While plastic shower pans have enabled the average DIYer the capability to rapidly and easily put in a short-term solution because of their shower, the longest lasting and most durable alternative is a custom-built concrete shower pan. Formed out of deck mud, a concrete pan includes a layer of rubber membrane within that also wraps up the walls between 6 to 8 inches, shedding water to the drain. From there, tile installs on top of this concrete shower pan along with rubber membrane for a permanent shower solution.

Deck Mud

The rubber membrane in a shower installs on top of a thin layer of mud that runs on the drain, along with another layer of mud installs on top of the membrane to create the foundation for the tile. This is normally about 2 inches. Although you can buy prepackaged bags of deck mud, then consider making your own using a 4-to-1 or 5-to-1 solution of sand to Portland cement. Include only enough water to dampen the mix. You want the consistency of wet sand that clumps on your hand when you compress your fist, but if you shake your hand the mix falls apart. After this sets up on top of the rubber membrane, then it hardens into the foundation for the tile.

Part of the Pan

Commercial specifications require at least 1/4-inch of slope for every linear foot of distance in the drain, but if you are building on your residence, fix this if you would like. Remember that anything less than 1/8-inch of slope per linear foot will not drain sufficiently, which means you’ll be left with standing water after using the shower. This issue is aggravated by tumbled or natural stone tile stuff used on top of the end deck mud, since the natural roughness of stone produces high points that act as dams for the water. For best results, remain as close as possible to the commercial specs, even though you don’t have to in a residential setting.

Floating the Pan

When floating a shower pan using deck mud, always start with the inch depth at the drain, and be sure that the drain is twisted tight. This permits you to unscrew the drain marginally when installing the tile, thus flushing the drain out with the end height of the tile. In case you’ve got a bigger shower pan where a inch at the drain provides you more than 3 inches at the wall, adjust the depth, but never move less than 1/2-inch thick or the mud will crack out. The best way to float would be always to take your measurements first to ascertain how thick you want the mud at the perimeter, and then create screeds in the mud. Screeds are 3- to 4-inch broad, level and flat “bridges” of packed mud that work their way around the whole perimeter. Subsequently, pack mud into the middle between the drain and the screeds, set a straight edge on top of the screed and the drain, and pull it around the shower pan. This cuts off the mud at the appropriate differences between the drain and the screeds. From there, smooth it down using a flat trowel and allow it to dry for 48 to 72 hours before tile installation.

Installing the Tile

The more slope, the harder it would be to install large-bodied tiles. That is the reason why the majority of shower pans are smaller tiles, such as mosaics or at the most, 4-inch all-natural stone tiles. That is since slope causes lippage in huge squares, since you cannot “bend” a massive piece of tile to accommodate for slope in a curved atmosphere where nothing is flat. Smaller bits, on the other hand, naturally fit into the sloped contour. Tumbled stones are great for shower pan settings since the edges aren’t perfectly flat or aligned, and water is not the issue since it consistently hits the membrane buried in the middle of the sink pan that flows to the drain. After grouting, sealing helps limit this water stream.

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