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Unread 04-02-2021, 12:20 PM   #1
RightUp Sam
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Stacey's Master Shower Project, pre-plan to finish (hopefully)

Hi all!

First, a huge Thank You to all the pros and experienced people who post here. I've been lurking on and off for a couple of years now, and it's been helpful and fascinating to read.

Second, I am using a MacBook Pro with the infamous "butterfly keyboard," so please forgive me any missing spaces or repeated letters. I try to catch them all, but I do miss one or two on occasion.

Third, I am a married mother of two now-teenage girls, a stay-home Mom and professional novelist (agented, NY-multipublished, no you probably have not heard of me, I write genre fiction). As a little side business I build custom wood furniture/decor, mostly fancy dog crates. "Sam" is a nickname; you can call me Stacey or Sam, I don't care.

Fourth, I am sorry to be a bit wordy--you know, professional writer, we tend to just let our fingers go. And I'm trying to give y'all as much detail as possible. But there's a TL;DR at the end, for those who don't want to slog through the whole post.

Three years ago, my husband and I moved to Hurst, Texas, to be with my dad. We did some renovations on our house here, including attaching a cabin shell and finishing that as a studio apartment for my dad, so he could retire. Dad and I did all of the work ourselves except for the actual plumbing and electric, and I kind of fell in love with tile/tiling. I desperately wanted to tear out the hideous old fiberglass shower in our tiny master bath, but we ran out of money, basically.

Now we're turning back toward house projects. First we're going to turn our back porch/patio into a proper sunroom (DIY, CMU walls), but I am very hopeful that there will be enough money, now or in the near future, to finally build that shower.

The shower stall itself is 32W x 34D. It's in an alcove, which measures 35W x 40D (The fiberglass stall is rather thick). I am only 5'1 and about 105lbs., but my husband is 6'3 200lbs, so obviously I'd/we'd like to take advantage of every possible fraction of an inch that we can. The rest of the bathroom is about 4 x 5, including the space for the toilet & vanity/sink.

I have no idea what's behind the stall; I am frankly rather afraid to find out. (The demo part of the build is what scares me, really; I wish I could hire someone to do it with me and then talk me through/advise me on the rest of it as we go, but it seems most pros want to do all or nothing, and I don't necessarily trust some local "handyman" to come do the demo, either. Anyway.)

The house is built on a cement slab, and afaik that's what's under the shower, too.

The setup of the bathroom, and the guest bath directly behinds it, forbids any real expansion or rearrangement--on the other side of the shower's back wall is the guest toilet (in an alcove, too), and on the other side of the right-hand wall is the guest sink. We've had fantasies of expanding the guest bath into the master closet, and taking over that toilet alcove/sink area for our shower, but that would be more than we can afford, unfortunately.

So I will end up building a new shower in that 35 x 40 space, sigh.

I will probably use Kerdi or a similar system; I admit the part of me that loves old-school methods and fiddly recipes and such (I am an avid cook/baker as well) is very attracted to the idea of building a mud bed with pan liner etc., but I think for the sake of simplicity Kerdi will be the thing. (I am happy to hear arguments to the contrary, though.) (I have also wondered why I can't just use a good hard sheet of EPS under Kerdi membrane instead of the $100 Kerdi board, but I'm sure I'm just being silly there.)

Right now I'm looking at tile. I redecorated that bathroom last year; I painted the walls white and the trim dark midnight blue, built some wood shelves (also dark midnight) above the toilet, and built a light cover to match; it's basically a box that fits over the old vanity lights, so it looks like a new light fixture. I'm currently in the process of building a new vanity, and I have a new blue vessel sink ready to install (which will be my first real plumbing job; I built the countertops in my kitchen to go around my new sink in its new location and installed the sink in it, but I didn't do any of the connection work). Flooring is gray "luxury vinyl" wood-look fit-together strips.

So I would like to stay with the dark blue and white for the tile. The bathroom has a vaguely nautical look (the shower curtain is white with blue clipper ships on it, and of course dark blue and white always has a sort of nautical feel), and I'd like to keep with that, but I also don't want to have tiles with anchors or octupi or whatever. So like a modern nautical, clean and sharp, not kitschy or overdone.

This leads me to my first question, if you're still with me:

How do I select a tile, or rather, what should I look out for or be aware of? I know the shower is not big enough for a large-format tile floor, and I don't want those tiny 1x1s either, correct? I'd love to have a linear drain, but given the cement slab/subfloor and tiny size, I think I'm going to be stuck with a center drain--Kerdi does have a square ready-to-tile drain, so I'm hoping to use that (or similar). I hate standing on a drain in the shower.

I've seen discussions about the difficulty of laying/grouting glass tile, am I recalling that correctly?

What about texture; is texture a good thing on a shower/shower floor (for slip resistance), or should it be avoided everywhere because of the difficulty in grouting? I know I want a matte tile for the floor, rather than polished, again for slip resistance.

What about something like white tiles on the right and left wall, with blue on the floor and back wall? Or will that only make the shower look even smaller? I ordered a sample of a white marble tile with dark blue veining, but I've seen some comments here about how white marble will stain, so I'm thinking that's out.

Would horizontal stripes look nice?

I figure on one niche, and that will be tiled with an accent tile of some sort--or should it be the same tile as the floor?

Are there any finishes or types that should be avoided in a shower, even if the website/salesperson says they're good for showers? For example, I've kind of fallen in love a little bit with this tile:
https://www.tilebar.com/angela-harri...lain-tile.html

But I don't know how that finish would hold up in a shower. (I would use the 2x2 on the floor and the 12x24 on the wall[s], or the 2x2 for everything.) I ordered a sample, so that will be helpful, but I wonder if any of you pros/experts have any thoughts?


TL;DR: I'm planning to replace a nasty old 32 x 34 fiberglass shower stall with a proper tiled shower (probably Kerdi), approx 35 x 40 (it's a small alcove, cannot be expanded). Center drain on concrete slab foundation. Bathroom is dark midnight blue and white, vaguely nautical. I'm starting the process of choosing tile. I'd love any tips or thoughts, criticisms or suggestions, on what to avoid or what is best. I don't want to do all the work and then discover I failed at the most basic step of choosing an appropriate tile.

Thank you so much!
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Unread 04-03-2021, 07:23 AM   #2
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Welcome, Stacey,

For myself I've found the demo itself isn't the challenge, it's starting the demo for me. Starting means committing time to the project; there's no going back. It took me but two days to gut my guest bath (current project), including hauling the debris to the dump, but months to commit to doing so.

As with any major remodeling project you simply won't know exactly what you'll be facing until you take it apart. Don't commit to any material purchases until you see what you're dealing with - a process made easier if you have a second bath to use while this one is out of commission.

I tend to make bathroom tile, and tile design decisions to minimize maintenance. To me that means glazed tile (porcelain or ceramic), no pencil strips or chair rails or any other details that hold moisture in little nooks and crannies and edges, which increases the chance of mold/mildew growth. A grout that is waterproof for the same reason. Much of the mold/mildew issues can mitigated my consistently squeegeeing, and even drying with a towel, but only you and Mr. Stacey can determine the likelihood of that happening.

As it is with paint, so it is with tile; darker colors will make the space feel smaller. The tile you linked to says it is suitable for shower use, but also mentions a metallic finish of some sort. I'd be inclined to get a sample of it and leave it in a bucket of water for a week.
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Unread 04-03-2021, 09:47 AM   #3
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Thank you, Dan! (So is that 396 SS a Chevelle? '69? Nice!!)

I never thought of soaking the tile to see how the finish held up, duh. That's a great idea. My thought was the same as yours: it says it's fine for a shower, but in reality...?

And yeah, I figured dark colors might make the space look even smaller; I thought perhaps I could mitigate that by doing only one wall, but now I'm wondering if maybe that is too much and I should just do one wide horizontal stripe across the middle/just above the middle.

I know what you mean about getting started & committing time, too--heh, I'm someone who left a section of kitchen wall ungrouted for two years because I was just worn out after all the work we'd done. But I've never demo'd anything, really--I cut up and removed the old kitchen cabinets here, but one reason I remodeled the kitchen in the first place was that there were literally only three cabinets with 4 linear feet of counter space in the entire kitchen, so that wasn't complicated or extensive, and the plumbers took out the old sink for me--and I'm very nervous about cutting around piping and such (and cutting that thick fiberglass in general).

Is it absolutely necessary to cap off the plumbing/remove the fixtures? Or can I keep them in place, maybe just tape bags over them to protect them from dust & grout and such? I have replaced shower heads before, and am confident about removing the one there now if need me (I installed it) but the taps, not so much.

Thanks again!
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Unread 04-03-2021, 10:11 AM   #4
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If you intend to gut the bathroom, Stacey, the only fixture you might be able to leave in place is the shower valve itself. All else comes out. If the shower valve is old, like, really old, replacement with a modern, temperature balancing valve should be a consideration. They run from inexpensive right up to "whoa". Note that if the water stops (shut off valves) for the vanity faucet and toilet are old and/or haven't been exercised in years, they might not shut the water off completely. Be ready for that. The ones in my current bath remodel project didn't.

Good catch with the the username but no, not an (iconic) 69 Chevelle. It's a '66 Impala SS convertible. AKA, by certain somebodies, The Metal Mistress.
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Unread 04-04-2021, 06:28 AM   #5
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For me the decision between Kerdi membrane and Kerdi board is knowing my limitations. For the membrane you have to be able to trowel on mortar on a fairly large area and get the membrane up before it starts to dry. For me that was too many things that could go wrong.
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Unread 04-04-2021, 06:35 AM   #6
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If you end up doing the demo work you need to get something like the Rockwell F50 Oscillating Multi-Tool. I use it to cut through nails to remove 2x4, cut subfloor next to wall etc. I consider it an essential demo tool.
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Unread 04-05-2021, 12:15 AM   #7
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Oooh, Dan, thanks for the tip (re shut-off valves). The house was built in '64, annd I'm pretty sure the shower stall/fixtures/etc. are either original or close to it, so I'll definitely be prepared for that.

The shower taps are separate--one for cold, one for hot--and while I've kept a loose eye out,I haven't seen anything but single-taps (you know, mixing taps) anywhere...so I'm not sure what to do about that.

And hey, Impalas are pretty darn nice, too! I almost asked if it was a Nova, but I don't think the Nova was available with a 396--I could be wrong, but all the Novas I ever saw were 350s. Anyway. Lovely car!



Thanks, Phil! That is a good point. I was getting pretty fast with the trowel after all the tiling I did a couple of years ago, but it has been a while now, and maybe I'm just setting myself up for a lot of frustration to try to save a few bucks. The Kerdi board does look kind of fun to use, anyway--I wish I had enough room to build a bench or nifty half-wall or something.

And you know, I currently own two oscillating multi-tools, and have not been able to get a single damn bit of good out of either of them, despite numerous attempts. Granted, the two I own are kind of cheap, but in my woodworking/furniture business I've really tried to use them, and every time I end up going back to my jigsaw or my mini circular saw (4.5" Porter-Cable) or whatever other tool I'm trying to mimic with the multi. I figured I'd do the demo with the 4.5", a crowbar, and maybe a recip saw, but maybe I'll see if I can get the oscillating tool to work again; I must be doing something wrong to constantly have such crap luck with them when everyone else seems to find them so useful. Thank you!
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Unread 04-06-2021, 07:55 AM   #8
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I think they're all generally called mixing valves if they are capable of mixing cold water with hot within the valve body. What more modern valves bring to the table is the anti-scald feature; Eliminates excessively hot water when another fixture using cold water is opened. Commonly a toilet. Pressure balancing valves are, I believe, required by plumbing code.
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Unread 04-06-2021, 10:22 AM   #9
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So I'm going to really need to do actual plumbing work, then, to turn the shower from its current "hot tap on the left, cold tap on the right" configuration into a "one tap to rule them all," arrangement?

Maybe I can get my plumbers to come out and do that part for me--I'm confident about all the tiling and building, the drain, and even about installing the tap itself, but merging or replacing pipes makes me nervous; while I'm actually hoping to learn some basic welding in the coming year or so, I've never actually done any soldering or welding or anything like that.

My tile samples arrive today! I'm very excited to get a look at them and see how the actual finishes look/work.
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Unread 04-19-2021, 09:28 AM   #10
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Hello, all!

My samples were kind of a bust, sigh. The ones I was really excited about--the ones that looked to have a faintly metallic sheen--were nowhere near as cool, or as blue, as they appeared in the photos on TileBar. They were listed as blue, and in the pictures they looked like a really lovely deep navy, but in person there was nary a hint of blue to be seen. So that's disappointing, though I did really like the blue glass mesh mosaic and think it will be great as an accent stripe or the backing for a niche or two.

I'm still really interested in any thoughts of suggestions about the best tile for a shower (whether there are special considerations with glass, for example). I think I will probably end up with a basic subway tile or large-format white or light gray for the walls, with a matching smaller tile for the floor (nothing bigger than 4" is best, correct? Especially for such a small shower--32 x 35?)

Which brings me to today's question. As I mentioned in my obviously-too-lengthy intro post, there is really no room to expand this shower without a *major* remodel, but we're hoping to grab every fraction of an inch we can. I'm considering two possible options:

1. Replace the current studs (which I haven't seen, but I'm assuming 2x4 since the house was built in 1964) with new ones set parallel to the wall rather than perpendicular, thus gaining about two inches on each wall. I realize this may not be possible in the wall that contains the plumbing, but the un-plumbed wall between this bathroom and the next should be "empty," and therefore should be eligible for such "narrowing."

2. Replace the current studs with steel studs, also set parallel to the wall. The possible advantage here is that it may give me more room for the plumbing, in that I can tuck some of it into the actual stud--since steel studs are "U" shaped rather than square. Also, even if the studs need to be set perpendicular, steel studs are a bit narrower.

I'm also considering replacing just the studs around the "plumbing studs" on the plumbing wall, thus creating a wall with two recesses on either side of the plumbing--so, say, the wall would be one plane, and then where the plumbing is the wall will intrude into the shower by about two inches, and then one the other side it will return to the deeper plane. I could put shelving on either side, too, creating a full-height niche, basically, which would be lovely considering the number of potions and such I use in the shower (though my husband is no slouch there, either, with his collection of "different smells" shower gels and shampoos and such).

Has anyone ever tried this? Has anyone worked with steel studs in a shower? Is this a completely unworkable idea, or is it possible? I'm sure it depends in part on whether or not the wall is load-bearing (I'm not even sure how that's determined--is it that if there's a beam above it, it's load-bearing?)

I'm perfectly willing to accept that this is unworkable. I'm just trying to think of every way I can to give us a little more room and make us feel less like we're showering in a coffin.

Thank you in advance.
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Unread 04-19-2021, 10:13 AM   #11
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Hi Stacey. Your "is it possible" questions can only be answered with some demo. My experience is that imagined perfect scenario is rarely, if ever, a reality.

Flat 2x4 wall is going to deflect more. Will it be a problem? Dunno. One could plate said wall with 1/2 ply and stiffen up some, but I think it would be fair to ask "how much work for how much gain?" That changes with DIY vs hiring someone.
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Unread 04-19-2021, 11:13 AM   #12
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Hi Peter,

Yeah, I figured I would only know for sure if it could be done or would work after opening up the wall; I just wondered if anyone had ever done anything similar, or worked with steel studs, to say if it's even something to keep in mind as a possibility.
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Unread 04-19-2021, 01:42 PM   #13
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Stacy, the 2x4 "on the flat" wall will not provide the L/360 deflection maximum required for a ceramic tile installation. Even a 2x3 stud wall is suspect in that arena. Same would be true for your steel studs. Indeed, anything less than 20ga steel studs won't actually pass muster, including many of the "20ga.Equivalent" steel studs, and certainly not on the flat.

But it's your house and if you don't hafta satisfy a HOA or a code compliance jurisdiction, you can do pretty much whatever you want, eh?

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 05-13-2021, 11:32 AM   #14
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Thanks, Cx!

So now I'm getting ready-sort of--to start ordering my materials. (I still haven't picked a tile, but that's in part because of my next question).

I love the look of the linear drain, and I love the idea of the tile-in drain. But the drain for my shower is right in the middle, and given that the house is on a concrete slab, I don't think moving the drain would be easy (if it's do-able at all).

Can I put a linear drain in the middle of the shower floor? Can I use a linear drain that accepts a tile there, or would standing on it potentially crack the tile?

I don't want to settle on a tile until I know for sure where it will go/how it will be used. And of course I can't order my Kerdi kit until I know what drain I will use.


I'm going to try to post some pictures of the actual fiberglass stall at some point, in hopes of advice on demo. I'm hoping to get started for real very soon.
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Unread 05-13-2021, 12:33 PM   #15
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1. It's a bit of hard, dirty work, but it's quite doable and it's done alla time, usually to move the drain to the center of the shower. Determine first if you have a steel reinforced slab or a post-tentioned slab.

2. Yes. Yes. You can put it wherever you want.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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