Oddly enough, there’s really nothing in your shower that’s naturally waterproof. Not the grout, not the cement backing, not the sealers, backer board, or the tile; nothing. Sure, some types of tile, sealers, etc. may fend off a little more moisture than others, but they all fall to the power of H2O eventually. Here’s the really dangerous thing about all of these materials though: they don’t show their wounds. Without waterproofing your shower may last only a short time, but it will look perfectly fine much longer. Don’t be fooled! No matter how good it looks on the outside, your shower will end up with damage if left without any defense.
Our mission today is to build that defense. We’re going to help you do everything you can to ensure you shower won’t succumb to problems caused by moisture. To keep it simple, let’s break things down into two sections: what to do before your tile is installed, and after. We’ll start with that which lies behind your tile and work our way to the surface. Sound good? Then let’s dive right in (pun intended)!
Before your tile is installed:
There are typically two ways people go about installing a tile shower: on a cement backing or directly over the drywall in the bathroom. The problem with the installing tile over drywall is the fact that drywall warps when it gets wet. It expands and will crack your grout and tile, allowing even more water to get in. This snowball effect can be avoided by choosing the cement backing option. It won’t take care of all your water problems, but it will certainly shield against the moisture.
Once that’s in place, you’ll need to add what we call a “waterproof membrane”. We promise that even though it sounds like something out of a sci-fi film it’s very real and VERY important. You will apply two coats of this membrane after you’ve added some thin set mortar over your cement seam tape on your backerboard (If you’re unsure of what this is, stay tuned for more blogs on shower installation). Use a brush to apply it over the seams and joints, and then go back in with a roller to finish the first coat. Wait 30 to 60 minutes for it to dry before repeating the process for a second coat. After that you’re ready to install your tiles!
After your tile is installed:
If you’ve already installed the tile or have had your shower for a while and are just looking for ways to keep it looking amazing, it’s not too late to prevent at least some of the water damage you might encounter. The first thing you are going to have to do is seal the grout in between your tiles. Grout is often made with sand, which means it’s porous, which means it’s absorbent. If left vulnerable, it will act like a sponge when water hits it. Though not completely impenetrable, a nice water or solvent-based sealer will protect those in-between areas. Depending on the type of tiles you have, you may need to seal the tiles themselves with a tile sealer.
Now that the hard work has been completed, all you have to do is a little light upkeep. Replace or repair tiles and grout as soon as you spot an issue. Also, avoid splashing, let any water drain thoroughly, and have a squeegee or towel on hand to clear the walls of water after each shower you take. Yes, all of them. Long story short, keep your shower as dry as possible when it is not being used.
Finally, you can enjoy your shower without worrying about your tile! If you’d like more information or have suddenly been inspired for a bathroom makeover, let us know. We’re always happy to help you get the most out of your tile!
Have a great weekend! We’ll see you next Tuesday for some important information on carpeting.