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Unread 11-15-2022, 05:06 PM   #1
GalaxyWide
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Bathroom remodel, tub to curbless shower

Hi all, since demolishing our bathroom over the weekend I've been doing a ton of research and reading in preparation for our first major remodel and first tile project. This forum has been a great source of info, and I'm sure it will continue to be as I have questions and find old posts.

For background, I'm an engineer and very much a DIYer, though I'm new to home projects - I've mostly worked on cars, powersports toys, etc. Residential construction seems very...vague compared to following a service manual for an engine rebuild, so it's been a learning experience!


Our old shower was a vinyl insert tub (with a pump and jets, I'm sure someone paid a boatload of money for it at some point but it's pretty pointless for us), and tile on the walls. The tile was horribly done - not a single one was flat, awful gaps, the grout could be scooped out with a fingernail, the niches were poorly planned, etc. We started out wanting to regrout, but that turned into a full bathroom remodel...oops! Upon pulling it off, we found water damage on the studs, etc so we're happy we did.

The room is now down to studs in the shower, and subfloor in the rest of the room. We want to do a curbless shower with a linear drain, both for appearance and to allow use of the floor tile we like, as it's 12x24.

I have a few questions:

1. The shower dimensions are 32x60, which seems to be an odd size. I've been trying to find the most cost effective way to do a linear drain without having to do a traditional mud base, and the more I look the more options I find. The Schluter system is very nice, but monstrously expensive - nearly $1000 for just the drain parts is too much for us. The KBRS kits look better, but I'm unsure how they compare. Are there any suggested options? I'm wondering if one couldn't just use kerdiboard/cementboard on the floor, set to the appropriate slope and save buying a $400 piece of foam for a shower tray. There must be a reason this isn't done, but I can't find it.

2. Our floor tiles are 12x24, but our wall tiles are 16x32. Is this totally insane for someone new to tile? I absolutely plan to use a leveling system, likely one of the screw cap types. I'm happy to take my time and do things properly, just don't want to be setting myself up for failure.

3. Given that we have such large tile, I'm having a hard time finding how best to cut it - I think I've settled on a large score-type cutter, and then a smaller arm-type saw for other cuts.

4. I've always wanted to do radiant heating in the floors, and this is my chance! I've seen the Schluter system, are there others that are appreciably more cost effective? What if I want to do heat cable in the shower floor as well, is that doable or not recommended?

5. Any comprehensive resources I should check out? I find that a large part of DIY home improvement projects is trying to figure out what I don't know, and how to ask the correct questions in a way that makes sense.


First photo is before demo, but after grout removal, as well as new tile. Second photo is after demo but before removing the huge pile of mortar that was under the tub.
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Unread 11-15-2022, 06:00 PM   #2
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Hi Scott, welcome. For starters, where do you want the drain to be? What about busting the concrete to move the drain? Or is this a wood subfloor? You would also need to increase the drain size from 1 1/2 to 2 inch.
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Unread 11-16-2022, 09:17 AM   #3
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Thanks for the welcome Davy!

Good point on the drain, I forgot to mention that - we plan to have it along the long back wall, which I think means I'm looking at about a 54" drain or so.

Whatever was under the tub was easily removed, it was simply dumped on a plastic sheet and was not very strong. I've attached a picture of the current subfloor, which I'll be at least partially redoing to move the drain and get rid of the old plywood (and I assume replace with new).

All subfloors are diagonal boards on top of joists, at the bottom of the picture you can see the old cement board on top of plywood that we still have to remove from the main floor.

You know I hadn't even considered drain sizes, good to know!
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Unread 11-16-2022, 09:28 AM   #4
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Welcome, Scott.

Check with your local code compliance official about that drain. The national codes accept the 1 1/2" drain so long as your shower output(s) don't exceed the drain capability. If you plan only a single shower head in there, your existing 1 1/2" drain (we're guessing) should be sufficient for your new shower.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 11-16-2022, 09:39 AM   #5
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Welcome, Scott,

Appears from here that the floor is wood framed. For starters, understand that executing a curbless shower will mean that you either have to recess the shower area or raise the non shower area, or a combination of both. That might mean cutting some material from the tops of the joists. Doing so will weaken them, perhaps to the point of needed to reinforce them.

To pull off a linear drain the existing drain will have to be moved, natch, which will likely mean drilling large holes in the joists for the drain line. Ideally you'd want the linear drain against the back wall.

Consider, too, that if you intend to install a door it may preclude the use of a bath matt. The bottom edge of the door would be necessarily close to the floor, and it will need to swing out.

1) Kerdi board isn't intended to be used as a tiling substrate in a tile floor installation. I suppose one could use cement board, but it would have to be installed over plywood, and then covered with Kerdi membrane.

2+3) Somewhat depends on the tile. If the tile is rectified they will be easier to install because they are more likely to be of uniform size. Cutting them will be a different matter. A snap cutter may work for some of the cuts where the cut edges will be hidden (snappers don't always produce clean edge). If you have to rip any of those 16X32's you're likely going to need a big snapper, or a wet saw. You won't know how clean a snap you'll get until you test it with your tile.

4) While you might find some cost savings between the various brands of floor warming products, IMO none of those savings would offset the ease of installation of a system like Schluter's (Laticrete also offers a very similar system). I used Schluter's. Extending any of them into the shower is doable but requires extra care and steps. I did not extend mine into the shower and don't miss it at all. The shower floor is warmed by the water.

5) I humbly suggest that this site is about as comprehensive as you're likely to find. We have professionals and DIY'ers who have been there, done that.
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Unread 11-16-2022, 09:42 AM   #6
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Thanks CX, happy to be here

I did confirm that the existing drain is 1 1/2", and we are sticking with one shower head (shower is really too small for 2, unfortunately). I figured changing to 2" had more to do with the output size of most linear drains, which I do recall seeing as 2", rather than increasing capacity. I would REALLY like to avoid at all costs having to change the size of the entire drain line...that would be a major task.

Slight additional background, this is a 1st floor bathroom in a single floor home with a fully finished basement, so directly under this bathroom is the basement bathroom.
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Unread 11-16-2022, 12:20 PM   #7
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Thanks for the welcome and info Dan

Yep, everything is 100% wood framed, the picture in my first post was a little misleading. I do know about needing to match levels, and it shouldn't be an issue raising the main floor to match the top of the shower slope - in fact that's one of the main reasons we ripped up the main floor tile!

Moving the drain sounds easy enough once I know where it goes, I've done a limited amount of plumbing before and drain line doesn't seem terribly complicated - honestly the #1 issue I run into is not knowing what the various couplers and adapters are called despite knowing what they need to do.

1. That's what seemed logical to me as well, I couldn't see a reason one couldn't just put down a sheet of well supported plywood at the appropriate pitch and cover it with something for underlayment and then waterproofing, but it didn't appear to be something commonly done so I thought I must be missing something. I don't mind doing a little math and cutting some wood to save a decent amount!

2 & 3. It appears our wall tile (the 16 x 32 ones) are rectified, while the floor tiles (12 x 24) are pressed. For cutting, I haven't been able to find a large enough used cutter locally, so I was planning to purchase this one new (tile cutter) and get a smaller, overhead blade type saw used. If I can't get clean edges with the cutter, I suppose I'll have to figure out plan B. Definitely planning to do some test cuts though, I've never cut any tile so I'm sure there's a learning curve!

4. Thanks for the advice, I think we'll probably go with Schluter for that as it seems very easy to install, is well documented, and it appears that good deals on the parts can be had online or locally as leftovers from projects. My wife is also rather against doing heat in the shower (well, more confused as to why I'd want it...I just hate cold feet ok!) so if it's significantly more complicated it's safe to say we can skip that feature.

5. In my exceptionally limited experience, I agree with you I was looking at the various e-books available at TYW, in particular the "from tear-out to trim-out" series - are these still as relevant as ever and a good resource for a beginner?
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Unread 11-16-2022, 04:20 PM   #8
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It all seems easy on paper.

Start with the floor joists; have to know what type and size they are, how far apart they are spaced, and how long their unsupported span is just to determine if they will properly support a tile installation. Then there is the current plywood; what is its thickness, is it tongue and groove, and its general condition. Let's say that all that is good.

To achieve the slope you need in the shower, especially if you use cement board as the substrate and you build on top of the existing ply, you will need a minimum of 5/8" plywood which would have to be raised about 3/4" at the front to achieve your slope, so now the top of the ply at the shower opening is 1 3/8" high before cement board and tile. To get even with shower floor the main floor would need to be raised the same amount. That's a lot of added height, and may make the transition from the bathroom to the adjoining room awkward.

You could reduce the height gain by removing the existing plywood in the shower area and recessing it between the joists. But that then reduces the available space between the bottom of the plywood and the top of the ceiling below, which cuts into the available space for the shower drain P trap. Even adding length to the drain line, which should slope 1/4" per foot, could have implications. The height of the linear drain assembly you choose, and how it must be installed, may dictate some decisions too.

A warm floor is a wonderful luxury. Consider, though, that you'd be paying to warm the shower floor right along with the main floor, and the time spent in the shower, and especially on the cold part of the shower floor (most if it being warmed by water) will be a fraction of that spent in the main part of the bathroom. No idea how many square feet you plan to warm or where you're located, but my approximately 65 Sq/Ft of warm floor runs between 20 to 30 a month when the system is on. Remember, too, that all the makers of those systems either suggest, or require, them to be on a dedicated electrical circuit. I think installing any of the systems in a shower will require a water proof membrane over them, adding to height.

Just a smattering of things I leaned on my two year journey to a curbless shower.

I would say the TYW reverence reference(!) materials are absolutely still relevant.
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Unread 11-17-2022, 10:32 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan
I would say the TYW reverence materials are absolutely still relevant.
Mmmmm. I've heard us (TYW) called many things over the decades, but reverent?
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Unread 11-17-2022, 11:20 AM   #10
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Indeed, this is all much easier in my head than in reality!

1. I will investigate the joist and subfloor condition and configuration once we get the old underlayment up, but I assume it will support tile since we just pulled up the existing tile in good condition. Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe I should be putting minimum 1/2" (or more as required for the correct height at the shower entrance) plywood over the subfloor, then ditra-heat per the instructions, then tile on top of that.

2. That's a good point about matching the floor height of the rest of the house, I hadn't thought about that. Looks like I'll be doing some stackups and thickness measurements to see where I'm at there. Sounds like I need to pick a drain assembly and outlet configuration and go from there, that way I know how high the lowest point needs to be and can get the height of the rest of the floor from that.

2.5. Does anyone have anything to say about KBRS drains and shower slopes? It appears I can get a full kit with drain, grate, tray and some waterproofing for about $800, less than just a schluter drain and grate! In fact, it doesn't look like I could use a schluter tray if I wanted to, since they don't appear to have the correct configuration - I need 32x60, long side drain, and they only have short side drains in that size. I'm also more than open to other vendors and products if anyone has suggestions! This is what I'm stuck on right now, I need to pick a drain/pan system before I can move forward.

3. Good point, I think I'm over doing a heated floor in the shower but I'd still like to do it in the bathroom. The heating cost shouldn't be terrible with a programable thermostat, and the room is quite small - only about 35 Sq/Ft. Running a dedicated circuit won't be an issue, the room is quite close to the panel and I'm very comfortable doing electrical work.


I'll definitely be picking up those TYW pdfs, thanks! Also very much appreciate the tips, tricks and lessons learned
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Unread 11-17-2022, 12:58 PM   #11
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1+2) A logical assumption to make, and many do. Best to know for certain though, given how difficult, and heart breaking, it will be to fix after the tile is installed. Once you have the details of the joists use this sites "Deflecto" tool, located in the dark blue bar above.

How much plywood or cement board or Ditra Heat matt or a combination of those you need to add to the main floor will be dictated by the height of the shower floor. The height of the shower floor will be dictated by the linear drain assembly you decide to use, if you recess the subfloor to be between the joists only in the shower area, if you cut the joists.

2.5) I believe a 32X60, long wall linear drain pan will be a customer order from KBRS. There are other alternatives, Built with Foam will also make you a custom foam tray in the exact dimensions you want, which then just gets covered with a sheet membrane. If you need to reduce costs you could punt on the linear drain altogether and opt for a standard center drain. A center drain configuration will make your life easier in other ways.

3) If you're warming 35 square feet of tile the monthly cost shouldn't be too bad. I run mine on a programmable, and the floor is over an unheated garage. You, and Mrs. Scott, will love it.

What's the deal with that receptacle?
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Unread 11-17-2022, 02:52 PM   #12
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It was a spa tub with jets. Probably where power for pump came from.
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Unread 11-17-2022, 03:27 PM   #13
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Doh!
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Unread 11-18-2022, 01:42 PM   #14
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Ah you found the weird outlet, it is indeed strange! Kirk correctly identified it as the power source for the jet pump in the old spa tub. Rather a clumsy way to do it if you ask me but it certainly works.

1. I measured the joists and subfloor, they appear to be 2x8's of unknown species in excellent condition with about a 10' span on 16" centers, covered by 3/4" x 7" boards running at a diagonal. The subfloor boards appear to have old moisture staining and heavy discoloration, but are 100% dry now and are not rotted or soft at all. Per the Deflecto calculator, these joists should be good for tile, especially once I put down sufficient plywood to match levels and a decoupling membrane.

2. The more I look, the more it seems that a center drain would make my life both easier and cheaper...but I really love the look of the linear drain, so I haven't given up yet! According to KBRS it appears I can get their 42" x 61" kit and trim it to fit, which ought to work nicely. I'll also check out Built with Foam as well.

3. That's what I'm hoping, I figure that since it's over an already heated space it won't be too cold to begin with, and it'll sure be nice for our cold MN winters!


On an unrelated, note, removing old tile underlayment is way less fun than it sounds...I was unprepared for having to chip away most of the cement board to get to all the screws! But it's finally off, so now construction can start in earnest.
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Unread 11-19-2022, 03:22 PM   #15
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Still trying to narrow down options for pan + drain, does anyone have any opinions or experience with Tile-Redi shower pans? They seem very easy to install and I admit I really like the thought of a 100% leak proof shower pan and drain assembly. On the other hand, there are some pretty poor reviews from 4-10 years ago, but nothing recent that I can find.

I also found the hydroblock/Ebbe INNI combination, which looks very cool and is middle of the road cost-wise.

We're thinking of doing cove trim in the inside corners to avoid silicone lines (which I've always hated), anything special to be aware of there?
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