Tiled Showers

Camden Frameless ShowerThere are two types of tiled showers. The custom tiled base with tiled walls and the pre-made base with tiled walls.

The shower at right has a custom "mud" base, and tiled walls. The curb has been "capped" with granite. Our 3/8" frameless enclosure was installed over the granite. Curbs can tiled, capped with granite, corian, marble, or any of the manufactured stones. Remember to tip the tiles or granite into the shower so the water drains back. You would be surprised at how many we see that are tipped the wrong way.


Mud base drawing


Here is a simplified drawing of a typical "mud" base. The membrane (orange) is layed over the floor and carefully folded in the corners and wrapped up the walls and over the curb. Some professionals even slope the floor before they put the membrane down. Seams are avoided where possible, and special cement "glue" is used on the membrane when a seam cannot be avoided.



Zurn drainZurn drain partsA special three part drain is always used. The bottom two parts of the drain are clamped to the membrane so that water that has made its way down through (or around) the tile and grout at the top of base can be safely drained away. A height adjustable screw down top completes the drain. Most professionals always use a cast iron drain like a Zurn, but cheaper plastic drains are available.


There is a liquid rubber polymer kit on the market that takes the place of the membrane. It is troweled on under and over the mortar bed and has gained popularity over the past ten years or so, but we are not the experts on this. If you are within driving distance of Bangor, stop in at Keniston Tile and ask Bob Goulet about it. I know he has used it for about ten years on his custom bases. There are also pre-sloped foam bases made by Schluter which are more homeowner friendly.

These systems have been used sucessfully for many years, but if not done correctly, can fail and cause severe damage to your house and will need to be torn out. They cannot be permanently repaired. Short term fixes like siliconing around the tile joints where the walls meet the base sometimes work for a while, but eventually they too fail.

Mud bases are best left to the professionals, or to the very serious and clever homeowner. Do your homework if you want to try one.

Note: We were recently called to a house in Northport to remove our shower doors so the mud bases could be repaired. The original installation had been done by a carpenter who had used Grace Ice and Water Shield as a membrane. Although a great product for roofs, Ice and Water Shield was never meant to be used in showers. The mud base lasted just one year and cost the homeowner thousands to repair.

Premade Bases: Shower with premade acrylic baseThe shower at right shows a 60" x 42" acrylic base by MTI and our custom 1/2" sliding Kinetic door.

There are many shower bases on the market, made out of many materials. We only recommend acrylic bases. For more information see the video on our shower base page.

Acrylic bases come in many sizes. Some even have built in seats. Check out our Shower Base page for more information.




WonderboardTaping wonderboardCement Board: Wall tile in a shower is always placed on cement board. This board is made of cement and fiberglass, is unaffected by moisture, comes in 3' x 5' sheets and is 1/2" thick. The joints need to be taped with a special tape. This cement board is unaffected by moisture and need be installed only where water will be running down the walls. It is usually nailed or screwed to the studs horizontally. Usually six feet up is satisfactory. Cement board comes in several brands; Durock and Wonderboard are two of the most common.

Another water proofing system that is gaining in popularity is the Schuleter Ditra system.Kerdi Ditra

If you have ever seen tile falling off the walls in an older shower you can bet it was put over sheet rock or some other substrate that was susceptible to moisture retention. Small cracks in the grout have allowed water to get behind the tiles and rot the sheetrock causing the tiles to fall off. With the advent of cement board this problem is no longer a concern.


Tile: Tile is made for various purposes and is beyond the scope of this web site except to say some tile is more suitable for walls and some is more suited for floors and some is suited for showers. You should talk to a professional about this.

We do know that we are seeing more "porcelain" tile in showers. This is an extremely hard tile which absorbs very little water and presents some problems drilling holes for shower door fasteners.

Glass tile is becoming popular in showers too, particularly as accent stipes. Basically, most glass tile is nothing more than a piece of glass with paint on the back. That's a little over-simplification, but true. There are some glass tiles that actually have color embedded with in the glass, but they are more rare.

Drilling Tile: Drilling soft tile, like Subway tile, can be done with a regular non-hammer drill and a cheap masonry bit. Use the bit and a hammer to chip the surface of the tile help start the hole.

The extremely hard Porcelain tiles require heavier equipment and better bits in order to drill holes.

Hammer DrillBosch Drill BitHammer drills with good quality masonry bits like Bosch are a must for drilling these tiles. A regular drill would never even drill one hole. Even with a hammer drill it takes a fair amount of pressure to drill a hole and even the best bits like Bosch and Makita will only do about three or four holes in the hardest porcelain tiles. A spray bottle with water will help to keep the bit cooler and last longer. The only tile we have broken in the past few years are porcelain and set with mastic rather than with thin set. More about this in the next section.

diamond core bits

If you only have a few holes to drill in porcelain tile, get a diamond tipped core bit on line for about $12.00 or $15.00. Use water to keep the bit cool. Heat ruins the bit. Buying a core bit or two is certainly less expensive than buying a hammer drill.

Core bits are also excellent for drilling glass tile: in fact they are our bit of choice for glass.


Glass drill bit

Glass drill bits like this one are OK, but buy a good one like Bosch makes.



Thin Set or Mastic:

All of the professional tile setters we know in this area use thin set (the modified kind with the acrylic latex additive) exclusively. If they use mastic at all, it is used only for backsplashes.

Mastic takes a long time to dry and if it gets wet later on (like in a shower) it will re-emulsify and turn to mush. We were recently on a shower door installation in Brewer and broke a tile. It was a porcelain tile which requires a fair amount of pressure with a hammer drill to drill, and the tile (unbeknownst to us) was set with mastic. Because mastic takes so long to set, and remains soft so long, the tile broke very easily. I could pick the tile right off the wall. Thinset is a cement product and sets up in a few hours giving a very hard base for drilling. We have broken very few tiles set with thinset.

I called four tile shops in the area and they said they would only use mastic for kithen backsplashes and never in a wet area. The particular flooring outfit responsible for the Brewer shower were new to the area, subbed out all their work, and the woman who answered the phone said she'd worked at six different flooring places and with twenty different crews and they all used mastic. I told her she might want to check around and talk to the other shops, especially if she was going to sell porcelain tiles which need to be drilled for shower doors.

If your "tile guy" is still using mastic, I guess I'd tell him he needs to use thin set on your job.

Epoxy Grout or Regular Grout?

Epoxy grout is a two part grouting system that will not mildew or stain, does not absorb water and is easy to clean. On the other hand it is somewhat harder to apply and clean up. It was originally invented for the food service industry where they were looking for something easier to clean and more sanitary for their tiled floors and countertops. Regular grout is a portland cement product that needs to be sealed, and re-sealed periodically, and even then has a tendency to absorb water, stain and mildew.

One of the best tile shops in our area is Bob Goulet's Kenistons Tile in Bangor. They have been using it for years and stock about thirty different colors. They use tons of it on their jobs and the installers who have worked with or for Bob use it all the time.

Bob gave a short training session to one of our men who was doing a really nice bath room remodel and after he did the floor, tub deck and shower said he didn't mind working with it at all. In fact he liked it and the job turned out great. He said the clean up, which must be done thoroughly before the epoxy dries,(woe to those who wait till the next day) was easy because he could use plenty of water. Too much water is a problem with regular sand grout but not with epoxy grout.

If you are in the Belfast, Camden, Rockport area and need a good installer who uses epoxy grout, try calling Mark Mentz in Brooks. He is another great tile installer that uses it all the time. Dan Jamison and Kevin Pattershall are two excellent installers from the Bangor area that also use nothing but epoxy grout.

There are other grout additvies that are supposed to be like epoxy, but they are not the real thing.

Many installers don't like it for all kinds of reasons, but if you want a shower that is very easy to take care of insist that your installer use epoxy grout. Even if you have to pay a little extra. Don't let them talk you out of it; some will try.

Cubbies: You can always tell the professional installer from the part-timer. We see a lot of tile jobs when we are installing shower doors; both good and bad. One thing that separates the pros from the amateurs is the cubby.cubby one

In this example (right), the installer paid little attention to detail and as a result the cubby is a mess. He put the cubby box in the wall when the shower was framed up, and had no idea where the tiles would fall and had to cut little slivers and odd sized tiles to finish the cubby.

Cubby two


This simple cubby looks great and was done correctly.

complicated cubby



The cubby at right was done by Kevin Pattershall. Complicated, but perfect!



(left) This cubby was done by Keniston's Tile and is about as beautiful as it gets.