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Thread: Strengthening freestanding shower wall

  1. #1

    Default Strengthening freestanding shower wall

    I am framing a shower stall (4 feet by 6 feet) in my new master bathroom that has cathedral ceilings. I don't want the walls to go all the way to the ceiling, so I'm only making them about 7' tall, and I would like to have a 60 inch bypass door in the opening. However, this leads to my problem of making the "freestanding" wall sturdy and rigid. Presently, it's 2x4 construction, as shown in the attached sketch, and the walls in question are 52 inches and about 8 inches, respectively. It hasn't been drywalled/cement boarded/tiled yet, but there is a some play in the wall, and that concerns me, especially considering tile doesn't like movement

    I'm wondering what my options are for adding some sturdiness to the wall. I'm considering running a header over the shower door to tie together the shower door wall, but I'm concerned about the looks of such a beast. The bypass shower door only has a slide-in top track, which doesn't actually fasten the walls together.

    How are these types of walls typically framed to be rigid? I'm not sure if this is considered a "pier" wall, but I'm sure there are showers like this elsewhere, and they have to be made rigid somehow. Note: there is already plumbing for the shower faucet/head in the 52 inch "freestanding" wall, so I'm hoping I can do something to add rigidity without tearing it out. I have room to add another 2x4 wall abutting this one, but if there are other options, please educate me

    Thanks!
    (I hope the attached image is big enough to be legible -- I had to fit it to the site's size requirements. I can e-mail it if anyone would like to help.)
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  2. #2

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    That corner really should be tied into the ceiling via a column or header or something. If it were a half wall, I'd suggest a 4x4 post at the corner, but there's just too much torque on a 7ft wall (IMHO)
    - p
    (important note: I'm not a pro)

  3. #3
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    You might look at some of the Wedi kits...they have more than one that is explicitly designed as a tileable freestanding shower. www.wedi.de The one I particularly like is the spiral...no door, although I suppose you could add one. These are made of thick, high density foam with a special cement coating to stick the tile to. They're completely waterproof and have been in use in Europe for quite awhile. You could buy their panels and wing your own if a kit didn't suit your purposes. Basically, you'd discard the stud walls and build it with their panels instead. They come in various thicknesses, and as noted, some of them are quite curvaceous!! Actually, kind of sexy.
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    Last edited by jadnashua; 06-25-2007 at 06:30 PM.
    Jim DeBruycker
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    Homeowner geniescience's Avatar
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    Default plywood plate.

    both good answers, above.

    Sticking with what you have already built, assuming that drawing is fact and not future, then the little return wall (on the left hand sie of the door) strengthens the 52" wall, and to make it strengthen more, add a piece of plywood in its stud cavity and affix it solidly mostly in the four corners and a bit everywhere; then it acts as a plate, even stronger than a cross.

    Both those two little walls that frame the door seem small enough to be solid all by themselves when they get CBU and tile on them, but to stengthen them more, add a plate of plywood in the stud cavity. That would make two plywood plates in the one on the left.

    david

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    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default wall

    The door header should have enough surface so that you can screw it to the side stiles and anchor the wall in place.

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    Jack of all trades frenchie's Avatar
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    How critical are your dimensions? Easier than fitting ply into stud cavities, and guaranteed to stiffen everything up, would be to sheathe the whole outside of the walls with ply.

  7. #7

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    You might also post this question on Johnbridge.com. Those guys have lots of experience building showers. (Not discounting the great advice here - mine notwithstanding )
    (important note: I'm not a pro)

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    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    For those that only look at the new posts, look back, I added a picture to one of my previous posts...
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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    Homeowner geniescience's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by frenchie
    ... sheathe the whole outside of the walls with ply.
    turn the 2x4 sideways and then sheathe it outside both sides with ply; that 'll be strong and it won't thicken your wall. Only turn the one 2x4 at the end, leave the top and bottom and fit the ply under and over. Anyway, you get the idea, I'm sure, that making it a solid box is the goal, so it resists twisting / torsion, before tiling.

    David

  10. #10

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    Thanks for all the replies! Yes, the walls are already built to the above sketch. (Actually, I made the sketch for this posting after I framed it, but what the hay..)

    The 52" wall is nailed together down to the three base 2x4's. I put this wall in to have something for the rough plumbing, but it stood by itself until now. I just added the short wall to the left the shower door this past weekend, and it is screwed together, so I should be able to reconfigure it with the plywood. I could also add plywood to the outside, as I have plenty of space in the room.

    My question is this: Is this the way these types of walls are made sturdy, in general, or is this just a way to get mine to be "somewhat sturdy", since it's already constructed?

    Thanks again

  11. #11
    Homeowner geniescience's Avatar
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    the strongest way in the world, is a plate on both those open sides, making a box in total when viewed from all sides. Mechanically it is a box girder. See how they are stronger than I beams, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Girder and at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Box_girder_bridge

    Using plywood is good; using a plate of sheet metal would work too, in case you happen to have that lying around instead. Even OSB would work here, since your screws would have real wood underneath to grab into.

    If you cut into one of the plywood sides and make a niche (a hollowed out shelf space in the wall), you'll have a nifty place for shampoo and soap, and you lose nothing in terms of overall strength. Since the wall is thicker now that you have added the plywood, it makes sense to use that depth for a niche. More fun.

    david

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    Jack of all trades frenchie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Georgeoh
    My question is this: Is this the way these types of walls are made sturdy, in general, or is this just a way to get mine to be "somewhat sturdy", since it's already constructed?
    Sheathing in ply's a common trick, yeah. Not just for tile substrates, either: the main reason houses get their outside walls covered in ply or osb is to stiffen the structure so it can withstand sheer forces from wind or eathquakes.

    As Genie said, if you sheathe both sides, it's even stronger; but I assumed you wouldn't want to shrink the shower space...

    I wouldn't use OSB on a shower, even with the best waterproofing, it's just too moisture-sensitive.

    Sheet metal... should work, in theory? I've never seen it used that way before; I'd worry about tearing at the fastener holes, and the fact that it only has good tensile strength, no compressive at all, and not much rigidity of its own...


    Oh - if you do a niche - and it is a really nice touch - make sure you slope the bottom.

  13. #13

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    OK, in order to test this out, I screwed a sheet of 15/32 plywood to the outside of the short 8 1/2" wall, and WOW, what a difference. There is still some movement at the top of the wall when you give it a good whack, but it certainly made the wall more solid. I have plenty of room in the bathroom, so adding the extra thickness isn't a big deal. I think I'm going to add a piece to the long wall, too, just to add some more rigidity. Once the drywall and backer board are on there, I think I should be in good shape.

    Thanks again for all the help! (By the way, I don't have enough room for a cubby hole for shampoo on that wall, but it's a good idea for the long wall in the back of the shower... thanks!)

  14. #14
    Aspiring Old Fart, EE, computer & networking geek Mikey's Avatar
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    I'm building a Kerdi shower (see johnbridge.com) and am using 5/8 gypsum board for the walls, rather than 1/2". That helps some. I also filled in the inside corners by making a narrow plywood shelf along the end walls that cuts over at 45 deg to the short walls holding the door. That will be used to hold planters and knicknacks, so their structural purpose will be disguised.

    Sure wish I had seen the Wedi kits earlier... I'm trying to persuade myself that it's not too late...

  15. #15
    Jack of all trades frenchie's Avatar
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    It's never too late... but FWIW, the tilers I know say the Kerdi's better, because there's no penetrations of the membrane.

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