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Unread 11-19-2021, 03:49 PM   #1
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Location: Chicago, IL
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Shower Floor Tile Replacement -- What's my best option?

I bought a condo in Chicago this past Spring which was built in 2008 and has a steam shower in the master bath. The shower seems like it is in great shape overall, with the exception of the floor tile. There was significant efflorescence and in various areas the tile seemed spongy like it wasn't properly affixed to the pan. There was also water pooling near the drain which would never dry no matter how many days the shower went unused.

In my infinite wisdom, I went ahead and removed the existing floor tile. It came up shockingly easily; the grout between the tiles seemed like the only thing keeping it in place. The pan was very waterlogged and took several days to dry out.

I'm assuming this is what is referred to as a mud pan. The webbing from the old tile is still mostly affixed to it. I've reached out to a couple of tile people so far but everybody is so busy it's been hard for anybody to give me the time of day. What are my options here? The walls and everything else seem like they are in great shape, it's just the floor that was a problem. The pan seems like it's in great shape. I'd really like to just put down new floor tile and be done with it.

As I mentioned because of all the extra stimulus money or people just being stuck at home due to the pandemic, every place I've called has said they are the busiest they have ever been in their careers. It's been almost impossible to get someone to give me the time of day to come out and give me a quote. The one quote I have received thus far is detailed below. It just seems like overkill to me. At that rate, it couldn't be much more to just redo the whole thing right? I'm torn about doing that mainly because the rest of the shower is still in such good shape, it's hard not to see the rest of it lasting another 10-20 years. I'm also concerned about trying to find matching replacement tile for the walls...

What would YOU do?


- protect the working area with plastic, paper etc
- remove, save and reinstall after the job shower door with panel
- remove and dispose of approx 1’-1.5’ of bottom row tiles around the shower (including bottom of the seat)
- remove and dispose of tiles from threshold
- remove and dispose concrete form shower base
- check the shower drain and fix it if needed
- supply and install new rubber membrane
- pour concrete with pitch to the center
- install tiles where needed, apply grout, apply clear silicone in the corners
- reinstall saved shower doors
- clean and remove all debris

Grand total: $5,200.

*matching tiles to be supply by owner.
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Unread 11-19-2021, 05:28 PM   #2
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If it were mine I’d rip it out. It’s 13 yrs old, floor looking like it did and pooling there is the unknown of what else could be wrong. Why spend $5200 for a repair. Your half way to getting a new shower.
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Unread 11-19-2021, 10:24 PM   #3
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Welcome, Bryan.

If you don't put that geographic location into your User Profile the information will be lost before we leave this page and it's frequently helpful to have.

Originally Posted by Bryan
- supply and install new rubber membrane
- pour concrete with pitch to the center
From your description I would guess at least part of your problem is that there is no pre-slope under the existing liner, which I'll guess is either PVC or CPE and not rubber. Not sure what your bidder intends to put in there, but "rubber membrane" would cause me concern. And since he made no mention of a pre-slope, I would be concerned about that, too.

His bid to "pour concrete" on your waterproof liner gives me pause as well. One does not use concrete as the top mortar bed in a conventional shower receptor. It must be a mortar most commonly referred to as deck mud and it's character allows moisture to pass quickly through it and the slope under the liner allows that moisture to find its way to the weep holes in the clamping drain. There should be no water trapped in that top mortar bed.

The entire plan to do what is commonly called a pan replacement is considered by many (most?) professionals to be a temporary measure to be applied only in cases where the customer wants to be able to use the shower for an additional period while gathering finances to do a complete shower replacement. Doesn't sound like what you have in mind.

Another part of the problem is the lack of the ability to connect the new wall waterproofing to the existing. And in your steam shower, that would be even more critical than in just a shower. That's not likely to work out well for you.

Entirely up to you, of course, but I'd recommend you replace the shower if you actually have a problem with the receptor. You might want to remove the existing mortar bed and see what's under it. That can usually be done without damage to the waterproof liner if the receptor was constructed with the proper type of mortar to begin with. That would allow you to determine if your liner is laying flat on the subfloor without a proper pre-slope or if your problem might be only that your drain's weep holes have become clogged and inoperable.

But I'd be looking at a full shower replacement before you start and just hope it is something that can be easily repaired. If not, I'd recommend you do the new shower yourself so you're sure you get it right this time. Our all volunteer army of helpers have helped hundreds of first-timers to create some pretty impressive showers over the years and they'll be happy to help you, too.

My opinion; worth price charged.

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Unread 11-20-2021, 12:35 PM   #4
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Location: Chicago, IL
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Yeah, I'm leaning more towards a full replacement with each passing day. It's definitely taken me some time to mentally adjust myself from where I started with thinking I'd be able to spend a few hundred dollars on a new floor to now be thinking about spending $10K+ on a full shower replacement. Luckily I just got my annual bonus from work so at least there's that.

First time homeowner here and it's been a trial by fire. Fridge died the same day I closed, water heater probably doesn't have much time left... The previous owners barely put a dime in to the place when they owned it. I've put a lot of time and money into this place in the past 7 months. But hey, it's mine.

I don't know if I'm up to the challenge of doing this all myself, I'd be somewhat terrified of screwing something up and water leaking into my neighbor's unit below. It's also a challenge because my HOA rules only allow for construction work M-F 9-5 which is when I'm working.

Given this is a steam shower, is there anything else I should know or look for to be done that might not be done on a regular shower but is critical for a steam shower? One thing I was curious about is if it would require any sort of special mortar or thinset, or if there are some types of tile which work better than others due to the heat from the steam.

Last edited by bshrode; 11-20-2021 at 12:42 PM.
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Unread 11-21-2021, 09:16 AM   #5
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Steam showers are more susceptible to water vapor/moisture being driven through the tile assembly into the underlying substrate. For that reason they need to built with extra care and detail given to water proofing before the tile even gets installed. You have no idea how your steam shower was done, but you do know that the floor, at least, has failed so it would be natural to wonder if the rest of it is sound.

One challenge you'll face in replacing only the floor is to not damage whatever water proofing exists. We also often see that in order to replace the floor the bottom row of wall tile needs to also be removed. Trouble with that is if, upon removal of the bottom row, the water proofing layer also gets damaged. There is often no way to repair that water proofing in a way that effectively ties it into the water proofing that is under the wall tile above the bottom row.

Mortar ("thinset" being an installation method using mortar) is unaffected by water/moisture. Some tile is more porous than others. A porcelain ceramic tile is less porous than a plain ceramic tile. a glazed tile will be less porous than an non glazed tile.
If I recall correctly my memory is excellent, but my ability to access it is intermittent.
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