Installing Luxury Showers on Airplanes and Private Yachts: Using Light Weight Marble
Every day at the "Yacht Job" I learn so many things about building showers on a boat. There are a good 6-12 men working inside this 65' foot yacht and working conditions are tight - the bathrooms are small and the showers inside the "Heads" even smaller. I think the first shower I prepped had to be the smallest shower I have ever worked in.
All three showers are getting Marble Tile. The marble will be large slabs but the slabs are super thin and light weight.
On the back side of these thin veneer slabs of marble is a heavy duty 1/8" thick piece of aluminium - or some other kind of light weight metal. I'm told that this micro slab (thickness is 3/8" not 3/4") is as strong as full slab but comes with a huge weight savings. The Question I have is how the hell do you cut and install these panels?
I'm heading back to boat on Tuesday and hope to leave with a sample of the stone. My guess would be to back cut the aluminmum with a No-Ferreous Saw Blade on say my skill saw and then top cut the marble with the diamond wet blade. Hmmm - Maybe that should be reversed in hind sight. Best to cut the marble and then the metal.
The crew that will install these panels specialize in light weight construction and have used this type of marble slabs in a few Airplane Projects. Ever since I heard this - I have a strong desire to build a luxury shower on a private plane! How cool would that be?
Better hurry up! I read that you only get five minutes in the shower per guest. I think their are 17 people in total on this planes first class lounge. Still would be fun to shower in the sky!!!
Shower Options for Airplanes
Seems like this round space saving shower is the most popular choice for airplanes with Showers.
How pumped would you be to be able to shower on a plane? I'm still wanting to join the Mile High Club and now I want the option of a shower after..... lol - In my dreams, in my dreams.
This fellow taking in the view. It appears that these showers on the Emirates Planes have a bench as well. Not sure what the vent grill is and why it's inside this shower - perhaps it helps dry the shower after use???
Designing a full bathroom (Head) for a Yacht: Space Planning 101
I snapped this picture of the VIP Head's layout. This will act as the Guest Shower for any visitors to this Yacht. The shower is tiny but is roomy enough for one and includes a clever space saving design for a shower bench. It's hard to tell from the CAD Drawing but there is a tiny bench in this shower. At the foot of the bench I'm installing an ACO Shower Drain and under the pre-slope (2% QuickDrain Fast Pitch) and Waterproofing (Kerdi DS & Ardex 8+9) will be a low voltage heating system.
Lots going on in such a small space.
The shower was designed specifically for an ACO 700mm drain.
Above you can see the Quadro Grate - Electropolished Finish. The primary waterproofing system will be Schluter Systems Kerdi DS and Schluter System's Kerdi Fix. To double down on the approach I will be using some Ardex 8+9 for my seams and to affect the Kerdi DS to the plywood walls. A little outside the box but all my shear testing data supports a premium install.
The fit is perfect. The shower designed perfectly for the ACO drain.
This photo I took from the Hallway looking in. I'll try some Panoramic photos for the next visit but need some practice with this since my hand was not so steady. You can see how they tucked a recessed bench into the back wall of the shower. There is structure that gets in the way of a full height back rest but the space savings is amazing. Right away when you are in there you can raise a leg and place your foot on the bench or sit back and recline in style. Very smart planning - these yacht builders have no doubt grown used to maximising every cubic inch of space.
What I love most about this job is the commute from North Vancouver. The views are amazing!
Pano Shot of the view heading to the Sunshine Coast.
This shot looking back towards Horseshoe Bay.
Ferry ride is only 40 minutes and the commute shorter than any of the drives out to White Rock I've done in the past for these linear shower drain installs.
Preparing Ship Walls for Light Weight Marble Tile: Ardex 8+9 Scratch Coat First
To prepare for the lightweight marble panels I first prepped the walls for an Ardex 8+9 scratch coat. Like any build I do here in Vancouver I first double check the structure and look for any excessive deflection in the current build. I inspected all three showers and found only one tiny area of movement and easily added in a small bit of blocking to correct the trouble spot.
I felt like a little extra blocking was needed under the bench and added this as well.
Checking for penetrations
The next step was to check all the fasteners to make sure nothing was sticking out past the face of the plywood. I found a few screws that needed a couple extra turns and a few screw heads that needed a little grinding to take the points down. Once this was done I cleaned the face of the two showers with a wire cup wheel (I used it without the grinder - by hand) to clean off some paint overspray and to roughen up the wall a little to improve the bond between the Ardex 8+9 and the plywood.
Cleaning walls with cup wheel wire
Once done I vaccumed the shower and gave the walls a light sponge mop. This further cleans the wall and raises the fibers of the wood a hair.
The number one reason for tile failure is "Bond Breakers" - The number one reason for Waterproofing Failure is "Bond Breakers" or perhaps "Rushing Cure Times". The point is you need to be careful how you prep each stage of a shower build. Working on a yacht, a plane, a house boat is no different from a regular condo or house. The walls need to be properly prepared. Water itself can also be a bond breaker if you apply your Kerdi or Ardex 8+9 to early to a wiped down surface. I like to prep these walls in advance, vacuum mop then allow them to dry so there is not standing water or excessive moisture on the surface.
What I did not want to happen when I added the Ardex 8+9 to the walls was for it to make a direct bond where each sheet of plywood met. To protect the corners from a direct bond I used some GreenSkin. I have tested this product for shear and tensile strength and find it to be of very poor quality. It does however allow setting materials to bond to the face quite well. The back side however just fails under weight. This is exactly what I want and even though I feel GreenSkin has no place in a shower build it does however work well as a bond breaker tape for my Ardex 8+9 install.
I need to practice the Pano Shots better but you can see the Greenskin here in the corners.
After I had my bondbreakers installed in the corners the entire shower got a coat of Ardex 8+9. I used the re-inforcing mesh called Ardex SK Mesh for all corners. The trick here is full coverage and getting the product burned or driven into the substrate. I like a brush for this and work the product hard in at least three directions. For the SK Mes h I like using my drywall taping knife (3"-4") since it removes any excess 8+9 through the perferations in the mesh and out the sides.
This is another shower - much larger and much nicer to work in. You can see the Ardex 8+9 (dark brown black looking stuff on walls). This shower will get a 800mm ACO flanged drain (shown standing up to the right of the shower).
Weight Savings - Shower Floors: Yacht and Airplane Design Factors
How much things weight and how strong they are all play roles in a ships design and no doubt that of an airplane. These showers are using a flanged ACO drain which sees more popularity in Europe than it does in North America. To keep the weight down and to maximize Head Room in these showers I will be using the Pre-Slope Fast Pitch Panels from Quick Drain USA.
I stopped selling these Proline Drains about a year ago but still have a small inventory of the panels. I brought some up with me to show the crew and they where thrilled with the fact that the panels are similar in design (somewhat) to the 1" floor sheathing panels and that the use of plastic will ultimately cut down the amount of mortar I need and thus lower the total weight of the shower's design.
Here you can see a section of the Fast Pitch from Quick Drain USA.
As part of my testing or due dilegence I mocked up the shower assembly with heating mats so I can measure the shear and tensile strength of the design. I'm not a fan of the heating elements and need to make sure we are getting a satisfactory bond with the sub floor.
Low Voltage Heating System
Seattle Boat Show: 2014 Indoors Plus AFloat
Hey Terry - the owner of this Yacht will be bringing it down for a Boat Show in Seattle. Some time early in 2014.
I'll let you know when and where it will be travelling. I think it might be a prototype for another 3-4 65'-75' yachts. The boat is getting delivered to the water in January and I'm told that power lines will need to be removed along the way as the boat travels from it's warehouse home currently to open water.
I think this is the Boat Show in Seattle. I might come down with the yacht (in my dreams) or drive down to see the final product. I going to offer to pay for one of the shower drains if they let me stow away in the guest room for the trip to Seattle from Vancouver.... LOL
This is what the boat I'm working on will look like. This is a scale model of what it will look like. I was told the models can coat over $5,00 to make. No wonder it is in a protective box!!!
Light Weight Stone Options for Yachts and Planes.
I'm still trying to find out who makes these various light weight stone panels for plane and yachts - I wish I wrote down the name last week of the supplier. My first keyword search this morning landed me on this page by FABYCOMB. They make stone panels that look like they have a honeycomb center core. This what not what I say last week but the product looks slick.
The ships 1" subfloor has a honeycomb center panel and a floor deflection rating well over L/720. Feels so strong underfoot and the top and bottom sides are nothing more than 1/8 plywood. I would bet these light weight marble panels from Fabycomb are as strong as full slabs.... maybe stronger?
Fabycomb - Light Weight Marble - Photo Source
Fabycomb - Light Weight Marble - Photo Source
Second search found this company called Marble Trend. They show a cross section (below) similar to the sample I saw last week on the boat.
Third Search found another company doing Honeycomb Panels called Trimstone. They appear to be based out of Miami so I doubt these are the guys. The second searc his a Canadian Company and members of the TTMAC - I hope these are the ones we will be working with!
Here is a look at TrimStone's product;
These guys seam to have almost every option in stone.
Flexibility Requirements for Light Weight Marble Panels - Marine Grade
Found another great resource on these light weight panels.
The link above from Stone Panel USA talks about why a light weight engineered panel will outperform a solid slab.
The page also talks about the added fuel savings you get by lowering your total weight of your boat. Also mentions "Fire Load" - there's a term I have not heard before. Once I wrap this job up I think I will reach out to a few more of these suppliers and look closer into the options available for these luxury bathrooms. I would imagine that these light weight panels are also being used in mobile homes, campers and the like.
Funny I have not run across any of these in my day by day work.
Some Reading Links
AIA Course: Light Weight Honeycomb Reinforced Stone Cladding System - 1 AIA HSW CE
I found this AIA Course online researching what types of adhesives that can be used to install these panels. I have found countless examples of mechanical fasteners but not one company listing an acceptable adhesive. Most companies say an adhesive can be used but do not say what one or how to apply. I'll read the course outline above sponsored by Stone Panels and see if any recommendations are listed.
You would have to think that the adhesive would be specific to the type of backer material. Maybe something from 3M for the marine installs.
I'm worried about proper heat transfer from the back side of the stone panel to the top side. I'm wondering how the honeycomb design affects this.
So much to learn with this new project.
Six Hours of research nets no solid answers.....
After six hours of research and posting here on the subject of light weight stone installations I can find no solid answers to my questions. If I had to do this job myself (which I don't) my gut tells me it would be smart to first prep the back of the light weigh panels with strips of kerdi DS about 1/2" wide and then affect them to the aluminium sheets.
Let this set up two days and then set the large light weight panel like it was a tile.
I know Kerdi Fix bites to metal - I have proved this and tested it over and over. So have others. That's a given.
I sent out an email to Dale Kempster from Schluter asking him his opinion on the subject and hope to hear back next week. I do not think many yachts have been built with these light weight panels and I'm all those that have been made where all build different as each crew struggles with an approach they feel is best.
Technical Support: Stone Panels Re: Adhering Light Weight Marble Panels to Kerdi
On Sunday I reached out to Technical Support at Stone Panels and asked a couple questions.
Question 1). How would I attach your wall panelling to a Kerdi Shower?
Question 2). Could I use them on the floors as well?
I was impressed that I got an email back the following day but was less impressed with the content of the email. It appears the process can be done - that it's complicated - and that, I guess I need to order a Light Weight Stone Panel before I'm told how to install it. Here the email I received (below in Blue). I send a reply back asking again how it is done. Yesterday say no response to my second request of info....
Our panels can be attached with adhesive, but the procedure is a bit complicated. You should know that our minimum order is $20,000 unless you wish to buy 4-ft. x 8-ft. inventory panels with limited choice of stone. In that case, cutting to size and fabrication would be done by others.
The price for 4-ft. x 8-ft. inventory panels ranges from $1,000 to more than $2,000 per panel plus $300 crate cost plus shipping.
Don Schroeder, Technical Service
Stone Panels, Inc.
100 South Royal Lane
Coppell, TX 75019
Ph. (800) 328-6275, Ext. 124
(469) 635-5000, Ext. 124
Cell (214) 668-0265
The weight savings for these panels is amazing. Up to 80% stronger and 60% lighter, or is it 60% stronger and 80% lighter. One of the two. I have found a few online install manuals that show these panels going into elevators and the like. One web page was showing the use of double sided tape set with shims and then blobs of construction adhesive. This is of course not what I want to see done with my three showers on this yacht.
The ACO Drain has a lip of roughly 1/2" after the Kerdi DS membrane is installed over the flange with Kerdi Fix.
This drawing shows the Flanged Drain design getting installed with a liquid membrane (not my favourite choice). I wondered if installing strips of Kerdi to the back side of the light weight stone panel first and then setting it to the floor would be a good idea - having never done this before I bounced the idea past Dale. Dale asked me for more info but suggest that this not be the best idea for the floor.
So I'm back to waiting. Waiting for Stone Panel to tell me how or waiting to here from the guys back East.
Yesterday I set two of the three drains (shown above) keeping them 1/8" off of the ships sub floor. To set the two ACO drains I used some rapid setting thin-set from Mapei called Grani Rapid. This is one of my all time favourite setting materials. I'm using it specifically here for it's strength and it's flexibility. Traditional thin-set or dry set thin-set does not offer up the same flexibility as a S2 thin-set which is what Mapei's Grani Rapid is.
Today the low voltage floor heat goes in and the Fast Pitch Honey Comb Pre-slope in all three showers. Should have some time to install the Kerdi DS to the walls, benches, curbs and floors as well.
There appears to be many suppliers of these slabs. Here is a good close up picture of one white and one black Italian Marble. Photo is from Stone Contact.
Photo: Image Source
Credit: Stone Contact
The light weight panels we will be using are different from these shown above. The ones above look more like 3/4" - 1" in thickness where the ones we will be using total only 3/8" total.
Grading your yacht or plane's shower
The low voltage heating pads require that no conductive material be used to built the showers floor. So this would mean no roofing nails. No expanded diamond lath. Things like that.
I'm using up my last quick slope panels in stock for this boat build. Below you can see some close up pictures of the Quick Slope Panels from Quick Drain USA. The drain is of course an ACO flanged version. I set the drain 1/8" above the subfloor to line up perfectly with the feathered edged on the Quick Slope. I had a little trouble with the wire leads popping up so I rigged up some spring boards and blocks to keep things still over night.
Here's a peak at the flooring work so far.
The installation I watched showed these Step Low Voltage Heating Panels getting installed UNDER concrete board. This would be a much safer prep stage than I have shown. These mats are recommended by the maker for a direct under tile installation but I would think this info is shared with us by their marketing team. I find that even Grani Rapid is not sticking to the mats so the only bond I'm getting with the floor is from the gaps in between.
I did test my mock up with this assembly and it help up fine. I measured nearly 80 PSI before the top layer on the Kerdi DS pulled away. That's promising.
You can see at the bottom some shiny boards. These are scraps of plywood that are wrapped with a aluminium foil tape. This tape prevents the thin-set from sticking to the block. The spring boards apply a little pressure to the block and are stopping the wire leads from the low voltage system from popping up. I could have used a fastener but the sparky and builder preferred a non mechanical approach - so I just used thin-set.
I could have hung around for another 40 minutes but had to run home - which involves a ferry ride - so I banged up a few spring boards and booked it home.
Yesterday's Sunrise over the water!!!
I am just loving my morning commute to B.C.'s Sunshine Coast. The views from this Ferry Ride are breath taking....
Using Kerdi DS to prepare for light weight marble panels - Yacht's VIP HEAD
Installed some more of the heating system and installed some Kerdi DS over that. Also tied into the ACO Flanged Drain with the same waterproofing membrane.
The outline strips of plywood on the edges are 3/16" pieces. The total build up for this floor heat and Kerdi DS install was a hair under that. Over this will go the light weight marble panels. The Head's Vanity will go into the side of the hull space and once this is done I think the room will appear larger. It's not often I work on a shower and my feet are out in the hall.