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How do I Install a Tile Over Copper Pan?

Tim Anderson

Installing tile over a copper shower pan requires some extra steps compared to those needed to cover pans made from more modern materials, such as acrylic or fiberglass. No matter what the material, a shower pan must create a waterproof barrier between your tile floor and the material beneath the installation. While it is more time-consuming and tedious to use a copper shower pan, they are still one of the most tried-and-true ways to protect the wood or concrete beneath the shower pan.

Copper liners are one of many methods for waterproofing a shower pan.
  1. Test the copper shower pan to ensure there are no leaks prior to floating your cement base for the tile. Use a rubber ball to plug the drain and fill the shower pan until you reach the top of the shower curb. Allow the water to remain in the shower pan overnight and check for any leaks the following morning. Drain the shower pan and allow the copper lining to dry completely before adding concrete.

  2. Mix the concrete according to the manufacturer's instructions. Leave the rubber ball in the shower drain hole to avoid getting concrete in the drain. Adjust the drain to a halfway position by screwing the drain up or down inside the mounting. Pour the concrete into the shower pan.

  3. Use your flat trowel to pack the concrete about 2 inches thick along one wall of the shower pan, creating an edge. Use your level to check the slope from this edge to the shower drain. The goal is to achieve a gentle slope to the drain, stopping just below the edge of what is now the top edge of the drain. By stopping just below the top edge of the drain now, the drain will end up flush with the tile when the tile is laid. Continue adding concrete to all sides, adjusting the thickness of the perimeter concrete edge so that you have no more than a ¼-inch slope per one foot of shower pan. Create a level "curb" of concrete around the entire outer edge of the shower pan.

  4. Pack concrete into the area between your outer curbs and the drain. Use the flat trowel to pack the concrete down. Pull the mud around the shower pan using your straightedges until you have achieved the desired slope. Avoid letting the far end of the straightedge dig into your prefabricated curbs, and leave at least a ½-inch gap between the final surface of the concrete near the drain and the top of the drain itself. Smooth the concrete using the flat trowel once you have finished floating the slope. Allow the mud to set for at least 24 hours before installing the tile.

  5. Unscrew the drain and remove the rubber ball, then screw the drain back into place. Install your tile on the concrete surface with a notched trowel and latex-modified thinset mortar. The shower drain may be adjusted up or down to accommodate thick or thin tiles if your tiles do not end up flush with the shower drain.