DIY Modern Master Bath Remodel: Part 3: Custom Tile Shower Install

Friday, March 23, 2018 -
Learn how to overcome the daunting task of building waterproofing and installing a custom tile shower yourself DIY shower remodel

So where did we leave off friends? I think the last time I talked to you about Modern Master Bath remodel I was sharing the building plans for my double vanity.  The bathroom remodel is SO close to being done! All that is left is to build the linen closet and touch up paint. The showstopper of the whole makeover is the new custom tile shower we installed and that's what I'm focusing on today. 

Check out the full series: 

My husband has been dreaming of a large shower with multiple shower heads his whole life. My requirements were to have a real bench and a frameless glass door. In "Part One: Demo" I showed you guys the terrifying result of ripping out of old fiberglass tub and shower surround. 

We built a new wall and moved the plumbing around. I'm not going to talk about that part much for two reasons. There are thousands of good tutorials out there from people who are actually licensed and can give official advice, but mostly because when remodeling each situation is so different, you don't know what obstacles you'll need to tackle until they pop up. 

What I really want to talk about though is jumping into the massive project it is to build a custom shower, especially when it's a little fancy. I became a little obsessive and did as much research as humanly possible before deciding to move forward. 

A DIY tiled shower scared the crap out of me guys. If you build a crooked dresser, it's not great but it's not the end of the world. An improper shower installation can be horrific and lead to catastrophic damage to your home. Luckily, a while back I heard about a company called Schluter Systems that makes perfectly simple products that actually make installing a shower pretty straight forward. I used their system to design and build my custom shower and I felt very confident the whole time. 

But before you open a single Schluter System's box, you need to make sure to watch their video series on YouTube! This isn't just a plug. They have really done a fabulous job making each step of the process crystal clear and I learned a lot from watching them. In fact, I've included a few Schluter instructional videos below so you can get a better idea of the process. 

First, here's the Shower Kit overview: 

Installing Schluter®-KERDI-BOARD over the wood framing 

Kerdi-Board is a foam based panel that replaces cement board or other traditional substrates (what that tile attaches to). Since we were turning the entire area, floor to ceiling into wet space, we cut and installed Kerdi-Board on top of the studs, similar to hanging drywall. It's much lighter than drywall though and uses these cool hooked washers to prevent the screws from pulling through. I used 1/2" thick board so it would butt up flush with the adjacent drywall. 

Here's the instructional video: 

If we had decided on a steam shower (little ventilation) we would have needed to replace the drywall on the ceiling as well, but with a normal shower enclosure, you just need to make sure the waterproofing goes up past the shower heads. We ran the Kerdi-Board horizontally about 8" past where the shower door was going to be. You see all those exposed screws? I'll get to those in just a minute. 

When I was sharing sneak peaks on my Instagram, one of the most common questions I was asked was "What are you going to do with the window?" I know it's hard to tell, but the window is actually glass block, which is fine to be in a shower. I trimmed around the opening using Kerdi-Board. 

We thought it would be a brilliant idea to include two large shower niches on the valve wall. Although I love having all the space for bottles, it made installing the plumbing extra tricky. I wish I would have chosen something smaller. 

What was a super smart decision however was the choice to use pre-fabricated niches from Schluter. I watched dozens of YouTube videos on niches, and building one from scratch looked like a major pain. We did add support pieces between the studs on the top and bottom when framing the wall. This helps to give the recessed niche support. To install the Schluter®-KERDI-BOARD-SN, all we had to do was cut holes in the Kerdi-Board, slide them into the opening, and secure the joints with screws and washers. 

Adding a Pre-fabricated Shower Bench

Did you know some people actually build shower benches out of wood framing?! Technically, you can build a bench out of whatever you like, as long as you have a good waterproofing layer, but I was having nightmares of poorly sloped benches and mold damage. We decided to use a pre-fabricated Schluter®-KERDI-SHOWER-SB bench

This was probably one of the easiest steps in the whole process. It's pre-slopped so all I had to do was spread and comb the thin-set and drop the foam bench into place. Once in position, I used a level to make sure there was a gradual forward slope that would allow water to run off the bench top. 

Installing the Drain, Shower Pan and Curb

The nice part of using the old tub space was the existing waste drain. However, to accommodate the custom size of our new shower, we did have to move the drain location a few inches. We have a slab foundation, so that meant breaking out and patching a little concrete but, it wasn't too difficult. 

Now we started to tackle the really intimidating stuff: the drain and the shower pan. If you screw up either of those things, you can literally destroy your home!  I had seen a Schluter®  Shower Kit installed before, and that's what sold me on the company.  It make a really scary process simple for a beginner. 

We installed the Schluter®-KERDI-DRAIN which was included in the kit, following these video instructions: 

Next, I started on the step that gave me the greatest fear; the shower pan. I can honestly say, using the pre-sloped Schluter®-KERDI-SHOWER-ST was really simple! It's a pre-formed foam tray that is designed to allow perfect drainage and incorporates into the drain.  We first cleaned and prepared the slab, then secured the tray using thin-set mortar. 

With this style of shower, we needed to have a curb to keep the water from pouring out of the shower area. Being smart people, Schluter has a pre-fabricated shower curb as well. We installed the Schluter®-KERDI-SHOWER-SC flush against the tray and bench. Then, we covered the tray and bench with Kerdi membrane to make them water-tight. 

Making Sure it's Watertight 

At this point, we had the basic structure of the shower in place and we could start waterproofing all the seams. The Schluter®-KERDI-SHOWER-KIT comes with valve seals that ensure water won't sneak into the wall around the mixer valve or shower head stem. They attach to the Kerdi-Board using the same thin-set mortar. 

Next, I busted out the Schluter®-KERDI-BAND and went to town. Kerdi-Band is a waterproofing strip used to seal butt joints, floor/wall connections, and where the bench, tray, and curb meet. It's also what we used to cover the exposed screw heads and washers. Basically, you apply Kerdi-Band using thin-set and it goes over every seam, gap and joint. 

Tile, Stone and Grout

We allowed everything to dry for a couple days and had a nice waterproof base to install our tile. 
We hired a contractor to fabricate and install granite slabs for the bench top and threshold. 

Although I've told you guys several times that setting tile is far from my favorite job, but I loved the tile I chose from The Builder Depot so much I didn't even care. 

I've always had a soft spot in my heart for small mosaics in a shower, so I went with Matte Black Penny tile for the floor and the back of the soap niches. 

I think bathrooms should feel clean and bright, so for the walls I picked a gloss white ceramic tile that would reflect lots of light. I'm in love! The shape is an over-sized 4" x 16" subway style, but with square, not rounded edges. 

I thought about ordering a frameless shower door online, but my friend Sandra from Sawdust Girl talked me out of it. She recent remodeled her bathroom too and she said it is worth every penny to have a glass company come measure and be responsible for installation. So that's exactly what I did and I'm super happy with the results. 

The Finished Shower

Alright, before I show you the finished shower, shall we remember the "before"? 

And here's our new masterpiece! I couldn't love it more! I actually giggled the first time I showered. 

We have a shower bench! It's the greatest thing ever and the black penny tile feels so nice on bare feet. It's almost like a little massage. 

In my research I discovered that almost every shower guy recommends using a Schluter drain. Even if they use a different system for their prep-work, most contractors love how easy the Kerdi-Drain is to install. We chose a brushed nickel finish for our grate design to match the rest of the hardware. 

The Builder Depot is known for having the most gorgeous marble tile and I really wanted to work some honed marble penny rounds into the design. We decided to go forward with the monochromatic look and I'm so happy with how it turned out. Even though they made the plumbing a pain, I'm really grateful for the double large niches. 

Look at that tight corner! You would never know there was serious waterproofing under that tile. 

The large subway tile extends past the shower door and over the entire wall behind my DIY double vanity.  I'll share the whole space once we finish up with some odds and ends. 

I scored an almost full slab of honed black granite on Craiglist over a year ago. There was enough for the vanity as well as bench and threshold tops. It has a matte finish and I love the contrast against the glossy white tile. 

Another "before"

And "after". My husband finally got his dream of two shower heads. With a large shower like this, the extra water sure is nice. 

You can see in this original photo how much space was wasted on that unused fiberglass tub. 

Some people love their bathtubs, but in the 2 years we've lived in this house, we never used it once! Although it was a good sized "garden tub", it was so shallow, there really wasn't any point. Pulling it out and installing a custom shower make such better use of the space for our lifestyle. 

Are you feeling motivated!? I'm so glad I moved past my fear and tackled my own DIY shower. It wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be. If you like these ideas, pin the image below to save them for later. 

DIY beginner simple custom schluter tile shower waterproof bathroom remodel how to


  1. Wow! I am so impressed with the after. Now I want to remodel my whole master bath. lol Great, fantastic job!

  2. This is beautiful!!! I have been wondering if I could do this and I might be able to because of your posts, I just might. I have no walls to move. My friend said the hardest thing to keep clean is the grout of her marble penny rounds on the floor of her shower. So be very glad you went with black. Excellent job!

  3. Highly descriptive article, I liked that bit. Will there be a part 2?

  4. I am doing the exact same thing. Wow, what a difference I love the niche placement. I don't want to view bottles and toiletries when looking at my shower, love the fact that they are on the shower side. My plumber suggested cement board, but maybe I will look at this board you are using. Great JOB!!!!
    What the the niches framed with? I noticed you used 4 x 16 tiles, my shower is 38 x 33 38, so I was going to go with 4 x 12, so as to have more interest when you look at the back, but if 4 x 16 if easier, I could switch to that. You advice. Thank you.

  5. I love what you did with this bathroom! Where are your shower head and fixtures from?


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