Building a Shower Stall for a Custom Ceramic Tile Shower

How to Frame a Shower Stall that is Structurally Sound and Won’t Lead to Leaks

By Mark J. Donovan

Custom ceramic tile showers have become the rage with homeowners in recent years. It seems everyone is looking to convert their ordinary shower stall into a private waterfall sanctuary. Part of any custom ceramic tile shower project includes building a shower stall frame structure that can support the mortar shower pan and concrete backer board. If a shower stall is not framed correctly the mortar shower pan may not be installed properly and the shower plumbing fixtures could end up eventually being inadvertently pulled out of the shower walls.

This said, building a shower stall is easy to do if you possess some basic carpentry knowledge. Over the years I have framed many shower stalls.

Building a shower stall for a custom ceramic tile shower basically involves standard framing techniques. The use of 2×4 and/or 2×6 lumber is typically used to build a shower stall. As with most residential framing, 2×4 vertical wall studs should be placed on 16 inch centers when building a shower stall. The 2×4 wall studs should be fastened to top and bottom 2×4 plates.

Also important is to add 2×6 blocking in between, and at the base of, the 2×4 wall studs to provide a nailing surface and form for supporting the flexible shower pan membrane liner and mortar shower pan while it cures. The 2×6 blocking should be fastened so that it is flush with the inside edges of the 2×4 wall studs. If done properly, approximately a smooth 6 inch high wall should be created at the base of the shower stall, less the shower curb opening.

In addition to the 2×6 blocking at the base of the shower stall, additional blocking should be installed around the shower valve assembly and supply lines that feed up to the shower head assembly.

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Also, if shower handles or shower head sliding bars are to be installed it is important to include blocking in these areas as well.

Make sure that the blocking is installed slightly recessed back so that the fixtures do not protrude out beyond the 2×4 wall studs.

For the shower curb opening, three lengths of 2x4s should be stacked, or laminated together, on their flat side and fastened to the shower floor with 3.5 inch screws or 16d penny nails.

Finally, if there are plans to install glass shower doors, then additional 2×4 wall studs should be installed vertically along the outer and open edges of the shower walls.

By building a shower stall in this fashion you will be guaranteed to provide a rugged framing structure for supporting the mortar shower pan, cement backer board and ceramic tile.

How to Install a Mortar Shower Pan Membrane Liner eBook.

For help on your bathroom remodeling project, see my Bathroom Remodeling Bid Sheet. The Bathroom Remodeling Bid Sheet provides a request for quote checklist section that you can provide to prospective bathroom remodeling contractors. It also includes a comprehensive bathroom remodeling cost breakdown table, in Microsoft Excel format, that allows the contractor to include his projected remodeling costs for every phase of the project.

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