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Unread 10-06-2004, 10:16 AM   #1
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Location: Rochester, NY
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For the pros - how would you do a shower tear-out and rebuild?

I need to do a tear-out and rebuild of the shower in my master bath, and time and work constraints require that I hire it out to a pro. I’ve been reading posts here and in the liberry and have found a lot of useful information, and it’s clear there is more than one “right” way to do this. I want to get opinions on how I should have the job done.

Background: The current shower stall is tiled walls and floor on a mortar bed. The shower was built with the house in 1991, and is now unusable due to leakage. After ruling out the plumbing, I’ve discovered that the tile was applied directly over sheetrock, which I assume is causing the leakage. For all I know the pan is also leaking. It’s a non-standard size neo-angle tucked into the corner of the bathroom. The dimensions along the longest walls are 48” x 48”. I want the new shower to occupy the current footprint.

Some have recommended a modular acrylic unit or a fiberglass insert for practical purposes, but I like the look and feel of tile. Still, I have obvious concerns about the new shower being waterproof. I get the impression that a fully-tiled shower can be waterproof if it’s done correctly (the original shower was obviously not).

So here’s my question for the pro’s – how would you do it? What’s the most fail-safe method in your experience or opinion? I know there’s more than one way, so let me know which alternatives you’d consider too. I’ve read a lot of good things about Kerdi, but their local distributor said he doesn’t know of too many guys around here (Rochester NY) who use it frequently. Would I gain anything by going with a pre-fab one-piece pan / base? As a pro, how receptive would you be to a homeowner asking you to construct the shower a certain way? For that matter, how would you go about selecting a pro (the toughest part)?

I hope my questions aren’t too broad or too presumptuous, but this is likely to be a big-ticket expense for me. It was already done incorrectly the first time, and I’m anxious to not be in this position again.

Thanks in advance for any input.

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Unread 10-06-2004, 10:32 AM   #2
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Welcome, Rob.

To my mind there are only two basic options for a tile shower: A mud pre-slope with a PVC or CPE membrane liner and mud or CBU walls, or a thinset-friendly waterproof membrane (such as Kerdi) over a pre-slope and walls.

The pre-fab pans are another option if you like that style, but offer no more leak protection than a properly constructed tile floor. In fact, I think them less reliable because of possible problems with drain connections.

There is absolutely no reason to be concerned with leaks in a properly constructed tile shower pan.

As for selecting a tile contractor, I'd suggest it is going to be a much better experience if you select one who is experienced in the type of construction you decide you want rather than just selecting a contractor and trying to have him install what you want, whether that's what he usually does or not. If you decide on a Kerdi installation, find someone who is doing Kerdi installations. Some, of course, will have experience with both methods, giving you more options.

Tell the prospective contractor what kind of construction you want, and ask if he has experience with that method. If not, I'd continue the search. Don't hesitate to ask specific questions about the important aspects of the construction. The reference material in our Liberry under Shower Construction should arm you with information on the proper methods, and allow you to discuss it intelligently.

Bottom line in selecting a contractor - any contractor - is to find someone you're comfortable with. If you don't have a good feeling about him, keep looking. Best sources for contacts: friends and neighbors who've had similar work done.

My opinion; worth price charged.

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Unread 10-07-2004, 11:28 AM   #3
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Thanks for the response. Should I expect the same contractor to do the shower plumbing, framing and tiling, or do they tend to sub out each part?
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Unread 10-07-2004, 11:58 AM   #4
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I'd recommend having a licensed plumbing sub do the plumbing work unless the G.C. or tile guy is really qualified to do it. Too much can go wrong with drain and fixture installations to leave it to an unqualified person. Where I live, even though I'm a licensed GC, I can't legally do plumbing work - takes a specialty license (fine with me since I don't much like it anyway).
Good luck!
Roger in Portland
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Unread 10-07-2004, 07:57 PM   #5
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Hi Rob, Welcome.

Depends on where you live. Most tile contractors are pretty good plumbers. Not all, of course. On the same token, a few plumbers don't deserve the title.

Not all, of course.
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