How do I waterproof a tile shower?

Answered by Jeffrey ~ April 28, 2012 ~ Comments

I want to remove my fiberglass shower insert and replace it with a tile shower. How should I waterproof the underlying cement slab before I install the floor tiles? Thanks

Ryan ~ Chico, California

Jeffrey Anderson

Hi Ryan. In most situations, you will not be installing the shower's tile floors directly over the concrete slab. A shower needs to have a floor that slopes toward the drain location or water can accumulate while showering. Standing water many eventually cause a leaking issue and may also be a safety hazard if it creates a slick surface on the tiles.

When you have removed the fiberglass shower enclosure, a mortar base will need to be built before the new shower tiles are installed. A rubber membrane should be put in place as the mortar goes in to provide waterproofing for the base of your new shower. Framing material is usually used to create the front curb of the enclosure and the membrane extends over it to provide a watertight foundation for the shower.

Building the mortar base isn't difficult, but does require some expertise to ensure the water drains properly. If you haven't attempted this task in the past, I recommend that you have a tile contractor from around Chico handle at least that phase of your project. If you wish to install your own shower tile, that can still be done once the mortar base is complete.

A properly installed mortar shower base and membrane is usually very waterproof. I have had very few problems with them over the years and once the tile floors are installed, can create a very attractive shower enclosure. If you would like an option that doesn't involve installing a mortar base, shower pans are available that allow using ceramic tile for the walls of the enclosure, but the base is low-maintenance fiberglass. This type of pan has the drainage slope already designed in and just requires being hooked up to the plumbing. Good luck with your project.

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