Basin or mason

Skill level skill3

After defeating the fiberglass dragon (see “Ripping out a fiberglass shower“), it was time to select a shower basin for the new glass tile shower. Showers tend to spray water everywhere and the shower basin has to collect all of that water running down the walls and funnel it into the drain.

Masons get paid to play with mud

The old-school way to do a shower floor is to “mud” it, which means you get a big pile of mortar and shape it with a trowel so that the water will run downhill from any direction into the drain. Let’s just say it requires some skills that we don’t possess (and aren’t interested in acquiring).

Order a basin to go

Back in Manhattan “The Little Apple,” Kansas, my ever-loving wife, “Penelope” (not her real name), and I had built a master bedroom suite with a marble tile shower.  We found a place where we could order a cultured marble shower basin and I described the dimensions to the salesman over the phone because it was a couple of years B.E. (Before Email). It came in a big, heavy crate.

Cultured marble shower basin
Cultured marble shower basin

It fit perfectly and worked well but it was pretty expensive. Did I mention it was really heavy?

This time around we were looking for something lighter and less expensive. That’s in addition to it being water-tight, except of course for that big hole in the middle for the drain.

Penelope liked the idea of tiling the basin with the same glass tiles as we were going to put on the walls. Apparently a lot of people like that idea because we found several websites that custom build shower basins for that very purpose.

These custom-made shower basins make it easy because they have all of the sloping built in and you just drop them in place after laying down some mastic (flooring glue). Then you glue the tiles directly on the shower basin and the walls and you are done! It said so on the Internet so it must be true.

Lo-cal basin

We decided to order a custom, tile-able, lightweight shower basin from KBRS. (I don’t know what that stands for but the web address is, which is a little more intuitive.)

Lightweight shower basin
Lightweight shower basin

It is important to get the dimensions right when you order it because, as you might imagine, these places don’t have the most liberal return policies.

I measured the area several times where the shower was going to go. It was 39″ deep by 60″ wide. I also carefully measured where the drain came up out of the floor. The website said to leave a little wiggle room and reduce the dimensions by 1/4″ on each side. (It didn’t make any sense to me why you would need to leave wiggle room on the front side since there is already about 5 FEET of “wiggle room” before you hit the wall on the other side of the room but far be it from me to question authority.) OK, so that made it 38 1/2″ x 59 1/2″ and I placed the order.

The shower basin arrived a couple of weeks later. It was light enough for just one person to put in place. Penelope could have done it if she had wanted to, but apparently she didn’t want to.

Physical fitness test

The test fit of the shower basin went beautifully. Even the hole in the middle of the basin matched up with the floor drain, which is kind of key. I took the basin back out and spread mastic on the floor and used a notched trowel to make the ridges. Then I put the basin back in–my ever-loving wife, Penelope, still wasn’t volunteering, by the way–and walked around on it to seat it into the mastic.

Shower basin weighted down while the mastic dries
Shower basin weighted down while the mastic dries

Stacking the boxes of glass tile and other assorted heavy things on the floor basin ensured a good bond with the subfloor until the mastic dried, which was about 24 hours later.

I don’t know about you but I get a little suspicious when these projects go so smoothly. I just don’t trust that Internet.


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