We've come a long way since then (thankfully!). We are actually over half way tiled now and things are looking great (see my Instagram feed on the side for an updated photo). However, before we jump ahead to that, I wanted to post about the final step before tile- the backerboard. The backerboard is an important step to ensure the shower is properly protected against water as well as to provide a stable backing for the tile to be applied to. It's not very exciting but it's very important.
We decided to go with DensShield tile backer board by Georgia-Pacific. We picked it up at Home Depot. We chose it over the more standard cement board because it was lighter, easier to cut and just generally felt easier to install. It's installed just like drywall. While being easier to install, it still does its job and has all the characteristics you would be looking for. If you want to learn more about this product, specs and installation instructions can be found here.
I don't want to do a whole tutorial on installation since you can find them many places around the internet and we are not experts. However, I did want to share some of the tips and things we learned along the way. Maybe it will help one of you on a future reno project.
Tip 1: Be sure to follow all directions that come with your shower pan/base if you are using one. Ours came in a pack with our glass doors from Costco. The instructions detailed how the framing worked around the shower base. It also showed us that the surface of the backer board needed to be installed flush with the inside of the lip of the shower pan. This was a very important detail so that tiling can be done correctly. Read all instructions- I can't stress that enough. Also be sure to think about your shower doors and any shelves or accessories you plan to add after tile. Most of these things require a stud for support so be sure to install that framing before you get to the backer board step. Side note: decide which backer board product you want to use before framing your shower in- the different products vary in thickness and if you need to keep things flush for tile, you need to account for those thicknesses.
Tip 2: Decide where you are tiling prior to purchasing your backer board. This is pretty much common sense to ensure you purchase enough. We chose to go to the ceiling with our tile but some people only tile to the top of their shower doors (around 7' generally). This is something you should plan before the backer board step - it just makes everything easier and allows you to plan accordingly. We also had to decide how far out we were extending our tile in front of the shower pan. (See Tip 3's photo to see it extending in front).
Tip 3: Not to sound like a broken record, but this tip revolves around reading directions too. When you decide on your backer board product, read it's installation instructions. You will find details there about which type of fasteners to use (length, coated, etc), what size gap to leave between boards and along the shower pan, as well as details about how often the board needs to be fastened. Our board needed to be fastened every 6" along the stud. We found this out after doing one of the side walls so we adjusted and made them closer on the back wall and other side. We also found details there like making sure the screws are flush with the surface but not over screwing them. There are always lots of helpful details in the installation instructions (shocker! I know...).
Tip 4: Once you decide on what material you are cladding the walls in, research and learn what board sizes it is available in. Ours came roughly 60" x 30" I believe. This worked great for the large back wall of the shower since we could use 3 boards horizontally to cover it. The side walls were around 34" though so we had to decide how to break up the boards on that wall. You want to minimize seams so this can take some planning. It's also important to plan it out so that you can ensure you have the proper framing in place. We had to add a stud in a few places so we would have something to secure the edge of the board to.
Tip 5: Trust your gut. Throughout this process, our biggest concern has been water proofing. The last thing we want is to finish this shower and then realize that we didn't do it right and we left a spot vulnerable to water. After installing our backer board, we decided to run a bead of 100% silicone caulking along the ceiling seam and the seam between our backer board and the shower pan. We just felt better doing this to ensure there was a water tight seam. (Maybe this is standard protocol but I didn't see it as a step in the tutorials I was referencing).
Tip 6: This step is messy. I wish I would have known that before starting. I knew it would be a bit messy, but I underestimated it. Be sure to plan for this and protect things accordingly. I ended up using painters tape to tape off the shower drain to avoid it clogging with dust. Be prepared for lots of dust - I was cleaning for days and still have dust everywhere.
Those are my best tips. Basically it boils down to reading your instructions and doing your research! Once we had it installed, we had to tape our seams. We used a mesh tape that is specifically designed for cement board. We aren't using cement board but we needed the same basic properties. Standard drywall tape is not recommended for shower applications. It will break down with continued exposure to water. This tape is self adhering so we just cut it to length and applied it along all the seams.
Once it was all taped, I started to prep the area for tile. I used painters tape to tape off along the base of the shower. The tile will overlap the lip so I really just needed to protect the bottom portion. I then cut a large sheet of corrugated cardboard to fit over top and taped it in place too. This just helped ensure that any rogue thinset during tiling wouldn't end up on our shower base. Once that stuff hardens, it's very hard to get off- if not impossible.
**When we did start tiling, I ended up taping off that front lip that returns to the floor and we put drop cloths down to protect the linoleum. Tiling is beyond messy... at least when I'm involved!**
When we were ready to start tiling, we mixed up our thinset and applied a nice even coat to all the tape ensuring to apply pressure and force it into the mesh and seams. Then we just started tiling from there. I'll leave all those details for a future post though.
Any one install tile backer board before? Have any more tips?