Waterproofing Showers, Tub Surrounds, & More

7 10 2011

It’s time for a current (2014) update on this subject.  Over the years I’ve used almost every available system to build waterproof showers, tub surrounds, and floors.  My motivation has always been to use the most advanced, labor-saving products and methods available.  My customers have come expect it.  The substrate or “backer” material needs to be structurally sound, waterproof, easy to install, and adaptable to different configurations.  In short, it needs to hold my confidence no matter the application.

Abandoned Methods – I no longer use some methods by personal preference.  There is just too much room for error using these methods.  These include PVC liners, mud-set pans, rigid plastic or ABS pans, cement-boards, fiber-cement-boards, open-cell foam-boards, waterproof coatings, and styrafoam/fabric/thinset systems.  All of these products can be installed, waterproofed, and can offer a decent finished product.  However, they involve multiple steps, considerable weight & labor, and extreme attention to ensure a waterproof system.  The temptation though, is that they can be less expensive.

4x3x8 shower preped using Wedi

4x3x8 shower preped using Wedi

Current Method – After becoming a “Wedi Certified Installer”, I have been using this system exclusively for the past ten years.  “Wedi” is a closed-cell foam-board with fiberglass mesh and a thin layer of thinset on both sides.  This material is waterproof throughout it’s entire thickness.  It is adhered to the sub-floor using thinset, joined using Urethane adhesive, and secured to walls using mechanical fasteners. This system combines the drain, sloped-pan, wall, curb, and floor components into one continuous unit.  It is adaptable to any imaginable shape and size.  It boasts a ten year waterproof warranty,
and it should outlast the wood structure.  This system is extremely lightweight, installs quickly, and the labor savings and warranty are worth every penny.   I have the utmost confidence in the “Wedi” system, and (knock on closed-cell foam) have had no call-backs since moving to this method exclusively.

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4x3x8 shower complete

The Lesson – Even with advanced systems, you still need to know what you’re doing in order to installed them correctly.  You have to learn how each system protects your structural wood components from moisture damage.  Don’t skip any steps, especially waterproofing the joints and fasteners, and leak-testing the pan.  I’ve always said “you can’t beat a guy at his job“.  So If you doubt your ability at all, hire a professional who has confidence in the systems he builds with every day.

John Weber, www.riorenovation.com

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