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Can I use wall tile on my shower floor?

Question 

The NTCA Technical Team recommended that this inquirer consult the technical data sheet and the manufacturer of the tile to be sure the wall tile is rated for use on a shower floor. Just because it looks good doesn’t mean it will perform well, especially in a challenging installation. 

I am building a new home and learning things I never knew. One is regarding what tile can be put on a shower floor. I want a shower as in the attached inspiration photo. Apparently, they used a tile that is now discontinued. The new version I like is approved for a shower floor. However, it is expensive and has divots/irregularities. I was hoping for something smoother and in budget.

Most black subway tile is not annotated as for shower floors. However, my sales representative is telling me that it is perfectly fine to use a wall tile on a shower floor. She is recommending a specific glazed ceramic wall tile 3”x12” (black glossy). Is she correct?

ANSWER

Any tile considered for use in any application should have the manufacturer’s approval for intended use. I suggest asking your distributor/salesperson to obtain the technical data sheet (TDS) for the tile you are interested in. The TDS should specifically include information if the tile is acceptable for use on a floor in a wet area (such as a shower floor). If the TDS does not include this information, you can call the manufacturer directly to request this information or select a tile that is specifically rated for use on a shower floor.

Additionally, durability of the tile in this application may or may not be affected by the type of shower pan being specified for this installation and its ability to properly support a soft bodied wall tile.

Another consideration is the pattern and drainage system. If a running bond pattern is used (with a conical pitched floor to a center drain) it would result in lippage and accompanying puddling. A running bond pattern with a linear drain system could help minimize any puddling.

As you have discovered, tile is a complex science and art. One of the most critical installations to construct is a shower. To ensure that you get all of the correct technical information you need for your installation, I strongly encourage you to employ an NTCA member contractor and a CTEF Certified Tile Installer (CTI). These contractors and installers, understand and apply the tile industry’s recognized standards, methods, best practices and follow manufacturer instructions in the installations they construct. NTCA members and CTEF CTI-certified installers have direct unlimited access to the NTCA/CTEF technical team for training and detailed industry standards-based support in every installation they construct.

Please review the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation’s homeowner’s guide to hiring a qualified installer: www.ceramictilefoundation.org/homeowners-guide-to-hiring-qualified-tile-installer

To find an NTCA member contractor in your area: www.tile-assn.com/search/custom.asp?id=2759

To find a CTI installer in your area: www.ceramictilefoundation.org/find-certified-tile-installers

I hope this helps.
– NTCA Technical Team