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How to Install Marble Showers Like a Pro

Following these pro tips for installing marble showers will help you avoid some of the most common problems that lead to mold, leaks, cracks, and damage.

Marble showers have seen a resurgence in the home renovation trend, and rightly so, it has been used for thousands of years. No matter what color you choose, the beautiful marble patterns cast a soft glow in the shower area, making showers even more relaxing. The exquisite and unique marble patterns allow the eyes and imagination to wander, assisting in coming up with the best thoughts and ideas.

Pro Tips for Installing Marble Showers

But the visuals and effects of marble can only be enjoyed after installing marble showers correctly. As experienced restoration and repair experts for marble and stone, we’ve handled it all. And there’s a definite difference between the inevitable grout fissures caused by structural settling… and the larger repercussions stemming from poor decisions or attention to detail at installation.

That’s why turning to an expert installer is smart. If you’re a skilled DIY-er with plenty of tile work under your belt, and want to do your own project, at least be sure to boost your marble installation skills by referencing our top tips for installing marble showers. They’ll help you avoid issues down the road.

Here are three essential tips to follow when installing marble showers:

Get a Strong and Rigid Frame

Marble tiles are comparatively heavier than commonly used porcelain or ceramic tiles. Large marble tiles can be even heavier than small ones when handling and installing. Therefore, the shower frame must be strong and rigid enough to hold the weight of the tiles. For residential applications, the industry guidelines recommend wood studs at a minimum of 3-1/2” depth. If using metal studs, they should be well braced and have a minimum of 20 gauge and 3-1/2” depth. The cement backer board should be a minimum of ½” thick. Backerboard seams are taped using an alkali-resistant mesh tape with thin-set for the seam filler.

Purchase the Recommended Thin-Set

Thin-set (a.k.a. thinset) is a bonding mortar used to hold tiles to a surface. It is made by mixing fine sand, cement, and polymers. But while it sounds simple to put together, a thin-set is a specially manufactured product that can be prepared by just adding water and mixing.

It is always advised to use a thin-set made or recommended by a tile manufacturer or endorsed by industry standards. The ANSI requirement for marble tile on cement board is A118.15 or better. This will ensure you are not experimenting in your bathroom but are using a tried and tested product.

Marble tiles are heavy, and a poor adhesive to hold them up, whether on the walls or the floor, will make them fall off or crack. Besides monetary loss, cracked marble tiles can cause injury to a household member. Therefore, the quality of thin-set is not something to compromise on.

Get the product that has been proven to work to ensure you can enjoy the effort invested in installing marble showers. It is just as important to follow the manufacture’s instructions for mixing and the application.

Don’t Rush the Process

The best results are always worth the wait. And you definitely don’t want to rush the process when it comes to installing marble showers. You’ll only have a costly re-do on your hands! Work slowly but steadily to ensure every step is executed perfectly before you move on.

Begin with preparing the shower subfloor. The subfloor under the shower floor should be pitched towards the drain at a ¼”:1’ ratio. That can be done with perimeter shims or a layer of thin-set applied to the subfloor to create the pitch. Next is typically a vinyl pan liner, (usually installed by a plumber) folded neatly at inside corners and over the shower curb. Creating a layer of cement or a “mud bed” over the vinyl pan for the shower floor is ideal, as it can be pitched towards the drain for proper drainage. While setting the cement base, small pebbles should be placed around the neck of the drain to create clear access for water to drain into the weep holes. Cement is a sound base because it can absorb water without getting damaged.

Once the mud bed is dry and you are ready for the marble, you must create reference lines and prepare the marble tiles accordingly, even before applying the thin-set. A dry layout of the marble tile for the shower floor always helps with understanding the parameters. Pre-cutting all the pieces, also allows you to correct mistakes before installing. Following through with this step in advance allows you to create a symmetrical design in the shower.

Then spread your thin-set, but only on small areas at a time, settling tiles in before repeating the process. It’s tempting to want to prep a wider area so you can go quickly through the tile-laying process, but thin-set begins to dry from the top down when exposed, and depending on the temperature and humidity the surface can begin “skim” to lose its adhesion quality, FAST!

Sure, the tile will press in (making you think it’s nice and firm), but if the surface has begun to skim over it won’t have full adherence. That is why it is also recommended to clean and back-butter the back of the tile when setting.

Finally, allow the tiled area sufficient drying time before stepping in. Check with the manufacturer’s guidelines for drying time. If you don’t give enough time for thin-set to dry and hold marble tiles in place, they can shift or crack when walked on.

When dry, the marble tile is ready to grout. Select the proper grout approved for the marble tile used. It is often helpful to first apply a pre-grout sealer before applying grout.

Marble wall Tile

Properly cover and protect your shower floor before beginning the walls. With the shower base done, the wall tile can be set. Layout your tile with your preferred patten and consider the symmetry of each wall, as well as being conscious of avoiding small cuts. The first row should not be set directly on the shower floor tile, but with a space of at least 1/16” off the surface.

Once the parameters are set and you have drawn reference lines on the walls to follow, begin the process. Again, apply the thin-set in small areas at a time, and best to back butter the tile as they are set, After all the tiles are set and dry, apply your grout, following the steps mentioned above for the shower floor.

When installing marble showers, if you realize that you assumed the process to be easier than it is, contact a pro right away. Don’t hesitate and waste more time and effort than you may have invested. However, if you do get a pro, knowing these industry-trusted steps will help you communicate better with your installer.

While we don’t perform installations, we’re happy to refer you to one of our trusted partners if we can. And once your marble shower is in place, don’t forget to contact Terso MR for protective maintenance or questions about keeping your shower looking beautiful!

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