How to Tile a Shower Floor without a Pan? [Solved]

Last updated on January 27, 2022

To tile a shower floor without a pan, you first install the pan liner. Otherwise, you will most certainly get leaks. Here are your options.

A shower pan liner is vital for installing tiles in showers because it gives you a waterproof base to lay them on. If you’re not planning to use tiles, then having a shower pan installed is an essential step towards ensuring your bathroom stays leak-free.

There are many different methods of creating a waterproof base for your tile installation. You’ll want to consider how much space you need for your new bathroom, what kind of surface you plan to use for the flooring, and whether you plan to use a prefabricated fiberglass shower base or build your own.

Suppose you decide to go with a prefabricated shower base, two common ways to build one. One method involves cutting a hole in the floor where the drain pipe will eventually be placed and the shower drain installed. Then, you would pour a concrete slab around the drain pipe.

A second method involves pouring a cement-based slab directly onto the existing subfloor. Both methods require that you cut through an exterior wall to access the plumbing. Depending on the size of your project, you might only need to cut through a few feet of brick or stone. In most cases, though, you’ll need to drill holes through multiple layers of brick or stone.

If you decide on a prefabricated base, you’ll probably need to add insulation to the walls to help insulate the home against cold drafts. Also, you’ll likely want to install a vapor barrier to prevent mold growth.

What's Inside?

Shower without Shower Pan

tiling shower floor

You have to build a shower pan before you tile the shower floor. This is done in layers of bedding mortar and the pan liner.

A flat flooring surface consists of two layers: a base (or slab) and an upper layer (called a “slope”). A particular type of two-piece clamping type of drain designed primarily for use with a concrete slab bathroom floor is available from most hardware stores. The sloped fill slopes from the drain towards the perimeter of the shower at an angle of a one-quarter inch for every foot. 

The next layer, the pan, is made from chlorinated polyethylene (CPE). It has an edge that creates a waterproof membrane inside its shallow pan. If water flows into the space between the tiles and then runs out via the weep holes at the bottom of the drain, it will eventually run down the slope and exit from the drainage pipe. A layer of expanded galvanized steel mesh covers the bottom of the pot before pouring concrete. A sloping mortar bed is created by laying bricks at an angle (1⁄4 inch per foot).  

The main benefit of building a shower pan is providing a solid foundation for the tiles. It also prevents moisture from getting trapped between the tiles and the wall.

Can You Tile a Shower without a Shower Pan?

You have to create a shower pan and use the pan liner. Otherwise, you will most definitely have water leaks. Shower pans are just a thin layer of material (like plastic) that sits between the shower floor and the actual tiles. This helps keep water from seeping under the tiles and causing damage. It also makes cleaning up after a shower easier since you won’t have to worry about getting soap or shampoo all over your newly tiled floors.

You can use many types of material you’d like to create a shower pan alternative. Some popular choices include:

  • Plastic sheeting
  • Rubberized foam
  • Fiberglass matting
  • Vinyl sheeting
  • Metal
  • Prefabricated tray

You can find shower pans at most home improvement stores and online retailers.

Shower Floor Mortar Bed

You can purchase pre-mixed bedding mortar at many building supply stores. These usually consist of either Portland cement or lime-based mortar. You mix them according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once mixed, you apply the mixture to the surface of the shower floor using a trowel. After applying the mortar, you let it dry overnight.

After the mortar dries, you can begin laying your tile. As long as you’ve applied the mortar correctly, you shouldn’t have any issues.

Shower Walls Cement Backer Board

A concrete backer board is an affordable, versatile building material that helps speed up tile installation. Cement backer boards contribute to long-lasting, more durable tile installations without any chances of backboard rot and a lower risk of rot with the underlying walls or floor joists.

You’ll usually see these boards sold in sheets that measure 8′ x 4′. These sheets contain a unique adhesive that allows them to stick together when they’re pressed together. Once you’ve laid down the first sheet, you can continue laying down additional sheets until you reach the desired height.

Once you’ve reached the desired height, you’ll need to apply mortar to the joints between each sheet. After applying the mortar, you’ll need to wait for it to dry completely. Then, you’ll need to sand off any excess mortar and smooth out the surface of the board. Finally, you’ll need to paint the entire thing.

FAQ

Can I tile a shower without a pan?

No, a shower pan liner on the floor is necessary to prevent water leaks. If there’s no pan on your shower floor, you will have to install it before laying tile.

How much does it cost to tile a shower?

That depends on many factors such as how long the job takes, what materials you choose, etc. However, we’ve seen prices ranging from $1,000 – $2,500.

Do I need to remove the existing tile?

Yes, you have to remove the existing tile if you want to replace it with new ones. This will remove any damages and gaps where moisture could build up.

Will the tiles slide around?

Not likely if you use the grout correctly.

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