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Unread 02-03-2021, 07:51 AM   #1
tenthny1
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Advice on Porcelain Shower Niche Install

Hello, first I want to say thank you for this forum and all of the generous advice. We have spent many hours on here reading through posts learning about best practices in tile. Our little house thanks you!

I have run up against something that I am hoping to get some insight on. We had an AC Products porcelain shower niche installed and it has a crack that showed up during grouting.

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The supplier said it is probably a compression crack from settling or installation, possibly from using thinset instead of mud. He also said he had no direct experience and could not make an installation recommendation. He suggested using a bathtub repair kit to fix it.

The tile installer said it is a bad unit and that it should be broken out and replaced.

I prefer to replace it now (vs. a repair kit) but my question is, what is the appropriate way to install a porcelain niche? Are they just a terrible idea? Is it reasonable to break it out with minimal damage to the surrounding tile?

Extra details that may or may not apply:
-We have an 1890s brick townhouse that we have fully gutted and reframed about three years ago so I don't think settling should be an issue either from the building or framing.
-The installer used modified thinset (I'm not sure which brand) and Keracolor U with Grout Maximizer.
-The tile and niche were installed at the same time, but we did not grout for a month due to a trim delay in a different area in the bathroom that stalled tile installation.


Thank you in advance for your help!
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Unread 02-03-2021, 09:15 AM   #2
jeffnc
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On the one hand, whenever I build a niche, or any other area of a shower for that matter, it's already waterproofed from beneath, so that crack wouldn't be an issue as far as leaks are concerned, so I wouldn't worry about patching it from that perspective.

On the other hand, I really hate hack patches, and I wouldn't want to do anything other than knock it out and replace it. Care should be taken to get it out so as not to damage the surrounding tile and waterproofing.

I've never heard of any issue such as "thinset rather than 'mud' ", whatever that means. If your house has any serious settling issues, that can rip anything apart, really.
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Unread 02-03-2021, 09:55 AM   #3
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Welcome to the forum, Stephanie.

I'm with Jeff. I would break it out (after obtaining a replacement). I'm pretty sure the niche was defective when installed, and there is no reason not to use thinset.
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Unread 02-04-2021, 01:19 AM   #4
Tool Guy - Kg
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I also think the crack was there before it was installed.

Thinset mortar does shrink when it dries, so it could theoretically pull the niche outward in each of the directions it was bonded to the walls....but that's kind of impossible from a practical standpoint, as the mortar would be shrinking long before it had a chance to develop anything close to a high enough tensile strength to crack that fixture.

The only way I can see this being an installation error is if the installer used a rapid-setting thinset mortar (they develop higher bond strength quickly) and applied it thicker than it was designed to be applied.

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Unread 02-04-2021, 01:43 AM   #5
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Correct me if I'm wrong, but the only way thinset is going to shrink is if it starts drying before it's set. Trapped between porcelain and waterproofing, that thinset is not going to be drying any time soon.
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Unread 02-04-2021, 01:52 AM   #6
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There hasn't been a mention of waterproofing, has there? Did I miss it?

But even if there is, most waterproofing doesn't have terribly low perm ratings. And the perimeter of the niche has had an open crack for a month. I think it's drying sooner than later.
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Unread 02-04-2021, 09:20 AM   #7
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Well no, I just assume there is waterproofing. Yes technically there will be some drying from the crack, but it's insignificant compared to the gaps around the edges of the insert. Of course it will dry. Maybe I didn't word it very well, but what I was trying to say was that in a trapped or semi-trapped situation like this, the thinset is going to set before it dries out. My understanding is that this means it's not going to shrink.
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Unread 02-08-2021, 08:23 AM   #8
tenthny1
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Hello everyone, thank you for taking the time to give me your advice! There is a lot here, but this is what I think I am hearing:

-original shower niche probably defective
-carefully knock out and replace it
-thinset is fine, not rapid-setting and not too much

Regarding waterproofing, I know the installer used redguard on the concrete board behind the tile, but I am not sure what happened behind the niche so this might give us an opportunity to address it. My guess is that it is simply inserted into the wall.

How should an insert be waterproofed? Would you paint the redguard on the back of the porcelain niche? Is that a terrible idea?
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Unread 02-08-2021, 09:04 AM   #9
jeffnc
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Redgard doesn't go on the porcelain insert (yes that is a terrible idea, lol). I guess it won't do any harm, but the point is it is the niche cavity itself that needs to be waterproofed. Get the insert taken out, then inspect the cavity and make sure it's waterproofed correctly before putting the new insert in. Porcelain itself is basically waterproof, so barring any cracks in it, the risk is water getting in through the grout joint and behind the insert, in the future. Grout itself is quite porous, and worse cracks in grout lines are not unlikely.
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Unread 02-09-2021, 12:42 PM   #10
tenthny1
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That's funny! Yes, I am the queen of randomly terrible ideas

So, in lieu of that, what is the proper way to waterproof a cavity cut into the wall?
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Unread 02-09-2021, 01:15 PM   #11
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Well if you've been RedGarding, then continue RedGarding I guess. I use Kerdi, but that's just me. I've never used RedGard, but I assume it can be used in niche cavities just like everywhere else.
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Unread 02-12-2021, 11:09 AM   #12
tenthny1
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Ok, we are going to break it out this next week and I may be back to ask questions about waterproofing once I get to see into the cavity.

In the meantime, I just heard back from the supplier who also recommends loctite or liquid nails for recessed porcelain fixtures (full quote below). Does this make sense?

I usually recommend Loctite Power Grab Ultimate for water applications, or just Liquid Nails for non-water areas. When it comes to the recessed items, if they can be framed out neatly, the Loctite can work. But when bigger cavities and many guys like using the mud, then they need to know what mud to use. And Rapid Set in my opinion only, usually is never a good idea.
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Unread 02-12-2021, 11:20 AM   #13
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OK just a heads up, if a manufacturer gives me advice, I take it. If a supplier gives me advice, I also take it, but along with a grain of salt.

I would not use Liquid Nails. I can't even imagine why he'd mention that to you in the context of installing a shower niche. In a non-water area? WTF

Reading the description for Loctite, I see no reason that it wouldn't work, my only question would be does it dry more like caulk or more hard? I really wouldn't want any give or play in the niche.

As for why rapid set thinset wouldn't work, I really can't imagine. It's "usually never" good idea? Is it usually, or never?

I know for a fact regular thinset will work fine, so that's what I'd use. I doubt Loctite could do any harm.
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Unread 02-24-2021, 11:59 AM   #14
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Consider the options

Jeff,
There is a need to accept and question advice, given by anyone.
I do have to say though, twisting someone's words in casual replies is just too picky. When I refer to using Loctite Power Grab Ultimate for water applications because it is a superior adhesive, or Liquid Nails for non-water applications, I stand by that. That is my generalization. It doesn't necessarily refer to just the shower caddy itself. For the shower caddy, use Loctite or Liquid Nails Fuze-It, which is an all weather adhesive. But do consider, some customers use these shower niches above a toilet or beside a toilet. Thus a dry environment. That does happen.
As for using thin-set to install this particular heavy caddy, I would say DO NOT. I am not a professional installer, but thin-set is applied to a wall surface at an even set thickness. Tiles are pushed ONTO it, and then grip and hold. How would you control the thickness on all four sides of a shower caddy when sliding it into a hole? Thin-set is for thin-set designed pieces. For the "recessed" shower caddy, frame it out very neat, use Loctite. Or have a larger cavity and use a mud pack.
And a fast setting mud pack where there are all kinds of variables for moisture content, humidity and temperature in the room, a different temperature and air flow within the wall itself, all of that can affect the drying time and structure of the material drying. Something in this wall either compressed or contracted on the ceramic caddy. The adhering compound being stronger than the ceramic itself, may not give. Thus the caddy gave. It is not a defective caddy. Something pulled it apart. And even if you do not see such a large crack when installing, you would still feel that crack. Look at how large it is. How could you not feel it?
I just have to add to the above in defense. I am just one distributor. This product is sold by hundreds of other distributors. The manufacturer agreed, this crack happened after it was installed. It is still believed something within the wall pulled it apart.
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Unread 02-24-2021, 02:29 PM   #15
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If y'all want to get into a back and forth on the usefulness of Liquid Nails and other organic adhesives, take it to the Mud Box or the Pro Hangout. The last thing in the world we want to do in the Advice Forum is confuse the civilians (who make up about 80% of our visitors.

Thinset, as has been stated, is a perfectly adequate adhesive for ceramic inserts in showers.
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