A Comprehensive Guide To Wet Room Tiling

What is a Wet Room?

A wet room is usually referred to as a shower room. However, by definition, these are quite the opposite, with a shower room being a room with a shower cubicle and no bath. A wet room is a room that has been completely waterproofed and does not appear to have a shower tray that you would commonly see in most bathrooms. Instead, underneath the tiles is a recessed shower tray with only a drain cover on display. With regards to the aesthetics, these can vary from one wet room to another, most commonly found is a wet room with the main shower area being separated by a glass panel or enclosed with a complete shower screen solution.

The main benefit of having a wet room is the level access. Because there is no raised shower tray, it allows for a level walk without a step or wheelchair users to be able to go from one room to the wet room without any obstacles.

Wet rooms can be found in many homes, but mainly come from hotels, originally introduced to allow for accessibility. Wet rooms have now become a luxury finish that is heavily desired by homeowners all over the country.

By definition, a wet room is also a completely waterproof room. This involves applying tanking compound to the complete wall and floor area (unless a shower cubicle is installed). The reason these rooms are completely waterproof is because of the water coverage. Some people seeking a wet room will have a central shower head which will disperse water over the whole floor area, so it is incredibly important that all areas are covered in case the tiling or grouting fails.

Like anything, when it comes to a wet room and creating a wet room, there are pros and cons to both.

The pros of building a wet room include:

  • Luxury addition to the home
  • Increases property value (especially if installed on ground floor)
  • Ease of access
  • Very easy to keep clean
  • Can be used by all, regardless of physical abilities
Cons of creating a wet room include:
  • Risk of water damage if not waterproofed correctly
  • More expensive then a conventional shower room
  • Specialist work (a little harder to find the right tradesman)

Now comes the nitty gritty; how to create a wet room!

1. The most important thing to start with is to ensure that all of your wall surfaces are free of previous coverings such as wall tiles, acrylic panels, paint or even wall paper. Once this is removed, you can asses the walls. You want all the walls to be completely smooth, with no adhesive left on them, no lumps or bumps and most importantly no damage. If, upon inspecting the wet room walls, there is old tile adhesive, damage or they are not smooth and flat, then we would highly recommend speaking to a plasterer to skim the walls to ensure a flat and smooth finish.

Some people have said, 'Well if I'm having tiles, why does it matter if there are a few holes?'. Remember, when creating a wet room, the idea is for a waterproof room. So yes, although tiles will create this, it's about planning for the unexpected. If the tiles fail and water gets into that hole, this can cause severe damage.

The reason walls need to be flat and smooth is to get a good finish! It's really important to ensure the walls are flat (from a tilers point of view). A tiler will not be able to provide a perfectly flat and seamless finish if the walls are not perfect to start with!

prepare-wet-room-walls

2. If you are planning on having tiles and you currently have plasterboard, ensure that the tiles you want are under 25kg per m2. Usually this would be ceramic bathroom tiles (our tiles will display this in their specs but feel free to contact us to confirm). If the tiles you like weigh more then this, you would just simply need to overboard the walls with a product called hardi-backer cement board; this will add strength to the walls to allow them to take the weight of the tiles.

3. Plan where all your fittings are going to go. If it is an old bathroom that you are now converting into a wet room, you may want to keep the shower area and toilet area in their existing positions. If this is the case, then not much planning is required. If this is a new wet room, constructed in a room where no previous plumbing has been installed, consider where the recessed tray will go. You don't want this installed over any weight bearing beams, steels or gas pipes.

4. And now comes the floor. This is the most important part of your project and the part (as previous tilers) we used to rectify so much due to previous mistakes. If your floor is wood, be it floor boards, ply, mdf or chipboard, no matter what you are told, do not tile or waterproof this! Wood shrinks and expands with temperature change and humidity. Tiles and tile adhesive (even flexible adhesive) do not allow for this expansion and movement (which is almost guaranteed). Therefore, your new floor tiles will eventually come loose, the grout will eventually crack, and you will be doing this all over again. Please ensure it is over boarded with hards-backer cement board and hardy-backer screws. Others may suggest using Marine grade ply at 18mm thick or even Mitra-Mat. These are products people with tiling experience would never use in this setting!

5. If your floor is concrete, consider where your drainage for the recessed shower tray is going to go as this concrete will need to be dug out. This is typically done with an angle grinder and must create a fall; if it is completely flat or rises, then water will not drain away. Instead, it will back up.

6. When it comes to the floor, once you have established that it is now secure, and then check the levels. If the floor appears un-even, we would strongly advise to level this. This can be done using a product called latex floor levelling compound, this is mixed up as per the instructions on the back, then poured over the floor and rolled using a spike roller (to ensure no trapped air) and then allowed to dry.

Once you have ensured that the walls are flat, smooth and have no damage, and that the floor is prepared (whether wooden or concrete), we would then move on to waterproofing.

Waterpoofing

We are only going to go in to detail of our preferred waterproofing methods as knowledge is power and we have all waterproofed wet rooms previously. We find the best product to use is a liquid based rubber membrane. There are some important factors when installing these and the process that should be done is listed below:

1. Make sure all the surfaces are primed. This means using a mini roller and Acrylic based primer diluted as one part water and one part primer. Using a mini roller, apply it to all the walls and floor of the new wet-room. Leave this to dry (this will probably take up to 1 hour), then apply for a second time to all walls and floor area. Once this is done, your floor and wall surfaces will appear slightly sticky.

*Do not use PVA! Some people recommend it but it's not designed for tiles and tile adhesive.

2. The next thing to do is use joining tape (this is usually supplied in the waterproofing kit). The joining tape should be cut and applied to all the corners and seems of the wood including the floor perimeter, joins in boards on the floor and any recesses you have built in the shower area. The jointing tape should fix to these areas with the stickiness of the acrylic primer.

3. Next is the stick tanking liquid. There is no such thing as enough when it comes to this stuff. This is the main ingredient to a waterproof wet room, and so don't be surprised if you need to do a second coat.

This is best applied with a wide paint brush. Paint the complete floor and wall area (this may seem excessive but it is better safe then sorry). When painting, it is important to ensure you can not see any clean floor or wall space, and that all the jointing tape is still in place (if this comes off just reapply). Allow this to dry for approximately 36 hours in a warm environment. Once returning, check it throughly; if you can see any gaps or if it looks too light, give it a second coat. Again, this will take around 36 hours to completely dry.

Installing the shower tray to create a wet room floor

The next and the most difficult part of the process is to install the concealed shower tray. You can buy these wet room shower trays at your local DIY store online. Appleby's will also be introducing these in the coming months. Typically when you buy these kits, they will come with all the drainage accessories as required.

The concealed shower tray will already contain the angled slope you need to ensure water drains away.

wet-room-shower-tray

If you have/had a wooden floor that is now covered up in hard-backer board, cut out the boards and floor covering to expose a recess for the shower tray to sit (remember the top of the shower tray should be completely flush with the rest of the floor). Once installed, make sure there is enough support underneath to take the weight of the new shower trays and the occupants that will be using this. Then, connect the drainage as per the individual requirements needed.

Once this has been done, ensure that any gaps are properly sealed. This should be done using the same waterproofing method as above to ensure it is completely watertight.

Plumbing

The next step is to do the first fix plumbing. This will include but is not limited to:

  • Checking that the newly installed shower tray is completely water-tight and drains away properly. This is best checked by pouring continuous water straight in to the waste for about 20 minutes to ensure no leaks, or back-ups.
  • Installing the toilet waste pipe; if this is a newly created wet room, then you want to ensure your toilet is going to be positioned against an external wall to allow for drainage.
  • Installing the shower pipework to where you wish the shower and controls to be.

When doing the plumbing work, only do the first fix; this means all the pipework, but you don't want the furniture fitted such as the toilet, shower controls, sink, vanity and shower head as this will make it difficult to tile and affect the overall finish of your new wet room.

Once all the pipework is in place you then want to provide jointing tapes around the pipes (against the wall or floor) and carry out the waterproofing steps above to these areas to ensure no water damage.

Once all this is done, the next part is the exciting part (the aesthetics and the beauty):

Selecting the right tiles for wet room walls

We are going to look at more then just the practicalities in this section as after all, it's what we specialise in and what we do best!

For arguments sake alone, for the wall tiles within a wet room, your choices are "almost unlimited". As long as the tiles are non-porous and can be grouted, you can apply any tiles you find appropriate.

Tiles You Should Exclude From Your choices

Splitface tiles

Splitface tiles are a beautiful product, however, not suitable for wet areas. These are because the stone design of these tiles are designed to give a 3d texture but because of this, and the overlap of the individual splits, there is usually a tiny line which is not possible to grout without ruining the beauty of the tile. However, we do offer plenty of split face"effect" tiles, still offering the same beauty but without the porous features and which can be used in wet areas; If you do have a wet room, and the shower is segregated by a shower screen or cubicle, then splitface tiles can be used in surrounding areas.

Brick Slips

Not entirely true but, if you wish to use brick slips in the wet area of a wet room, these have to be sealed, so they cannot be taken out of the box, stuck on the wall and left! They have to be sealed using a waterproof and stain blocks sealer as the clay can become porous. You don't want leaks or damaged tiles, so for a DIY job, we would advise looking at our brick effect bathroom tiles instead or if it is brick slips you want get a tiler in (even if just to seal the tiles and grout)

What Looks Best

Wet rooms are probably the most interesting rooms to consider when tiling! This is because there is so much to tile and so many different designs to go for. As a very unique tile shop with some of the most diverse and unique tiles, we think its best to experiment and mix and match!

Above is our range of Concrete Effect Tiles mixed together to create a contrast.

If it's a high-end finish you are going for, we recommend tiling the wet room in one style. Based on finish alone, it's probably going to be our marble effect tiles or concrete effect tiles. The reason why we suggest "marble effect" rather tan real marble is because of the amount of water and chemicals. When using marble in the wet room, the tiles need to be sealed regularly, maintained with ph friendly cleaners and loved. Marble has a tendency to react with chemicals and hard water. What this means is your beautiful white carrrara marble may become orange; this is the process of oxidisation which occurs when chemicals mix with the minerals in the stone when not properly sealed. So, a marble effect tile offers all the beauty of marble without all the risks and maintenance. Below are examples of both styles of tile in the bathroom setting:

Some people like to create a feature within their bathroom, so for this you would make one wall a different tile to the other 3 walls; this can be a vast contrast in tile or a subtle mosaic which is part of the same range as the other wall tiles.

Selecting The Right Tiles To Create A Wet Room Floor

As above, personal preference is the most important! So, get a tile that you love and are always going to love the look of. Of course, there are tiles that work better on the floors than others,, and these tend to be smaller tiles such as mosaics. The smaller the tile, the easier it is to follow the slope of that recess shower tray. But, don't let that put you off! Any skilled tiler will be able to make this work with tiles of all sizes so don't feel restricted!

We believe the smaller the wet room, the bigger the tiles! Bigger tiles with fewer grout lines can make the room appear much bigger than what it is, whereas a smaller tile can make the floor look busy.

We would also advise avoiding all Gloss and Polished tiles, these can become incredibly slippery when wet, which can lead to accidents and falls. Stick with a matt tile (which has an anti-slip rating on R9 or above or heading straight in to our Anti-Slip range to see all the suitable tiles.

Selecting The Right Grout And Adhesive

These are the most important factors when creating a wet room, without the correct materials, the tiles will not hold and you will no longer have a wet room!

We recommend using flexible based adhesive for the tiles for both the floors and walls and flexible colour lock grout.

It is also recommended to check the tile that you like and ensure the adhesive you select is suitable for your tiles.

We hope this blog answers all the questions you may have with regards to installing a wet room and should you have any questions, head over to our help pages or get in contact with the team!