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Old 11-09-2011, 01:01 PM   #1
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fat mud on plaster and leveling systems

I am retiling my mother-in-law's (MIL) bathroom and would appreciate some advice.

The walls are plaster (~ 1 inch thick plaster on metal lath supported by a wallboard type product). The room is approximately 5 x 7 feet with a 32" square shower stall off the far end. The shower is tiled floor to ceiling and the wall tile in the rest of the room is approximately 50" up the wall. The top portion of the walls have a beautiful plaster finish. My MIL is very fond of the plaster and has asked that we remove as little of it as possible.

The terrazzo shower recepticle was leaking so we removed it by carefully cutting through the plaster approximately 2 feet above where the wall meets the shower floor. You will hopefully be able to see this in the picture. All the tile was removed from the walls and the adhesive residue was scraped to remove rough areas. The shower base was replaced with a new solid surface piece and the wall was patched using backer board and seam tape. Unfortunately the backer board plaster interface is lipping in some spots. I realize that tearing out the plaster entirely and replacing it with backer board would be the "easiest" approach; however we have decided to tear out as little plaster as possible. Given that, what is the best approach for the following:

1. getting the plaster walls plumb - Is there a way to float a thin bed of fat mud on the plaster to ensure it is perfectly even?
2. Ditra was used on the floor which is relatively level; however, we are using 18 x 18 inch tiles so I am leaning towards using a leveling system. I worked with 16 x 16 tiles before and had slight lippage issues. The TLS is expensive (~$200) even for the small DIY kit but looks to have the best reviews.

I would appreciate advice from anyone who has taken on this type of challange without removing the plaster walls. Again, I am aware that a complete tear-out would likely be the most efficient and economical approach but would like to respect my MIL's wishes.
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Old 11-09-2011, 01:17 PM   #2
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If you really like your MIL, send her to a health spa for a weekend, while you tear out the plaster and hang backerboard in the shower area.

Or, clean (sand, grind, etc.) that plaster down to virgin plaster, then use a modified thinset to feather/skimcoat the plaster back flush with the backerboard patch. I think fat mud won't be sticky enough all by itself. Once the thinset cures, you can apply a surface waterproofing membrane, then your tile. Kerdi would be a good choice for the membrane, but a liquid could also be used.

The Lash system is probably more DIY-budget friendly. For as little as you have to do, the TLS tool is a hefty expense.
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Old 11-09-2011, 09:55 PM   #3
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I'm with Bob I would gut those walls and sister the studs as necessary to make the walls plumb, you will have a fight from the start to finish trying to set 16s on those walls.

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Old 11-09-2011, 10:38 PM   #4
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Hi Milo,

I'll leave your questions to the others. Rather, I'm concerned that your showerbase is only shimmed and doesn't have any setting material under it to support it. I see what looks to be Ditra around the drain and no evidence of any setting material oozing out (or maybe you're just very neat). Did you use mortar (or gypsolite or foam) under it during the install, or is it just shimmed to a level position with an air gap under it? And can we ask what brand this base is?

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