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Unread 09-01-2019, 12:26 PM   #1
mmkk
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Porcelain slabs in shower

Hi Everyone,

My contractor is doing a 9 feet x 4 feet shower using large porcelain slabs on the wall. From what I have read, this is not easy to do. He has 3 of these in the past. He said he will be "floating" the walls. Since I know nothing about construction and remodeling, I was hoping the experts here would give me some advice.

1. What should I be looking out for? What are common pitfalls or mistakes

2. What type of mortar should he be using?

3. Any advice would be appreciated.

Thanks,
Mark
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Unread 09-01-2019, 01:19 PM   #2
jadnashua
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Regardless of the size of the tile, you want to have the tile supported, which means at least 100% of the edges and 80% across the rest (more is better, and 100% is the goal) on the walls.

By 'floating' the walls, generally, this means using special mortar to build the wall. If done well, this is actually one of the best ways to make a wall flat.

It's hard to get a large panel tile bedded properly. I do not know what the latest industry techniques are, but in one early class, they used a palm sander without any sandpaper on it (rubber pad) and ran that around the panel. The vibrations helped move the thinset around. Personally, I'd first use a slant-notch trowel which creates a much flatter surface rather than notches when then setting the tile in place. They absolutely must put thinset on the back of the tile in addition to the wall prior to setting it in place on a tile that large.

There are some mortars listed as non-sag...that will help keep the tile in place while it sets rather than the tile sliding out of position, it makes it harder, but not impossible, to position it exactly where you want because of that, though. One also listed as suitable for LFT (large flat tile) would be called for.

Industry standards call for all changes of plane to be made with a soft joint (corners and wall to floor or ceiling). There are a few ways to achieve that, but only really two in a shower:
- caulk
- an engineered joint (my preference).

You want the panel you use to be thicker than 5mm...those that thickness and thinner have not had a high reliability factor from eventual (or upon installation!) cracking.
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Unread 09-01-2019, 02:21 PM   #3
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Welcome, Mark.

Some of this information will depend upon just what you're calling "porcelain slabs." If, as I think Jim is assuming, you'll be installing what are being called Thin Porcelain Tile Panels, or Gaged Porcelain Tile Panels, you'll want to follow the installation instructions of the manufacturer. And even if we're guessing correctly at the material you intend to install, we don't really know what size panels you may be intending to use.

When I received training on the use of these panels it was from the Crossville tile company and you can get an idea of their recommendations from their website. You'll be interested mostly in the video for wall installation. It's brief, but it covers some of the major points.

Jim has covered some of the issues. The manufacturer will have some recommendations for the particular thinset mortars they want used to install their products and I'd recommend you follow them. Some installation materials manufacturers have worked closely with the various porcelain panel manufacturers to come up with compatible materials and methods. For the Crossville company, I know MAPEI worked closely with them, as did the maker of the MLS lippage control tool manufacturer. Such lippage control methods are required by Crossville for their panels.

For large panels the handling is as much a challenge as the rest of the installation. It's not an easy thing. While I agree with Jim's caution about using panels thicker than 5mm for floor installations, there is no such requirement for your wall installation and those panels are being made in 3mm to 5mm thicknesses for those applications and I'm not aware of any significant failures due the panel thickness in wall applications. I think Porcelanosa still even allows their 5mm product to be used in floor applications.

As for the "floated" walls, if your installer is, in fact, talking about making a two-coat mortar wall over sufficient framing and reinforcement, there is no better substrate you could hope for.

The only disagreement I would have with Jim's comments is that yours is a wet area installation and the ceramic tile industry requirement is for a minimum of 95 percent coverage on the back of your "tiles" in such areas. What you'll actually get, even if the installation is done in strict accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations, is anybody's guess, but that's what the installer should be trying to accomplish. It is not an easy standard to comply with even with large format tiles and with those thin panels on walls it's probably not even realistic to expect. But you should try.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 09-01-2019, 04:30 PM   #4
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Have you checked any of the tiles with a straight edge to see if they are warped? I've seen some 12x24 tiles that were warped pretty bad and also seen 24x48's that were very flat so you never know until you check them.
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Unread 09-01-2019, 06:22 PM   #5
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Hi All,

Thanks for the advice so far. The porcelain slabs we are using are the 6mm panoramic porcelain slabs from Daltile. (63"x126")


The slab pieces will be huge. Our shower is 9 feet long, 4 feet wide and 8 feet tall. Contractor said he will be using 4 pieces of slab for the shower.

we checked the slabs but I didnt check to see how warped they were.

Is there a particular mortar that we should be using for these huge slabs?

Also shower floor tiles are unglazed porcelain hexagons. Should these be sealed?

Lastly is epoxy grout the best grout to use for shower floor tiles?

Thanks!
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Unread 09-01-2019, 07:54 PM   #6
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Shower grout

Seems the best grout for showers is epoxy grouts. Stain, mold, color change resistant, no sealing needed, etc. How important is it to be experienced with epoxy grout? What are some pitfalls an inexperienced installer would have with epoxy grouts? What brand is recommended?


Would epoxy grouts be overkill for bath and kitchen floors assuming cost was not an issue.
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Unread 09-01-2019, 08:27 PM   #7
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Mark, it'll help if you'll keep all your project questions on one thread so folks can see what you're working on and what's been previously asked and answered. A moderator can give it a more generic title any time you'd like to suggest one.

I think you'd first want to ask your chosen installer what grout he intends to use and if you want something else you should ask if he has experience with that. The best grout for any application is a mater of personal preference and you can get a wide range of answers.

One thing that would sway my opinion on using epoxy on a shower floor would be the waterproofing method used to construct the shower receptor, which in your case we don't know. In general I would usually favor cementitious grouts on shower floors, but have used other types at times.

As for your other floors and overkill, that is also a personal choice. Epoxy grouts are generally thought to be easier to maintain than other types. It is also the most costly, but whether that constitutes being expensive or overkill to you would be your call.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 09-01-2019, 09:07 PM   #8
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Mark, a modified thinset made for Porcelain tiles is what I'd use. They do make LFT thinset for large tiles.

Spectralock is the most popular epoxy grout around here and I find it fairly easy to use.

A few questions.
1. What type of waterproofing are you using on the walls and shower floor?

2. What size are your shower walls? There must be some open areas for glass panels for 4 - 63 x 126 tiles to do the shower walls. Or maybe I'm missing something.

3. What does the contractor mean by floating the walls? Floating has different meanings to some folks. Is he going to apply a mud bed and bond the tiles to it?
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Unread 09-01-2019, 09:38 PM   #9
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CX: will do. im new here so I appreciate the advice.

Davy:

1. the shower floors will be hot mopped. I am not sure about the walls, but I believe it will have black paper, wet cement, redgard?

2. The shower will be 9 feet wide and 4 feet deep. So the 4 slabs will cover the three sides of the shower and frameless glass and glass door will cover the 4th side of the shower.

3. To my understanding floating meant using wet cement instead of a cement board. I could be wrong here though.

Will prolite be good enough for the shower slabs?
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Unread 09-02-2019, 09:09 AM   #10
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Okay, sound like you might be in California and they plan on a true mud bed. For a moisture barrier,I usually use felt paper on the studs before nailing up the lath. Then apply a scratch coat and follow up with the finish coat. Redgard over the mud is fine and would eliminate the felt paper.

You want to make sure the weep holes in the drain are open and not filled with tar.

Prolite is a good porcelain, thinset. I see no reason why it wouldn't work.
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Unread 09-03-2019, 10:15 AM   #11
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Davy,

yes we are in california. Ill speak with contractor and see exactly what he is doing for the walls.

I actually called custombuilding supply and their technician thought I was crazy for wanting to use prolite on the shower slab wall. He said we have to use an epoxy. This doesnt seem consistent with what Ive seen so far.
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Unread 09-03-2019, 11:57 AM   #12
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Mark, those are large heavy tiles but per sq ft they weigh about the same as other tiles. I don't see the need for epoxy but lets hear what others have to say.
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Unread 09-03-2019, 01:55 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark
I actually called custombuilding supply
Is that some local company, Mark, or did you actually contact the manufacturer of Prolite, Custom Building Products?
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Unread 09-03-2019, 05:51 PM   #14
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Have you asked your installer what thinset he plans to use?
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