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QUESTION: Diane:
I have a shower stall which is all tiled. I would like to install a white vinyl base…..which can be ordered at Home Depot or Lowes…..to cover the existing floor tile. The folks at Home Depot tell me “it won’t work”. Apparently the existing drain needs to be increased in height. I don’t understand why…..and why “it won’t work”, if the drain opening on the new vinyl base lines up with the existing drain. Do you have experience with this proposal and if so can you provide some insight and guidance.
Thanks for volunteering.

ANSWER: Hello, Nicholas.

You have a potentially serious problem! I've never seen a vinyl shower base, unless a manufacturer has developed one recently, and am assuming that you're referring to an acrylic shower base.

As I read your question, several questions came to mind:

1.  How would the new acrylic base align with the existing tile curb? An exposed edge of the acrylic base sitting on top of the curb creates a serious trip and fall hazard.

2.  How would the acrylic base be attached to the tile base so it doesn't move? Even if it would be wedged in, it could still move.

3.  How would the drain line be attached? Pipes can't be just extended. The drain has to attach to something firmly, and I cannot see how that could be accomplished on an acrylic base that's on top of a tile pan.

4.  Is the reason for wanting to change the pan a functional one, or an aesthetic one? Is there something wrong with the existing tiled shower pan, or are you tired of cleaning grout?

I agree with the advice that you got. Here are my reasons why it won't work:

1.  There's a potential problem, sealing the new acrylic base so that water doesn't get behind it and create a mold/mildew problem, and possible dry rot. The building codes are very clear about how shower bases are installed. Usually, there's a flange that attaches to the studs, then the drywall and/or cement backerboard is applied to the studs, then the tile is applied to the backerboard. All of this is to prevent water from getting onto the wood framing and creating a dry rot problem.

2.  The slope of your existing tile floor should be 1/4" per foot to the drain, not flat. If it's not exactly 1/4" per foot, then there could be a space between the top of the tile and the bottom of the new acrylic pan. Depending on the size of the gap, it could warp and crack the acrylic base.

Here are the steps, if there are serious functional problems with the existing tiled pan, like rotting joists below:

1.  Tear out the existing shower pan. This means that you'll have to tear out the wall tiles up to where the existing pan attaches to the studs, and you may have to tear out some of the existing flooring outside the shower.

2.  Fix all dry rot, replacing joists and studs as needed.

3.  Install the new acrylic pan, carefully following the manufacturer's instructions, especially where the new pan meets the floor. This usually includes putting mortar under the new pan, to fill gaps and keep it from moving around.

4. Match the thickness of whatever is currently covering the wall, i.e., "greenboard" or "blueboard" (forms of water-resistant drywall), and/or cement backerboard (available in several thicknesses), and tile that blends with the existing.

Here is the link to an excellent resource, showing how an acrylic shower pan should be installed: http://www.menards.com/main/store/20090519001/items/media/Plumbing/Crane/Install

If your problem is purely aesthetic, i.e., you don't like cleaning the grout, you can have a refinishing company apply a special epoxy paint. THIS IS NOT A D-I-Y JOB! You need to hire a professional. Most refinishing companies offer a warranty.

The recommendations I've given you are intended get the best long-term results, to save you money, reduce your hassles, and create a safe environment. Good luck, Nicholas!

Regards,

Diane Plesset, CMKBD, C.A.P.S., NCIDQ
D. P. Design

P.S. If I've answered your question respectfully and completely, I'll appreciate you giving me points, and nominating me for "volunteer of the month". Thank you!

  



---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Diane:
Thanks for the swift and very detailed response.
Your professionalism shines through.
My shower stall is a rectangle 30 by 40 inches, and requires a 4 inch step to get in to.
My reason for considering covering the floor tile with an acrylic liner (plastic, vinyl, acrylic….for most means the same material), is to avoid constant cleaning of moldy tile and grout.
This Home Depot link illustrates the product I was considering.
http://www.homedepot.com/b/Bath-Showers-Shower-Bases-Pans/N-5yc1vZbza4
As you know, Home Depot, Lowes and others advertise the ability to reline entire bathroom floors and walls with acrylic   Do they tear out the existing shower pans (floor tile) and wall tile.
If you are still of the opinion that I am chasing windmills, I will give up and resort to the constant cleaning approach.
Thanks again.

Answer
Hello, Nicholas.

The link shows several shower pans on the same page. I took time to click on each one, and don't see anything without the flange that I talked about in my earlier answer. Again, I recommend against installing the acrylic pan over the existing tile!

I'm glad to read that your issue is only cleaning grout. There are several solutions to your problem:

1.  There are penetrating sealers that will prevent you from having to clean the grout for a long period of time. To ensure the best success, the grout needs to be cleaned thoroughly with a companion product to the sealer. These are available at the "big box" stores as well as tile showrooms. Just follow the directions, and make sure that you have good ventilation, protect your eyes and skin as recommended in the instructions. Here are links to products that I've used: CLEANERS: http://www.custombuildingproducts.com/products/care-maintenance/cleaners.aspx SEALERS: http://www.custombuildingproducts.com/products/care-maintenance/sealers.aspx

2. The grout can be replaced. It's a tedious job, but people who have done it are very satisfied. I recommend Laticrete, the best epoxy grout available. Here's a link to their website: http://www.laticrete.com/dealers/products/grouts/epoxy_grouts.aspx

Trying to put an acrylic pan over your existing tile pan is a waste of your effort, money, and time. You're better off if you use one of the two suggestions I've given above.

Good luck, Nicholas.

Diane Plesset, CMKBD, C.A.P.S., NCIDQ
D. P. Design

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Diane Plesset

Expertise

I will answer questions about anything to do with bathroom remodeling: design considerations, safety, function, materials (cabinets, countertops, plumbing fixtures and fittings, lighting/switching, heating and ventilation, tile, stone, concrete, tub and shower enclosures, flooring, etc.), saving water, trends, ROI, and appearance.

Experience

25+ years as a bath-kitchen design specialist, hundreds of completed bathroom projects (all styles, all investment ranges). Author of "THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling," co-host of a home improvement program on a local radio station for over three years. Currently hosting "Today's Home" on Lifestyle WebRadio every Sunday afternoon (http://www.todays-home.com).

Organizations
NKBA (National Kitchen and Bath Association), NAHB (National Association of Home Builders), PRO (Portland Remodelers' Organization), IDPC (Interior Design Protection Council).

Publications
"THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling" (my book, published in 2003), Designers' Illustrated Magazine, Gentry Magazine, Kitchen-Bath Business Magazine, Kitchen-Bath Design News Magazine,Interior Coordinator Magazine (Japan); San Jose Mercury News, San Mateo Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Statesman Journal, Portland Tribune, Oregonian.

Education/Credentials
Multiple degrees: Bathroom Design, Residential Interior Design, Kitchen Design, and Lighting Design. Regularly attend classes and seminars to maintain current knowledge about codes, trends, sustainability, new products, etc.

Awards and Honors
Awards: Henry Adams Designer of the Year, CoTY, Master Design, Best of the Best, Chrysalis, Excellence (best home in its category), and NABE (best how-to book, 2003). "THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling" received #1 listing in the City of Chicago publication, "Hiring The Pros".

Past/Present Clients
To see photos of completed projects, visit my website: http://www.dp-design.com/portfolio

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