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Old 09-06-2019, 11:00 AM   #1
sfbayjay
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Pebble Tile Shower Floor = Confusion

Hi All - first post here in the forums. Thanks in advance for taking time to help out a complete novice!

Wife and I bought a new (to us) home recently. Changing some aesthetics in the master bathroom. Thought we could "dress up" the existing stall shower by installing a flat-cut pebble tile floor. This is a "neo angle" shaped shower, nominally 36" square inside dimensions.

Existing shower floor is sound tile with grout in good condition - no cracks and well sloped toward the drain. I naively read somewhere that it is acceptable to tile over the top of a tiled shower floor if it is in good condition.

Products I'm planning to use:
VersaBond White fortified thinset (Home Depot)
Miracle Sealants "Tile, Stone, and Grout Sealer" (Lowes)
Mapei Ultracolor Plus FA grout

What I've done so far is:

1. Completely scrub and clean all floor tiles and grout joints using a combination of vinegar, baking soda, and CLR cleaner. All soap residue and calcium deposits from our hard water removed.

2. Remove all caulking from existing wall-to-floor joints and from the first several inches of vertical wall corner joint.

3. Sanded existing floor tiles (orbital sander, 80-grit paper) to attempt to rough it up - recommended to me by others as prep before setting pebble sheets.

4. Bought a "drain extender" from local big-box store - basically a plastic ring that screws into existing drain rim.
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5. Dry-fit of pebble sheets to test layout, making a number of custom-cut edge pieces to fill in around the shower edges and around the drain.
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So that's where the project stands at the moment. Before going any further and committing to thinset and more permanent problems, I have some questions!

A. Since the pebbles will butt up against existing wall tiles, as opposed to being "under" the lower edges of wall tiles, what is the best way to approach the wall-to-pebble joint? Should I just fill it with grout or attempt to keep the joint clean while grouting and come back with a color-matched silicone caulk? I've been considering Mapei Mapesil T, but I've got no idea how I'd keep the edge joint clean while grouting or neat and even while caulking.

B. How wide does the joint between the pebbles and the wall need to be? I've pushed the pebble sheets together pretty tight to hide the seams (along with removing and adjusting some individual stones to help), and frankly some of the factory-set stones are touching each other. Do I need to hold the pebbles some minimum distance from the existing wall tiles? There are a few spots where they are touching now (dry layout).

C. Is it necessary to use a primer on the existing floor tiles before setting the new pebbles? Something like Mapei Eco Prim Grip (Lowe's)? I'm hoping NOT to do that because I'll only use a tiny amount of the $40 1-gallon tub of it. Ugh. Plus, the VersaBond thinset says a "suitable substrate" is "scarified existing ceramic tile". My attempt at "scarifying" with an 80-grit orbital sander really didn't do much - perhaps more extreme means are necessary.

D. Anything in particular I need to do around the drain? The extension ring I bought is super basic and I'm worried it may not be high enough, though I've read it's good to leave the drain rim a bit lower with pebble tiles.

Thanks again! Really appreciate any assistance you can offer.
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Old 09-06-2019, 11:46 AM   #2
speed51133
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how is the slope? put a level on it in a few places so we can see the bubble.

you want a gap between the pebbles and the wall tile. anything 1/8in or over would be fine. Fill it with pure silicone caulk, not grout.

all that said, I would not tile over the tile, just break them out.
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Old 09-06-2019, 01:05 PM   #3
sfbayjay
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Attaching some new pics with level/bubble visible.

Left Corner Slope
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Right Corner Slope
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Back Corner Slope
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Front Edge Slope
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Old 09-06-2019, 01:10 PM   #4
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Thanks for the response, Mike!

Quote:
you want a gap between the pebbles and the wall tile. anything 1/8in or over would be fine. Fill it with pure silicone caulk, not grout
I can't figure out how I would keep the uneven gap between the pebbles and the wall tile clean while grouting the rest of the pebbles, or if I could keep it clean/empty, how I would fill it cleanly/neatly with caulk. Any advice welcome!

Quote:
I would not tile over the tile, just break them out
I considered that but I'm worried about messing up the shower base while trying to remove the existing tiles. Should I be?
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Old 09-06-2019, 02:14 PM   #5
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If you have no idea of what you are doing, then I guess it would be possible to mess it up.

Your slope is more than adequate. No worries there.

Keep in mind that the tile surface is not waterproof. Water does get under tiles and into the shower pan bed. Without knowing how your pan was constructed and how the drain was installed, it is hard to say just throwing tile over it all is a good idea or not.

If you don't care, just be careful when grouting. You could always caulk first, let it cure, then grout.
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Old 09-06-2019, 04:28 PM   #6
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How about pushing some foam backer rod into that gap, grouting, then pulling the backer rod out, then filling that gap with caulk? Because it would compress, you'd still have the irregular gap, but still have a physical gap you could fill with caulk after removal.

Or, you could use something like this: https://www.schluter.com/schluter-us...WA/p/DILEX_BWA and grout up to the edge.
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Old 09-06-2019, 07:26 PM   #7
sfbayjay
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Quote:
If you have no idea of what you are doing, then I guess it would be possible to mess it up.
I have SOME idea what I'm doing, I think. But since I don't know what's under the existing tile, I do have some apprehension about breaking out the existing tiles, especially since it seems to be in good shape and I'm told it's possible to tile over the top.

All I can really tell is that there's a 3 piece drain with what appear to be weep holes around the perimeter maybe 1.5 to 2 inches below the finished surface of the existing tile. Shower was built in 2004 as part of an addition. The shower base/pan appears to be custom, as opposed to a prefab unit. Other than that I have no idea.
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Old 09-06-2019, 07:29 PM   #8
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Quote:
How about pushing some foam backer rod into that gap, grouting, then pulling the backer rod out, then filling that gap with caulk?
That's a good idea, and it gives me a couple of other ideas as to how I can establish and maintain a consistent expansion joint around the perimeter of the floor. Thanks!

Any further thoughts on whether I should go with a primer like Mapei Eco Prim Grip, assuming I decide to go forward with tiling over the existing tile floor? Or should I try for some more mechanical abrasion - I read somewhere about using an angle grinder to really roughen up the faces of the existing tiles.

Ideas and advice welcome. Thanks again!
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Old 09-06-2019, 09:27 PM   #9
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Get some sill seal, and use a couple spots of hot glue to attach a layer or two to the walls. Set and grout the pebbles, pull the sill seal and silicone that gap.

I donít know if prim grip is rated for intermittent water exposure (or whatever your shower usage would constitute). Iíd contact Mapei and get their opinion.
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Old 09-06-2019, 09:38 PM   #10
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Eco Prim Grip is suitable for Res3 (Residential Wet) Environmental Exposure Classification, Lou, which includes shower floors.
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Old 09-06-2019, 09:42 PM   #11
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thanks cx, learned something new today
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Old 09-06-2019, 09:48 PM   #12
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If it's now clean, the primer is probably your easiest way to improve the bond. Some thinsets will pretty much stick to nearly anything if keyed in properly, but the primer not only seals the surface but also makes it a bit textured so that the thinset can bond better.
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Old 09-07-2019, 07:24 AM   #13
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If the tile has been sanded well and is clean, I would go right over it with those pebbles.

I probably would have used a stickier mortar than Versabond, but it is rated to work for that application. Flexbond would be a better choice.
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Old 09-07-2019, 08:14 AM   #14
sfbayjay
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OK - thanks to you all I have some good ideas on how to manage the perimeter spacing and also how to keep a clean pebble/wall joint that I can caulk after grouting.

Still on the fence re. using a primer, which is a bit spendy at $40-ish for a bucket I'd only use a tiny bit of, or upgrading my thinset to Flexbond. I can exchange the bag of Versabond and end up with Flexbond for a $20 upcharge.

Quote:
If the tile has been sanded well and is clean, I would go right over it with those pebbles
As for "sanded well" - I had an orbital sander on the existing tile with 80-grit paper for about 10 minutes. To be honest the tiles still feel pretty smooth to me and didn't produce much if any visible dust. Maybe the 80-grit paper wasn't enough? Should the sanded tiles feel really rough to the touch?
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Old 09-07-2019, 10:41 AM   #15
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No, you'd need a diamond cup wheel for that.

Make sure it's very clean before you start. It'll be fine.
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