From the Floor Up

6 Mistakes to Avoid with Shower Tile

Posted by Daltile Team on Aug 27, 2015 8:30:00 PM

Keystones in Almond and Cityline Kohl 2 x 2 mosaic

There’s no cutting corners when it comes to installing shower tile. Even one small oversight can spell disaster. If you want to get the job done right the first time, pay attention to these common mistakes.

#1 Don’t Assume Grout, Tile, and Sealers Alone Make a Waterproof Shower

Sure, each of these products are water-resistant, but without the proper preparation and installation, water will find its way around them in no time.


  • Take the time to do the installation right. Get your hands on a copy of the Tile Council of North America Handbook. It has detailed instructions on proper preparation and installation practices. You’ll learn how to install shower pans, apply waterproofing membrane, and how backer board works.
  • Stick to the same manufacturer for as many components as you can. If you use a shower pan from one manufacturer and waterproofing from another, they may not be compatible.

  • Consider using a proprietary system that includes many of the things you need for a successful installation—and become very familiar with it before you proceed.

  • Double check how much waterproofing or sealers need to be applied. One coat may not be enough.

#2 Don’t Forget to Calculate the Proper Amount of Slope for the Drain

Urban Metals in Bronze 6 x 6 with 3 x 12 Elipse liner

Without the right slope to the floor of your shower, the water will not drain properly. Standing water is a recipe for developing leaks and growing bacteria.


  • Ensure the shower floor has a ¼” per foot pre-slope (slope before application of any materials).

  • Check local (state, county, and city) plumbing codes before you begin the project to find out the exact numbers required for your shower floor.

  • Hire a contractor to help you if you find that you’re in over your head.

  • Install pea gravel or spacers around the drain and weep holes to enable drainage.

#3 Don’t Forget to Do a Flood Test

Once you have finished preparing the shower space and before you start installing tile, test it out. Some locations include flood testing in the building codes. It only takes a hole the size of a pin about 20 minutes to start seeping. Stop leaks before they become a big mess.

  •  Allow 24 hours for your flood test.
  • Plug the drain (use a test plug, which plugs weep holes and the drain) and fill the shower pan with some water, then check the drain for leaks.

  • Establish that the drain is tight; fill the shower pan up to the top. Any drop in the level of the water over the next 24 hours may indicate a leak.

  • Pull the plug and watch carefully to see that the slope is sufficient and weep holes are clear.

Bath Accessories in travertine Arroya Bluff with travertine tile

#4 Don’t Breach the Waterproof Membrane

Once you’ve created a waterproof zone, don’t do anything that would make a path for water to get through. Even a pinhole is enough for water to seep through.


  • Never use nails or screws to attach cement boards to shower walls.

  • Avoid using nails or screws to attach curbs or benches.

#5 Don’t Select Improper Tile for the Shower

You spent considerable time finding the perfect tile for your shower, but be sure you’ve picked something that works in the shower. All tiles are rated for different purposes.

  • Check the specs on your tile to make sure it is rated for wet applications.

  • Select different tiles for the floor and walls of your shower if your favorite tile isn’t rated for shower floors.

  • Apply sealers to your tile to add to its water-resistance.

Taking the time to install your shower tile correctly will go a long way to making sure it remains free from potentially dangerous leaks. Avoid these common issues and enjoy your shower.

#6 Don’t Get Skimpy with Mortar

Maybe it seems like it would take too long to spread that mortar and trowel it perfectly, but never take shortcuts with the mortar. You don’t want to create empty gaps for water to leak into and start growing bacteria.


  • Avoid using the “dot method” of applying mortar (putting dots of mortar at several points on the back of the tile instead of troweling the mortar).

  • Tile requires 95% mortar coverage to work efficiently in wet applications.

  • Large format tiles especially need good mortar coverage.
    See Bathroom Tile

Topics: Bathroom Tile Ideas

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