How to Build a Tiled Walk-In Shower

walk-in shower
  • 48-72 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 200-350
What You'll Need
Shower base
Drain assembly
Floor leveling compounds
Rubbing alcohol
100% Silicone
What You'll Need
Shower base
Drain assembly
Floor leveling compounds
Rubbing alcohol
100% Silicone

Among the most popular bathroom renovations is the tiled walk in shower. Walk-in showers have become popular over the more traditional tub and shower surrounds, and while relatively labor intensive, they're fairly simple to build.

This walk through will cover installing the shower base, which acts as the floor and prevents water leakage, tiling the walls and adding fixtures, and running the final plumbing. You can purchase all your materials at any home improvement store.

Installing the Shower Base

Step 1 - Prepare the Subfloor

Place the template included with your shower base on the shower floor. Make sure the existing drainpipe hole matches the drainpipe location on the template. Relocate the drain if the location does not match the template.

The drainpipe hole in the subfloor should have a six inch diameter, and will be larger than the actual drainpipe to allow for the drain assembly that extends below the shower base. The drainpipe should extend at least 0.5-inches above the subfloor.

Step 2 - Check the Subfloor Levelness

Your subfloor must be level and cleared off. Check your subfloor with a level to make sure it is completely level. This ensures the water will drain evenly from your shower. If the subfloor is not level, pour in floor leveling compounds to fill the uneven areas.

Step 3 - Attach Drain Assembly to Shower Base

Elevate your shower base for access to the top and bottom. Clean the drain opening with rubbing alcohol, then wipe clean the surface and inside of the drain opening. Apply a layer of silicone around the opening of the drain. Insert the drain body into the drain hole, and press into place to secure.

Remove the excess silicone using rubbing alcohol on a cloth. Install the drain assembly parts as noted in the instructions provided up until the installation of the shower base. Make sure not to over tighten any of the parts, as this may crack the shower base.

Step 4 - Set the Shower Base in Place

Place the shower base on the subfloor, making sure that 1/8-inch space between the shower base flange and the studs. Mark the location of the threshold. The drainpipe must not extend above the drain body. If necessary, trim the drainpipe down to 0.25-inches below the top of the drain body.

Apply silicone to the underside of the shower base, around the sub-floor drain opening, and around the threshold. Lower the shower base back into position, making sure it is level. Remove any excess silicone, and fasten the shower base to the walls using only the factory provided screws.

Step 5 - Connect Drain Pipe to Drain Assembly

Install the remainder of the drain assembly, following the instructions provided. The drainpipe is now connected to the drain assembly, completing your shower base installation.

Step 6 - Allow Silicone to Cure

The silicone used on the shower base will properly cure within 24 to 48 hours. Once cured, move on to the walls and fixtures.

Tile the Walls and Add Fixtures

This is the second major phase is tiling the shower walls and adding fixtures. When buying shower wall tiles and shower fixtures, most people generally stick to the norm of white, beige, cream, stainless steel, and chrome. Adding a splash of color lends much needed creative life to the bathroom.

Step 1 - Squaring the Walls

With a two foot framing square, check to see if the walls are square with the other walls and with the shower floor pan which holds the drain.

Step 2 - Making Room for the Plumbing Fixtures

Draw a vertical line from the shower head's center, the spigot, and the shower control knob. This line should be straight. Then draw a straight horizontal line where the hot and cold taps and the shower control know in order for the lines to form a cross with perfect 90°.

Step 3 - Applying the Adhesive on the Dry Wall

Mix the tile grout according to the instructions on the packet before filling all of the cracks. In order to get the nice concave depressions in the lines between the tiles, use a curved pointing tool. The excess grout should then be cleaned with a damp rag before letting it dry. With a serrated trowel, apply the tile adhesive around the middle of the wall. The tile adhesive packaging should contain instructions on how to apply the tile adhesive.

Step 4 - Apply the Tiles on the Dry Wall

Starting from the bottom corner that is the closest to the plumbing fixtures, apply the tiles row by row horizontally until you reach the top. You may need to cut the tiles in the last row. Do so using the sliding tile cutter. You can invest in a small personal tile cutting machine that is sold at your local hardware store. If tiling is not in your future for long, you can opt to rent out a machine that cuts tiles for this project alone.

Step 5 - Apply the Remaining Tiles

In the previous step, you divided the wall into four parts. Apply the tile adhesive to one of the quadrants and place a tile aside the shower control knob. Trim this tile in order for it to perfectly fit it around around the shower knob with side pull cutters. You will need to do this for all of the remaining wall quadrants.

Plumbing and Finishing

Now that you’ve designed and tiled your bathroom walls, all that’s left to do is to connect the plumbing and bathroom fixtures. Follow these steps to finish your tiled walk-in shower.

Step 1 - Turn Off the Main Water Supply

Locate the main water main and close the supply while you are working.

Step 2 - Attach the Shower Arm

Wrap plumbers tape around the new shower arm fixture, then put the new shower flange over the shower arm. Screw the shower arm clockwise into the shower wall using the channellock pliers. Stuff a rag in the plier jaws to avoid scratching the new shower arm. Insert the channellock pliers into the end of the shower arm to finish tightening. The shower arm should point downward.

Step 3 - Attach the Shower Head

Ensure that there is enough plumbers tape around the end of the shower arm facing you. Add more tape as necessary. Next tighten the newly purchased shower head clockwise onto the shower arm using the channellock pliers. Use a second pair of channellock pliers to hold the shower arm steady while fitting the new shower head.

Step 4 - Mount the Face Plate

Place the face plate onto the cut hole that is in your shower before screwing it into place with either a flat head or Phillips screwdriver.

Step 5 - Fit in the Shower Knobs

Fit all of the shower knobs, including the hot and cold water taps. Use your Phillips screwdriver to install the knobs with the flanges. Next use your flat head screwdriver to apply the plastic pieces to the shower knobs.

Step 6 - Caulk

Springing a leak will ruin all of your hard work. Apply caulking around the shower face plate. Caulk is a waterproof sealant which will prevent water damage.

Step 7 - Test

Restore the flow of water at the main and test the hot and cold water taps. Inspect for any leaks and repair them with more caulking.