.

So OK, I didn't feel like driving to Home Depot for the 100th time, so I discovered, thanks to Google, that acetone dissolves ABS.

I made a paste of acetone and some ABS scrap - about 6 hours later it was thick like liquid honey.

Then I took a regular 1 1/2" coupling, cut it in half, roughened the interior and filed away the lip on the inside.

I applied liberal amounts of pure acetone to the mating parts, quickly assembled everything, and used clamps to hold everything in place. Then after 5 minutes I used my ABS paste to brush onto the seams. See the attached pictures. The closup is my test piece I did to make sure the idea worked. The clamps really allowed the ABS sections to melt into one another, oozing out of the seams. The ABS paste was just extra insurance. The second picture shows the actual repair.

01-31-2012, 11:24 AM
How do you know when the acetone has finished eating the pipe and when will be come solid again?

Next time, drive to HD and get a hubless coupling (Fernco).;)

01-31-2012, 11:35 AM
Haven't seen this solution posted at all. I didn't feel like fiddling with shims and spacers, or screws, or whatever other solutions there are out there for proper spacing of the Kerdi drain.

I examined the Kerdi drain profile and determined the best resting place for it was on the cone. So I undersized the hole and put a taper on it. Looks messy, but this solution allowed the drain to be self supporting at the correct height above the subfloor.

I just fiddled with the taper until I got the correct height I wanted. Then you can apply as much pressure as you want over the top with spare ceramic tile while you dry fit the components below. This solution works great when you are a one man band, like me. Another benefit is when applying mud underneath the drain, you can press as hard as you want, your drain will remain at the correct height - it can't fall through. You just have to make it level. So one less variable to worry about.

01-31-2012, 11:50 AM

I made a test piece first. Melting only goes so far because there is not enough acetone to dissolve the entire pipe. You're only brushing it on. Just like with ABS cement.

How do you think ABS cement works???

ABS cement is made of acetone, methyl ethyl ketone, and ABS resin (my paste).

I like my solution better. It's smooth on the interior because I joined the two pipes flush first. Looks like crap on the outside, but the inside is smooth smooth smooth - like one continuous pipe.

No need to run out like a chicken without a head everytime you need something. Same reason I don't buy a commercial pizza.

Takes about 6 to 8 hours to become rock solid.

01-31-2012, 12:01 PM
I'm open to using different tile in the shower. At some point in the future, when I have more money, I will rip out the floor tile and tile around the tub.

Anyone have suggestions what tile I can use for the shower floor and and the rest of the bathroom? Something to go with the esspresso brown cabinets. I'm keeping the cabinets.

I was thinking of using a 16X16" through-body porcelain for the bathroom floor, and use the same tile, cut into 4"X4" for the shower floor. Any ideas?

I've probably seen over 1000 pictures on but my head is spinning. Need to talk it over with some people who know what they're doing.

01-31-2012, 12:54 PM
Brian, I'm a piping engineer, and I've seen plastic that has become permanantly softened by too much of a solvent, so my concern was well founded. I am also interested in the 100 or so folks that see this at a later date that do not have your obvious chemical background and try something risky. We do things "by the book" because the risks are understood. We do not tell folks to go out and spend their money needlessly or do work that isn't really necessary. And I can assure you, this is not the same as preferring home-made pizza over store-bought or delivery.

01-31-2012, 01:46 PM
Not to be piling on, Brian, but your method of installing the Kerdi drain does not appear to allow nearly enough height of drain flange above barely adequate subflooring. Might wanna raise that up a bit before you place your deck mud, eh?

I think Schluter would still prefer a minimum of 1 1/4" thickness at the drain, but I've been told they'll accept 1".

My opinion; worth price charged.

01-31-2012, 05:18 PM
bbcamp: Point taken. I agree, 90% of people should buy a flexible joint and clamp it in place. But this post is for the remaining 10% that wonder why things work the way they do.

I am assuming anyone reading my posts, and any other posts they read on the Internet, will take the time to verify what they've read, back it up with their own experience, and choose what method they feel more comfortable with. I am also assuming they know enough not to embark on something they don't fully understand. I wore a carbon based respirator while working with the acetone and ABS paste, as you should anyway while working with ABS cement. How many guys use a respirator with ABS cement? Working with drywall? Cutting cement board? I also clearly tested the idea before embarking on the real work. Only reason I posted it is to show that there is more than one way to skin a cat, and I am of the belief that not everything in life must be purchased to work well. We live in a society where when something breaks down, the first think we think of is a big box store. We don't think of a solution, we buy a solution. I have a million examples, but I won't go there.

I would have used heat to join the pipes, but I could not safely reach behind the pipe - not enough room. My soldering iron features a PWM control and can be set to precicely the melting point of ABS plastic.

CX: There is about 1 1/4" thickness under the Kerdi drain, measuring from the subfloor, not the mesh. I also put additional 2X10 bracing between the joists of the subfloor to stiffen it up. And if it the mud cracks, well, I can't see it transferring past the sheer strength provided by the kerdi membrane. I like to think of it similar to the tension on a rope bridge.

02-01-2012, 06:30 PM
Bob, I really appreciate your cautionary post for people like me who do not have anywhere near your level of expertise, nor that of the other professional contributors here. I had no idea that a plastic could be permanently softened. The suggestion for a Fernco coupling I suspect would be the helpful tip for 99% of us non-professionals. I'm always wondering how and why things work the way they do. This site has been the mother lode for tiling.

Wendy, looks like you'll have to google to verify and add your own experience!

02-02-2012, 05:23 PM
Was that post really necessary? To thank someone for preventing you from potentially doing something that you didn't understand in the first place and most likely referring to a plastic softening situation that you will most likely never be able to replicate at home because you don't own a chem lab?

Not to be a PITA, but in my limited knowledge, a solvent is just that - a solvent. Water dissolves sugar, and when the water evaporates, you're still left with sugar. Not permanently softened sugar. Same goes for salt and water. Same goes for latex paint (and water). Same for oil paints (and turpentine). Most solvents evaporate fairly quickly.

Now if you're starting out from scratch and your desire is to make a flexible plastic kids toy, or a soft plastic container, well, that's more chemistry than I'm willing to understand at the moment. I have no need to do it.

Using a solvent type weld, you'll most likley be left with a plastic that is more brittle at the joint than the virgin material you started with. Not permanently soft - unless you prevent the solvent from fully evaporating - forever.

Show me how I can use a readily available solvent and make a thermoplastic ( ABS, PVC, HDPE, PE, CPVC) permanently softer than the original virgin material. Using just the solvent in a solvent type weld. I'd like to see it. I enjoy learning new things.

02-03-2012, 12:05 AM
Brian, sorry I missed in your earlier post that you had to google to find out that acetone is a solvent for ABS. I thought everyone knew that part. I don’t know how long evaporation would take in a closed off pipe, like one would have to prevent debris from falling into a p trap in an area under construction, then closed once the system is in use, nor did I know that ABS could be permanently softened. If not permanently softened then perhaps liquefied long enough to pool from gravity and thin the pipe. Easier to do it right in the first place rather than experiment/leave the consequences of the experiment for someone else.
The fast lane to JB Ceramic Tile is paved with jerry rigged DIY and “pro” projects which is why I appreciate the thoughtful advice from experienced professionals and surviving DIYers on these forums.

02-03-2012, 06:46 AM
I used straight acetone for an outside water project. Worked great. But its only from that experience that I'd feel confident using it inside if I had to.

Pipes can be permanenly softened but more from prlonged exposure to organics or mucho saturation. Doesn't seem like an issue here.

Brian - I like your inventiveness. I'm the same way. And we both seen to relish in the joy of having solved something out of the box. But we also have to be willing to live with the consequences...!

02-03-2012, 06:51 AM
I'm still surprised so many people elect to go with cement board under kerdi vs drywall.

02-03-2012, 07:12 AM
I'm still surprised so many people elect to go with cement board under kerdi vs drywall.

Because Pro's know there is the possibility IF the WP should develop a pinhole leak drywall will disintegrate, cement board will get damp.

As stated earlier in other threads.... we can water proof you a cardboard box for a shower. Makes as much sense.

Drywall in a shower is not approved by anyone except the manufacturer.

I'm not trashing the manufacturer. It's just a bad idea. I'm a huge supporter of Schluter and use their products and use them everyday.

Now if you want my opinion...............:yo:


02-03-2012, 11:33 AM
I knew about MEK, not acetone.

If I had to go back to flipping subject cards at the library and hoping to find a single book out of hundreds that happens to contain the information I need, I would die. Same goes for flipping through the Yellowpages and calling a company to obtain advice.

These discussion boards, the Internet, and Google indexing are the Holy Grail of the information age. Take it away from me tomorrow and I'd feel like the Dark Ages are upon us.

Without boards like this one, I wouldn't be aware of the majority of things I know today. I am deeply appreciative of it's existance and to those that take the time to contribute.