Don’t Kick Yourself – Apply these 6 Critical Shower Remodel Tips
In this post we show you 6 critical tips to avoid some fairly major issues that crop up during most bathroom remodel projects. These priorities, as well as adequate research regarding your preferred style, fixture choices etc., will prepare you to communicate effectively with your contractor. Don’t assume that they know everything that needs to be done to ensure the beauty and long life of your new shower. Bring up these 6 critical tips with your contractor, and make sure they are addressed if you want to avoid shower repairs and regret down the road.
One of the most important shower remodel tip is to make sure a waterproofing shower membrane Is installed. This strategy has been considered “best practice” in the industry for many years now, so it is reasonable for any homeowner to expect it in their shower remodel. If the membrane is carefully applied, especially in the corners, it will ensure that moisture does not penetrate and enter the wall space (orange membrane seen in image). If you have decided to build a custom tiled niche, a membrane is particularly important. The membrane must be applied only by someone that is experienced and skilled at this procedure. If this is done poorly, the consequences can be dire – leaks and mold in your stud wall.
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Backing is an important component of the shower wall that is often poorly addressed, or missed entirely in shower remodels. Backing refers to some type of wood framing material, most often plywood, that is attached between the wall studs so the shower valve, head, tub spout, and shower door can be attached securely (see image). The shower valve, tub spout and shower head arm experience enough regular movement to eventually compromise the waterproof envelope if these fixtures are not attached securely. This would allow moisture to enter the stud space behind the wall. Regular movement can also cause stress fractures in copper water lines, the valve body, and shower head arm. Where the shower curtain or door attaches (see image, upper left) also requires solid backing because most of the weight of a “frameless” rolling shower door, will be supported here. Tile cracking or buckling could easily occur if this assembly is not screwed into solid wood backing behind the wall.
Inspect/ Replace Water & Drain Lines
When your old shower is completely torn out, it is a perfect opportunity to inspect and replace the old pipes (water and drainage) to ensure that your new shower lasts a lifetime. Of course it’s important to replace all the copper and cast iron drainage components attached to the fixture, but it is also prudent to replace the “p-trap” section & the horizontal drain pipe sections that extend to the main drain stack (if accessible). It is especially important to inspect and correct any of these sections if they are not sloped adequately toward the drain stack. All accessible water lines should also be replaced if they have been in regular use for more than 5 years. This is an easy and fairly cheap plumbing upgrade, and it will ensure the longest life possible for the pipes that will be completely inaccessible after your shower remodel is complete.
The built in shower shelf or “shower niche” is one of the most forgotten features in new shower remodel projects. As a homeowner looking to update their bathroom, it is easy to get overwhelmed with all the details and decisions that must be made before and during a remodel project; easy to forget that the lack of bottle and soap storage was a frustrating deficiency in your old shower. The two basic shower niche options are: tiled niche vs. finished niche. Your contractor should be able to advise you about the differences between them but if you go for the tiled option, you must emphasize that proper waterproofing strategies must be adhered to (see above). If you want to avoid the cost and risk associated with this option, you could instead choose a finished niche. There are a few pre-made, finished niche products that are fully waterproof, & don’t require tiling, like this one from Redblock Industries (see pic) and are one of the simplest shower niche installations.
Read this related article: 4 BIG Shower Niche Install Mistakes
For more information on shower niches, read this article: SECRETS of the Shower niche (Little Known Facts and Key Concepts)
If you appreciate some light in the shower, make sure you tell your contractor to include one in your shower remodel plan. It is a very popular feature these days because the advent of low-voltage LED lighting fixtures has made it easier, safer and cheaper. It is a particularly important option, especially if you are only using a vanity light for your general lighting. Things can get a bit dark in the shower if you have a darker color scheme in the bathroom, or if you choose a dark shower curtain.
Applying a pre-sealed grout between the tiles in your shower wall is very often overlooked in shower remodel projects. Most tiling contractors are comfortable using only standard cementitious grout for all their tiling because it has served them well. They will suggest that a good quality grout sealer applied after install, will eliminate all your concerns about discolored and moldy grout lines as long as you maintain it properly. The problem is…. this maintenance step is not realistic to expect of most homeowners, and most importantly, there is a solution that eliminates this requirement. The solution is pre-sealed grout, which has a sealer incorporated into it’s formula. Using this grout, (or an epoxy grout), means you no longer need to seal grout lines. Now, your shower wall grout lines will be almost as easy to clean as the tile surface, because they no longer absorb water. No more scrubbing of discolored or moldy grout lines (for more info, see article: Grout Sealing).
There’s no need to kick yourself after your bathroom remodel project, if you’ve used these 6 Critical Shower Remodel Tips. But seriously, I hope you find them informative, and I hope they can provide you with the confidence that it will all turn out OK in the end. But just to be sure, you could also read a few more of our helpful posts, like,