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Unread 01-10-2014, 07:00 PM   #1
abbydoo
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Sunken Shower in AZ

Hi all,
I recently purchased a 1970s fixer-upper in AZ and have been slowly but surely tackling a long list of DIY projects. After installing a good 1,900 sq ft of flooring, I feel pretty confident in my tile work. Next on the list, though, is the sunken shower in the master bath. To be honest, I had never seen a sunken shower before moving to AZ and my only knowledge of shower construction comes from lurking on these boards.

I don't use the shower, so went ahead and pulled off the cultured marble slabs revealing drywall that stops about 6 or so inches above the shower floor. I believe that behind the drywall is adobe on at least two of the walls. I have not pulled up more than the perimeter tiles on the shower floor. I was a little nervous because of the gap between the wall and the floor... is it normal?

I'd like to do the work myself and ultimately install the Kerdi membrane on both the walls and the sunken floor. I imagine my next step is to pull up the rest of the floor tiles, but I'm not sure if I'm getting in over my head. While I know better, part of me is still afraid I'm just going to find dirt under there...
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Unread 01-11-2014, 02:36 PM   #2
dhagin
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Welcome Abby.

Ya know, we've seen all types of installs here. Both the absolutely awful and incredibly beautiful. What you've got there tends towards the former, and once you get her all demo'd, we'll be able to advise on proper courses of action.

Be careful on demo you don't hit any electrical wires, plumbing, gas lines, etc... and know where the breaker panel and utility shut-offs are, just in case.

Post photos as you go of anything you're concerned about and we'll have a look see.

...oh, and have fun too.
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Unread 01-11-2014, 03:27 PM   #3
Davy
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Hi Abby, welcome. Your fears may come true. There may not be any concrete slab under the floor tiles.
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Unread 01-11-2014, 04:10 PM   #4
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Yeah, I think we've heard of some areas in AZ that try to mimic the shower construction style we see so often in Florida.

Hope you're not in one of them areas, but............
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Unread 01-11-2014, 06:14 PM   #5
abbydoo
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I started chipping away and it seems that my fears have indeed come true-- I found dirt!

I'm hoping you all can give me an overview of what this process is going to look like. After I take out the rest of the tiles, what do I do? I was so hoping to just find the concrete slab!
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Unread 01-11-2014, 06:31 PM   #6
Bodie Powers
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This type of "construction" I am not accustomed to. Is there a footing supporting the walls surrounding the shower? If so, and assuming said footing is code compliant, I would imagine you're looking at pouring a small slab, mechanically tied to the existing slab and surrounding footing. Could you describe what you see around that shower "floor" perimeter?
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Unread 01-11-2014, 06:45 PM   #7
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Hi Abby,

Could you post a picture of the floor now that you have the tile up? Following up on Bodies comment, installing a slab is a lot easier to deal with than rotten subfloor/structure common in many rebuilds.

Keep up the good work!
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Unread 01-11-2014, 07:39 PM   #8
cx
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Show us what you've got now, Abby.

One of the easiest ways to correct those wretchedly constructed shower floors is to drill horizontal holes into the existing slab, drive in some steel reinforcing rod dowels, tie some reinforcing rod to those dowels, and pour concrete level with the existing slab. If you find you have a vapor barrier membrane under the rest of the slab (unlikely) I would also install same under your new concrete before adding the reinforcing steel.

You lose the step down curbless feature, but it's a whole lot easier than making a structurally sound stepped down slab in that hole. But that can certainly be done, too.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 01-11-2014, 07:56 PM   #9
abbydoo
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Here are a couple of pictures of what I've encountered so far. I'll finish pulling up the tile in the next couple of days.
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Unread 01-11-2014, 08:34 PM   #10
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Remove the drain grate, block the drain, and keep digging.
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Unread 01-20-2014, 02:47 PM   #11
abbydoo
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Almost done pulling up the shower floor tile. It's a huge mess, but the drain is sealed under there. There's no vapor barrier, but lots of cockroaches (gross!).

Not sure what comes next.

CX suggested leveling out the sunken pit. Makes sense, but is that the only option? I do like the curbless feature, but I also want a structurally sound, functioning shower.
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Unread 01-20-2014, 07:14 PM   #12
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Abby, what area is this in? I want to make sure to stay clear of any shower remodels in that part of town!

That's a bummer but we do see it sometimes. A current client had a similar situation with a 6" slab. Everything got doweled and tied together and we will use Kerdi for waterproofing. It will be barrier free.
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Unread 01-20-2014, 07:48 PM   #13
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Keep on moving and clean that out. Post a picture then we can discuss options.

I am thinking a nice curbless design with a linear drain.
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Unread 01-20-2014, 08:21 PM   #14
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Hi Abby,

I am also leaning toward Paul's suggestion of curbless with maybe a linear drain. Curbless helps make that space look larger.

And think of those critters as beetles....just sounds better no?
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Unread 01-20-2014, 09:43 PM   #15
abbydoo
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Ugh.. those "beetles" are unwelcome by any name.

Here are a couple more pics. Love the idea of curbless with linear drain. The bathroom is pretty small for a master, so it will be good to keep the space as open as possible!

Is the next step to get the hole filled in? Sounds intimidating. Is it a DIY project?
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