A Sloping Floor for a Barrier-Free Bath
An old-fashioned mud job and a high-tech membrane team up for a leakproof floor.
Synopsis: Long popular in Europe, bathrooms with curbless showers are more in demand with an aging population, who realize that someday they might need an ADA-compliant bath. Veteran tile installer Tom Meehan walks us through the most challenging aspect of Eurobath construction: the mortar substrate that must be gradually inclined toward the floor drain. An in-depth discussion of waterproof membrane installation and tile layout completes the six-page article.
One aspect of civilization that the Romans got right was the tiled bath. Since then, Europeans have built tiled bathrooms that present no distinction between the shower and the rest of the room. This design’s success depends on lots of tile and a mortar substrate that slopes to a strategically placed floor drain. A lack of thresholds also makes this kind of bathroom perfect for wheelchair access.
On this side of the pond, so called Eurobaths have found their way into the mainstream of American bathroom design, even when accessibility is not a factor. I recently completed such a bathroom for a homeowner who needed an accessible, elegant design.
Reframing the floor around the drain gets you ahead of the game
The key to a successful Eurobath is pitching the floor to a single drain in or near the shower area. The best way to create this pitched floor is with a full mortar bed, also called a mud job. The process is similar to what is done for a shower-stall floor, only now the mud job covers the entire room.
Before taking on a bathroom of this type, I check the existing floor for level. A floor pitched strongly away from the drain is usually enough for me to pass on the job. I also make sure the floor is good and strong without any bounce.
To keep the finished…