Robert Lamoureux | Which shower remodel option is most leak-proof?

Robert Lamoureux
Robert Lamoureux

Question: Robert, we need to remodel our master bathroom and are not sure which way to go for the shower, should we put in a shower pan then tile above it, or is it safe to do the tile bottom, which is the look we prefer? It’s an upstairs master so we want to do it right so that we don’t have any leak issues in the future. Can you explain your preference and why, please? — Janice G. 

Answer: Janice, I prefer the look of a beautifully tiled shower and done correctly, there is no reason to worry about it leaking. First, find a great tile contractor who is licensed and insured, and ask a lot of questions about the sealing he’ll do to prepare the area for tile. You’ll want to hear that they are doing either a hot mop seal or a liner, which will both create a type of swimming pool effect, if you will.  

The hot mop is essentially a tar-like product made for this application that is mopped to the area and allowed to set. It seals the entire area to prepare for a water-tight seal. The liner does the same thing, but it is a heavy-duty PVC-type product that looks like thick black plastic. This gets set on the bottom and up the walls some, so that when the tile is set the water only has the drain to access. I do prefer the liner over the hot mop — it will last longer because it won’t crack like the hot mop will over time.  

That is the short description of both, but it hopefully makes sense. The wall preparation is done using water-resistant products and then the tile is set. Be sure that while the walls are open, the fixtures are changed. Depending on the last time this was done and/or how old your home is, this could lead into a bit of modification on the piping. Now is the time to change the configuration if you wish, adding height or changing the number of shower heads you have.  

There are many options out there. Do your homework on your wishes before calling in a contractor — it will be a more efficient process if you know what you want prior to the meeting. Best of luck to you on this project. 

Robert Lamoureux has more than 40 years of experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contracting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Email questions to Robert at [email protected]. 

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