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Old 11-13-2007, 06:38 PM   #1
admcclure
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Red face To Travertine or Not to Travertine (steam shower)

I'm new here, and have been learning a great deal from you professionals. For you guys/ladies to sit down at your computers at the end of what surely are more often then not long, busy days and answer our questions is just tremendous.... Thank you for taking the time to post and teach!

While I'm an avid DIY'er, I felt that remodeling my entire master bathroom (12' X 8') was too much for me and so found myself a contractor (Tony). Two things bring me to this forum: I'm having trouble deciding which product to use in my new steam shower - travertine or porcelain - and Tony is insisting that I can do some of the tiling myself. He insists that "some of the best jobs [he's] seen are those done by DIY stay-at-home women doing their own tilework."

Now, I've no idea if that's true, but I WOULD like to try my hand at tiling this project! Tony tells me he'll have his tile guy put in the pan and bring the entire shower to the point of tiling - then he'll do the ceiling (which has to be done, yes?), give me some pointers, and leave me to take it from there. He'll also prepare the tub deck and counter for me to tile for my drop-in tub and sinks. Does that sound reasonable to you guys?

Which leads me to my next question: what I have designed is large pieces of travertine laid in a brick pattern with just a few rows of contrasting blue glass tiles at eye level. But:

1. I've heard that travertine is LOUSY for steam showers (Tony's tile guy said that he's put travertine in steam showers for 10 years with no problems reported)
2. I've heard that putting LARGE pieces (12 X 12 or 9 X 18 or 18 X 18) of travertine in showers is VERY HARD to do, and even the most experienced of tilers shy away from it if possible (I could tell that Tony's guy agreed, but was too polite to say much)

After we seal the Travertine, does that mean then that we don't have to wipe every inch of it down after every shower - ceiling and all? Because I gotta tell ya - I don't think that we would! Is porcelain the better choice - easier for me to install plus a better product?

Thanks in advance for your advice and help!
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Old 11-13-2007, 07:17 PM   #2
Lazarus
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Travertine is quite beautiful in showers. Don't "shy away" from a nice "install." As JB has said, many times.....it's always good to squegee or towell down the shower after you're finished. Not too hard, but the shower will last virtually FOREVER is you do some basic "preventative maintenance." You wax your car, don't you?
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Old 11-13-2007, 07:19 PM   #3
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Porcelain is the better choice, hands down no question. If you want
to use travertine it is your choice. I have asked questions myself from
others here and discussed the topic. I think your residential steam shower
will be fine tiled in travertine so long as you seal it properly and clean it
properly. The wrong cleaners can break down your sealer, lack of maintenance
can cause buildups and deposits that force you to use stronger cleaners so
you will want to develop a regular habit of wiping it down, same goes for
any material if you want to keep it in top shape. In commercial steamers
i would say noooo. Ive seen the finish and fill in travertine ruined by continuous use.
Im sure you will get other opinions, but that is my .02 best of luck deciding.
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Old 11-13-2007, 07:29 PM   #4
admcclure
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Laz - Now, how did you know that?!? I DO wax my car!! Could you be more precise about the "preventative maintenance" I would need to do first? Specifically, are there certain brands of sealers that you like?

Jack - I appreciate your honesty; sounds like the prep work on this job might just be one of the most important things I do!

(No comments yet on whether or not I should do the work myself... hmmmm. I wonder if that means anything? )
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Old 11-13-2007, 10:34 PM   #5
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( bumping myself back up to the top to get some more responses)
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Old 11-14-2007, 01:10 AM   #6
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Quote:
I WOULD like to try my hand at tiling this project! Tony tells me he'll have his tile guy put in the pan and bring the entire shower to the point of tiling...............Does that sound reasonable to you guys?
I've got mixed feelings on this myself.

On one hand it could be nice to get all the prep work done for you, and get right to the tiling yourself. As long as you are confident that the prep is as good as you would have done yourself, then this could work. It could be enjoyable without being overwhelming.

On the other hand, what happens if theres a problem with the shower down the road? Was it something you did? Was it something Tony did? Was it something his tile guy did during prep? Was it something the plumber did? Was it an act of god/nature/aliens/etc? In my experience, when a project gets split up NO ONE ends up taking ownership if there are problems or issues. Its always something the OTHER guy did wrong.


Keep in mind, I don't know Tony in any way so this is absolutely no comment on his work ethic, his quality, his experience, his character, or anything else. Everything might just work out a treat to all involved. But wanted to voice my thoughts on the other possibilities as well.
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Old 11-14-2007, 07:44 AM   #7
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I am just finishing up the prep work on a steam shower, and I also looked at whether to use porcelain tile or travertine. In the end, there was a strong preference for travertine because of how it looks. I had already done the floor and a bathroom countertop in travertine and it really gave the room a wonderful look. It was then difficult to go toward regular tile again. Each piece of travertine is unique, while each piece of tile is .... almost identical. So, in the end the decision was simply our preference.

So, we purchase some 12x12x3/8" discount travertine. I already have a fairly good tile saw, and have done 6-7 tile projects. Putting down the 18x18x1/2" large travertine tiles on the bathroom floor was definately more difficult than other projects, but that was mostly a function of size of the tile. The floor was not real flat and that added to the complexity of laying the tile without getting excess lippage. There was good advice on the board for laying large tiles, which was basically to use a 1/2x1/2" notched trowel, and medium bed mortar.

You could always start the project ... slowly, and see what you think, if it is more than you can handle. Since I will be using 12x12" tiles in the steam shower, I think it will go more easily, also the walls are pretty level. I think putting up the kerdi barrier is at least as big a challenge as laying the travertine. Anyway, I will be finally starting the final phase of the bathroom this week-laying the travertine in the steam shower. Hoping to finish by Thanksgiving. I started a thread showing my project and I will be posting additional pictures as it continues. You can see it here: Starting a Curbless Shower Today
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Old 11-14-2007, 11:02 AM   #8
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"ad" - do you have a name we could use? Everyone is really friendly here. Go to "User CP" in the blue bar above and put in what we should call you.

It sounds like you are open to getting your hands dirty and willing to take on the adventure that tiling can be for a first timer, so it's definitely possible for you to take it on yourself. I've seen threads from some amazing women on this board doing projects 4-5 months pregnant or even while on chemotherapy.

Just plan to get yourself a wet saw. DIYers tend to take a little while and renting a saw could get costly unless you have a friend to borrow from.

Oh, and IMO ceramic or porcelain would be easier to install. Less variation in size and thickness. Less maintenance later if you don't like wiping/squeegee-ing after each shower.
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Old 11-14-2007, 11:35 AM   #9
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Question

Quote:
There was good advice on the board for laying large tiles, which was basically to use a 1/2x1/2" notched trowel, and medium bed mortar.
John, I'm planning on putting down 18x18 porcelain on the floor. Are there and specific URLs or threads to find the large tile advice?
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Old 11-14-2007, 11:51 AM   #10
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Well, I really cannot recall any threads because it was already several months ago. I tended to look at the threads on laying large format travertine. If you are putting down porcelain, it could be slightly different, depending on how flat your surface is and your underlayment.

When putting down floor tile, I also checked my "deflecto score" to make sure I had sufficient floor support to handle the tile/travertine I was planning to put down. I did put down some 20x20" porcelain tile over plywood for a kitchen countertop using Versabond thinset and a 1/4x3/8" noched trowel. It turned out nicely, but it was extremely flat.

I'd do a search and read a bit, then ask questions about any special circumstances with your project.
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Old 11-14-2007, 01:29 PM   #11
admcclure
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On the other hand, what happens if theres a problem with the shower down the road?
Contractor Tony made this same point: that because I'm doing it piecemeal, there won't be any sort of guarantee on the shower.
I've thought/talked it over and I'm going to take the chance. I have quite a bit of trust in Tony's guys, and I figure that sometimes you've got to have a little faith!

(Could be: "Famous Last Words"!)
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Old 11-14-2007, 01:39 PM   #12
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Deflecto no problemo pour moi, this one goes on solid 1yr old concrete. Will need to fill in some shallow valleys with tinset ahead of time to true it up.
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Old 11-14-2007, 01:43 PM   #13
admcclure
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Since I will be using 12x12" tiles in the steam shower, I think it will go more easily
This is where the tile guy said I could have my biggest headaches! He says the weight of the tiles combined with keeping them squared up and aligned can be quite the trick. You say it will be easy.... is that because you've installed travertine on a vertical surface before? Maybe my lack of experience is going to stop me here, real soon!

But John, yes, that's exactly what I'm going to do: I'm going to start the job and see how it goes. Tile guy says he'll jump back in (his schedule providing) if I drop too many travertine tiles on my toes!
~ anne
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Old 11-14-2007, 03:12 PM   #14
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Anne, since Tony said he won't offer any guarantees on your shower be sure to read the shower construction thread in the Liberry (blue bar above) and MAKE SURE they follow requirements. The stakes are even higher since this is going to be a steam shower. You're taking a very real risk here.

If Tony is arranging everything but the tile, he should still be responsible for making sure it is waterproof. (Tile and grout are NOT waterproof, blah, blah, blah - you'll see that on this site a lot! )

Oh, and check out the TileSpikes (ad in the right margin of this page). I would not do a shower wall without them - it makes things go much smoother, especially with tile that varies in size a little.
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Old 11-14-2007, 03:23 PM   #15
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Check out my thread link below. I put up 18x18 1/2" trav in my shower and like Michele said, get Tile Spikes, the only way to go! I had very flat walls and I used Ditra-set with a 1/2" square notch trowel, one row around the shower at a time, then start the next row. I usually didn't do more that 2 rows at a time but with that size it goes up fast.

I LOVE the look of natural stone, nothing can replicate it. It does come with maintenance but worth it to me.
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