How to Build a Tile Shower Base

A tile shower base (or "shower pan") is designed not only to give the tiles a solid underlayment, but also to capture and divert any moisture that might get through the tiles or the grout. In addition, the floor has to be properly sloped so the water goes into the drain. Start with the stall (floor and walls) framed in with two-by-fours and the plywood floor in place. Don't try it yourself unless you've had experience with cement work and plumbing.

  • Tape measure
  • Shower drain assembly
  • Pencil
  • Jigsaw
  • Screw gun
  • 5/8-inch cement board
  • Carpenter's glue
  • 1 1/2-inch wood screws
  • Cement mesh
  • Staple gun
  • Portland cement
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Shovel
  • Cement trowel
  • Plastic shower liner
  • Liner glue
  • Utility knife
Find the center of the plywood floor of the shower stall. Set the top of your drain there and trace around it with a pencil. (Make sure you trace the circle of the drain pipe itself, and not the flange that will sit on top, which is larger than the drain pipe.) Cut out the circle with your jig saw.

Install cement board on the floor, cutting the drain hole in the board with your jigsaw as before. Glue down the board with carpenter's glue and sink wood screws every 6 to 8 inches along the surface.

Put the drain assembly in the hole, with the adjustable rim sitting loosely on top. Lay cement mesh over the whole surface of the cement board, stapling it down with a staple gun.

Mix Portland cement in a wheelbarrow. Shovel it over the shower floor to a depth of 1/2 inch around the drain. Use a trowel to slope it toward the walls at a pitch of 1/4 inch for each foot of length. For example, if it's two feet from the drain to the walls, then the cement should be 1-inch deep at the walls (1/2 inch plus 2/4 inch). Let the cement set overnight.

Spread the plastic shower floor liner over the floor. Cut out the drain circle with a utility knife, then glue it down around the base of the drain with liner glue, which should be included in your liner kit. (There should be drainage holes, or "weep holes,'' in the sides of the drain-pipe assembly, below the flange, and the liner should be sitting directly below the holes.) Staple the edges of the liner up the studs on the side walls for about one foot. This edge will be covered with cement board and tile when you finish the walls later.

Lay a second layer of cement on top of the liner, making it 1-inch thick. Set the drain flange into the cement. Let the cement dry for 48 hours. The base is now ready for tiling.

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