How to Build a Walk-in Shower

walk in shower
@luci_d / Twenty20 

The bathroom is a sacred, personal space for most people, which is why bathroom remodel DIY projects are so popular. It is also a very cost-effective way to save both money and space in a small bathroom. You may be surprised just how easy it can be to build a walk-in shower.

Having a pro install the shower may be necessary, so do a little research to make sure that your DIY project is up to code. According to a national survey by HomeAdvisor, the average cost to install a shower professionally is around $3,000! However, the benefits can be huge. Installing a walk-in shower can increase your home’s resale value by as much as 66% of the total you paid to install it.

Find Your Spot

When you are deciding where to put your walk-in shower, consider its position in relation to the rest of the bathroom. Will the shower door have room to open and close without hitting the vanity or toilet? You’ll need about 30 inches for door clearance.

  • Measure and sketch out a detailed floor plan. This will help prevent headaches later.
  • Dry fit your shower pan before you install it for added peace of mind. The shower pan creates a waterproof enclosure so that the water cannot seep into your flooring or get trapped in the walls and baseboards.

Prepare the Space for the Pan

  1. Cut the subfloor, the foundation of the floor in your home, according to the dimensions of the pan; then pry it up.
  2. Make sure that all nails and protrusions in the joists are smooth or removed. You don’t want anything to puncture the shower pan.
  3. Use a level on all the joists, both along and across them. If they are not perfectly level, the pan won’t drain.
  4. Install 2x4 nailers along each joist, dropping them about 3/4-inches lower than the joist top, then place plywood on top of the nailers. This creates a subfloor that is slightly lower than the subfloor that surrounds it, allowing the shower pan to fit in that space.

Cut the Drain

  1. Dry fit the shower pan in the space created by the lower subfloor.
  2. Mark the area where the drain is and trace it directly on the subfloor.
  3. Use a compass to measure 3-1/4 inches out and draw a circle that is 6-1/2 inches diameter. This is the standard shower drain size.

Install Your Shower Pan

  1. Look for a pan that has slope to ensure it drains properly.
  2. Position it over the area where your plumbing will be for the drain and secure it to the floor using a thinset mortar on the subfloor and on the bottom of the pan.
  3. Add sealant to the drain on the pan and the flange, the metal disk that secures the drain to the pipes.
  4. Insert the flange into the drain and put together the drain assembly. In most cases, hand tightening is snug.
  5. Place the shower pan into the space and adjust it so that it is tight against your framing.

Prepare Your Shower for Panels

  1. Install the channels along the edge of the pan and bond with a sealant. The panels will sit in the channels to form the sides of your shower, so they need to be well sealed to prevent water from escaping.
  2. Put a heavy object on the shower pan while it dries. You can use bags of thinset, or other materials if it is heavy enough to push the pan into the thinset.
  3. Let it sit for about 30 minutes.

Install Your Panels

  1. Measure the wall where your shower will be and cut the panels to fit. This is a very precise task, so take your time. You want it to be as close to perfect as possible.
  2. Clean the channels in the shower pan and apply sealant.
  3. Fit the panels into the channels and press, then secure the panels to the stud framing with screws and washers. The first row of screws should be 12 inches above the pan’s edge and they should be 12 inches apart.
    Note: Make sure you use joint sealant between each panel as you install them.
  4. Secure two adjacent panels at once by pinching the washers and screws at the panel seams. If any sealant oozes out from the seams during installation, quickly smooth it out using a putty knife.
  5. Keep screws between one and two inches from the top.

Install Your Shower Ceiling

  1. Use the same panels you used for your shower walls to create your shower ceiling.
  2. Apply the sealant to the panel seams using the same technique you used on the walls,.
  3. Place washers and screws every 6 inches for the shower ceiling.

Make It Waterproof

  1. Apply sealant to all the joints, seams, washers, and screws.
  2. Smooth with a putty knife.

Make It Your Own

Add tiles, fixtures, doors, benches, and your favorite hygiene products. Once you have the shower installed, you can get creative and make it a very personal space.