Friday, April 8, 2011

To tile or not to tile...

(Still ignoring the potential leak problem... leak detection comes out today.)

Grandma has requested that the new house have a walk-in shower, instead of a shower/tub combo, because it's easier to get in and out. I was planning on doing that in the guest bathroom, instead of the master, because how many guests want to take baths? And I like an occasional bath. But then General Contractor Greg reminded me that families would want a bath tub for kids or whatever. Oh. I hadn't really thought that far ahead. So now I'm planning to do a long/wide shower in the master bath, where there's now a (yucky) tub.

But I can't decide whether I should do an entirely tiled shower--including the floor--or whether I should buy a preformed shower pan and just tile the walls.

Doing an entirely tiled shower takes extra skill and labor in installing, because you have to build a shower pan that consists of installing a waterproof layer between two layers of mortar. The mortar has to be sloped 1/4 per foot, and you have to install a special drain with two drain levels. The materials aren't that expensive, but the installer has to know and be good at what they're doing, which costs some cash.

On the other hand, you can use a premade shower pan for the floor, instead of tiling the floor. That's easier, so it would save money in installation, but the pans are pretty expensive ($450ish+), and it doesn't look nearly as nice. Plus, the color selection is limited, so you have to work around that with your tile design. However, it's a lot easier to clean (soap scum on grout! ugh)!

Alternatively, you can buy tile-ready shower kits (or the component products) that come with a pre-sloped pan upon which you can directly lay tile. That way, you have an easier installation but still get the nicer look of an all-tile shower. There are two standard kinds: the Tile Ready® system by Tile Redi® brand (seriously with the different spellings? sigh) and the Schluter®-KERDI systems. But:

1. They're more expensive--$200ish more than the cheapest not-tile-ready shower pan, at least at non-contractor prices). Plus some extra tile cost, since you do tile the floor.

2. The better (Schluter) system is difficult to find, and I hesitate not to use the better system... why mess around with water damage?

3. They come in a smaller range of dimensions than do regular shower pans, and the shallowest available depth may be a couple inches too big for the space).

4. The drains are in the center of the shower, rather than at the end, where the current drain is--which means they'd require some additional ($) plumbing work.

5. They still have the cleaning issue, since you tile right over the floors.

At this point, I'm leaning towards preformed shower pan, because it'd be more inexpensive to start out with, it's easier (thus cheaper) to install, and it's easier to keep clean. But even as I write that, I think, "No, I'm leaning towards the traditional mortar bed method..." I'm worried that I should just spend the extra money and go for the nicer install if I'm doing this much reno anyway. Why do it half-ass? Bathrooms and kitchens are where the resale value is.

I don't know *what* to think about the tile-ready kits.

So I'm stewing. Any thoughts and ideas are welcome!

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