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DIY Bathroom Remodeling: Phase 2

Prep for Shower Tile

As Seen On
The Bathtub Lip and Roofing Nail Increase the Depth of the Stud Wall

Beautifully tiled bathtubs allow us to take pride in our bathroom.

But this project begins with one very important step:

Examining your tub’s stud walls.

This tutorial will help you determine if your studs need to be shimmed or sistered.

Why is this important for you or your contractor to do?

If your wall isn’t properly shimmed the great looking tiles that cost you a bit of money will end up looking terrible.

I’ll share why Rob (my brother-in-law) and I used wood lath to shim out his bathtub walls.

This is probably the most important step in any bathtub tile installation.

And even if you’re hiring a contractor you’ll want to understand how it should be properly performed.

Bathtubs Lips and Why They Matter

In the last tutorial I shared how we installed an Americast bathtub.

And this involved securing the tub to studs by using roofing nails. Although we also show a different method in another tutorial.

The tub lip sticks out from the stud by about 3/16 of an inch and the nail head increases this depth even more.

The Bathtub Lip and Roofing Nail Increase the Depth of the Stud Wall

If you or your contractor install cement board over the lip/nail head then the tile on the bottom portion of the tub will be crooked in relation to the tile on the back wall.

This provides an unwanted and unprofessional look.

And once the tile is in place the only solution is to tear out the wall that was improperly installed.

This in turn adds aggravation to your bathroom remodel in the form of extra time and money.

I don’t want anyone to deal with this kind of headache and that’s why I’m sharing these tips.

Now, your contractor might advise you to just add the cement board above the bathtub lip/nail.

This is a definite possibility if your tub fits perfectly against all of the studs on the three walls it’s adjacent to.

The Bathtub Needs to be Perfectly Flush with All Three Stud Walls if Shims Are Not Used

If your contractor insists on doing this I would check to make sure the lip of the tub on all 3 sides is flush with every single stud before they install cement board.

 

What’s the Solution?

The solution is very simple and doesn’t take a ton of time.

Rob and I added lath to all the studs in the tub recess.

The lath is about 1/4 of an inch in depth and comes in 8 foot sections.

The cost for a bundle of 8 is roughly $2.99 (Yah, it’s cheaper than a box of Cheerios!)

Lath is the Perfect Shim for Studs in a Bathroom Recess

You can attach the lath to the studs using small 1 inch deck screws or exterior galvanized finishing nails.

I’m a glutton for punishment and decided to use the finishing nails.

Unfortunately we only had 2 1/2 inch nails but it didn’t take long for me to install the lath to the studs.

Use Exterior Deck Screws or Finish Nails to Attach Lath to the Bathtub Studs

You don’t need to use a 2 1/2 inch nail, 1 inch is a good length and even that might be a tad bit too long.

We obviously didn’t install the bathtub yet in these photos.

You can attach the lath to the studs before or after the tub is put in place.

The lath needs to be secured on all vertical studs and horizontal headers.

This will make sure the cement board rests evenly and plumb on the three walls in the bathtub recess.

Lath Needs Attached to All Vertical Studs and Horizontal Headers

So, now you have the wall studs in the bathtub recess bumped out.

And this will allow your new tile to be set properly and look pretty for any visitor to your home.

 

What’s Next

The next step in this great bathroom adventure has to do with picking the correct backer board for your tiles.

I’ll share this info in my next post along with what type of material to choose for the surrounding walls in your bathroom.

If you’re doing a bathroom remodel and want to simplify the process register for the Bathroom Repair Tutor Video Library

We show how to build showers (Schluter, Wedi, Curbless, etc.), install tile, upgrade basement bathrooms, and more.

Plus you’ll get 30 days of support from us during your project – the extra guidance can be invaluable

Register Today

Cheers,

Jeff Patterson

 

 

 

 

39 Comments
  1. Dave says:

    I think you could also bring the cement board flush with the lip (roughly) and then just tile over the lip, putting some thinset on it. tile should hold, right? That’s what I’ll be doing…would there be a serious problem with that?

    1. Dave, I’ve heard of people doing this as well and don’t see any issue with it. Especially if your bathtub lip isn’t that tall, say 1/2 inch or less. If you press the thinset into the void between the cement board and tub, tile over it, then caulk the transition between the tub/tile you should be fine.

      What kind of tile are you using? Are you doing any glass accents? Tiling can be a pain but the reward is the bragging right

      Jeff

  2. Andy says:

    I have a bare brick wall on the opposite side of the faucet. The length from stud to wall is 62.5 inches but the studs are not perfectly flush nor is the wall any tips?

    thanks

    1. Hey Andy,

      Can you send some pictures to me at [email protected]? I’d like to see your situation so that I can give you a good recommendation versus a shot in the dark 🙂

      Thanks friend.

      Jeff

  3. Mae says:

    Hi Jeff, can we get an update on Andy’s situation (crooked walls and studs off)… as I am in the same boat (drywall is up already yet the tub is not flush to the studs – rather, to the drywall itself! yikes)..

    I would love to hear of a solution/how to handle this. Thank you so much.

    1. Hi Mae,

      I’ll reach out to Andy and ask how he handled his situation. Is your problem that the tub lip is not flush with the studs?

      Jeff

  4. Cathie says:

    Hi there.. Can I just use regular finishing nails to temporarily secure the lath strips to the studs? Aren’t the hardie backer screws going to hold them securely in place? Thanks in advance.

    1. Hey Cathie, you can use finishing nails or a brad nailer. The brad nailer would be quicker and you’re totally right that the cement board screws will be holding them in place anyway. Sounds like you’ve got a good project going on. Make sure to keep me posted. And as always, I love seeing before and after pics. So send them to [email protected] along with some tips that you’d like to share 🙂

  5. Cathie says:

    OK one more question.. the lath that you bought seems perfect, the bundle I bought at hd is all messed up looking/uneven/split and there’s some pieces that looked like they had some mold on it.. Where did you get yours?

    1. Cathie says:

      Arrghh.. also, are all the studs supposed to be absolutely even as in no gap whatsever when hold a straight edge across them? I have a few that are about 1/8 pushed back.. Is this OK or too much of a gap? Thanks again for answering.

      1. It’s preferable for the studs to all be even otherwise the tile will have lippage and not look great in some areas. You can fix this by sistering 2x4s to the existing studs, i.e. simply attaching new studs to the old ones such that the new studs are 1/8 inch farther out.

        Attach the new studs to the old ones using 2 1/2 inch or 3 inch decking screws. Having two people for this job would be preferable so that one person could attach the new stud while the other ensures it’s even and plumb.

    2. It was replacement lattice from Lowe’s or HD. It comes in long sections that you can trim down to the appropriate size. You should be able to find it in the lumber section near the actual lattice fencing. Hope this helps and let me know if you have any other questions 😉

      Can’t wait to see your final product.

  6. Mae says:

    Hi Jeff, sorry for the delayed response. Our contractor has completed the job. The issue was that the tub was not installed right to the studs, rather it was installed after the drywall was put in… so it was touching (also however it had some spaces in some areas) up to the drywall. The contractor installed the flange and provided a good seal over it, and all the way up the walls with this glue like waterproof compound (apparently what they use outdoors so nothing will penetrate). We are very happy with the final job considering the original contractor messed it up for us.

    1. Good to hear Mae, bathrooms can be tricky and I’m so sorry that you had a bad contractor the first time around. That just stinks.

      But now you’ve got a wonderful new setup that you’ll love for years to come.

  7. Cathie says:

    Jeff would you happen to have any other pics of the bathroom that has the beige 12×24 tile? We’re using the same size tile and not sure how to tile the short walls(showerhead wall and back of tub wall). Thanks.

    1. Hi Cathie,

      Are you staggering the tiles like in that photo or are they going to be in a stacked configuration?

      Jeff

  8. Cathie says:

    Jeff, may I ask why you didn’t center the larger tiles? For example the bottom row right above the tub (12×24 tile pic) the middle tile is off center and to the right. Can you explain why you did this rather than centering it and having two equal size pieces on each side? Thanks!

    1. I think you’re referring to a different project Cathie. It’s the one where the tile is 12 x 24 and white or off white in color, right?

      I chose to stagger the tiles because I liked the look and it matched the front & back walls of the tub. If I had made two equal cuts for the front/back walls the project wouldn’t have really fit the design I wanted.

      Thanks for your question. It really brings up the options you have when tiling. And it shows that you can use your imagination to create a cool space.

  9. michael says:

    Jeff, what if the front of my tub (the side with the faucets\drain) is 7/8in away from the studs and the other two sides of the tub are flush with the studs. How to I shim the studs at the front of the tub and ensure that the cement board does extent out over the drywall above?

    1. Michael, do you mind sending me a few pictures of the tub so that I can see what you’re dealing with. Send them to [email protected]

  10. Michelle says:

    Hi Jeff

    Can you please share some more pics (or email me)of the tiled shower with the 12X24 tiles. I plan to use the same size tile and would like another example or two to show my contractor.

    Thank you

    1. Thanks Michelle for asking. You might like this tutorial since it has pictures of a 12×24 tiles

      https://www.homerepairtutor.com/how-to-tile-a-shower-wall/

      Although I will say this, the tiles in that tutorial are clay based and any crack or chip is very noticeable. We recommend getting porcelain tiles that are the same color throughout. Hope that helps.

  11. David H. says:

    Hi, Jeff,
    I’m remodeling my bathroom and the tub has a 1/4″ gap between the lip and the wall at the back end. I’m planning to panel the entire wall with an extremely thin panel and then fit a five piece surround as well for a more “finished” look. How should I deal with the 1/4″ gap? Shims?

    1. I’ve used shims David with good success.

      You can also use replacement lattice pieces, the kind used for exterior fences. They work great for this shimming project because they can be tacked to the studs using a brad nailer or roofing nails.

  12. Katherine says:

    Hi,
    I am new to this site, and to every other like it. I have read many of the forums and comments following and have been able to learn a lot from doing so which is greatly appreciated, but I do have a few questions as all the terms and lingo are new to me. reading this particular forum I am wondering if you could tell me what exactly it means to make sure that the “tub is flush with the walls”… I am just about done taking down the walls around my tub, and want to make sure that I prep the area right before putting up the backer board…

    Thank you for any help…

    1. Thanks Katherine for asking. ‘Flush’ simply means that the tub lip should be up against the 2x4s. That way the tub lip can be properly secured to the stud wall. This tutorial is good but we made another one that is a lot better. It has a ton of details and a great step-by-step video.

      Here’s the link to our other Americast tutorial

      https://www.homerepairtutor.com/bathtub-replacement/

  13. Sabrina says:

    Hi Jeff,

    If I attach 1/4″ laths to the studs, when I attach the cement board won’t it jut out 1/4″ instead of aligning flush with the existing drywall? How did you address that in your remodel?
    Thanks!

    1. For this remodel the existing drywall had a 1/8 inch plaster coating over it. So we had to feather the new cement board to the old drywall/plaster using setting type joint compound.

      Not a big deal, just took some extra time. Hope that helps Sabrina.

  14. Tim says:

    Hey Jeff,

    Great read on here. I have a question for you. The studs on the widest part of the wall are flush with the lip but the other 2 walls have studs that are about a quarter of an inch over the lip. This is due to a drain from the laundry room hooked up to the bathroom drain since both rooms are next to each other. When I lay the cement board there will be a gap behind the cement board since the studs go over the lip of those 2 walls. Should I fill that space in between the back of the cement board and lip with silicone? Also since the stud are going over the lips on the 2 walls should I try to go as low as possible when I lay the cement board without the cement board touching the tub?

    1. Actually you’re not in a bad situation Tim.

      I’d use silicone to fill the gap between the studs and tub deck.

      I would try to make the cement board be about 1/4 above the tub deck. Then fill the gap between the cement board and tub with silicone.

      You should be in good shape.

      Keep me posted.

      1. Tim says:

        Ok so far so good. Thanks for the tips! Should I start laying my tile only on the cement board and leave it at the 1/4 inch spacing or can I go smaller on the spacing and basically lay the tile on the cement board with a small portion of the bottom part of the tile being attached to silicone?

  15. Tom says:

    Glad I found your site and post! I have a very similar situation. If some studs are not even with each other, do I make shims of various widths to make up the difference? I was planning on using stainless steel screws and stainless steel washers to secure my tub. I’ve read where some people suggest notching your studs so the part of the tub flange is within the notch even with the studs. It sounds with the latter a person’s shimming is reduced. A good idea?

    I understand too the vapor barrier goes over the flange into the tub side. Since the tub flange isn’t too deep, how is the 4-6 mil plastic secured over the lip?

    Thank you!

  16. Matt says:

    This is a bit off topic but still relevant. Every stud where the tile is going to go is 16″ on center EXCEPT the stud spacing for the plumbing. That for some odd reason has 19 3/4″ between the studs. Should i add a stud to make these 16″ on center? Or is there some other way to do it?

  17. tom says:

    I remove my old tub. I only have 59 1/2 inches stud to stud.will a 60 tub work if i trim down the stud? If so should i trim only the wall with no pipes on it, or cut both.

    1. Depending on your tub you may not have to plane the studs down.

      But if you have to go that route I’d recommend using an electric power planer on the studs with no pipes.

      Chances are pretty good that you’ll only have to plane a small portion of the studs and therefore not ruin the structural integrity of the framing.

      Keep us posted Tom

  18. Pauline Dotte says:

    Thanks so much for all of the detail you go into for installing this tub (we are installing the same thing) and the photos! We were really struggling with the way the lip of the tub was attached to the studs and how the backerboad would fit – I think we can finally move forward with this project!

  19. Sheeley says:

    Is there a picture of how the nail looked after the shim was installed?

    1. The nail for attaching the screw should be depressed under the shim, that is not sitting on the surface of the shim. Hope that helps 😉

  20. Emma says:

    Hey Jeff,
    My studs on the back side of the tub wall have a section that is 21” between the studs. Would I need to add another stud or will it not be a problem?

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