|Written by Bert Holopaw|
A good shower floor base diverts the water to the drain, does not hold water in puddles and creates a solid surface for the tile to bond to. Unfortunately many homes built during the housing bubble have horrible looking shower floors because the "tile setter" did not know what he was doing. Anyone can stick tile to a flat wall, but it takes a certain amount of skill to float a floor properly. This is most evident in long, narrow shower floors with dips that hold water.
1) Remove the shower floor's drain cover. Use care to avoid dropping the screws down the drain. Stuff the drain hole with a rag.
2) Cut the caulking and grout away from the floor to wall grout joints. Failure to do this will result in broken wall tile.
3) Remove the old floor tile from the shower floor with a cold chisel and hammer.Â Hold the chisel's blade at a 45-degree angle to the floor on a grout joint and strike the chisel's handle with the hammer. Remove the smallest row of tile next to a wall. Do not worry about damaging the subfloor. Work from the outer edge to the drain. Try to save the cut tile around the drain; these will be used as a template.
4) Clean the old tile from the shower's subfloor with a broom and dust pan.
5) Smooth the high spots of tile setting mortar from the subfloor with a brick. Hold the brick on the subfloor and work it back and forth across the subfloor. The brick will sand away the top layer of thinset tile mortar.
6) Gauge the shower floor's slope with a straightedge and a bubble level. Hold one end of the straightedge on the shower floor drain's lip and move the straightedge across the floor. If you find any high spots, sandÂ them with the brick. Look for and remember all dips.Â After all of the high spots have been removed, hold a bubble level on the floor. Use the bubble level to determine the subfloor's slope. An ideal slope equals 1/4 inch per foot.
7) Vacuum the dust from the shower's subfloor.
8) Mix a bucket of white thinset mortar with water. Give the mortarÂ a consistancyÂ slightly thinner thanÂ toothpaste.
9) Dampen the subfloor with water. The moisture helps the thinset bond to the subfloor.
10) Cover the shower's subfloor with a layer of thinset mortar. Spread the thinset with a grout float.
11) Shave the surface of the wet thinset mortar with the straight edge. Hold one end of the straightedge on the shower floor drain and work the other end around the shower floor. If you notice any low areas, add more wet mortar. Work the straightedge back and forth across the high spots. Continue to work the floor until it has a flat surface without any dips or hips. Allow the wet mortar 1 hour to set up.
12) Mix a bucket of white thinset mortar with water until it has the consistency of toothpaste.
13) Use a 1/4-inch notch trowel to cover the shower floor base with the wet thinset.
14) Press the tile into the wet mortar, starting at the far wall. Leave the tile around the shower floor drain out as you work across the floor.
15) Cut the tile around the shower floor using the old tile as a template. Use a side grinder equipped with a tile cutting blade to cut the tile.
16) Install the tile surrounding the floor drain.
17) Press the tile into the thinset with a grout float. Use the float to adjust the tile's slope.
18) Wash the shower floor with a damp sponge. Clean the excess thinset from the grout joints. Let the tile dry overnight.
19) Grout the shower floor with a sanded floor tile grout. Use the edge of a margin trowel to cut away the excess grout next to the wall. Wash the shower floor with a damp sponge.
20 ) Remove the rag from the shower floor drain and replace the cover.