Thursday, November 30, 2006

Tile Scheme or Tile Plan: You Decide

So, if you recall I’ve been trying to come up with a way to have a claw foot tub with a shower, but not have the shower ring. I’m just not a big fan of those things. The tub is going to go at the back of the small bathroom, and a shower curtain will be drawn in front of it. This will keep water from splashing out in to the bathroom, just as with a regular tub with shower. The problem has been the other three walls and the floor beneath the tub.

Naturally, water will end up other places aside from the tub drain at the bottom of the tub. The question has been, how much water. I think more than 75% of the water will go down the tub drain, with the majority of the remaining water hitting the wall on the side of the tub.

I could do a standard shower stall but I don’t want it to look like a tub sitting in a shower stall. The run-of-the-mill modern tiled shower stall has a 6-inch curb in front of it, and the floor is steeply slanted all around the drain. The drain is a 2 part drain, and the whole thing is large and imposing. Not what I want at all.

So what to do, what to do? That has been the big question. I went to a few tile forums and asked about drains for steam rooms. I figured that was a good compromise. Trying to explain what I wanted to do would get me a bunch of answers like, “Why the heck do you want to do that?”. Not very helpful. I figured asking about what type of floor drain would be installed in a steam room might get some creative juices flowing amongst the tile guys and maybe I could come up with an alternative to the 6-inch curb in the bathroom.

Well, I got nothing. One person suggested I use a good membrane. That one person was the only person who responded. I was asking about a drain, and I was told to use a membrane. Membranes are used in shower stall installations. It was like I was asking a zombie to drive a car and all I got was the standard “Groooan”. I can’t fault the tile guys. Few of them want or need to be creative. They know how to do shower stalls and they can whip them out pretty fast and move on to the next job. Badda-boom-badda-bing.

I Googled until my fingers where soar and I got 50 variations – using the word “variation” is a stretch here – but I got 50 variations on the same thing. According to the internet, there is only one way to control water on the floor of a bathroom. It is a 6-inch curbed shower stall. Apparently, without that you are screwed.

I began to wonder again how they used to do it in the days before synthetic membranes. The Romans where big on bath houses, and I’ve seen pre-WWII shower stalls. So how did they do it? Well, I found one reference to a lead lined shower stall. It was pretty much two words in a long description of a modern shower stall with a membrane and a 6-inch curb, so it did me little good. Even if it was step-by-step instructions I doubt I’m going to be getting my hands on a lead sheets anytime soon.

So I thought and I thought and I thought and I came up with The Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co. For those of you who don’t know, the 3 “Ms” in The 3M Corp stand for The Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co. Thank you very much Stucco House for that little bit of trivia. Now I ask you, have you ever purchased a bad 3M product? I’m willing to be you haven’t.

In my opinion, 3M is the Pantheon of Corporate America. These are the people who brought us Scotch Tape and Post-It Notes, not to mention a plethora of other adhesive and non-adhesive products. I guarantee you every single one of those products works exactly as advertised. It either meets or exceeds your expectations. It’s probably something you’ve never noticed before and that’s the beauty of the company. They don’t ram “The Greatness” of their products down your throat with advertising, they just make great products.

Any way, the miracle 3M product I’m going to use 3M™ Marine Adhesive/Sealant 5200 to seal the tiles in the shower area. I will do a gentle slope towards a standard floor drain, and a slight curb with quarter round tile. The floor of the bath area will be the 3X6 subway tile, as opposed to the 1-inch hex tile that will be on the rest of the floor.

When you Google the 3M™ Marine Adhesive/Sealant 5200 - and you will - you will see things like “EXTREMELY PERMANENT”, “Can be used below the water line”, “cures with no shrinking”, “Stays flexible and allows for structural movement”, and “Stress caused by shock, vibration, swelling or shrinking is effectively absorbed”.

Now, if this were any other product but a 3M product I would be saying to myself, “Yea, right, I don’t think so”. But I’m not saying that. Me, the born skeptic, actually believes something that is written about a product on a retail internet site. Snowballs may actually be flying through hell as I write. To go one step further, I will be using the membrane under the thinnest, backboard, or the mud job - what ever I decide. It won’t be the steeply pitched floor with the 6-inch curb and the 2 part shower drain. No I won’t be doing that. My first line of defense will be the 3M™ Marine Adhesive/Sealant 5200, and it will hold.

So why doesn’t everybody use the 3M™ Marine Adhesive/Sealant 5200? Because it’s $10 for a standard sized caulking tube. That’s ok, though. I’m not going to be paying a tile setter $50 and hour so I can afford the $150 worth of caulk. Big whoop! Of course, there is a bit more to this plan, or is it s scheme, that I won’t go in to now. I really think I’m on to something here, though. If I do this right, it may even be better than what all the tile guys are doing with their membranes and their 6-inch curbs.


Anonymous said...

What if you did a search for instructions for a roll- in shower stall, as for someone in a wheelchair? No 6 inch curb there.
Funny.. there is a little wheelchair icon at the word verification box!! It is a hint.

Victor said...

Did you try searching for ADA or handicap/accessible showers? IIRC, most ADA showers/bathrooms can't have a curb and they have to account for water going most places on the floor.

That might be an approach to take and I'm sure there are plenty of solutions for bathrooms for disabled people (especially if you look at hotels/motels which are required, by law, to have a certain number of fully ADA complaint rooms).

Just an idea for where you might do some searching. Hope it helps.

Greg said...

The ADA! {Slap forhead} Why didn't I think of that?

It’s funny you should mention this because I did stumble on a thread about someone who wanted to put a floor drain in their bathroom because of their disabled son. It seems he was getting to the age where he wanted privacy and the parents wanted to put a floor drain in the bathroom. Of the few response they got, no one mentioned the 6-inch curb and the membrane floor pan.lgxpihc

Angus said...

I can't think of a way (without a curb) without the whole bathroom floor tiled and sloping to the drain. (3M will love that).

But you're planning to raise the end of the room where the tub is anyway right? Like a small 'stage'? So that you can build a slope to a drain under the tub? Or did I misunderstand?
What about using the tile cap you picked out to frame this step up?

StuccoHouse said...

For what it's worth. The Nov. issue of This Old House had an article on a guy who bought an old farm house and remodeled it. I must have ditched my issue, so I'm going on memory. His bathroom was totally modern and non-period authentic, but I remember seeing a floor drain & a pitched floor similar to what I think you are describing. He took this approach because he had a ceiling shower and didn't want shower walls. I even thought to myself, "that's what Petch House is doing."

Greg said...

I’ll say right now that this idea is still fluid. I can say for sure that the tub will not be on a platform. If anything else, the tub area will be slightly lower than the rest of the floor. The floor drain in the center of the floor was an early idea, but I ditched for some reason. It’s still sort of there. Rough-in plumbing could start in 2 or 3 weeks, so I really need to nail this down soon.

derek said...

when I travelled in asia and South America, the bathrooms were designed to get wet everywhere. They had a drain for the shower, which was a small step down ( a little dangerous), and another in the centre of the room. I think using a kerdi membrane for the whole room would be a good idea. I was going to make our basement bathroom fully waterproof, it just seemed like a lot of work.

Zach said...

The Roman bath was primarily a masonry building-containing nothing water could easily damage. Our frame houses are very vulnerable to water damage. A full floor membrane with a gentle slope (1/8" in 4') will cost little in material, some in labor and (IMHO) should gain much in performance and mucho mas mejor in peace of mind.

Tex MacRae said...


What you want to search is wetroom. We went through all this when putting in our master bath.

Which I never posted about even though I always meant to. Sheesh, I should get that post done it might have some information that while not directly addressing what you're doing , might help.

Here's a start on wetrooms. You'll find they're a mostly European thing, but good tile guys know how to do one.

Greg said...


Yes the bath houses where masonry, but the one I was thinking of was the one reproduced on a PBS Nova series a few years back. The heating of a bath house was done from a fire on a sub level. The place was water tight. They had some complications during construction because of time constraints. Even so, I’m sure they failed over time. Everything does. The point I was trying to make was that, obviously this is not a new idea.


Those systems are basically the same thing as the shower stall systems used here. It is basically a water proof membrane that acts as a pan under the floor to capture any water. They didn’t show it in the UK ones, but in a shower they incorporate secondary drain to dispose of water that eventually works its way through failures in the grout. Some were designed to be used solely as the floor, without tile. In that case, you don’t need the secondary drain. Others were a little more high-tech, but required company personal to come and measure and install the system. Kind of expensive considering I would have to fly them in. I haven’t looked in to it, but I’m sure the ADA systems work on a similar concept. On this side of the pond it is the KERDI system made by Schluter.

I guess I'm just not doing a very good job of explaining what I don't like about having the entire bathroom as one big sloped floor. A quarter inch slope per foot over a 10 foot floor is 2.5 inches of slope. If it’s in the middle of the room, that is an inch and a quarter. It doesn’t sound like much, but the membrane systems require even more of a floor because of the two part drain system. Putting any kind of pan or membrane under the floor with out the proper slope, or without the secondary drain, is just as bad as having no membrane at all. It is for these reasons that I ditched the whole idea of the central floor drain in the bathroom. If it’s done properly, it could be as much as a 3 or 4 inch elevation change as you enter the bathroom. This also why I don’t want to do the traditional shower installation. The build up of the floor is the reason they have the curb. I know I’m being obstinate on this, and I’m sure a lot of people are rolling their eyes and saying, “Whatever, man. You’re going to screw up and ruin your floor”. Oh well, it won’t be the first time I’ve screwed up.

Tex MacRae said...

Greg, you don't have to do the whole floor.

Look at this:

You're right that I don't get it about the drain. Aren't weepholes standard with any floor drain?

Greg said...

Yep, that's pretty much the shower stall installation I've been talking about for the past week or so. Here in the US and Canada most people use the Kerdi membrane that I spoke about above in my last comment.

I think what I'm describing about what I don't like about this system is getting lost in translation, but that's OK. I do appreciate the feedback, and I will be discussing my ideas on this in a lot more detail in the weeks to come.

Thanks again.

Camille said...

I want to do exactly what you are talking about but my concern is over time how will the cast iron tub and feet take the moisture? Did you ever finish your project? I would love to see pictures. Thanks, Camille

Greg said...


I should start tiling next week sometime. Check in with my latest blog entries over the next few weeks because I will be writing about it a lot.

That's funny you should mention the tub feet. I only thought about that in the past week or so. I'm considering having them nickel plated. There are some other items that need to be replated, so I'll send them along.

Camille said...

My vision is to build a tiled alcove and slide the tub into it. I would slope the tiled floor towards the middle with an additional drain in the center. I was also looking at the some frame less, glass sliding shower doors that go to clear to the floor, so hopfully I could avoid having to build a curb. I will do most anything to avoid shower curtains of any kind. I bet there are some products out there that can be applied to the cast iron feet that would help inhibit rust? One I am considering is called Por-15. I am using it now on my 50 Plymouth that I am restoring where ever there is rust. I would also apply it to the bottom side of the tub. It is silver in color. Can't wait to see pictures of your project! Camille