What Is the Best Way to Replace a Shower?

What Is the Best Way to Replace a Shower?
The concept may appear straightforward, but… 

Building a replacement shower is one of the more satisfying bathroom remodeling projects- once it is actually done! You can exercise your full creative potential by shopping for unique ceramic or stone tiles and by building in-shower shelves and nooks. You could choose to make your bathroom look like one of those model homes but a DYI project may be a stop-gap measure if that is your real goal. Although you can install many types of showers, many homeowners choose a traditional, prefabricated shower unit. Let’s look at the simplest type.

A modern bathroom featuring a walk-in shower with glass doors and marble tiles.

Adapted from https://www.thespruce.com/how-to-build-a-walk-in-shower-4160491

You might think a shower installation is straightforward and you would be right if you were a seasoned bathroom remodeling contractor but if you haven’t got much more than the skill set required for finish carpentry, you might be in for a far bigger surprise as your knowledge and capability are quickly overwhelmed. Even with some decent experience, you may find that things can converge together to create delays you never expected. Not only that, you may find yourself short on the supply side of things. You will need the right tools as well as all the right materials to get the job done right. This will be no time for shortcuts and you can expect that an official inspection will make sure you don’t take any.

First, decide on the type of shower you want. There are many different types of showers, from simple prefabricated units to elaborate custom-built showers. The type of shower you choose will determine how much work is involved in building it. Even the simplest shower kit can surprise you when the actual work commences.

Then you might need to choose an entirely new location for the shower. Maybe your idea of a new modern shower just won’t fit neatly where the old basic tub and shower are not. You might be looking at a whole new floor design for your bathroom. The location of the shower will determine how much plumbing work is required to install it. If you are installing a prefabricated shower, make sure that the location you choose can accommodate the unit.

Preparation is next. Are you absolutely sure where the shower will be installed? This phase may likely involve demolition work, as well as installation of new plumbing fixtures and piping. That’s right. A redesign and probably a permit issued by your local authority to make sure you meet all the standards for your new walk-in. Once you start down this road there is really no looking back except to fix mistakes that you had not anticipated to begin with. This might be the point where you really want to consider hiring a professional. Lots of people have started a project like this only to find themselves mired in the details several months later within a usable bathroom that they haven’t figured out yet how to make it all work according to their original idea- or at all.

If you want to take your time and really enjoy the process of creating a unique space in your home, you may want to consult an expert and make sure your dream bathroom stays the way you envision it.

Here are a few of the steps required to replace a shower in even the most basic bathroom remodel. Let’s start with figuring out just how the shower will fit into your existing bathroom or as part of a whole remodeling job.

Your New Shower Location Should Be Marked

Make a mark on the floor where you want to install the shower enclosure with a tape measure and a pencil to indicate the location. Be detailed and make sure everything will really fit in the space.

Sill Plates Should Be Included.

In order to construct a shower enclosure in a corner, you will need to construct an additional wall in order to create an alcove. Deck screws are used to secure a two-by-four piece that is cut to the width of the alcove wall to the floor beneath it.

Extend The Studs All The Way To The Ceiling.

Attach two studs to the sill plate and run them up to the ceiling, starting at the bottom. Attach a second two-by-four the length of the sill plate to the ceiling with a screwdriver. Insert two more studs in the space between the side studs.

Drain Pipe And Branch Line – (Have That Permit Yet?)

Cut a hole in the floor near the drain location with a jigsaw to allow access to the drain. Hire a plumber (wishing you had a contractor by now?) to install the drain pipe and branch line below the shower floor in the shower enclosure. Cut the ABS or PVC pipe flush with the floor with a hacksaw to prevent it from leaking.

Install Supply Plumbing Supports
(getting deep into your bathroom walls)

To serve as supports for the faucet controls and the showerhead, attach two two-by-fours between wall studs, one high and one low, one high and one low.

Connect The Tailpiece To The Shower Pan

The drain tailpiece that came with the shower pan should be attached to the shower pan by turning it upside down. To tighten the tailpiece, turn it with a spud wrench. Remember to be careful not to break the tailpiece. (A remodeling pro wouldn’t do that!)

Prepare That Shower Pan

Cover the drain with a rag to prevent it from clogging. Placing a layer of mortar or thinset around the drain should be done with care. This will aid in the stabilization of the shower pan. Place the shower pan in the wet mortar or thinset and secure it in place. Make use of a bubble level to ensure that the shower pan is level.

Connect the Shower Pan to the Enclosure

Nail the nailing fins of the top portion of the shower pan to the wall studs. 

Install Water Supply Pipes To The Regulator

Run the hot and cold water supply lines up from the floor, starting at the lowest point. Either PEX or copper pipe can be used. 

Connect The Shower Regulator To The Pipes.

Attach the shower regulator to the support. Connect the shower regulator’s water supply lines 

Continue The Pipe All The Way To The Shower Head Area.

To connect the upper support to the shower regulator, run a single PEX or copper line upward from the shower regulator. Connect to a 45-degree elbow joint. Screws are used to attach the elbow to the support.

Cement Board Preparation

Cut pieces of cement board to the size of the inside of the enclosure with a utility knife using a sharp blade. Cut the cement board by scoring a line on the front of the board, snapping it, turning it over, and continuing the cut on the back. Cut holes for the shower controls and the showerhead with a jigsaw or a hole saw that is attached to a drill to make the necessary openings.

Make an effort to use as little cement board and seams as possible during the installation process.

Attach The Cement Board 

Join the cement board to your enclosure and seal the seams with seam tape.

To attach the cement boards to the inside of the enclosure, use cement board screws to hold them in place. Seam tape should be cut and applied to all of the seams between the cement boards. The putty knife should be used to press the thin-set into the seam tape and smooth it out.

Allow the thin-set to dry completely. A stirring stick is used to combine the liquid membrane. Make use of a chip brush to evenly apply the liquid membrane to all of the seams.

Apply Liquid Membrane To Cement Board In A Roll

Pour the liquid membrane into a paint tray that has been lined with newspaper. Roll out the membrane across all visible surfaces of the cement board using a paint roller with a roller cover attached to it. Wait for the membrane to dry completely before applying a second coat.

Design Tiles In A Horizontal Layout

While the liquid membrane is curing, you can start thinking about the tile layout. On the horizontal plane, each wall should begin with a single tile in the center and then extend symmetrically on each side to connect to adjoining walls. It is likely that the end tiles will need to be cut in order to fit this space. If the two end tiles will not be the same width when cut, make the necessary adjustments to the center tile.

Tiles In The Shower Stall

Design Tiles In A Vertical Plan

Calculate the starting point of the second row of tiles from the bottom using the tape measure, a pencil, and one of the tiles you have available. From the ceiling down to within 1/8-inch of the upper lip of the shower pan, vertically aligned tiles should be installed. In some cases, the tiles will fit perfectly, but this is not always the case. In this case, plan on having the cut row be the very last row of the sequence.

Increase The Number Of Ledger Boards.

Just below the second row from the bottom, screw in a one-by-two ledger board to the bottom of the board.

Thinset Should Be Applied Thinly.

In a separate bowl, combine the dry thinset and water until it has a peanut butter consistency. The notched trowel should be used to spread thinset on the lower area just above the ledger board. Work in sections that are approximately 2 feet by 2 feet.

Tiles are added by pressing them into the wet thinset. Remove the first tile to make certain that the back is completely covered with tiles. Insert plastic spacers between the tiles after every few tiles, if necessary.

Continue the tiling above the ledger board in the same manner. Tiles can be cut using a wet tile saw or a rail type tile cutter.

Complete The First Row All The Way To The Shower Pan

Remove the ledger board from the table after a couple of hours. Complete the first row of tiles by laying the second row of tiles. It is possible that you will have to cut each tile individually to fit its space.


Remove the tile spacers once all of the tile has been installed and is completely set. Spread the grout diagonally across the surface of the tiles, using the rubber tile float or another grout tool if necessary. Firmly press the grout into the seams to ensure that it completely fills them.

Warm water should be used to wet the tile sponge before wiping away excess grout. To remove excess grout from the tile’s surface, lightly wipe it with a clean cloth. Make sure that none of the wet grout between the tiles is pulled out during the process.

After the grout has dried, seal it with a grout sealant to make it water resistant.

Silicone Sealant

Fill the caulking gun with silicone caulk by inserting the tube into the caulking gun. Caulk should be applied to all joints between tiles, including those at corners, below the lower edge of tile and at the very top where tile meets ceiling, after the tube’s end has been cut off.

Final Steps – Shower Controls & Showerhead

Install the rest of the shower controls, including the escutcheon, to complete the installation.

Screw the shower arm into the top of the shower, then screw the flange into the shower arm before screwing the showerhead into the arm.

When Should You Consult A Professional- RIGHT NOW!

A bathroom remodeling contractor or a general contractor can complete the construction of your shower for you, as they have the ability to subcontract the work to various tradespeople. The following trades may be required if you’re hiring trades on a piecemeal basis: a general carpenter, a plumbing company that does remodeling work (rather than just emergency plumbing work), and a tiler. If you have any doubts about your ability to complete this project properly, you should consult with a qualified professional. You should keep in mind that a bathroom remodel involves several trades, and a qualified, licensed contractor can be a valuable (and occasionally required) resource in making sure your bathroom is water-proof and well-constructed.

Our experts can guide you in your planning to get the perfect result for your bathroom renovation project and we can make it all happen for you as fast as possible without the trial and error that comes with a DYI project. Call us today to get started.