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Unread 05-18-2020, 07:45 PM   #1
Macflreno
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Curbless, waterproofing and materials questions

I’m new here and have been reading lots of threads on curbless showers, different systems and have some specific questions. I’m very new to this, so please excuse my lack of knowledge and probably incorrect terminology.

The master bath is a little over 8 x 8 with a step up tub, tiny 36” shower, single vanity and toilet. The house is a Florida ranch on a crawl space and wood frame. We are planning on taking down to studs and cutting into floor joists to allow for curbless shower.

Time is no concern and he will be doing all the work and has a ton of general construction experience (I have almost none, but can research!) As I just finished another bath Reno and kitchen Reno, budget is a huge issue. The cheaper the better, while still being quality and designed for long term.

I’ve attached a basic layout of what we want to do.

1. Curbless shower (4 x 5) with mud pan and linear drain and shower head on back of 4’ sloped floor. No shower door, but walls on 3 sides. Does this make sense? Is 4’ enough space to slope correctly with mud? Do I need to do 1/2” slope per foot or can I do 1/4” per foot? Does the shower head on the rear wall with the linear drain below work?
2. Waterproofing. What membrane is the best option? Is there any option that’s lower cost than Kerdi? Are there PVC liner options that would work? If we build our own mud pan, do I just put the Kerdi roll on top of that? What do I use outside of the shower? If I use Kerdi in the shower, do I have to use Ditra on the rest of the floor? Are there any other options? I’ve read to not mix systems.
3. 12 x 12 porcelain floor tile throughout. Since it’s a small space I really don’t want to change tile. Plus it’s already bought! Does this work with the slope? Does the tile get laid right on top of Kerdi with thin set? What about the rest of the floor?
4. 12 x 24 porcelain tile on walls around whole bath 2’ up and to ceiling on 3 shower walls. I’m worried how this will hold to the walls. I was told when I bought it there was no problem with a LFT mortar, but each tile weighs 17 lbs! Should I be worried about the weight? Any recommendations on the correct method to hang it and make sure it’s level? What backer board do I use? Can I use cement board and redgard ( I have a lot left over from last bathroom)? If I use Kerdi on the floor do I have to use Kerdi on the walls? If so, do I have to use the Kerdi backer board too? Do I need a different backer on the dry part of the bath above the 2’ of wall tile?
5. For the linear drain, do I need to use the Kerdi drain? Are there other options?

I’m sorry for all the questions, but I’m still learning and find this forum very helpful! Thanks! McKenna
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Unread 05-18-2020, 11:06 PM   #2
jadnashua
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1. Some inspectors will require that the drain be at least 2" below the top of the curb...since you don't have a curb, within 4', you'd have to go 1/2" per foot, which, depending on the tile selected, could get slippery. Talk to your inspector.
2. With no shower door or curtain, you WILL splash water out into the room...you might want to reconsider containment, and it is probably a good idea to consider waterproofing the room, too. There are other membranes out there, but there is some advantage to sticking within one company. Using a topical membrane will keep the drop in the shower area MUCH smaller, keeping more strength in the joists as the whole thing only needs one layer. Your selection of clamping, linear drains becomes a lot smaller, too. FWIW, if you're trying to save money, a linear drain is probably not the way to go, though...they're expensive. Yes, if you use a topical membrane, it goes right on top of your mud pan, and you then add the tile directly onto it. A conventional, pvc liner needs an additional layer of mud on top of the liner...the preslope gives you the proper pitch, then the liner, then a continuous thickness of mud follows on top of the liner, then the tile. The liner is the waterproofing, not the tile, and the liner must be sloped to the drain.
3. There are a couple of reasons why shower floor tile tend to be smaller. On a typical pan with a centered drain, something larger than about 4x4 becomes really difficult to keep from having large amounts of lippage as the flat tile don't conform to the bowl-shaped pan. Plus, a typical wet tile can get pretty slippery and it's the grout joints that add enough friction so you don' tend up on your tush. People have used large tile on the shower pan, but it can be somewhat dangerous, depending...
4. IMHO, it's not a great idea to mix something like REdgard and Kerdi in a shower. Assuming you used Kerdi, their preferred backer is plain drywall, so you don't need or really want cbu. If you chose to use KerdiBoard, that only needs the seams and screw penetrations covered...it's already waterproof. You could use thicker Kerdiboard as an end wall and not frame it, if you wanted...watch some of their videos to get a better idea on how it is done, then decide. If you think about it a typical large format tile is the same weight/sqin as a smaller one. So, tile size really isn't a factor except you need to use a rigid spacer...some of the flexible ones will tend to compress as the tile wants to sink. You'd have the same issue as you build up rows with smaller tile, too, though, as the weight added up. A ledger board can help keep that first row where you want it, then wedge spacers to account for any minor imperfections in the tile should allow you to keep the rest where they need to be while the cement cures enough to hold them. Some anti-sag mortars are pretty good, but not always 100%.
5. There are some other options, but they aren't all really well engineered...A lot of the cost is in the grate. You least expensive option is to use a tile-in drain cover...it is hidden, so doesn't need to look as good, and it's easier to make it flat so it doesn't wobble.

One thing to keep in mind RE the toilet...code calls for a MINIMUM of a 30" side-to-side without obstructions...(15" either side of centerline of the toilet). It doesn't look like you have that in the old bathroom. You'll want to ensure you have that on the remodel, or it could get really expensive if the inspector forces the issue, and, it's not all that comfortable if you're cramped in there, either.
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Unread 05-19-2020, 06:26 AM   #3
Macflreno
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Jim thank you so much for your information! All this research leads to more questions.

Thanks for your explanation on the wall tile. That makes total sense and makes me feel much better. We will use a ledger board just for the ease of install.

For the floor, I checked the tile and realized it’s a natural slate and seems like it would be ok, but I have no experience to base this on. Is slate better for a shower floor than porcelain in regards to slippage?

I want this bathroom to last, so I think I should stick with one system. If I use Kerdi on the shower floor and shower walls and Ditra on the rest of the floor, do I need to use Kerdi on all the bathroom walls? Or just around the shower?

Thanks again for all your input and advice!
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Unread 05-19-2020, 10:25 AM   #4
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Welcome, McKenna.

Not all slates are created equal. Put a piece or two of your slate in a bucket of water for a couple days and see how it holds up. Some will start to turn back into mud. You don't what that on a shower floor.

The size of the tile and grout joints make a lot of difference in the slip/fall component of your shower floor. I prefer not to use anything larger than 3" on a side.

You need Kerdi only in the wet areas of your bathroom.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 05-19-2020, 12:47 PM   #5
jadnashua
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Ditra mates up with Kerdi, and is Schluter's preferred material on a floor outside of a shower. Ditra can be made waterproof, too.

Another thing you could think about, but again, not a budget choice, would be to use something like DitraHeat on the entire bathroom, then you'd need Kerdi on top of it in the shower. There are some floor warming brands that don't require additional waterproofing layer on top of their heating cables, but that, to me, just doesn't seem like a great idea!

Keep in mind, if you're planning on that slate in the rest of the bathroom, industry guidelines requires a double-layer of subflooring, properly installed, and with the joists twice the strength of that required for porcelain. It's rare that a home would be built that stiff without prior notice with stone tile in mind. That doesn't mean you can't reinforce the joists, but that could be a major undertaking, depending on what's there now, and what needs to be done.
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