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A nice shower is definitely refreshing, but the underlying materials of a shower stall live in very harsh conditions. Building a shower stall requires layers and layers of water barrier.
We've already seen the tar-paper and how it's used to prevent water and moisture intrusion into the rot prone under areas of the walls and floor. Now, the next step is the chicken wire. But chicken wire is not exactly a great water barrier come to think of it - it's all full of holes after all.
Turns out that chicken wire is an integral part in the construction of a bathroom shower stall. When you get your bathroom remodeled you want your contractor to use chicken wire. Chicken wire means the difference between floating the stall (good) and using concrete backer board (not good for a shower)
Chicken wire is used to help with the application, or floating of the mortar bed which the tile will be applied to. Getting mortar to stick to the wall would be rather difficult without chicken wire is you can imagine. The chicken wire gets stapled to the wall and the mortar gets mushed onto the wall against the chicken wire. This very scientific 'mushing' forms the mortar around the wire and gives it something to hang onto instead of just sliding down the wall.
The cheap and easy route is to use cement backer board and apply the tile to that. The problem with cement backer board is that it really isn't that great as a moisture barrier.
If you're remodeling a bathroom in order to sell the home, then you might be tempted to do it on the cheap, and use cement backer board. If that's the case, your gypping your buyer. Something to think about when it's your turn to buy your next home with a "remodeled bathroom".
Cement backer board is fine underneath tiles in less wet areas like bathroom tile floors or tiled walls. But when it comes to a tiled shower stalls that is intended to last, you need to make sure your contractor will float the area with mortar. You have the same decision to make about a kitchen counter top that will be tiled over - think about how long you need the kitchen to last and chose accordingly.
There's no doubt that floating the shower stall costs more than using cement backer board. But when it's done, it will last years longer than a backer board shower remodel. It's true you can save money on a remodeling job by letting the contactor to use backer board, but the longevity and the standards are second rate. If second rate is good enough, then your decision is made.
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