How to install a leak-resistant tile shower floor
A neatly tiled shower floor can add a special sparkle to a bathroom, and is a much-admired feature by many homeowners. To install a leak-resistant tile shower floor, follow these step-by-step instructions below.
Tools and materials needed:
- Thinset mortar
- Plastic buckets
- Short spirit level
- Cordless power drill with whip attachment
- Sharp utility knife
- Tile cutting equipment (if needed)
- Heavy-duty sponge
- Small-toothed V-notched trowel for spreading
- Flat scraper for finishing the raw shower tray
- Cloth for removing dirt and excess mortar
- Masking tape
- Mix the mortar
To install a leak-resistant tile shower floor, start by inserting the whip attachment into the drill and tightening firmly. Put between 1 inch and 2 inches water into a bucket. Add the mortar and whip the mixture for 15 minutes on medium speed. Adjust the ratio to achieve a pourable consistency. Set aside.
- Prepare workplace
Block the drain opening with a piece of cloth. Use the flat scraper to feel for any ridges on the concrete shower tray. Work the ridges away until you have a consistently smooth surface. Rub your hand over the surface to make sure there are no bumps that could cause the tiles to rock. Wipe the tray with a damp cloth to remove any grit or dust.
- Set out the tiles
Snap the horizontal and vertical centers with a chalk line. Check whether your work area is square. Lay down dry tiles on the shower floor to find the best arrangement with the least cutting. Your objectives are to:
- Follow the horizontal and vertical centers with tile edges or tile mid points.
- Create similar-size cuttings to the left and right and the top and bottom.
- Avoid creating unbalanced effects if the tile has a pattern.
Stick small pieces of adhesive tape on the shower walls so you remember where the full tiles begin and end. Don’t worry about the drain area. You can add pieces of tile there after the full tiles have set.
- Spread the mortar
Drop a quantity of mortar onto the shower floor, sufficient enough to complete the first row of tiles plus a small overlap. Remove any excess so the mixture is 1/8 inch thick. Gently use the notched trowel to create a surface that’s easy for the tiles to bed.
- Set the tiles
Lay the tiles in position pressing down firmly between spacers to achieve an even surface. Check if the tiles are level. However, if the shower floor slopes, make sure the tiles slope, too. Add cut tiles as needed to complete the row. Remove surplus mortar with a damp cloth before starting the next row. To install a leak-resistant tile shower floor you need to complete the job with the tiles well grouted and clean.
- Clean up workplace
Thoroughly wash your tools before the mortar hardens and becomes difficult to remove. As soon as possible according the mortar manufacturer’s instructions, give the tiles one last cleaning and remove any surplus from the wall tiles and bathroom fittings.
- Cut filler tiles
Measure and cut the filler pieces for around the shower drain. Coat these tiles thoroughly with undiluted mortar then bed them down and squeeze away the surplus grout. Secure them with spacers. Apply mortar over the filler tiles and wipe away the excess to create attractive grout lines. This is an important step because if the shower floor leaks, this is the spot it will most likely happen. Make sure the drain and drain fitting are scrupulously clean because dry mortar is difficult to remove.
- Clean up tools and workplace
Thoroughly clean your tools before the grout hardens and becomes difficult to remove. As soon as possible per the mortar manufacturer’s instructions, give the tiles one last cleaning and remove surplus from the wall tiles and bathroom fittings.
Return to the job a few hours later to clean, buff and polish the tiles so they look as good as when you opened the box.
– Richard Farrell