Tommy’s Tips: Shower Refurbishment

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I know January is still winter time, but when the skies are as clear and blue as they are today, and the sunshine is pouring through the window directly onto me, it’s so warm it could easily be mistaken for a beautiful spring day, uplifting my spirits and putting me in a positive mood! That’s how I’m going to describe my next DIY project even though it was far from a positive experience!

When my kids were very young, we were very short of space, but had a huge roof space, which I converted into a very large bedroom with an en-suite bathroom consisting of a W.C., vanity unit hand basin, and a shower. The shower was small, as were the kids, only 750mm2, tiled in 150ml plain white tiles on three sides, with a bi-fold door, which I thought would be safer for the girls. In the last eighteen months, a problem arose, and it’s that familiar old chestnut, the water leak. The first attempted cure was to strip out all the mastic seams, clean everything thoroughly with white spirit, and re-apply new white silicon mastic. This however didn’t cure the problem, and the ceiling and wall in the bedroom directly below was showing extensive damp staining. I re-grouted, and re-mastic’d the whole shower, sealed the stained walls and ceilings (with white oil based undercoat), and re-decorated the en-suite, and bedroom. Unfortunately, that didn’t resolve the problem, and within a couple of months, I was back to square one!

So I decided the only course of action was to rip the whole shower out and re-do the complete thing, and while I was at it, make it bigger to 900mm2, to fit grown ups in it, as my girls are now 28 and 24. My dad always said to me “There’s no point in getting older, if you don’t get wiser!” And this bathroom was in the loft, so I press-ganged my 22-year-old son Jonjo into service. I promised him some extra beer money if he helped carry all the rubbish down, and all the new stuff up the three flights of stairs! A golden rule of mine when doing demolitions, is to strip out in the reverse order of the installation, so last thing in – the door, is the first thing out, then the tiles and so on! The tiles came off easily on two walls, because water had got behind the tiles, and partially blown them even though the plasterboard used at the time of installation was the green moisture resistant type. The damaged plasterboard was easily removed, and then the cause of the problem was revealed, the shower control valve had a tiny leak, a little drip about every ten seconds, it was running down the valve, BEHIND the plasterboard causing the damp problem. A simple valve replacement at the beginning of the problem could have saved all this aggro, and two grand to boot!

Installation

I carefully removed the shiny new larger shower tray from its packaging and placed it into position, the two practical tray positions to allow access to the waste were now blocked by a huge structural beam, a part of the original loft conversion, so an alternative had to be found! I had to create an access point in the new stud wall behind the skirting to gain access, if necessary to the waste, and fitted a chrome shower waste with top access for cleaning to the tray to resolve this problem. All new studwork was created from pressure treated soft wood, and a 50mm high platform topped with 18ml plywood was made for the base. The shower walls were created from cement-based backer-boards, which are water and fungus proof. The altered pipe work accessed the shower via two 18mm holes made with a hole-saw, and the backer-board was fixed to a depth approximately 30mm below the top of the shower tray, and I fixed 600 x 300 x 12mm white ceramic tiles on a White flexible waterproof adhesive (never use grey adhesive with white/light colour tiles) left for a day to dry, then grouted with white waterproof grout. The two internal corners, and the joint between the shower tray and tiles had a white silicon mastic seam applied. I fixed a new surface shower control valve (Tommy Tip: Ensure fixing grounds are in place to connect shower rail and head at the studwork stage, and mark out the copper pipe positions with a permanent marker on the backer-board BEFORE fixing, to avoid disaster!) I then fixed a pivot door, which allowed me to open the door onto the towel rail, without any problems opening and closing. Finally, I applied oil based undercoat over all the water stained areas, re-decorated the bathroom and bedroom completely, and everyone was happy!

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