How to Install a Mortar Bed for a Tile Shower Floor

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The most permanent and most flexible type of shower floor installation, from a design standpoint, is a laid tile shower floor. While prefabricated plastic shower surrounds are much easier to install, they are also less durable and cannot be customized as much as a properly installed tile shower floor. Preparing to lay tile on your shower floor involves preparing a wet mortar or "mud" bed to lay the tile pattern in.

Things You'll Need

  • Scissors
  • Roofing felt
  • Wire cutters
  • 16-gauge wire mesh
  • Thin-set mortar mixture
  • Moisture barrier
  • Staple gun
  • Deck mud
  • Mortar trowel
  • 1-by-2-inch board
  • Drain pan/trap
  • Cut the roofing felt to the size of the shower floor, using scissors and allowing 1 inch extra on the edges (which can just curl up on the walls and surround) and about an inch extra around the drain hole as well.

  • Cut the wire mesh to a shape about 2 inches smaller than the floor area on all sides, using wire cutters and again allowing at least an inch of clearance all around the drain hole.

  • Apply mortar to the floor, pressing it firmly into the mesh with the trowel as you apply. Taper the surface from 1 1/2 inch high around the edges to about 3/8 inch around the drain hole, working right up to the edge of the drain hole. Smooth with your 1-by-2-inch board (also called a screed board) to get a smooth surface and uniform slope toward the drain. Allow the mortar to dry for 24 hours.

  • Cut the moisture barrier with scissors to fit around the drain hole exactly and to run up and overlap the side walls 3 or 4 inches, depending on the height of the dam at the edge of the shower. Staple the moisture barrier along the walls, making sure no wrinkles are present on the shower floor.

  • Place and smooth a layer of deck mud onto the moisture barrier, again putting slightly more toward the edges than in the middle. You want a layer of deck mud 11/4 inch thick at the drain.

  • Insert the drain trap into the drain while the deck mud is still wet, and press it in until it sticks up about 3/8 inch, which should put it about level with the surface of the tile once you tile the floor.

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