how to extreme

Build a Wood Shower Surround

Bath, Construction How-To, Remodeling January 5, 2017 Sonia


Wood in the Shower instead of tile. We show you how.

By Mark Clement

I’m not sure where I got the idea, but a wood-paneled shower has been on my man cave to-do list for some time. I mean, why not, right? Every other photo in my Facebook feed seems to be of some timber-rustic-throwback-pallet-inspired this or that. The problem is that we only love the pictures and then we go to the knockdown furniture store and buy whatever we can easily slap together. Not this time; once I got inspired, there was no turning back.

This basement shower started with the concrete curb I poured myself, integrating it with the existing floor slab. You can buy a shower pan, but the essential nature of this shower is a zero-clearance, nothing-with-caulk-to-clean man cave integration of awesomeness. Simply the absence of something that needs cleaning gives me the peace and serenity I hear so much about in home-improvement media (mostly what I call “ohmygod” makeover shows targeted primarily to women). I think that’s an element we overlook in designing for men. It’s not about another bauble or element or color, or even shelf for memorabilia or bigger TV. It’s about the absence of crap; about the individual elements being so well built and proportioned—and useful—they don’t need makeup.

The wood shower began with the concrete curb poured into a form on the basement slab.

The wood shower began with the concrete curb poured into a form on the basement slab.

Anyway, back to the curb. How you do it varies by project because the concrete and shower base is determined by your plumbing. If you’re not breaking the slab like I had to do, you may need to create a step into the shower so you can pitch the floor toward the drain. You may also be able to grind the floor, exposing the aggregate (also creating a metric ton of dust). No matter which way you slice it, the water needs to go somewhere. Drains are preferable.

The curb directs all the shower water away from basement walls and toward the drain.

The curb directs all the shower water away from basement walls and toward the drain.

I formed the shower curb with a slight pitch, so the top of it was tucked under the wall cladding but the bottom is flush with the bottom of the cladding. Functional? Sure. Proportionate: Yup. I gave the concrete a few days to set up before I touched it again.

Framing

Framing is pretty typical. I placed studs in the corners and evenly spaced between the corners (16 in. on-center doesn’t apply here). Since the main showerhead is Kohler’s 12×12, ceiling-mounted ShowerTile, I left room for the plumbing to get up the wall and into the ceiling. For the wall-mounted Kohler hand-shower, there was no need for the blocking typically required for drywall or cement board showers because I could screw right to the wall.

After the shower area is framed with wood studs and insulated, roofing membrane is installed at the corners.

After the shower area is framed with wood studs and insulated, roofing membrane is installed at the corners.

I did have to work around venting from a nearby effluent pump and the electronic control for the showerheads. (Note: Electronic controls offer another slice of heaven, by the way. No waiting for water to heat up and it’s digital; 107-degrees is a nice temp for shower power).

If water penetrates the shower corner, the roofing membrane will protect the wall and divert it back onto the shower floor.

If water penetrates the shower corner, the roofing membrane will protect the wall and divert it back onto the shower floor.

I installed horizontal blocking for sufficient nailing of the wood planks. And, I was extra careful to get everything as plumb as possible so all my corners would be nice and straight along the vertical.

Waterproofing

I always approach “waterproofing” the same way. Namely, there is really no such thing.

Instead, I make sure water that does eventually get in can then find a way out. And even though it’s dry behind the wall (I left the framing open inside a closet so I could monitor this), there is always some calamity that may ensue, like—and I kid you not—my son figuring out that the faucet can spray really, really far. He thinks this is hilarious.

A layer of Dam Proofing Membrane (DPM) covers the roofing membrane and framing.

A layer of Dam Proofing Membrane (DPM) covers the roofing membrane and framing.

So the first thing I did was coat the backs of the Yellow Pine 1×4 T&G beaded boards with one coat of Spar urethane. It’s enough to keep the back from holding moisture.

The DPM creates an air gap that facilitates drainage and ventilation of any water vapor that gets behind the shower panels. Any time you install a sheet product, it's important to get the membrane taught and flat, otherwise lumps and bumps and ripples will chase you around. Washer-head screws work better than drywall screws here.

The DPM creates an air gap that facilitates drainage and ventilation of any water vapor that gets behind the shower panels. Any time you install a sheet product, it’s important to get the membrane taught and flat, otherwise lumps and bumps and ripples will chase you around. Washer-head screws work better than drywall screws here.

Next, I detailed the corners with roofing membrane. Where water gathers is what I’m most concerned about, so water (in the form of liquid or vapor that condenses and becomes liquid) has an exit. I also wrapped the bottom plate to shed descending and ascending water (yes, it can flow uphill).