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Days 258-259: Installing the Shower Base

Monday, 3/28
Brian started at the house around mid-day.  The first goal was to install the shower base so that we could then attach the bathroom wall panels  We called the man who is going to install our tile and asked if he had wanted to do the shower base or if we should have it done ahead of time.  He seemed to indicate it would probably be better if we just did it.

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Caulking nearby seams was the first step.  Brian wasn’t sure how runny the mortar would be.  It turns out the ‘deck mud’ he made was about as runny as garden loam.

On a post-research tour of the hardware stores, Brian purchased 60lbs of Quikcrete Sand/Topping Mix, a 5 gallon bucket, and a drill-powered stir tool.  First off, the drill-powered stir tool only does one thing in this case: fling muddy water out of the bucket.  Complete waste of time and not a recommended purchase for mixing anything thick like ‘deck mud’.  After a tumultuous 30 minute ordeal trying to mix the mortar with a drain spade in the too-small bucket, Brian dumped it onto the shower stall floor, found about 1/5 of it was dry, and mixed the rest by hand on the floor.

Then, after multiple attempts over the course of an hour to get the mortar pile somewhat flat and level, he decided it was not going to work and used the pull saw like a spatula to scoop it all back into the bucket.  For the edges he sucked up the mortar with the shop vac.  The floor under the shower is nearly flat and level, except for two corners which are a little low.  It seems ridiculous to pile in so much mortar material to fix two small areas, but mortar people seemed to think the minimum height for a mortar bed was 3/4″.  Whatever.  We dumped the mortar on a driveway low spot and called it a night.

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Shortly after taking this picture, Brian descended into what can only be described as ‘mortar-madness’.

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Here Brian feverishly attempts to create a flat and level 4′ x 3′ surface by eye and hand.  Hmmm.  (Later he used straight pieces of wood and a level but that didn’t really work either.)

While Brian was toiling away at the house, I was working on more graphic design at the coffee shop.  Brian usually does our graphic design, but with him spending more day hours at the house, I’ve had to learn my own way around Illustrator and Photoshop.  It turns out, that once you go through a few infuriating 5-hour stints of trying to understand a particular tool, the design process actually becomes kind of fun.

Tuesday, 3/29
After further research on and, Brian had a new idea.  Instead of using mortar, he decided to use roofing felt (which we had left over from leveling our subfloor) to raise up the low spots.  It turns out that Terry Love himself has said he ‘finds it impossible” to flatten a mortar bed for a shower base.   Along the way, Brian also realized that the shower drain assembly had to be fully installed before the base is set in place.  After much research he decided to go with an all brass ‘no calk’ [sic] model in order to install from above.  This avoids the nightmare of solvent welding from under the house after removing a bunch of insulation then putting it all back.

Anyhow, after silicone sealing around the drain flange and tightening the hell out of it with channel lock pliers, all he had to do was cut down the shower drain pipe a bit and get ready for the final shower base placement.   The final step was to smear adhesive over the entire floor area with a 1/8″ U-notched trowel and then, as a team, gently set the shower base in place.  We left it over night with (6) 50 lb sandbags on it to force the slightly curve-bottomed shower base to lie dead flat in the noxious goo.

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Locking in slope for the shower drain line so we know how much to cut down the stub out to accommodate the brass drain.

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This is what 1/4″ per foot slope bubble reading looks like on a spirit level, btw. Here, one end of this known-accurate 6′ level is on the floor and the other end on a 1.5″ thick 2×4. 1.5″ divided by 6 is 1/4″.

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Oscillating tool is so useful.

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Test fitting the brass drain and measuring the effect of extra weight. The sandbags overcome a little curvature inherent in the styrofoam bottom of the shower base, so we’ll use them to help set things right when we glue it down.

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Have a good night, shower base.

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