Sippican Cottage

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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

B*tches Love My Niches

Okay, let’s do stuff. Here’s me and my heir doing something construction-y in the shower stall. I’m not really seven feet tall. I’m standing on something or other I shouldn’t be, and probably driving screws into the (purple) moisture-resistant drywall. I was sort of surprised that the Schluter folks don’t recommend that you tape all the seams or fill the screw holes or anything. Their waterproof membrane goes right over the plain drywall. This job is getting easier all the time. I’ll have to tape and mud the seams at the ceiling line, though. Many “remodelers” don’t tape seams that will be hidden behind things like ceiling moldings. That’s a mistake. Drafts and bugs move around in there, and so does smoke if there’s a fire.

The shower mixing valve is plumbed in, too, using pex plumbing, which I recommend highly. You cut the plastic pipe to whatever length you require, insert brass fitting into the ends, and crimp a copper ring over the joint with a tool that looks like a bolt cutter with a circular hole in the jaws. Easy, and basically foolproof. I know, I’m a fool, and I have a hard time making the stuff leak.

You can see the premade niche installed, over my son’s shoulder. They aren’t cheap, but they save a lot of fussing. We got a second, smaller one for soap, too, and installed it under that one. They’re sized to fit inside a stud bay, which is convenient. Schluter makes premade benches for shower stalls, too. They’re made of the same foamboard with waterproof orange fabric glued on them. They cost more than an arm, and the leg your wife wants to rest on it when she shaves her leg down to her cloven hoof.

My wife wanted one, bad, but I didn’t relish spending between $150 and $200 for half a foam box, which is all it is. The bigger one would be a hazard to navigation when entering and exiting the shower. And the idea of tiling a triangle gave me night sweats. Adding that type of complexity to the tile job didn’t appeal to me, because as you’ve probably noticed, I’m lazier than a clean coal miner. But I listen to my wife every fortnight or so, and it always turns out well. I solved the problem another, less expensive, and dare I say it, superior way. More on that later.

Here’s another son I keep upstairs, like Rochester’s first wife. He wandered down and gave the new shower his seal of approval. He goes to college online. He’s the little kid you see playing the drums in the music videos I feature from time to time. He’s smarter than the rest of us. Not because he’s on the President’s list at UMaine. He’s smarter than us because he scheduled the school semester smack dab in the middle of the bathroom renovation, and didn’t have to help us much. He’ll go far in this world with that kind of foresight.

The two niches are in. B*tches love my niches, I always say when I want to sound like Snoop Doggy Dog, which is never. The waterproof membrane goes right to the ceiling line. You can see a little thinset mortar peeking out from the edges of the membrane. You embed the membrane using thinset mortar for its glue. It has more in common with wallpapering than tiling. It’s tough stuff, though. The floor will go in last.

This is the most important step in the whole procedure, and one that gets overlooked a lot. The floor has got to be flat and level and solid. Not sorta flat and level, either. The drainage slopes in the floor tray won’t work if the floor is tilted in any direction, and water will pool in the corners or against one or two walls. As you can imagine, my floor was serious whoopsie in the flat and level department. Here’s how we solved the problem.

I put a long level on the left and right sides of the opening. The right side was low, some, and the left side a lot. I shimmed the level on the left side until it was, well, level. I measured the height of the shims. I ripped 2″ x 4″  to that width. I laid the stick in the opening from left to right, and shimmed the left-hand side up until the stick was level. Then I set a compass to height of the gap between the floor and the stick on the left, and drew the compass across to the right. It tapered a lot. I cut to the line on a bandsaw, and then screwed and glued the stick in place.

Then I mixed up a batch of sand topping mix:

It’s concrete without any coarse aggregate in it. It’s basically mortar. I dumped it on the floor, and screeded it with the piece of leftover underlayment you see in the shower stall picture. You just drag it along, with a little sawtooth wiggling as you go, and the tapered shim you made does all the work for you. It dries out overnight, and you can work on a nice, flat floor the next day. We did.

[To be continued}

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