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5 Tips to Selecting a Tile Shower Backer Board

Written by Mike Foti on . Posted in Bathroom Remodeling

Different thicknesses of extruded polystyrene wall backer boards
Tile over cement backer board
Tile wall installed over cement backer board

Remember the old Fram oil filter commercial – “pay me now or pay me later.” If you’re repairing or building a new tile shower enclosure you know that pay me later can cost you big time (ripping out a shower from water damage is very expensive)! What you don’t see with a shower stall (the materials behind the finished wall) is every bit as important as what you do see. Follow these 5 tips to choose the right tile backer board:

Tip 1 – Don’t be cheap up front – We all want to save money on materials and in backer boards a traditional cement board is definitely less costly than a waterproof tile wall board. The key is to remember the cost of a failed system – buy the waterproof material up front and you don’t have to worry about the long run costs of failure.  

Tip 2 – Know the difference between waterproof and water resistant– Close may work in hand grenades – but “almost waterproof” (i.e. water resistant) will not help you if your tile shower takes on water behind the wall and leaks into the subfloor and rooms below. New extruded polystyrene wall systems are made of Styrofoam insulation and are 100% waterproof – put it up and “fuggitabout it.”

Tip 3 – Consider what’s involved in the installation – Traditional cement board is heavy (about 50 lbs/sheet), hard to cut (you need a carbide jigsaw) messy (cutting kicks up a lot of dust) and can be time consuming to install.  On the other hand waterproof wall boards are light (less than 9 lbs/3 foot x 5 foot sheet), easy to cut (use only a carpenter knife), and very quick to install. If you’re doing the project yourself or want to hire a professional bathroom remodeling contractor you’ll save time, effort and hassle choosing waterproof backer board.

Tip 4 – Think about your shower accessories when choosing wall boards – Shampoo and soap niches and corner or bench seats can make a shower safer, more luxurious and easier to use. Shower accessories can either be custom cut and made out of wood framing and cement board (not the easiest process in the world) or you can purchase factory made expanded polystyrene niches that are 100% waterproof without the time, engineering or installation hassle – you make the choice.

Tip 5 – If you’re unsure – call an expert – Let’s face it – most people don’t install a new shower enclosure every day. If you need help – do you Internet research and/or call a qualified bathroom remodeling contractor or wall backer board supplier.

What experience do you have with tile wall backer systems? Is there any input or assistance you need with your next project?

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To get assistance with your next shower or bathroom remodeling project visit Cleveland Design & Remodeling (216-531-6085) or Columbus Design and Remodeling (614-252-7294) or Bath Doctor (513-742-6679)of Cincinnati and Dayton Ohio.

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Mike Foti

President of Innovate Building Solutions a nationwide supplier and regional (Cleveland and Columbus) remodeling contractors. Some of our product lines include glass counters, floors, backsplashes, glass blocks and grout free shower and tub wall panels

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