What do you install behind tile in a shower?


When designing a shower, there are several important considerations to ensure its longevity, functionality, and aesthetic appeal. One crucial aspect is determining what to install behind the tile. This hidden layer serves as a protective barrier, preventing water damage, promoting structural integrity, and creating a solid foundation for your shower enclosure.

We will explore the various options available for what to install behind the tile in a shower. Whether planning a bathroom renovation or embarking on a new construction project, understanding the importance of this concealed layer will help you make informed decisions and create a shower that withstands the test of time.

Join us as we dive into shower construction, uncovering the key components that ensure a successful and durable installation. Let's explore the options and best practices for what lies behind the beautiful tile in your shower sanctuary.

Choose the Right Waterproofing Membrane

Choosing the right waterproofing membrane is crucial when installing tile in a shower to prevent water damage and ensure a long-lasting, water-tight enclosure.

Here are some considerations to help you make an informed decision:

Evaluate the membrane's properties

Look for a waterproofing membrane that offers excellent water resistance and durability. It should withstand moisture exposure, prevent water penetration, and resist mold and mildew growth.

Choose a suitable membrane type

Different types of waterproofing membranes are available, including sheet membranes, liquid membranes, and fabric-reinforced membranes. Sheet membranes, such as PVC or CPE membranes, provide a reliable and easy-to-install option. Liquid membranes, like elastomeric or polyurethane coatings, offer versatility and can be applied to various surfaces. Fabric-reinforced membranes combine the benefits of both sheet and liquid membranes, providing added strength and flexibility.

Consider installation requirements

Waterproofing membranes may have specific installation guidelines, so following the manufacturer's instructions is important. Some membranes require priming, while others may need reinforcement in corners, seams, or transitions. Ensure that the installation process fits your skill level, or consult a professional if needed.

Check compatibility with tile adhesives

Verify that the chosen waterproofing membrane is compatible with the type of tile adhesive you plan to use. Some adhesives may have specific requirements for the membrane's surface or require additional priming or preparation steps.

Research warranty and product certifications

Look for waterproofing membranes with warranties, as they assure the product's quality and performance. Additionally, check if the membrane has any relevant certifications, such as meeting industry standards for waterproofing or being approved for use in wet areas.

Seek professional advice if necessary

If you're unsure about the best waterproofing membrane for your shower project, consider consulting a professional, such as a contractor or waterproofing specialist. They can assess your requirements and recommend the most suitable membrane for your shower installation.

Remember, proper installation and attention to detail are essential for achieving an effective waterproofing system in your shower. Choosing the right waterproofing membrane allows you to create a solid foundation that protects your shower walls and ensures a beautiful, long-lasting tile installation.

Select a Quality Backer Board


Selecting a quality backer board is crucial for a successful tile installation in a shower. The backer board serves as a sturdy substrate that supports the tile and provides a stable surface. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a backer board:

  1. Moisture resistance: Look for a backer board for wet areas like showers. Moisture-resistant materials such as cementitious boards or waterproof foam boards are ideal choices. These boards are formulated to withstand prolonged exposure to moisture without deteriorating, preventing water damage to the underlying structure.
  2. Durability: Consider the durability of the backer board. It should be able to withstand the weight of the tile and resist impact, ensuring long-term stability. Backer boards made from cement, fiber cement, or glass-mat gypsum are known for their strength and durability.
  3. Mold and mildew resistance: Choose a backer board that has mold and mildew resistance properties. Showers are prone to moisture buildup, creating an environment conducive to mold growth. Opting for a backer board with built-in resistance to mold and mildew helps maintain a healthier and cleaner shower environment.
  4. Ease of installation: Consider the ease of installation and any specific requirements associated with the backer board. Some boards may require specialized tools or techniques for cutting and fastening. Ensure that the backer board aligns with your skill level and installation capabilities.
  5. Compatibility with tile adhesives: Check if the backer board is compatible with the tile adhesive you plan to use. Some boards may require specific adhesives or primers to ensure proper bonding. Verify the manufacturer's recommendations to ensure a reliable and long-lasting tile installation.
  6. Code compliance: Ensure that the backer board meets the relevant building codes and standards for shower installations. Compliance with these regulations ensures your shower is constructed safely and to the required standards.
  7. Professional advice: If you are unsure about the best backer board for your shower project, consider consulting a professional, such as a contractor or tile installer. They can provide expert advice based on your unique requirements and guide you in selecting the most appropriate backer board for your shower installation.

Choosing a quality backer board can create a solid foundation for your shower tiles, ensuring a durable, water-resistant, and long-lasting installation. Proper selection and installation of the backer board are essential steps in creating a successful and functional shower space.

Pick the Proper Mortar and Grout

Selecting the proper mortar and grout is crucial for a successful tile installation in a shower. The mortar provides a strong bond between the tiles and the substrate, while the grout fills the gaps between the tiles, providing aesthetics and protection. Here are some considerations when choosing mortar and grout for your shower:

Type of mortar

  • Thinset mortar: Thinset mortar is commonly used for shower installations. It is a cement-based adhesive that provides excellent bonding strength and durability. Look for thin-set mortar labeled as suitable for wet areas or high-moisture environments.
  • Epoxy mortar: Epoxy mortar is a more advanced option known for its exceptional water resistance and resistance to stains, chemicals, and mold. It is an excellent choice for showers subjected to heavy use or for areas where moisture control is critical.

Mortar flexibility

  • Consider using a flexible or crack-isolation mortar for areas prone to movement or where there may be some substrate flexing. These mortars can accommodate slight shifts or movements without compromising the tile installation.

Grout type

  • Cement-based grout: Cement-based grouts are the most commonly used for shower installations. They are available in sanded and unsanded varieties. Sanded grout is suitable for wider grout joints, while unsanded grout is used for narrower joints. Both types should be sealed to enhance water resistance and prevent staining.
  • Epoxy grout: Epoxy grout is a highly durable and waterproof option resistant to stains, chemicals, and mold. It is an excellent choice for showers that require exceptional water resistance and easy maintenance. Epoxy grout is available in a wide range of colors and does not require sealing.

Color selection

  • Choose a grout color that complements your tile and desires aesthetic. Light-colored grout may show less discoloration over time, while darker grout can provide a contrasting look. Keep in mind that lighter-colored grouts may require more maintenance to keep them looking clean and free of stains.

Application requirements

  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions for mixing and application of the mortar and grout. Pay attention to the proper water-to-mortar ratio, mixing time, and open time (the time you have to set the tiles before the mortar sets).
  • Ensure the grout is properly mixed and applied, filling the joints completely and evenly. Proper grout application and finishing techniques are essential to achieve a professional and durable result.


  • After fully cured, consider applying a grout sealer to enhance water resistance and prevent staining. Sealing the grout helps protect it from moisture penetration, making it easier to clean and maintain.

Always refer to the manufacturer's guidelines for specific recommendations and instructions for your desired mortar and grout products. Proper selection and installation of mortar and grout are essential to ensure a long-lasting and visually appealing tile installation in your shower.

Include Sealant for Added Protection


Including a sealant as part of your shower tile installation is essential for added protection against moisture, staining, and mold growth. A sealant creates a protective barrier that helps prolong the life of your tile and grout while enhancing your shower's overall aesthetics. Here's why sealant is crucial and how to apply it effectively:

Moisture protection

The primary purpose of a sealant is to create a waterproof barrier. Showers are subjected to constant moisture exposure, and sealing the tile and grout helps prevent water penetration, reducing the risk of damage to underlying materials such as backer boards and subfloors. This protection is especially important in areas like the shower walls, where water splashes and steam are prevalent.

Stain resistance

The sealant acts as a shield against stains caused by soap residue, mineral deposits, or other substances commonly found in a shower environment. Sealing the tile and grout makes it easier to clean and maintain, as the sealant prevents these stains from penetrating and adhering to the surface.

Mold and mildew prevention

Showers are prone to mold and mildew growth due to warm, damp conditions. A properly applied sealant helps inhibit the growth of mold and mildew by creating a moisture-resistant barrier. This not only protects the appearance of your shower but also contributes to a healthier environment.

Longevity and durability

Sealant helps preserve the integrity and appearance of your tile and grout. It minimizes the effects of daily wear and tear, such as cracking, chipping, and discoloration. By sealing the tile and grout, you enhance their durability, ensuring your shower maintains its beauty and functionality for years.

Application process

a. Clean and dry: Before applying the sealant, ensure the tile and grout are clean and completely dry. Remove any dirt, debris, or residues using a suitable cleaner and allow sufficient drying time.
b. Select the appropriate sealant: Choose a sealant specifically designed for tile and grout. There are various options available, such as silicone-based or solvent-based sealants. Consider factors such as the type of tile, grout, and the desired level of sheen or finish.
c. Apply the sealant: Follow the manufacturer's instructions for application. Generally, you can use a brush, roller, or applicator tool to distribute the sealant over the tile and grout surfaces evenly. Work in small sections, ensuring complete coverage. Take care not to leave any excess sealant on the tile surface.
d. Allow curing time: Allow the sealant to dry and cure according to the manufacturer's instructions. This duration may vary depending on the type of sealant used.
e. Test and maintain: After the sealant has cured, conduct a water test to ensure its effectiveness. Sprinkle water on the sealed surfaces and observe if it beads up or is absorbed. Regularly clean and maintain the sealed surfaces using mild cleaners or products recommended by the sealant manufacturer.

Remember, sealants are not permanent and may require reapplication over time, especially in high-moisture areas like showers. Follow the recommended maintenance schedule the sealant manufacturer provides to ensure continued protection and performance.

By including a sealant in your shower tile installation, you add an extra layer of protection that preserves the beauty and durability of your shower. Properly sealed tile and grout enhance your installation's longevity and contribute to a cleaner and more enjoyable showering experience.

What Do You Install Behind Shower Tile In A Shower?

When installing shower tile, it is essential to use the right materials behind the tile to ensure a durable and long-lasting installation. A cement board is popular due to its moisture resistance and ability to withstand high humidity levels. Fiberglass mesh can also prevent tile cracking, but it may not provide the same level of moisture resistance as cement board.

Additionally, incorporating a waterproof membrane is crucial in showers with high humidity. The waterproof membrane acts as a barrier, preventing water from seeping into the wall and causing damage.

Using the appropriate materials behind the shower tile, you can protect the structure, prevent mold and mildew growth, and create a beautiful and functional shower space that will withstand the test of time.