Shower Remodel Process To Prevent Leaks & Other Issues

Showers are so risky that some home builders do not warranty tile showers on 2nd floors and they make homeowners sign a waiver.

We will not touch another contractors partially finished shower, so we have to remove what is currently there and start over. This is unfortunately common in the Phoenix area.

What homeowners may not realize

Many homeowners mistakenly believe that shower remodeling is simply about replacing old tiles with new ones, but this overlooks significant risks.

Skipping even one step in the process can lead to major issues, potentially requiring a complete redo of the shower or even the entire bathroom if leaks occur.

Finding the source of a leak can be stressful and costly, often involving tearing out the newly installed materials and starting over.

Homeowners insurance typically offers little help, leaving you to cover the costs, which could double the price of your remodel.

Our goal is to ensure your shower remodel brings joy, not frustration, which is why we've provided this information to help, even if we're not your chosen contractor.

Here is a step-by-step breakdown on the proper way to build a tile shower from one of our projects:

Step #0: The Shower Before Remodeling

1st photo for shower remodel process webpage

This is a common shower size and style our clients like to have remodeled.

Most homeowners are asking to have the bathtub removed so they can have a walk in shower.

They want a curtain or glass doors, depending on what type of access they prefer.

Now that you see what it was like beforehand, let's jump into step 1 of the shower remodel process...

Step #1: Preparing the space

preparing the shower space

There are several steps to this shower remodel process.  The first one is to prepare the space for the shower remodel.

All customer toiletries and décor should be removed from the space.


Phoenix Home Remodeling utilizes drop cloths, tarps, and plastic sheeting to protect detached rooms, customer furniture, as well as immovable fixtures, décor, and appliances. 

Cray paper and/or floor runners will be utilized to provide walkways to nearest exits, eliminating potential damage to floors and trim.

Homeowners like how we take these actions to reduce mess and protect their home.  

Step #2: Removing shower items

removing shower items

We turn off the water if not already done to remove the plumbing fixtures.

All glass panels, tracks, grab-bars, other utilities, plumbing plates, and fixtures will be removed and stored for reuse or thrown away, depending on the homeowner's need.

We usually cap off the hot and cold water supply lines at this point so that the water to the rest of the house can be turned back on to not interfere with the homeowner's use.

Step #3: Removal of Existing Shower Stall

removal of existing shower stall

The perimeter of the tile and basin to be removed is identified and scored to prevent damage to bordering walls and floors.

Tile and wall boards are removed.

Shower basin or bathtub is removed. Prefabricated “drop-in” basins typically leave the shower drain exposed and ready for needed plumbing modifications. Sloped builder’s pans are removed using a demolition hammer and spike chisel.

Existing drain is removed from drain pipe, when required.


After removing the tub or shower floor there is sometimes mold that needs to be properly removed.

The space is then cleaned and vacuumed.

Some contractors do the bare minimum.

So from just this step alone, you can see how a contractor could skip several steps causing you stressful issues and more money in the future.

The worst part is those issues will be behind everything so you may never know about it until it is too late.

Step #4: Framing

framing the shower

Existing framing is inspected and reinforced or replaced when needed.

New upright studs or cross members may be added to anchor new fixtures, reinforce failing boards, or framing new insets for recessed niches and cubbies used to store bath products. 

This is an important step in the shower remodel process to ensure it is structurally sound to hold the cement board as described in a future step. 

This is one of the shower remodel steps that can be done poorly, and the homeowner won't know until it is too late.

Some examples are:

  • Not framing where the swinging door would have its hinges installed.  That can cause the hinges and glass door to come off the wall.
  • Not framing the recessed niche correctly causing the tile to move over time
  • Not framing the area correctly causing a sag, which can creak cracks in the grout or tiles to pop off over time.

Step #5: Plumbing Modifications and Upgrades

shower plumbing modifications

Modifications and upgrades to existing plumbing, in some instances, may precede or follow build out changes, depending on the extent of the changes and the overall project schedule.

For example in this remodel pictured, the homeowner wanted us to move the shower valve away from the wall where the outlet was located so it was easier to access the valve to turn on and off, as you’ll see in some of the images later on in this shower remodel process.

 

Wall plumbing changes are made while walls are “open” and technicians have ready access.

We use metal protection plates on the wood studs wherever there are plumbing lines in case someone cuts or drills into it later on the plumbing is protected.

There are often floor plumbing changes made.  It is best to move the shower drain to the center area when possible.  A post tension slab foundation can prevent this move and we can work around that depending on the scenario.

This shower was an example of being a post tension slab where we kept the drain location the same.

Step #6: Substrate Installation - Shower floor Pre-Pitch / Pre-Slope

shower remodel process pre pitch
prepitch

The shower curb is formed of 4”x4”x16” cement block and positioned according to project design.


For showers that are upstairs, the subfloor of the shower is reinforced with Cement board (Hardiebacker 500). The seams are taped with Fibatape Mesh and mudded with polymer modified thinset.

This new substrate is waterproofed with elastomeric membrane (Redguard) for added moisture protection.

Then we install the new drain housing.


The first of 2 stages of the new Builder’s Shower pan is poured and sloped skillfully toward the sub drain (an inlet in the drain that remains buried under a finished shower floor).

Consistency of the slope is verified. This stage is also known as a Pre-slope or Pre-Pitch.

This is one of the shower remodel stages that takes experience, skill, & precision.

If done incorrectly it can create cracks, which results in your floor tiles moving and cracking causing leaks under your shower.

Done improperly, can also cause leaks and mold growth underneath that you won't see.

Step #7: Substrate Installation - Shower floor Liner 

shower liner

A vinyl liner is installed on top of the pre-sloped shower pan (stage 1/2) and tacked no lower than the shower curb height up the framed walls on all sides.

We have seen this step skipped from the demos of previous shower floors.

As you can imagine, not having the liner is a liability for leaks.

This liner is lapped over the new concrete curb and fixed into position with a cap block or added strip of cement board.

The drain flange is adhered to the vinyl liner with 100% silicone and fastened to the new drain body.

Many contractors do not use this liner or if they do use the liner, they don’t take it from the floor to the walls. 

This is important so there is not a leak between the shower floor and shower walls.

We sometimes install the cement board before the liner but leave the bottom of shower walls absent of cement boards to accommodate the installation of a vinyl liner. The next step is the cement boards on the shower walls…

Step #8: Cement Boards for Shower Walls 

cement boards for shower walls

Shower walls are rebuilt using cement board (Hardiebacker 500) which has a thickness of .42 inches to match the thickness of sheetrock on adjacent walls.

We use mesh tape and thinset for all seams and screw holes.

Note: Cement boards at the bottom of shower walls are left absent to accommodate the installation of a vinyl liner.

If the upper sections of the cement boards were installed before the liner the lower cement wall boards are now installed.

Step #9: Stage two of The Shower Floor Pan 

stage 2 of shower floor pan

The first item is ensuring the drain is installed to the appropriate height.

Stage 2 of the shower pan (Finish Slope) is now poured and sloped consistently to the finished drain height, minus the thickness of the floor tile to be installed.

Maintaining this height difference allows new tile (plus the thickness of the adherent mortar bed) to leave tile fractionally higher than the new finished drain, when complete.

All seams are then taped together using Fibatape and skimmed over with polymer modified thin-set.

As you can see at this point, we take our shower remodels very seriously.

Step #10: Substrate Preparation & Waterproof elastomeric membrane

waterproof shower remodel

The new walls are inspected to assure they are square and plumb. Using a polymer modified thin-set, the walls are shaped and corrected in a process called “Scratch bedding” to assure flatness, plumbness, and suitable for new tile.

*Additional “Scratch Bedding” may be needed later in the process.

 

Then  the entire shower stall is painted with Elastomeric membrane (Redguard), to include the perimeter of the newly formed finish slope.

This is one of the things that gives us the confidence to give clients our no questions asked warranty on not only the materials but also our workmanship.

Step #11: Shower Floor Tile Installation

floor tile shower remodel process

In some cases, the shower floor tile will be installed first, as wall tile should be installed above the finished floor. In other cases, braces may be used to allow installation of walls first.

Shower floor tiles are laid out and cut to specifications.

This is the first shower remodel step the homeowner will always see!

So consider this...

We have had about 8 other steps (the first 2 -3 steps don't count in this example) that a contractor could skip and the homeowner would have no idea their shower remodel may cause problems because those first 8 steps are not visible to the homeowner when the shower is completed.

Step #12: Shower Wall Tile Installation

shower wall tile stage
niche tile installation

The wall tile installation is laid out to prepare the layout and cuts needed. Center lines and level lines are measured and drawn. Based upon new tile size, position of niches and decorative elements, installers plan the positioning of the installation’s first course.  

We recommend the wall tile goes above the shower head plumbing arm within a 6in increment depending on the wall tile’s height.  If the ceiling is within a foot or two of the shower head, we recommend going to the ceiling.  If it is a tall ceiling like in this specific shower, there is no need to go all the way up to the ceiling.

Some types of trim, such as Schluter edge, may be installed prior to tile to assure flush relationship, but most of the time it is installed after the wall tile is completed.

Tile is installed using an appropriately sized notched trowel and methods specific to the tile type. Deco backed mosaics are often “back buttered” or “scratched” with thin-set mortar ahead of time to increase ease of installation.

Tiles larger than 15” on any one side are skimmed (“Backbuttered”) with polymer modified medium set mortar to assure proper coverage and bond.

The installation is allowed to set overnight unless using SpeedSet mortar.

Step #13: Shower Wall Edge Trim

shower edge trim

We then install the trim which is often metal Schluter edges. Homeowners decide what color they want, often choosing an option that matches the plumbing fixture finishes, wall tile, wall tile grout, or other element of the shower. 

Our in-house interior designer helps pick the tile edge color along with all other aspects of the shower remodel process like floor tile, wall tile, grout colors, plumbing fixtures, etc.

Step #14: Grouting and Clean-Up

shower grouting and clean up step
grout in niche

Tile joints are prepped and cleaned.

Finished tile joints are grouted in. Phoenix Home Remodeling utilizes stain resistant, epoxy based,  true color grout for all field joints.

Upright corners and basin perimeter are all caulked with flexible grout caulk in the matching color.

In some instances, natural stone or highly absorbent tile may be “pre-sealed” or “grout- released” prior to the grouting process.

Installation is cleaned with water and microfiber towels.


*Shower should remain inactive for 72 hours before use.

This is where the remodel of the shower really starts to show!

Step #15: Glass Measure & Installation of Plumbing Fixtures

install plumbing fixtures
install plumbing fixtures 2

If applicable, glass is measured at this stage. The glass cannot be measured until the tile has been set to ensure the glass is an exact fit.

Glass fabrication takes 7-14 days and we make sure to get it measured as soon as we can while also completing other steps like plumbing or other areas of the bathroom before the shower glass is installed.

Plumbing fixtures such as shower heads, shower handheld fixtures, shower valves, and shower diverters are installed.

Step #16: Installation of glass

shower remodel process last step

This is our last step in the shower remodel process!

If applicable, glass is installed after being measured and fabricated.

Take a look at the finished product!

That is a well-built shower that the homeowner will be able to enjoy and not worry about leaks or other issues.

There's a reason you hear horror stories about other contractors and the problems they create. 

Construction is a serious trade that needs to be done in a very detailed and exact manner.

If you want to have your shower remodeled, we would be honored to work with you!

Before & after of the shower remodel

shower renovation with wall niche and glass enclosure arizona

This is how you get the best shower remodel in Phoenix!

If you are looking to do a shower or bathroom renovation, we highly recommend reviewing these bathroom remodel tips.

You don't want to deal with the risks involved with mediocre materials, bad workmanship, or a leaking shower.

If you haven't already, schedule a phone consultation to see if we are a good fit

Get Expert Help On Your Remodeling

Use the blue button below to pick a time to talk with our remodel expert. Receive a phone call at the perfect time for you by scheduling your phone consultation.

Our Consultation Manager will review your remodel needs, provide advice, answer your questions, and give a price estimate. If it's a good fit at the end of the call, we schedule the in-home evaluation, and provide a written proposal.

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