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How to Build a Natural Stone Shower

Christopher Hall

Building a natural stone shower is similar to building a tile shower. The steps are the same, and the same rules apply about which grout to choose, which trowel to use, as well as setting times. However, by using natural stone, you give your shower a unique, organic look and feel that you cannot buy in a store.

Because natural stone is not of uniform size and texture, it takes a bit more time and skill to make this shower.The results are incomparable.

Preparing Shower and Applying Natural Stone

  1. Collect or buy natural stone. Natural stone can be found on pebble beaches around lakes and rivers, or can be bought. Collect the stones in a large, 30 gallon bucket. Cut a hole in the bucket to match the maximum size and width you would like your finished stones to be. This way, only stones that are thin enough and small enough will go home with you, saving time and energy once you begin laying stone. Purchased natural stone may come attached to a mesh backing , making your job easier. If you collect natural stone, you will need about 20 to 30 stones per square foot. If you purchase stone attached to mesh, they come in 12 x 12 squares. If you have collected your stones, rinse them with water and allow them to dry.

  2. Make sure that your shower is ready for applying natural stone. The shower will have cement board over the studs and the plumbing will be roughed in. Tape around all gaps between the drywall and plumbing with mesh drywall tape. Typically, there is one drain on the floor of the shower stall, and one pipe for the shower nozzle plus one opening where you will install the fixtures.

  3. Seal the gaps between the drywall and plumbing with butyl rubber sealant. Your goal, of course, is a completely waterproof, sealed room.

  4. Apply thin-set to walls of shower stall in approximately 3 ft by 3 ft sections. Use a v notch trowel with ¼ inch or smaller grooves. The size of the groove depends on the size of the stones, the smaller the stone, the narrower the groove you will want. Have a 30 gallon bucket ready with fresh water and a sponge for wiping away excess thin-set. Apply stones to wall in a decorative pattern. With thinner stones, you will back butter the stones. This means that you apply a bit of thinset to the back of the stone and then set the stone on the shower stall.

  5. Keep applying thin-set in 3 ft by 3 ft sections, and keep applying stones to the cement board. As you work, clean up any thin-set that oozes out between the stones Every hour, wipe off excess thin-set from the 3 ft by 3 ft. sections. Keep fresh water available at all times.

Grouting and Sealing Natural Stone

  1. Let the stones set for oneday, then mix up finely sanded grout. The coarseness of the sand in the grout depends on the size of the stones. If you have used small skipping stones, you will use finely sanded grout. Apply the grout with either a rubber trowel, a sponge, or your hands covered in heavy duty rubber gloves. After 15 minutes, take a wet sponge and clean excess grout away. After an hour, when grout haze forms, wipe area down again with a damp sponge. Discard dirty water continuously and use clean water each time you wipe down the area until there is no more haze.

  2. Let the stone set for one day. Take a spray bottle filled with water and spray entire area once a day for three days. After three days, apply stone sealer.

  3. Check with the instructions on your stone sealer, but generally, make sure that the area has been clean and dry for at least 24 hours. Apply with a clean soft cloth and allow to penetrate deeply. Wipe off excess sealer. Apply at least three coats.