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MetalMan8008 02-08-2016 06:44 PM

Replacing Shower Tile... Can I Reuse Cement Backing Over Wire Mesh Behind Tile?
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I am starting to remodel one of my bathrooms and will be replacing the tile in the shower. Just demo'd it yesterday. There's a cement backing laid over wire mesh underneath the tile once I removed it all. The tile came off pretty easy once I figured out a good method. A few areas of the cement chipped off, mainly at the corners and near the bottom. Otherwise, most of he rest of it looks pretty solid. By the way, the house was built in 1964 an is in southeast Michigan. Yes, I plan on replacing the shower pan too.

My question is whether or not I can reuse that cement backing by simply patching up the areas that chipped off. Is this possible? Patch the areas that need it, smooth out the surface as much as possible, apply thinset and hang my tiles over that?

JazMan 02-08-2016 09:41 PM

There's no point in keeping that wall mud and trying to repair all that's bad. You're also going to replace the fiberglass pan I imagine, perhaps with tile. Take it all to the curb and start over.

Think about it then come back with new questions.


gregzoll 02-08-2016 10:53 PM

Metalman what are the dimensions for that shower? What is below it, and do you have room to make it a little larger, so it does not feel like you are standing in a linen closet?

If you can stand in the middle and touch the walls without bending your arms, you may want to expand it.

MetalMan8008 02-09-2016 06:08 AM

Sorry guys, it's not possible to expand it. Besides, I'm moving in 2 years or less and so I just want to make it look nice before selling it. Dimensions are 32"x32".

I think it would be much easier to keep what I have then to rip all that down and start over. You really think it would be easier to tear all that down, deal with trying to dispose of that cement (a real pain), taking it down to the studs and doing all that work when all I need to do is just spend 20 minutes patching a few spots? That's If I can remove the pan without further damaging the mud base, but still, seems much easier to do what I am suggesting. I suppose the question is not "which is easier", but rather, if I patch the holes then thinset and lay my tile over the existing base, will I be prone to any problems, such as cracking tile or leaks. I've read this can be done on the johnbridge forums but in that case, the person didn't have to patch a few holes in the mud as I would have to. Otherwise the suggestion was to go for it. Same setup, mesh wire behind mud.

gregzoll 02-09-2016 08:06 AM

32"x32" is small. Even with you moving in a couple of years. Making it a little larger, will help with the sell.

Why can't you expand it a bit larger to say almost 4'x4'? Is this in an apartment, that another unit is on the other side?

You are going to have to rip down all of that mortar and Chicken Wire before you can do anything. It looks like brick behind the one wall.

The reason that they made the Plaster that thick, was for Fire control, to help keep the structure from burning down so fast. It is an art to get the new mix correct for repairing any areas that are loose or cracked.

You may be able to get by with Shluter to cover the old Plaster walls after repaired.

Jazman should be back on later tonight to cover anything that I missed or what will or will not work. Just hang tight for the day and check back around 7.

MetalMan8008 02-09-2016 09:18 AM

Thanks for the reply Greg. I can't expand it because there's a staircase going down to the basement on one side, and the kitchen is on the other side. There's simply no room to expand it. It would be nice if it were larger but all the homes in this area have the same size bathrooms so it's not really an issue for me. It's a second bath anyway that I never use.

It's a single family home, not an apartment. It's not a brick wall behind it either, looks like the mud and wire mesh is laid over drywall.

I have been doing a little more reading on this and I hear some people saying to rip down the mud and mesh, and others saying it's fine and just reuse it. It just seems like so much more work to rip all that down when I have 95% of what I need right there already. If there it's not possible or recommended to reuse what I have, can I ask why not?

If I do lay my tiles over the existing mud/mesh though, I don't know what I would do at the top of the tiles where it meets the drywall. The old tiles were curved at the top, since the mud sticks out 1/2" or so past the wall itself. I plan on going with larger tiles (maybe 12" squares), I doubt they make them curved like that. If I were to reuse the mud that's there already, how would I overcome the fact that the mud stick out 1/2" or so from the wall, and get the tiles flush against the wall at the top?

I'll wait for JazMan or others to chime in again on this.

JazMan 02-09-2016 11:51 AM


Next time you remove 50 year old tiles, plan on removing the substrate and tiles in one operation. Now you've spent extra time removing just the tiles and of course are reluctant.

Sure, it's posible you might be able to patch what's there, but it would be easier and better to rip it out. It'll make replacing the shower base easier, if you decide to go with a plastic pan again. I see cracks in the corners and there's a good sized chunk missing. I can't tell how solid the remaining mud is.

The reason the mud sticks out past the drywall next/above it is because that's the normal way to do "mud" work. They used "mud-cap" to finish the ends. (A4200) You could remove the drywall behind the mortar and replace with " concrete backer and therefore the shower is 1" wider too.

If you wanna patch, it can be done if it's still structurally sound, and I mean everywhere. If you say it's solid except..........that's not gonna work well, probably. This is assuming you can replace the base easily.

Lots of variables especially since we don't know your skills.


MetalMan8008 02-09-2016 12:07 PM

Damn, it's never easy when doing this stuff. Alright so now I gotta rip out that mud and bring it down to the studs. By doing it this way though, taking it down to the studs and putting up the backer board and all that, at least the surface will be flush with the rest of the wall then and I don't have to worry about the mud sticking out past the wall and the curved top tiles then, correct?

JazMan 02-09-2016 03:36 PM

Probably. Since the house was built in '64, you probably have drywall and not plaster, right?

Which city are you in? It's never as easy as people first think, there's a bunch or steps to do and most important are the ones that don't show after the tiles are installed, especially a shower.

We'll spring a few things on you that you may not have considered. Like waterproofing. Have you researched how to build a shower much? And, don't assume the studs are all in plane and all you gotta do is screw up concrete board.


gregzoll 02-09-2016 08:23 PM

Metalman8008, thanks for clearing that up on what is on the other side. Not everyone does that when we ask out of curiosity.

That Plaster is like old concrete when it has been there this long. But get it wet and it just crumbles in your hand.

MetalMan8008 02-10-2016 11:34 AM

Yup it's drywall, not plaster. I just tore the rest of the mud down, down to the studs now. The house is in north Warren.

I'll be adding a recessed light above the shower (hopefully, damn beam running right across the center of the ceiling though above the shower, not sure how to center the light now), replacing the vanity, tiling the floor, painting the walls, etc. So I won't be doing much else with the shower at the moment, but I'll check back with you guys if I have any questions as I get into it a little more. Thanks for the help.

gregzoll 02-10-2016 02:01 PM

I would scab in a piece of 2x4, unless you get one that has the brackets that allow you to slide it to center. The other choice is to use a Retro fixture and put it in after the Boards go back up.

I used GP's DenseShield when I tiled my floor. It is a lot easier then working with Cement board. You can get it in 1/2". I would pick up a 2x8 for shims to adjust for any variance in the wall. You would just rip the strips off. Otherwise use Lathe for full length shims.

If you are doing a cent fan. Use a remote motor unit, so that it is not that loud in the shower.

Post the before in the project forum, along with mid to finish. My Bath remodel is buried in my attatchments on my profile. I had to rush to get my shower/tub up and working in 3 days, so it was a cheap surround.

Wife leaned on the wall and her hand went right through, because the Gyprock had water whicking throw from the grout cracking from a bad wall tile job.

Never again am I going to rush a Bath job again. My body paid for it after I got done two days after the tear out.

JazMan 02-10-2016 08:26 PM


Originally Posted by MetalMan
The house is in north Warren.

Oh yea, know it well. We moved to NE corner of Warren on Masonic Blvd. in a new house in '65 when I was still in high school.

What's the plan for tiling the floor? There's a 99.9% chance the floor is on mud too. Are you gonna rip that out or tile over the old tiles.

Feel free to check back when it's time to consider methods and products.


MetalMan8008 02-18-2016 11:53 AM

Ripped the shower down to the studs and have the shower pan out. I was planning on tiling over the old tile but there was a lot of hollow sounding tiles when I tapped them so I ripped up the tile too. The corner next to the shower and in between the toilet , the mudbed there is cracked in two spots. The mudbed itself is in good shape everywhere else but removing the tile near the shower caused a lot of damage to the mudbed (these tiles were attached much more securely here than the rest of the floor) and I don't think it can be repaired. Especially around the toilet flange. Bummer. I don't have pics at the moment as I am at work, but I am pretty sure the answer is going to be to rip the mudbed out.

The subfloor is wood slats. There was a small leak somewhere underneath the shower and there some stains on the slats but it's not rotted from what I can tell. It's solid and you can't push a screw driver into the wood. However, I don't know what the rest of it looks like below the mudbed yet. In the basement below, there's some stains on the wood but none of it is rotted when viewed from underneath.

I REALLY don't want to replace any of the wood slats on subfloor. I would think that if the water didn't rot the wood and compromise it structurally (just stained) then laying 1/2" or 3/4" plywood over the slats then thinset and lay the cement backer board down would be good, right? The current mudbed is 1", so if I do 1/2" plywood and 1/2" backer board I should be pretty close to the same floor height as before.

gregzoll 02-18-2016 02:26 PM

You may be able fo order replacements. There is a company that has a website that you match your tile to their stock, to see if they carry it. Or send samples and they will manufacture how many you need and ship, so you keep it like how you like the floor.

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