Building a ceramic tile shower stall

  • Difficulty Level: hammer hammer
    Close Difficulty Levels
    Beginner Do-It-Yourselfer - Easy
    Intermediate Do-It-Yourselfer - Moderate
    Experienced Do-It-Yourselfer - Difficult
    Professional - Expert
  • Completion Time : Week-end project

A tiled shower offers many advantages: myriad designs and colours to choose from, durability and sturdiness, not to mention ease of maintenance. Building the shower stall is the first step and is a relatively simple job that can be done in just a few days.
This project describes how to build a shower with a mortar bed base. Alternatively, you could use a prefabricated expanded polystyrene base, which simplifies the task and allows you to tile the floor. A preformed acrylic base is even quicker and easier to install and can also look very stylish.


Tools and materials required


  • Grout float
  • Chalk line
  • Tile cutter
  • Carbide-tipped knife
  • Knee pads
  • Caulking gun
  • Rubber mallet
  • Marker
  • Hammer
  • Level
  • Drill
  • Rubber roller
  • Measuring tape
  • T-rule
  • Notched trowel
  • Rubber trowel (float)
  • Sponge


  • Thinset mortar / tile adhesive
  • Waterproof tape
  • Ceramic wall and floor tiles
  • 2 ½" screw nails
  • Polymer adhesive
  • ¾" plywood
  • Grout
  • Waterproof sealant
  • Plastic tile spacers
  • Insulation material
  • Waterproof membrane
  • Concrete mix
  • Cement backer board
  • Fibreglass joint tape
  • Masking tape
  • Bathroom silicone caulk
  • Marble threshold
  • 2" x 4" lumber

Before Assembly


Before you start, draw an accurate plan showing the location of your new shower as well as all pipes, valves and fittings. Shut off the water supply and assemble the new plumbing lines. The faucet needs to be 48" above the floor and the shower head 78".
The walls must be covered with cement backer board and the surface smooth and even.


Decide what type of shower base you want – mortar bed, expanded polystyrene or preformed acrylic – and choose the shower door and/or glass panels. Read the manufacturer's instructions on how to install them.


Decide on the pattern and layout of your tiles: straight or diagonal design, square or rectangular tiles, or other combinations. If your tiling layout is simple and straightforward, you do not necessarily need to draw a plan. However, if you want to include special patterns or borders, or if your walls are not completely straight, it is best to make a tiling plan. Measure the wall and copy the measurements to scale on graph paper (1 square = 1 sq. ft.). Remember to include all the existing plumbing features.
As a general rule, you should place as many full tiles as possible in the most visible areas and locate cut tiles in the least noticeable places. You may therefore need to adjust your reference line to avoid having very small pieces of tile at the edges. If necessary, move the central reference line to the left or right slightly, so that you have as many full tiles as possible and the most symmetrical pattern.


Calculate the surface area and add a percentage to allow for breakages and spares. Add 5% for tiles laid out in straight lines and 10-15% for a diagonal layout (which involves more wastage).
Follow the recommended drying times. The adhesive needs to set for at least 24 hours. The grout must also be left to dry for 24 hours before being sealed. Finally, you should wait at least 10 days before caulking expansion joints. When planning your tile layout for the walls and floor, aim for a symmetrical overall look.
Also calculate the amount of material needed: insulation, cement board, waterproof membrane, mortar and adhesive.


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