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Unread 10-09-2020, 10:06 AM   #1
SDFFR
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What's behind the tile?

Folks,

I have just about completed putting together a new tile wall facing the shower in an enclosed shower area. Used a DensShield HardieBacker board and then some tile set with standard 4x4 white ceramic tile. FYI, this is my first bathroom/tile project ever! Have certainly learnt a lot in the process.

As I cleaned and prepped the area for grout installation, three tiles from the adjoining wall came loose. Figured, I would just use some thinset and put them back on. Upon inspection, it looks like something else (other than thinset) was used to install the tiles originally (this is a 20 year old house). Looks like some paper material but not sure.

Hoping someone with a lot more knowledge could clue me on what this might be and what is the best option to install the tiles back in the original space. Thanks.

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Unread 10-09-2020, 10:25 AM   #2
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I might be wrong but looks like the surface paper layers of a regular drywall sheeting. How is that corner waterproofed?
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Unread 10-09-2020, 10:45 AM   #3
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Agreed, looks like regular drywall with tile set over it and a large empty space in the corner too (negating any effects of waterproofing anyway if there was any). I'd recommend chipping away at some of that backer material to see if it is drywall. If our suspicions are accurate, it looks like a shower demo is in your future.

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Unread 10-09-2020, 11:17 AM   #4
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RE: What's behind the tile?

Thanks, heknowsbetter and Radas, for the quick replies and information. If it indeed is surface paper layers of the drywall, would that not be underneath the thinset? Why/How would that paper layer of the drywall show up between the tile and thinset? This is where I get more education.

Radas, what does a 'Shower Demo' mean? Please do not say it means someone demonstrating and selling me a new shower.

For reference, behind the drywall is brick which makes up the side of the house. The gap is not something I created/added, it was always there. Facing the shower (and next to the shower enclosure) is a hot tub. There is a window next to the hot tub i.e. the window is part of the same wall with the tiles that have popped out. The gap is the space where the shower enclosure, hot tub and side wall and window come together.

So, could I take out the existing thin set and put the tiles back on with new thin set and live in blissful ignorance (for another 20 years)?

About the gap/empty space, any suggestions on what I could fill it up with?
I assume you are advising standard grout followed by a layer of silicon seal for the corner is not adequate and therefore something else should be added to waterproof that empty space?
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Unread 10-09-2020, 11:34 AM   #5
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From the images it was my feeling that the paper was behind the thinset, not on top. In that case could be tar paper of some sort although that should be behind the thinset as well unless there are two layers of thiset, one on either side of the paper. Honestly makes no sense to me either way. How to patch it? Let's see what the pros have to say...

Whoever did the tiles made sure to not to press them in more than absolutely necessary. The coverage on these ridges is minimalistic to say the least.
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Unread 10-09-2020, 01:33 PM   #6
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Looks like mastic was used as the adhesive over regular old sheetrock. You can use thinset to put your tiles back up but know that your shower is not built correctly.
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Unread 10-09-2020, 01:55 PM   #7
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Thanks smifwal, for the guidance. Should I be removing the existing mastic first before using thinset to put the tiles back on? Or would putting putting thinset on the mastic and then the tile work fine? Worried about what else might reveal itself if go down the rabbit hole. Blissful ignorance has its place! I have new tiles and am not planning to use the old tiles.

BTW, is a layer of paper on mastic common practice? Still wondering about the paper.

As regards, "know that your shower is not built correctly", I suspect you are referring to the use of mastic as well as the gap in the corner. This is how the builder built it 20 years ago.....no changes since then. God knows what else is behind the walls. Not sure if fixing this tops the list with kids in college (along with my money for tuition, room and board, etc.) Someday....
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Unread 10-09-2020, 03:04 PM   #8
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Tile on drywall in a shower tends to degrade in the row(s) above the tub deck because they tend to see more water, and it tends to wick up from that ledge.

You'll also note that the coverage was very poor. Industry calls for 100% of the edges of a tile in a shower to be covered along with at least 95% of the rest of the body, ideally, 100% is covered all over. Those gaps will allow moisture to accumulate there.

To keep the tile in plane, you probably will have to scrape off the mastic, but that will then probably tear more off of the wall covering. FWIW, cement and gypsum don't get along - there's a chemical reaction between the two, so a repair won't last forever. While maybe not ideal, mastic might end up working better. Get one rated for use in a shower. The hassle with mastics is that they can re-emulsify in water.

You might get by with putting a tile primer over what's there, then using thinset. Mapei EcoGrip Prim comes to mind. Kind of expensive for the small amount you need, but would probably make the repair last longer. You could call them, or maybe their rep may see this here. Neither option is ideal, but would probably buy you some time. Plan to tear it all off and redo down the road, though. My guess is that many of those tile are hanging by threads...
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Unread 10-09-2020, 04:21 PM   #9
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Yes, usually the tiles above those are ready to fall off. Carefully peel off any loose paper before you apply the tile primer. It's very possible that the sheetrock will cave in when you press the tiles in.

Plan on replacing this tub surround as soon as you can. I don't see it lasting the 20 years you're hoping for.
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Unread 10-18-2020, 01:57 PM   #10
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Update

Thanks to all of the folks for the education and guidance.

A quick update from the work I was able to do today. I think what I removed looks like gypsum board. A few pictures are attached to provide a sense of the material and its thickness. This gypsum board seems to have been installed on another gypsum board....a guess based on the nicks I made on the second board while removing the front board. The second board is installed on framework which can be seen at the bottom of picture P04.

Now that I have cleared the space, can I install tile using thinset? I have quite a bit of space to fill here (from a thickness perspective)Will the thinset adhere to the second gysum board and can I pack in that amount of thinset? OR should I plan to use a different material?

Yes, I recognize this is not perfect and the whole shower needs to be properly installed. I may end up doing a replacement later when I can spare some money (after the kids are out of college). Just need to go down the right path for now. Would appreciate input and guidance on this. Thank you.
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Unread 10-18-2020, 04:17 PM   #11
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How much depth is there now to the wood? If it's an inch, I think you could stack two layers of cbu. If the first moved the second out far enough to fit over the tiling flange, you could bring that layer down close to the tub deck (but not touching). Or, you could use KerdiBoard. You do not want to build up thinset as it is designed to be maybe 3/16" thick or so, and thicker after embedding the tile, can tend to shrink and crack. You'd want to install plastic sheet under the first layer next to the wood, lapping it over the tiling flange. Ideally, that would have been up the entire wall, but then, it would not have been over drywall in the first place!

As said, the tile above may be hanging by a thread, so put a remodel in your planner...
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Unread 10-18-2020, 04:49 PM   #12
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Yep, looks like two layers of 1/2 inch sheetrock. Slap a new piece of 1/2 inch cement board over it and patch it up.
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Unread 10-21-2020, 03:26 PM   #13
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Thanks jadnashua and Davy.

I have some Denshield board in the garage and am planning to cut the needed amount and slide it in. I assume I can use thinset on the back to affix the Denshield board to the gypsum board.

And then more thinset on the front to affix the tile. I think the wiser approach would be to wait a day or two for the thinset in the back to set before affixing the tile on the front. Or am I being unnecessarily cautious when I could do all of it in one go?

I cannot imagine buying a $50 bucket of Redgard for just this small amount of board especially given Denshield's ability to resist mold and moisture. At worst, Redgard seam tape or Kerdi-band waterproofing strip may be a consideration but even that, I am thinking, is not needed.

Would appreciate any input and guidance that you professionals can share. Feel free to knock some sense into me if I have figured this all wrong. Thanks.
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Unread 10-21-2020, 04:44 PM   #14
jadnashua
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I'd probably cut the existing board out to the joists, and screw the two layers needed to bring it back in depth. Thinset would just make things a bit thicker, and have potential voids beneath it, that could hold moisture. Note, some 1/2" boards are not actually 1/2", so be careful of your choice.
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Unread 10-21-2020, 07:11 PM   #15
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Sure, he can replace both layers or just the one. I'd probably replace the one layer. Those few pieces will probably last longer than the others around the bottom.

I think he knows this is a band-aid and will need to be gutted before too long.
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