How to Build a Shower Base – Step by Step

Most do it yourself people can learn how to build a shower base. It’s a step-by-step process that’s fairly simple to do, but it’s easy to go wrong too. To get the general idea of what needs to be done, follow these steps.

1. Framing to start.
Framing the shower seems like a simple matter. And it is, in a way. It’s just simple wall framing using conventional methods. Here’s the trick though. The closer to square and plumb the walls and framing are, the simpler it is to get the tile right. That’s why many tiles setters want to frame the showers themselves. It’s faster than dealing with somebody else’s mess.

2. Support counts too.
The floor support must be solid. That means floor joists must be solid and so must the subfloor be too. See, a single sheet of plywood may be too bouncy to support the shower pan. If the subfloor moves, that may result in cracked tile. Solid subfloor is a must.

3. Curb failures…
Another framing key is right at the shower curb. Forget about box framing. Use stacked wood or even brick, but not open framing. That’s the best way to a curb that lasts.

4. Mortar layer one…
The mortar shower base is in two mud layers. The bottom or first layer is sloped and is the base for the shower liner membrane. Why not just one layer? The liner membrane must be on a slope to move the water to the drain. Leave out the sloped base for the liner and you’ll have water pooled with the shower base. That produces mold, mildew and a big mess.

5. The liner…
Some shower builders don’t know that a shower pan must include a waterproof layer. That’s because a shower floor cannot be waterproof. The grout allows water to pass right through and some tiles do too. That’s why a shower pan has a waterproof layer built right in. THe liner catches the water and route it to the special tile shower drain.

6. Wall covering…
The liner slopes right up the wall to build a waterproof layer up the wall. But the wall covering must be built to withstand water too. That’s why cement board is usually used. The trick is the cement board must be installed properly or it becomes a moldy mess too. There’s a right way to use the cement board…

7. Top mortar layer.
The mortar layer that forms the top of the shower pan is laid right over the waterproof liner. It too is sloped and is built of the same material as the lower layer. The mortar used for the base is called deck mud. It’s a simple mix, but whatever you do don’t use masonry mix. It has lime in it and that causes serious problems.

If you want to learn how to build a shower base, you must learn why each layer is important. Building a shower pan is just a step-by-step construction project. Each step is simple, but there are a number of tricks to know. The hard part is that the tricky parts are all hidden after the shower is finished.

We have a free series on our website that describes every step of shower pan installation, so you can get it right the first time.

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