HOW TO DIY A TILED SHOWER

Disclosure: Some of the links provided are affiliate links, which simply means I may earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you) if you shop through one of my links.

Drumroll please….the blog post you all have been asking for us finally here! I rebuilt this shower just before I started my blog and have received so many requests for a post dedicated to this project, so here it is.

Here is where we started. A builder’s grade fiberglass shower. Some of my pain points were:

  • Didn’t love the look
  • Seat in shower took up a large portion of the footprint
  • Felt small
  • Only “messy” storage on the seat

And here is where we ended! Now I love:

  • Um hello, it’s stunning
  • Almost doubled the amount of standing room
  • Feels tall, spacious, and luxurious
  • Organized storage with the niche

We decided to get a quote from a contractor to get an idea of how much it would cost to have it torn out and rebuilt, assuming that I would do all the tiling work. When that estimate came back at over $2,500 I decided to start researching because like the crazy person I am, I figured I could probably just do it myself – spoiler alert, I was right! And you can do it too. Although I won’t sugar coat it, this was a more difficult project than others I have tackled and was also very time consuming. Having a 7 month old slowed me down as well, but from the time we took out the old shower to the time we started being able to use this shower again was approximately 4 months.

Materials

Disclosure: Some of the links provided are affiliate links, which simply means I may earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you) if you shop through one of my links.

TUTORIAL

Of course first you need to remove your old shower. I started by cutting the drywall back to the height I wanted the tile to go. There is a vaulted ceiling in this bathroom (swoon) but I didn’t want to tile along the ceiling angle. With the extra experience/confidence I have now I would go all the way up to the ceiling, but that’s not what I chose to do here and it still worked great. I drew a level line that matched the 8 foot ceiling line and cut away the drywall with a utility knife to there.

With the drywall gone, we could see behind the insert to make sure we weren’t going to hit any wires or studs while cutting it up. Often builders place these inserts before framing out the walls so unfortunately you usually can’t remove it in one piece. We used a reciprocating saw (and good ear, eye, and respiratory protection) to cut the fiberglass into pieces that would fit through doorways. This is a pretty messy but very satisfying job, especially when you convince your partner to do it for you, haha! Note: I highly recommend shoving a rag or paper towels in the exposed drain to catch debris.

At this point we hired a plumber to come out. Our shower head had always dripped and it wasn’t a simple fix, but luckily with everything ripped down to the studs it was a lot easier! He also installed the rough in for the plumbing – that’s everything that goes in the wall for your handle and shower head to attach to. We installed hardware that wasn’t compatible with our current rough in plumbing, so that’s why they needed to switch it out. While he was at it, we had him raise the shower head up about 18 inches since we were raising the height of the shower.

Here is where we had to pivot a little bit. There was a pipe coming out of our concrete slab that infringed on the space for the shower. I had planned to build in a little shaving step there to block it, but our plumber just installed everything about 4″ away from the existing wall and we built a faux wall to hide the pipe. So that was our next step- we grabbed some 2x4s and attached them to the existing studs to bump out the framing a bit and allow space for that pipe.

Next was cement board! You hang this just like you hang drywall. For straight cuts, score and snap it with a utility knife (admittedly it takes a lot more elbow grease than cutting drywall) and for circular cuts for the plumbing, use an angle grinder. Screw the cement boards into studs. This is also where you install any niches that you want. We used a pre-made niche that fit between the studs. I installed cement board first and left an opening for the niche, then I slipped the niche in and screwed it into the studs. Easy peasy! I liked that the one we used had an adjustable shelf, which allowed us to create one big and one small niche.

Installing the shower pan was probably the most intimidating part, but the Kerdi shower kit definitely made it less stressful (this isn’t sponsored, I just really liked their product!). If you’re going to do this project, the shower kit is a must! There are several videos on youtube that will walk you through the installation step by step and I can’t recommend them enough.

I cut the pan down to the right size and set up the curb as well. The contractor who we had asked for a bid told us that when you want tile on the shower floor, pouring a pan will almost always fail (it may take 20 years, but it will eventually start leaking). If that is true, then the Kerdi pan is even better because it is a tile-able solid surface, meaning that even though you’ll have tile on the shower floor, the solid surface underneath will keep anything from leaking. They also include everything you need for the drain, except for the actually drain which you purchase separately. They sell a bunch of really cool drains – it’s such a fun spot to do something a little different!

After the shower pan is set up, you’ll install the Kerdi waterproofing membrane. It’s important to follow the instructions exactly and use unmodified mortar (recommended in most scenarios). Spread the mortar on the cement board with a trowel and then lay the membrane on top of it. Push down with a grout float to make sure you’re getting good adhesion. Lay the seam tape along all of your seams and use the corner pieces that the kit comes with in the corners. It is super important to get everything as flat and flush as possible, especially the corners! Use something like a drywall knife to really push it in there.

With everything waterproofed you’re ready for tile! I tiled the floor first because I wanted the wall tile to sit on top of the floor. I fell in love with this marble herringbone mosaic tile the minute I saw it. It was everything I wanted for this space – a good mixture of cool and warm warm tones with a very classic vibe. The trickiest part was cutting the small tiles around the drain, but it wasn’t too bad. I have a detailed tutorial here for how to lay floor tile and it’s the same idea. I also put this tile in the back of the niche which tied everything together nicely. One note, anywhere you have a raw corner or edge. use this schluter edge to finish it off nicely. I did it a little differently, but now I would recommend using painter’s tape to tape it up (make sure it’s level!) then mortar it down by shoving it under your tile.

For the walls, I used this great oversized subway tile. I pretty much only worked during E’s naptimes so I would get my mortar mixed up, get a (sometimes very) small section done, and then pause until his next naptime. Even though it felt like it took me ages, breaking it up into chunks made it manageable even with a sweet but very clingy baby.

I grouted the floor and the wall with Custom Building Product’s Bleached Wood. The rest of the bathroom had a lot of very cool tones and this warm grout balanced it out so nicely and really softened everything up.

I’m very happy with the way this detailing around the niche turned out. It isn’t perfect, but it was my first time doing something like this and I was so proud of it!

We installed this ah-maze-ing shower head (I still miss it). There is a sprayer that can be pulled off but the outer ring still showers you while you’re using the sprayer and the double layered knob allows you to set the temperature and water volume separately, so you can set it to the temperature you prefer and then turn it on and off without playing the too-hot-too-cold game ever again!

The shower door was the last thing to add and as a birthday present, I was able to hire it out. I was so nervous to hang it and even the stubborn DIYer that I am can admit that it was very, very nice to have professionals come out and get everything perfectly hung, level, and plumb.

We were quoted over $2,500 for this project not including tile work (so in the end it would have been over $3,500) and we spent right around $1,500 to do it ourselves. I can’t believe I cut the cost more than in half!! So what do you think, would you try this yourself? There is so much information here, so if you have any questions please feel free to ask them below!

With love,
Mercedes ♥


MY FAVS

Are you wanting to tackle this yourself? Here are links to some of my favorite tools used in this project.

Disclosure: Some of the links provided are affiliate links, which simply means I may earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you) if you shop through one of my links.

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