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How to Install a Shower Pan for Tile

You can install a shower pan for tile several ways. The most expensive but easiest method uses fabric membrane. While the membrane costs a little more, it saves time and several steps. The fabric liner is an ideal base for the tile. It's also easy to work with if you have an oddly shaped shower. Plan to take the entire weekend when you install a shower pan for tile; this includes laying the tile on the floor.

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  1. Lay out the design of the shower on paper, including the measurements. You'll need these to purchase materials. If you're creating a stepless shower, keep the door opening as far away from the head as possible. Once you have the design worked out, start by building its framework. You need to make certain that the edges maintain a 1/4-inch slope for every foot from the drain. If you build a threshold, this should be no problem. Once you know how high the outside edge must be, draw a line on the framework using a pencil and straight edge

  2. Lay a barrier on the floor of roofing paper. Overlap the sheets one inch at the edges then put wire mesh on top. Nail down every six inches. Begin the preparation to pour the shower pan by mixing the mortar. Use a blend of three to four parts sand, one part Portland cement, and enough water to create a mixture that forms a ball but doesn't crumble if you drop it.

  3. Begin the process of laying the mortar. First, lay a row around the outer edge up to the line you drew in step one. Lay a thin layer around the drain opening. Once you have these two areas, fill in the sections between the two. Use a wood float or steel floating trowel to make the slope and smooth the base as you go from the taller part on the wall area toward the drain. Press the drain in place and allow the mud pan to dry overnight.

  4. Install the backerboard onto the framework once the base is dry. Put it on the threshold also. Put a layer of thinset where you'll first begin to lay the concrete. Some systems, like Schluter Kerdi, have a precut section for the drain and most of the shower floor. Smooth the section in place. The best trowel to use is a 1/4 by 3/16 inch V-notched when you lay the thinset. Use other pieces of the fabric membrane to cover the rest of the floor. Overlap the piece at the edges so it covers every inch. Put cardboard on top of the membrane to protect it while you work on the rest of the area.

  5. Seal the seams with fabric strips. Coat the area with thinset. Fold the strips in half lengthwise and push the fold into the corner. Smooth the upper half onto the wall and the lower onto the shower floor. Smooth it and create a water tight seam. At the corners, you need to overlap in two directions to make sure it's waterproof. Go up the wall with the fabric to seal the entire area. You hang the fabric membrane just like wallpaper. Make certain you cover the threshold. Allow the membrane to dry overnight.

  6. Test the shower pan for leaks. Do this by plugging the drain and filling with a few inches of water. Allow this to set overnight. Look for signs of leaks on the floor and check the water level to see if it's at the same height. If there are no leaks, allow the base to dry and then use thinset to attach the tile.