How to install tile backer board in a shower

Written by paul massey
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How to install tile backer board in a shower
(Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Adding or remodelling a ceramic tile shower begins with installation of a sturdy base, called the “substrate,” to support the tile. The standard material used for this substrate is a reinforced cement board--tile backer board--available in a range of thicknesses from 1/4 inch to 1 inch, with 1/2 inch being the recommended minimum thickness used for shower walls. Installation of tile backer board is a easy procedure and ensures a proper base for your ceramic tile.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Tape measure
  • Utility knife
  • 6.8kg. roofing paper
  • Staple gun
  • Chalk line
  • 1/2-inch tile backer board
  • Circular saw with a masonry blade
  • Hole saw
  • Power screwdriver
  • 2-inch tile backer board screws
  • Adhesive fibreglass web tape
  • Safety glasses
  • Dust mask

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  1. 1

    Staple a layer of 6.8kg. roofing paper to the walls of the shower as a vapour barrier in horizontal continuous pieces and attached to the studs. Run the first piece of roofing paper at the bottom horizontally, with the bottom edge of the paper aligned with the shower floor or bathtub rim, then overlap each subsequent horizontal piece a minimum of 3 to 4 inches over the layer below. Fit the pieces tight to the corners and extend the ends to the first wall stud beyond the area to be covered with tile backer.

  2. 2

    Measure the horizontal dimension across the back wall of the shower enclosure. The tile backer board must either span the full width, corner to corner, or must be split on a stud for proper backing.

  3. 3

    Transfer the measurement determined onto the smooth back of the tile backer board sheet and use a chalk line to connect the marks. Cut the backer board using a circular saw equipped with a masonry blade.

  4. 4

    Position the tile backer board piece cut against the back wall of the shower enclosure, holding the bottom of the piece approximately 1/4 inch above the shower floor or bathtub rim, Then attach the backer board to the wall studs with 2-inch backer board screws, using a power screwdriver. Space the screws approximately 8 inches apart and insert them to where the heads are flush with the board’s surface.

  5. 5

    Repeat for each board to complete the installation of the rear wall of the shower enclosure.

  6. 6

    Repeat these steps to complete the backer board installation for the side walls of the shower enclosure, making certain to cut out for the plumbing controls and showerhead locations using a hole saw.

  7. 7

    Span fibreglass web tape over all of the tile backer board joints and corners. The shower tile backer board structure is now ready for tile installation.

Tips and warnings

  • To prevent any interference with the ceramic tile installation, make certain to keep the backer board screw heads flush with the surface.
  • Reinforced cement tile backer board generates abrasive dust when cut with a circular saw; wear breathing and eye protection during all cutting.

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