Sunday, August 19

DIY Shower Building and Pebble Tile

I really hate tile. I think I'd like my next shower to be completely stainless steel sheets. Or outside. Or on a boat. I just don't like tile.

That said, you can only be so adventurous when it comes to a shower. Especially when you're building one yourself. For the first time. And the potential disaster that could come from even a tiny mistake is costly enough to dissuade you from the above-mentioned stainless steel shower wall (not to mention the price tag).

Although the yurt bathhouse was cold in the winters and early mornings, I loved the shower. I loved the light coming through the polycarbonate paneled walls and ceiling, I loved the exposed copper pipe, the custom shower knob, and the fact that the water drained away through the deck boards to our mini grey-water field.

At times I yearned for a bathtub...

The shower building process was completely new to us (just like everything else we've done in the past four years...). Here is roughly how it went.


  With the basics finally tackled, it was time for tile. I was really dreading this step because I hate tile (did I mention that already?). We spent an entire day over the hill, annoying the crap out of salespeople in the tile show rooms. Once they realized all we wanted was to dig around their warehouse for 'overages' and 'mis-orders' they became pretty unhelpful. Finally we hit the jackpot - a full crate of Italian 18" travertine tiles collecting dust in the way back of a warehouse. We pulled out piece after piece, each one completely different from the next. They were covered in fossils and geodes, and made up of layers and layers of who-knows-what kind of rock. This wasn't your ordinary tile. So we stole negotiated a price for what we needed and drove away happy. I mean, pieces of ancient rock that are polished and cut into squares? That's not really tile, right?

The travertine going in.

 So there were the walls. Now the floor. Early on we'd decided to try for the pebble look, but avoiding exorbitant price tags, we opted to make exactly 5 trips down to Smuggler's Cove and come home with backpacks full of beach stone. I spent the next week downstairs, measuring the thickness of each stone with calipers, and epoxying them onto a tile mesh, grading thicker stones around the edge and thinner towards the center drain. This was really a trying project.

My custom pebble sheet.

Another pebble sheet awaiting installation.

The install.

The smallest, most awesome pebbles were individually installed around the drain.

Ultimately, 100% worth it. I LOVE our shower, especially the floor. Every time I step in I am amazed and gratified that every single stone beneath me was picked up by our hands off our local beach, measured, and glued. So much work went into it, but I wouldn't have it any other way... a labor of love and cheapness.

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