How to Make a Relatively Sweet Shower – Cheap

Our new shower - for the duration of this trip

Our new shower – for the duration of this trip

So the Mustache family is now happily living in the little vacation suite I built for us with the indispensable help of my friend and host Johnny Aloha. There are still some finishing touches to add (including paint), but for the most part everything works now.

The nicest part of this place is the shower, which you can see there in the picture on the left. Ooh, ahh.. looks cozy, doesn’t it? Well I like it, anyway, and I wanted to build something that would serve as a centerpiece to this future rental unit that would anchor it in the luxury market and thus allow it to earn higher rents forever.

The cool part is, it didn’t really cost much to build. Those floor-to-ceiling travertine tiles, dark slate, river rock floor stones, and even the handle and valve set were all found on Craigslist at a deep discount. The shampoo nook which keeps your wife’s shaving razors from messing with your personal space is just a few extra cuts on the tile saw. And the sloped pan that allows water to run to the drain was custom made from plain old concrete and masonry mix, at a fraction of the cost of even an off-the-shelf plastic showerpan. And yet, the whole thing took only a few days of work to create from a blank plywood-and-studs slate (which in turn I made from the even blanker slate of what was formerly unused space in their carport).

A fancy shower can add $10,000 or more to the value of a house in a nice area. It is also very pleasant to use even if you’re not planning to sell your house – I built a similar shower in my own house and we’ve enjoyed it very much for the past several years. But if you ask a bathroom contractor to make you one of these things, you’ll often get a quote of $5,000 or more, and as a result, most of us are stuck showering in metal bathtubs or plastic showerpans framed by old moldy white tiles.

The key to this whole deal is a feature called the “poured showerpan”. It’s an elusive black-ops creation that almost nobody knows how to build in this country, which is why you see so many plastic showerpans out there. Some professional tile installers can do it, but they will charge you a fortune, and it may still not come out the way you want it. But once you unlock its secrets, you are free to build shower pans in any shape and size, at a surprisingly low cost (about 60 bucks including the drain and the waterproofing*). And today I will show you how to make one.

The basic idea is this: we’re making an absolutely waterproof concrete bowl with a drain in the middle.

Look for a two piece drain like this. This type is designed to clamp around a plastic showerpan, but it works well for our purposes (you just won’t need the rubber ring) (image credit/Hand Model: Mike)

Usually there will be a raised “curb” at the edge, and a nice tile or stone surface above the concrete. After you finish the bowl, tile it, and grout the tiles, you move on up to tile the rest of the shower walls. But it all starts with the poured showerpan.

Step 1: The Curb

The easiest way to go about this is to make the curb first. This involves creating a wooden form and filling it with concrete. I usually make these things 5″ tall and 4″ thick, so you simply cut two 5″ boards to length, screw them to the floor and walls as needed, and be sure there is a 4″ space between them.

Here’s an example of an irregularly shaped angle form I made last year to squeeze a shower into the small bathroom of The Foreclosure Project:

An angled form. Reinforced with screws and wire.

An angled form. Reinforced with screws and wire.

Note that for extra strength in this case, I put some large 4″ screws into the floor at each joint, and ran some steel reinforcing wire along the length of the form’s center, to create more tensile strength (and thus crack resistance) in the finished form. This is not usually necessary, I just find it really fun to make strong concrete things. The black material at the bottom is roofing paper – just to isolate the concrete from the plywood so the moisture from the wet concrete would not wick out into the floor. A general good practice for concrete over wood.

In the most recent shower, our curb looked like this:

Drain is in place - top surface about 2" above the plywood.

Drain is in place – top surface about 2″ above the plywood.

If you’re also doing your own drain plumbing, you’ll want the drain pipe to end just about flush with the plywood floor, so that when you glue on the shower drain, it is about 2″ above the floor. Thus, when we pour the concrete at the next step, the minimum thickness will be 2″.

Step 2: Pouring the Sloped Concrete

This is the part where things get exciting, and this article will hopefully save DIY shower builders some time and money. In the olden days (and still today for the most part), poured showerpans were done in three steps: the poured pre-slope, the rubber liner, then the poured top slope. It looked roughly like this:


Old showerpan method – concrete, rubber, concrete, tile.

The thing is, the old method has not been updated to reflect a more recent invention: trowel-on waterproofing materials like Redguard and Aquaguard. This stuff is basically liquid rubber in a bucket, and it overcomes the old shortcoming of rubber by combining full waterproofing with a surface to which you can stick tiles directly. With the new technology, you can skip one layer of concrete, and you end up with this:


Easier new showerpan method: concrete, redguard, tile.

Note that this method is something I more or less invented for myself by puzzling through the product’s poorly written technical documentation and trying it out. The tile installers I know still do things the old way and some might scoff at the innovation. But I’ve built at least 20 showers like this now, and I can still look at the oldest one from below and verify perfectly dry wood beneath- no leaks. It would be virtually impossible for this design not to be watertight, as long as you do tidy work.

Now that you understand the basics, let’s check out a couple of action pictures to show the pouring, forming, and waterproofing in detail.


The top of your drain should be about 2″ off the floor. To create a uniform slope, use a ruler or level to draw a line all around the perimeter of the showerpan that is about 2.75″ off the floor. This will provide a nice 3/4″ slope to allow water to flow down into the drain.

The Mix:


You’ll want a fairly dry (almost crumbly) mix of cement. But not regular concrete with gravel aggregate in it, here we use mason’s mix, which is just portland cement and sand – the same stuff used for brick mortar. Available right next to regular bags of concrete in the store. About three 80lb (36 kg) bags will do a 32″x48″ shower.

Spreading it around:

Mix the cement outside in a wheelbarrow one bag at a time, and carry it in to the house in a 5 gallon bucket. Dump it into your future shower, and it will look like this:


Dump it in, spread it around. Note that the drain’s removable/adjustable top is removed for this step. But cover the remaining part of the drain with tape, lest you get concrete into the trap!

From here on in, it is all smoothing – use a variety of straight edges to scrape and smooth the concrete, adding more bags of it until you end up with a nice smooth bowl:


When it starts looking smooth, I shine a flashlight horizontally across the surface to higlight any bumps and waves, which can be scraped out and re-smoothed:


And finally, when everything is ready to retire for the night, it should look roughly like this:

Here's a completed pan, still wet. All the tools involved are shown too.

Here’s a completed pan, still wet. All the tools involved are shown too.

Step 3: Final Waterproofing

After the concrete cures (technically 28 days but it’s a half-life process so it’s almost done in less than a week), you have a solid chunk of smooth concrete that in theory will already drain water straight into the drain. But we want even better waterproofing, and thus you are ready for the Redguard step. This goes right over the concrete, over the plastic edge of the drain, and up the walls a few feet. Then you can screw in the final drain top part, which you crank down to align with your finished tiles, like this:


This is the latest Hawaiian shower, waterproofed and ready for floor tile.

After this dries, you’re back to a standard tile job: Do the floor and grout it first (for greatest waterproofing), then work your way up the walls the next day. I don’t have space left in this article to explain the entire art of tiling a shower, but perhaps I’ll have a chance to work with you in person on one of these things someday.

The Poured Showerpan may seem like an elusive and tricky task, but the whole thing is about 4 hours of work from start to finish once you work out the kinks (and still under 8 even the first time). After that, it will take you another 8-16 hours to tile and grout the remainder of the shower and its curb. For many DIY home renovators, learning this skill it is an investment with enormous returns.

If this shower makes our new rental worth $100 more per month, it is providing equivalent cashflow to a $30,000 investment yielding 4% after inflation. Just another example of the wonderful synergy between practical skills and financial independence.

*The 60 bucks is just for the showerpan, of course. Then you’ll add about 12 square feet of floor tile, 75 sqft of cementboard and wall tile, tile adhesive, grout, and a valve set. The total can still be only a few hundred dollars if you shop well (ours was even less, due to Craigslist).

  • Justin December 24, 2013, 1:59 pm

    I would steer people away from travertine in a shower. It needs to be sealed frequently and all the little holes in the natural stone tend to collect mold and mildew making them a bit of a nightmare to keep looking new. Not an ideal situation for a rental property. I see them used all the time but trust me, I know from 6 years in the construction field as well as personal experience in my own bathrooms not to use natural stone in a shower (at least not softer natural stones). That being said, nice job it looks great but be diligent in your cleaning!

  • leo January 5, 2014, 3:55 pm

    I am going to try this in a few months -we have one of those showers that a full grown man can not put both elbows out without opening the shower door or knocking your funny bone on the shower shelf knocking everything on the shelf Off it is a mere 22inches from door to shelf and the Bought Plastic/fiberglass shower enclosure is $600+ so i love your ideal and we are going to take some room out of our walk in closet for a Bigger shower and even put in a rain head and body sprays but i was wondering if i should Beef up the floor since this is going up stairs? how many pounds is the concrete going to Add for a 3ft by 5.5 ft enclosure? I am thinking about 80lbs per bag including tiles and thin set and grout so i am guesstimating about 200 more pounds.by finished shower floor.is this about correct?

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 6, 2014, 12:32 pm

      Yup, a finished shower floor weighs a good few hundred pounds, and the tiles and cementboard on the walls add a few hundred more. In general, you don’t need to reinforce the structure of your house for this – newer houses are built with plenty of surplus strength, since they need to be able to support things like 20 friends showing up for a party in your living room (3000 pounds or so in a single room). However, if you’re in a hastily built 100-year-old farmhouse or miner’s cabin, really big amounts of extra weight can cause things to break.

      • leo January 9, 2014, 10:56 am

        My house was built in 1917 the floor joist upstairs was made from true 4×4 oak and the shower was put in 1965ish but was made for Bilbo and froto baggens-i am 5ft 7″ tall and the shower head is chin high,my wife is 6ft tall and it is chest high to her so this is why I really need to change this shower box into something i can really take a shower in-i am replacing the floor all the way down to the floor joist which will be good to strengthen up the floor and move some plumbing for the shower drain and water pipes.

  • missoula wes February 16, 2014, 3:35 pm

    Tomorrow I am going to pour the mason mix, and have followed your method so far. It is sensible and efficient. My question is, how much water did you use on your mason mix to get your consistency and how long did you have to work with it? will I have enough time to mix three bags before the first one sets up? I appreciate your work, as well as your economic viewpoint.

    • Andy February 20, 2014, 3:46 pm

      The mason’s mix should be like sand castle sand. I did MMM’s method in August and it went awesome. You will have plenty of time to mix up a few buckets.
      My shower looks great and it has been holding up wonderfully.

  • Three Wolf Moon March 1, 2014, 9:09 pm

    MMM –

    Since you’re still answering questions on this post, I’ll ask mine – what product did you use to set the river rock into the shower floor? I can’t tell from the pictures and I didn’t see that mentioned anywhere. Thanks!

  • 5inatrailer May 13, 2014, 8:58 pm

    I’m using this method tomorrow to build a custom pan for my washer and dryer unit to sit on. I would HIGHLY recommend this when doing any laundry renovations- I just ripped out 300′ of black mold under the 4 layers of laminate/vinyl tile/linoleum in my shitty ass trailer. All from a loose laundry fitting. F@ck. I won’t put in a 4″ curb though. 2″ should be enough- just enough to stub my damn toe on every night in the dark:)
    I’ll tie in the floor drain to where the down drain is from the washer discharge hose. Should be a good project for the long weekend. That and I’ll avoid the horrible black lung disease for my children and I.

  • Sergio G. May 27, 2014, 12:59 pm

    Nice job. I make my curbs with block and Redgaurd. I’ve used a small 5 inch paint roller to apply Redguard and I go up the whole wall of tile. If I’m recessing the hardi I Redgaurd past the seams. If in doubt Redgaurd.

  • Joe Heitz June 18, 2014, 1:09 pm

    What do you use for the curb/ Is it the mortar mix you use for the base or is it regular concrete mix? In the picture of the bucket it looks like a wetter mix.

  • Ron July 5, 2014, 4:05 pm

    I am remodeling a shower. A membrane is not required because the drain is 2″ below the concrete floor. I want to use Redgard to ensure that I do not get water wicking into my hardwood floors again.

    I looked up the drain that you supplied a link to when you responded to Ben’s request. It came up as model # 420453. The description and photo do not give any indication that it is adjustable. Can you confirm that it is before I order one from Lowes?

    Thank you in advance. You have many helpful suggestions.

    • Ben July 7, 2014, 1:58 pm

      I ended up getting a 3-Piece drain and using a “divot” method. It’s described by gueuzeman on John Bridge’s tile forum, and his youtube video below. It’s basically the exact same process as MMM with one additional step of filling in the divot as a last step. Creating the divot add’s another element, but really pretty easy.


  • Dave July 11, 2014, 12:22 pm

    The old method seals covers the weep holes with the second concrete pour. With the new method, when are they covered? Thanks!

  • Ashley July 18, 2014, 12:17 pm

    ” Then you can screw in the final drain top part, which you crank down to align with your finished tiles, like this:”
    When you say that the drain should “align with,” do you mean flush with the tile, or slightly beneath the tile?
    Thank you!

  • Kenny September 1, 2014, 10:19 pm

    On the Redguard website here http://www.custombuildingproducts.com/products/surface-preparation/membranes-underlayments/redgard.aspx# after clicking on Technical/Installation they have provided a diagram outlining how to use Redguard in a poured showerpan. In their diagram they still advocate using the 2 stage method of pouring a base of concrete and then pouring a second layer on top of Redguard. Does anyone have any thoughts on why they would still recommend doing the 2 stage method?

  • Brent G September 13, 2014, 5:19 pm

    MMM, would the instructions be any different when building in a basement over cement? Thanks

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 14, 2014, 6:38 am

      No worries Brent – a concrete floor makes the best possible base for a shower since it is so stable and immune to moisture.

  • S. Tunji Turner November 5, 2014, 3:36 pm

    I am going to do my install using this method on 36″ x 60″ shower with the drain centered. I have a 3/4″ sub floor made of pine plywood. Should i add some 151b paper or 1/2″ hardie cement board between the mortar mix and the existing 3/4″ ply?

  • 5inatrailer November 5, 2014, 4:08 pm

    Good ?- I can’t see why it wouldn’t hurt to leave a barrier between wet cement and the plywood.

  • Will B November 18, 2014, 11:57 am

    Does the tile go right on top of the redguard? Instead of mortar you just use that or am I misunderstanding? I am getting ready to do a 32×60 tile shower.
    Also are 4″ tiles for the floor ok?

    • Mr. Money Mustache November 18, 2014, 4:05 pm

      Concrete, then let it cure. Regard, then let that cure. Then super strong mortar and tiles, let that harden too. Then grout, cure yet again, sealer, you guessed it, and Finally you are ready for a shower :-)

      • Will B December 17, 2014, 6:36 am

        Follow up question. If I use cement board for the walls all the way to the floor do I still need to fill in between the studs? Trying to save some time and hassle not cutting a bunch of 2×6 to fill in the gaps. If there is a structural reason to fill them I will. IF not can I just but the board up and be done with it. I would put the board up before I pour the pan. Just like in the pictures posted in this thread at top.

  • Tony December 11, 2014, 5:57 pm

    I gutted my 15 year old bathroom and am attempting this DIY project and am very excited to get moving.

    I am just wondering about that exact concrete product your using for your shower curb/base? I picked up an 80lb bag of QuickRete Pro Finish Blended Mason Mix type S.. Will this stuff be ok or is there something else you recommend? This is my first time working with concrete so i want to make sure i use the right stuff.


  • S. tunji turner December 17, 2014, 6:31 am

    My second custom pan, when It Cured developed hairline cracks, can this be remedied without starting all over again with the mortar mix pour? I have not installed the red gard yet, until I fix the hairline cracks

    • Mr,. 1500 December 23, 2014, 11:33 am

      Do you have any idea what caused the cracks? I’ve built 2 myself and have never had this issue. I’m thinking it’s either because you made the mix too wet or the subfloor isn’t solid.

      The mix is always a bit tricky. It is almost dry when you put it in. I read somewhere that if done properly, you can walk on it immediately after pounding it in.

      Either way, I’d be a bit nervous proceeding. You may want to take it out and start over.

  • CTMustache January 6, 2015, 1:50 pm

    Just wanted to add that after much searching, I located and used one of these shower drains from the Home Depot: http://www.homedepot.com/p/Sioux-Chief-2-in-PVC-Shower-Drain-with-Strainer-825-2PPK/202313206.

    They are designed to clamp onto a pre-fabricated shower tray, but remove the rubber ring and you have a two part drain with flange on the bottom which was easy to install and set in the concrete.

  • David Corpus January 30, 2015, 1:59 pm

    I was looking at your method and was put off by the lack of code compliance. It did inspire me to look deeper into it to find a similar method that is code compliant. It does not look like a liquid waterproofing membrane can be used for the shower pan per code. You can use a membrane for the floor, then install backerboard and use the liquid membrane on the rest of the shower. A few membranes are designed to directly tile on top of them.

    I’m not sure how you are dealing with the weep holes in the drain. The “Hawaii shower” looks like it has pea gravel around it in your “ready to tile” picture. There are two products that would allow you to do this. One is the Schluter-KERDI Flashing Collar, the other is NobleFlex drain flashing. An even better solution is to also skip the weep hole drain and buy a thin-bed drain instead. It has a clamping collar to mount directly to a waterproofing membrane.

    • Three Wolf Moon April 19, 2015, 7:47 pm

      I would disagree, David. Per the Technical Data Sheet for RedGard (http://www.custombuildingproducts.com/tds/tds-104.pdf), the product is in compliance with ANSI A118.10. Assuming we are talking one- or two- family dwellings that are governed by the International Residential Code, if you refer to the 2012 IRC, P2709.2 you will see that membranes that comply with ANSI 118.10 are approved for a shower pan liner.

  • Kevin Staples March 3, 2015, 6:42 pm

    Did you use a shower curtain or glass walls ? You have inspired me to build one this summer and I’m currently buying materials to have on hand. Thank you!

  • Jon McCarty May 5, 2015, 12:35 pm

    Any suggestions for pouring the curb on a concrete slab (basement)? I’d rather not ram-set 2×6’s into the cement floor just to use as concrete forms…

    • Hacknsaw May 6, 2015, 6:06 am

      Why not just use some 80lb bags of sand to hold them in place?

  • Hacksaw May 5, 2015, 12:42 pm

    I stumbled upon some people who took your method (without giving credit) and did a fairly detailed step by step for those looking for some more pictures or information. There appear to be numerous comments on any blog I see that implements this idea as being terrified of the liquid membrane not holding up and how they just can’t believe someone would do this without using a standard liner. I’m in the middle of this project myself and have received much more negative feedback about using this method than I ever dreamed. It hasn’t stopped me from pursuing it and when it raises the value of my home and never leaks I can stand triumphant!


  • Joy May 8, 2015, 10:07 am

    I love this idea. Curious about how well it’s holding up. In the interest of being super cheap and using one products for multiple uses – I’m wondering if elastomeric roofing coat isn’t pretty much the same thing as redguard. Redguard at $50 a gallon is a LOT more expensive than a five gallon bucket of elastomeric at around $80 to $140.

    • Andy May 8, 2015, 6:32 pm

      Mine is holding up awesome. I used this method almost a year ago and it was a great decision.

  • polarette June 30, 2015, 4:52 pm

    also, to make it even cheaper, ask your home depot if you may have their discarded packs of tiles- I made my dad drive home a bus load of various tiles and have done loads of mosaic projects from it. the stores will even discard packs of tiles where only one or two tiles are broken, so you’ll have a bunch of whole ones to mix and match- all for free!

  • Sean August 7, 2015, 5:41 pm

    I just found your site after despairing over the price of prefab shower pans, and I’m going to use your method to rebuild my shower very soon. Have you ever built the curb and pan as a monolithic pour? I’ve done municipal curb and gutter work and it seems possible. I don’t know if the mortar would be as strong as the concrete spec’d by city engineers, but steel reinforcing would probably do the trick. This method would require more work, as I’d have to pull the curb’s inside face form to smooth the corner where it meets the floor before the mortar became unworkable. I guess my point is that a monolithic pour would eliminate movement between curb and pan, and thus prevent separation of tiles and grout at the joint. Or is this a non- issue? Thanks for the great ideas and hand drawn diagrams!

  • Matt December 13, 2015, 7:32 pm

    Does this method result in a tiny gap between the bowl and the curb? Or when the bowl cures, does it “bond” to the already cured curb?

    • Mr. Money Mustache December 14, 2015, 10:50 am

      There is a gap, but it gets fully sealed forever when you coat the whole thing with Redguard.

  • Rob December 30, 2015, 4:36 pm

    When you said 3 bags of concrete mix how big as each bag? I’ve just put 3x 20kg bags of sand & cement in my shower (similar size to yours) and then had to go and buy 3.5 more bags…

    • Mr. Money Mustache December 30, 2015, 9:12 pm

      Woops, sorry about that Rob. There’s my American Myopia showing again. A “Bag” of concrete here is 80lbs or 36kg. I just updated the article to include this information.

      • Rob January 1, 2016, 5:51 am

        Thanks so much for the quick update. I’ve built the curb and pan. All good so far. I don’t have such a smooth pan because I had to do some more screeding just to finalise my ‘falls’, a couple of hours after initial screeding. The first screed was great- really smooth and shiny after couple hours. I hope it will turn out ok. I guess the tiles will hide all that.

  • n.Bock March 15, 2016, 10:46 am

    Excellent post! I just finished a custom shower which looks great, but I used one of those prefab shower base/glass wall kits which cost $1,000 by itself. I’ll try this method next time.

    One question: It looks as if the Redguard is below the level of the drain. Couldn’t this cause a drainage issue, even if not a leakage issue? Even sealed grout is not completely waterproof.

  • Jason Ryan April 10, 2016, 2:22 pm

    This method is what I use myself. I build custom walk-in showers for a living. 99% of my work however is ripping showers out that are installed correctly where the pan liner is concerned. When not installed correctly the pan liner will leak. A newly installed shower will be fine and dandy and you will be loving it but if the pan liner is not installed correctly in about for five years it will start to show. Your floor will become damp around the shower maybe the closet that backs up to it carpet will be wet. When you take off the sheet rock to see what the issue is you will find rotted bottom plate of wood. The shower will start to stink and when you eventually rip the shower out because that is the only fix you will be horrified at what it looks like underneath from all of the biofilm (dead skin cells and organic matter ) that has come off of your body over the years and rested beneath the pan liner and created a bacteria bed of putrid slim. That being said he leaves out a crucial part of the drain. There are weep holes integrated into every drain. This is so when the water hits the more stir membrane and travels beneath the tile towards a drain it is able to go into the drain. Have to have the slots called weep holes or your shower will not function correctly. Think about this water travels along the top of the tile and along the grout lines and goes down into your drain you can visually see this. What you can’t see in the reason you need a more stir membrane of some sort is the water that penetrates through your tile and through the grout line. This water is been collected beneath the tile how do you figure the water that gets beneath the tile makes its way into the drain if the only drain opening is the one that you can see ? . It can’t very well go to the drain and then pop up above the tile and go in the top of the drain like the rest of the water can it? So handsome in the weep hold a slot you can see when you disassemble the drain. If you paint on this red guard and you clog up these weep holes creating your watertight barrier you’re asking for trouble. So to prevent this you must put some gravel around your drain to keep the weep holes from clogging up. There’s a few different things you are able to do to not clog the weep holes just Google it. Other than that this is a pretty good article you get my props dude. You need to edit it though and include information on the weep holes because while it may be a small step you overlooked the price to replace one of the showers starts at about $10,000. Very costly oversight. Add in the factor that it is well past the warranty that you give love a year or two on the showers and some people are going to be pretty upset. Red guard is the way to go if you do it right. Offer lifetime warranty on my showers guarantee they will not leak for the remainder of the time you own your home. I’m comfortable doing this using redguard.

    • Eric January 28, 2017, 8:14 pm

      question for MMM or anyone with knowledge so im building a pretty sweet shower like MMM also a little outside the box so for those that care heres what im in the process of building and i want feedback so please respond-ok i build this 2×10 12’on center floor joists on top of my 28 year old concrete pad in the lowest part of my house ok i ripped and angled and sculpted each of the 7 2x10s to the perfect pitch and pitched them perfectly to a five foot long linear drain( the shower diamentions are 6×9′ ) yea its big lol, so all this is done and topped with 3/4 plywood subfloor screwed in with hardie backer 1 and 5/8 screws so now here are my ideas-I plan to top this with (1) redgaurd or 2 coats of Elastomeric then roofing tar paper even up the walls then a really thick 10mill plastic also from the floor and all the way up the walls then use modified thin set over that and set in 1/2 hardieboard then Elastomeric that three coats all this overlaps into my 5foot linear drain that i handmade at a lower level then the shower floor (like a infinitly pool )water will flow off the tile floor and spill over into the 5ft drain so this is my plan of course i will leave a 1/8 gap between all hardie backer and every joint fiber taped- so people why wont this work? and why will it leak?

  • Rob May 16, 2016, 8:00 pm

    I’m curious; why bother building concrete base. Here in Australia i’ve seen many new home builds and it seems the builders are not doing any thick base. They build a curb, and tile straight in the shower so it’s almost same height as the rest of bathroom floor…just 10-20mm so they can slope it to drain – maybe more “thin set” or tile adhesive. They use paint on waterproofing. I assume their whole bathroom floor is either thin concrete layer or tile board (fibre cement sheet). So with this you end up with no heavy concrete base for subfloor to support. What’s the advantage of thick concrete shower base?

  • Andy M August 21, 2016, 3:06 pm

    Great article and great website. I just found the post because we’re in the middle of finishing our basement here in Central Denver and are putting an alcove shower in it very similar to the one you show here.

    I’ve already installed the Hardie backer board and pored the curb so it may be too late to start second guessing myself on going your route with the red guard, but I was curious. Since you also live in Denver or the surrounding area, have you ever had a shower built with this method inspected by the city? If so did they give you any grief about using the liquid liner and not the typical rubber liner? I’d just hate to finish this up and have to tear it out and redo it the old way because an inspector wouldn’t pass it.

  • TJ October 4, 2016, 2:41 pm

    As a professional in the building trades for over 20 yrs I will tell anyone who asks…. DO NOT SKIP THE RUBBER. I am currently on a project where my sub-contractor sold me on this same system and on the first floor test of our 54 unit building 17 of 18 tested failed to hold water over night. If you are going to try to skip 3 hrs of work to try this system, PLEASE test your base over night. Additionally, unlike rubber, this thinner less stretching paint on application will not move and stretch over time, which is specifically a concern in any application with new framing or new construction due to settling.

  • Sean February 10, 2017, 11:37 am

    Your article inspired me to tear out our old fiberglass tub/shower with ugly sliding glass doors and install a beautiful tiled enclosure complete with concrete pan. I used Floor Elf as a reference to fill in the gaps in knowledge, and actually went with Schluter’s Kerdi membrane instead of RedGuard, but it all worked out great.

    If I had to do it again, I’d probably do a few things differently, but you definitely gave me the “I can DO THIS” attitude that it took to get through the project.

    Just the removal of that ugly fiberglass shower was worth it, but now the bathroom is beautiful and inviting. Thanks!

  • Michael March 10, 2017, 10:23 am

    Hi MMM!

    In my quest to keep on learning, I’ve read that some home inspectors will do a leak test on shower pans. Basically, they’ll put a stopper over the drain and fill the shower with water up to within about one inch of the top of the curb, then they’ll go to the basement and inspect for any signs of moisture or leakage beneath the shower pan. Have you tried this on any of your shower pans you constructed using your method?

  • christopher March 28, 2017, 4:36 am

    Thanks for the article. I have a lot of experience with mud, but have yet to build a shower. My friend is a concrete counter top builder and we are doing a shower. I like the idea of Red Guard and the two part drain as described in your article. We will follow that, then we are doing concrete walls and my question is can we install stainless reinforcement in the walls, waterproof everything with Red Guard and then apply the concrete/ chris

  • Sally Furphy March 30, 2017, 6:14 am

    Hi Mr Mostache! I love this post. Me and my partner are currently thinking about making our own shower and would love to try and make a shower like this. Only thing is our home is a narrow boat and we have a big diesal Lister engine mid ship which is in the next room. When in use this engine causes quite a vibration. Do you think this style of shower tray could handle this without cracking?
    Many thanks in advance. :-)

  • Serge October 21, 2018, 9:25 pm

    Very Nice work
    I didn’t read all comment’s but i did something just the same but i left it at the concrète..
    My question is : for the water proofing i just applyed “Thomson water proof scelant. Is this good enough ?
    The water does not soak in.. It slides perfectely To my drain. And around the bottom sides i applied a blueskin liquid membrane and after my wall tiles i filled de gap with silicone..
    Is this ok ?
    Thank you

  • karjzr October 22, 2018, 8:32 am

    I recently read your post here and am looking to build a shower. I was just wondering if the cement you poured in your curbs was the same as your shower pan?

  • Clenkonan June 1, 2019, 7:24 pm

    I need to do something similar but on concrete in the basement. How do I anchor the form to a concrete floor and do I tile the floor before the walls.

  • clemkonan June 2, 2019, 8:16 am

    Would like to see something on how to frame that Neo angle shower in particular framing for the door.

  • Sean Kelly January 7, 2020, 1:20 pm

    I know this is an old post but I did exactly this to redo my shower. I finally got around to posting it online. You also introduced me to PEX. It feels like a new super power.


    I’m not a full mustachian because I still drive my clown car to work but my mustache is growing.

  • John Wagner February 22, 2020, 2:34 pm

    Mason’s mix is only used if you want the concrete to be porous. Since you are using the trowel-on membrane, there is no need to use the crumbly mason’s mix. I’ve used regular concrete and it works fine. Mason’s mix is a throwback to the original method and also needs to be updated.

  • Johnny Money July 16, 2022, 3:22 pm

    As a DC native and 25 year Colorado remodeler, I can agree with previous points that local environment matters, with DC having many features not needed here, such as sump pumps in many basements, larger gutters due to torrential rain with 5 times the rainfall of Denver. On the flip side, a little colder, lots drier, no termites I’ve ever seen, etc. Expansive clays, fire danger, etc. Pretty different from flooding and treefall dangers.

    JA few pro tips:

    -Cementitious boards(hardibacker or wonderboard) can go over plastic 6mil sheeting or tyvex (vapor barrier), keeping water doubly on the shower side ( if you count the elastomeric paint layer on top, aka redguard).

    -Tile scoring/cutter is great for simple work(Fast, cheap,simple). Wetsaw is ideal for detail work, such as around the drain, or the subtle angles in the pan(Fast, expensive, finnicky?, bigger, more dangerous).

    -Type s mortar is mason mortar, optimum for laying brick/stone, as the lime in it sets more quickly. However, it makes your mass more porous, which is suboptimum for a pan.

    -You can achieve the same effect with type N or concrete, which is stronger. As you will be laying tile or stone over this w more mortar, why not use concrete? No need to make it perfectly countertop smooth, it’s the level that matters, matching your tile height plus the mortar needed to make a steady grade towards the drain. If this does matter to you, you can float it more to get a nice finish. Smaller tiles are easier to make perfect around the drain. The longer you keep portland wet, the stronger it will get. Dams are kept wet for 120days. Cover w plastic to slow drying out. Irrigate once set.

    -schluter-ditra decoupling mats are awesome in situations where you have tile over an existing crack. I imagine the rubber of the redguard does a little of this “decoupling” of the crack, but the ditra is great. Doubles your thinset mortar needs though, a layer below, a layer over, then the tile.

    -One plumber I worked with used fibatape type drywall tape on hardibacker, then redguard till it was sealed. Another used durabond 20 (hot mud) to drywall tape the joint with fiberglass tape, then redguard.


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