Which side of sheetrock is a moisture barrier?

Answered by Jeffrey ~ November 17, 2010 ~ No Comments

I'm remodeling a shower and I'm using a water resistant sheetrock. I don't know which side should touch my tiles. Which side of sheetrock is a moisture barrier - the colorful o regular gray?

Teresa ~ Houston, Texas

Jeffrey Anderson

Hi Teresa, Actually neither side should touch your tiles if you want your remodeling job to last more than a few years. The sheetrock you probably have is green on one side and gray on the other. This sheetrock is called greenboard in the industry and is only water resistant, not waterproof.

Greenboard sheetrock used to be used in showers and tub surrounds because of its water resistance properties, but a ceramic tiled wall is not completely waterproof and eventually water will get through the grout and to the sheetrock. Over time the sheetrock will soften and your tile will start to loosen. If this is allowed to continue unchecked, eventually the water will get to the framing behind the sheetrock in your shower and the framing will begin to get water damage.

What you want to use in your shower stall or "wet area" is a cement board product that isn't affected by water. Durock and Wonderboard are two brands that are commonly used and if you don't plan on having a steam shower, Hardibacker board can also be used. All of these products should be available in home improvement stores around Houston and are usually available in sheets that are four feet square.

The board should be used up to a level in your shower above where water can splash on a regular basis. Cement board is also a good product to use on a tub surround or deck. You should cut cement board outside as it is going to create a lot of dust and you should also wear a dust mask and eye protection when cutting it. After you install the product seal all the joints to prevent water from getting through.

Your greenboard sheetrock should be installed from where the cement board stops and up to the ceiling with the green side facing into the room. I'm not sure what common practice is in Texas, but with the humidity we have around here during the summer many builders install greenboard in the entire bathroom with the exception of where the cement board is. Greenboard doesn't cost much more than regular sheetrock and it can provide a little added protection from the dampness a bathroom that's used on a regular basis can have.

If your cement board happens to extend past where your ceramic tile stops, you can smooth out its rough surface and get it ready for paint by skimming it with a few coats of drywall compound and then sanding it.

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