Taos Ski Valley slopeside residences benefit from foam building panels

In November 2018, I contributed a technical feature to TileLetter that covers the many advantages multifunctional foam building panels offer tile setters. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to check it out. In this issue I’ll present applications where foam building panels were used to realize those benefits in a condominium development.

The Blake Residences

The Village of Taos Ski Valley is a year-round resort destination in New Mexico. It was founded in 1955 by a Swiss-German named Ernie Blake, his wife Rhoda, and friends. This group brought a European atmosphere to the historically Native American- and Spanish-influenced area. Taos Ski Valley came under new ownership in 2014, which ushered in a new era of development including new lifts, runs, restaurants, shops, and living spaces. One such example is The Blake Residences, a slopeside six-story building with 24 fully appointed residences including nine penthouse suites with four bathrooms each. Ski valet, heated outdoor pools and hot tubs, fitness center, spa, and other luxury amenities are available.

foam building panels were used on open stud walls while waterproof membrane was applied over existing wallboard

In the shower areas, foam building panels were used on open stud walls while waterproof membrane was applied over existing wallboard.

The builder and the tile contractor

Upfront Construction, founded by President Bob Orner, is the general contractor responsible for interior finishes at The Blake Residences. Zsolt Szilagyi of Homeworks Tile & Natural Stone was contracted to tile all of the bathrooms, laundry rooms, and kitchen backsplashes. Zsolt began work in June 2018 and expects to finish the project in the fall of 2019.


Zsolt chose the Schluter®-KERDI-BOARD foam panels as the primary substrate for the bathroom applications, including the bathtub platforms and showers. In general, this decision was based on the product being very light and easy to work with. For example, he can save time by cutting KERDI-BOARD in the room where he is working, rather needing to go to another area or outside. He finds this process is much faster and requires fewer tools than traditional framing methods. Other benefits are described in the applications’ descriptions below.

Bathtub platforms

Foam panels can be cut to size to create the supports, decking, and apron for the structure, all to the exact dimensions required by the tile setter. Thin-set mortar or adhesive can be used to install the panels, although mortar will provide more adjustability to ensure plumb and level surfaces and square corners.

1-1/2” Kerdi-Board legs supported a 2”-thick platform for the tub deck

1-1/2” Kerdi-Board legs supported a 2”-thick platform for the tub deck. Blocking was installed on the floor between the legs for added strength and stability.

Zsolt used KERDI-BOARD to build the entire platform surrounding the previously installed bathtub. Thin-set mortar was used to install the 1-1/2˝-thick supports and screws were used as temporary anchors while the mortar was still in the plastic state. In fact, Zsolt prefers to complete construction of the entire platform while the thin-set mortar is still in the plastic state. In this way adjustments can be made throughout the process and he is confident that all connections within the structure are solid. He also installed scrap pieces of board as blocking on the floor in-between supports. While not required in general, this practice provided additional strength and stability of the assembly and reduced waste. Zsolt said when using KERDI-BOARD he “doesn’t throw anything out” meaning the product helps him work as efficiently as possible. Two-inch-thick board was installed on the supports and made flat, level, and flush with the surface of the bathtub. 

Waterproofing membrane was wrapped from the wall to the tub deck to create a waterproof splash zone for the tub area.

Benches and tub decks were built to the same height – flush with the top of the tub. Waterproofing membrane was wrapped from the wall to the tub deck to create a waterproof splash zone for the tub area.

Granite slabs were installed leaving a 1/4” reveal on the inside edge of the bathtubs to create the appearance of an undermount tub. This approach produced an application that was both aesthetically pleasing and easy to clean. KERDI-BAND waterproofing strips were installed on the wall above the platform to protect the gypsum board from intermittent water exposure and covered with tile that complements the look and feel of the granite. The entire assembly was integrated with the adjacent shower waterproofing system to provide the most reliable solution and ensure long-term performance. These bathtub platforms are perfect examples of what can be easily achieved when the tile setter has complete control over the substrate and builds it to suit the specific needs of the application.


undermount bathtub

The granite was fabricated to leave a reveal of approximately 1/4” to create the appearance of an undermount bathtub.

The showers were waterproofed using the comprehensive Schluter®-Shower System. For the walls, 1/2″ or 5/8″-thick KERDI-BOARD was fastened to the steel framing, depending on the thickness of the adjacent wall board. For such areas within the shower, KERDI membrane was applied over the gypsum board. All seams and fastener penetrations were sealed with the KERDI-BAND waterproofing strips, and the showerhead and mixing valve were treated with the KERDI-SEAL-PS/-MV seals to complete the wall applications. 

Zsolt appreciates the ability to use the foam board directly over the framing or the membrane over wall board previously installed by the GC. In general, he said, “I really like the flexibility of the system.” The bases were constructed using the prefabricated KERDI-SHOWER tray and KERDI-DRAIN and waterproofed with the KERDI membrane. Similar to the bathtub platforms, custom shower benches and curbs were built using KERDI-BOARD and sealed to the rest of the shower waterproofing system.

A “win-win-win” scenario

Using foam building panels to create substrates for tile can produce excellent results for everyone involved in the project. The end user receives a high-quality installation. The tile setter can earn higher margins while maintaining a fair price in his or her market as a result of being more efficient and productive on each job. And the general contractor gets an efficiently-run project with consistent, reliable results.

Horizontal Drain Outlet Makes Relocating Showers Easier

Relocating a drain for a shower can be extremely challenging and potentially expensive in many remodeling and renovation situations.  Residential environments that present these challenges include slab-on-grade construction, basements, high-rise condominiums, apartments and even many wood frame homes where multiple trades would be required to relocate an existing drain.  Commercially, any building with suspended concrete, post-tension concrete or old, vertical chases can present major challenges as re-coring concrete is a costly operation.  To overcome these challenges Schluter Systems has developed the Schluter®-KERDI-DRAIN-H with a 2” horizontal outlet.

The horizontal outlet allows the drain to be connected to an existing drain pipe and P-trap away from the new drain location.  Connecting to existing plumbing from a new drain location can significantly reduce demolition work, mess, and the cost of the project.  In situations where there is no access to the space below the floor, the horizontal drain outlet can bring an otherwise impossible project into the realm of possibility.

KERDI-DRAIN-H is identical in every way to existing Schluter 2” drains with the exception that the outlet is horizontal instead of vertical.  The drain includes the integrated bonding flange and is part of the complete Schluter shower system for constructing waterproof tiled showers.  It is available in both PVC and ABS.

To facilitate installation of the drain, Schluter has also developed the Schluter®-KERDI-SHOWER-CB compensation board.  Made of lightweight expanded polystyrene, the board is installed on the floor to accommodate the drain body and waste pipe height requirements.  Using the boards is a time and cost-effective alternative to pouring concrete.  The compensation board can be easily cut to size to fit the required space and to fit around the drain and waste pipe.  Multiple boards can be installed to custom fit the specific size and shape of the shower. A Schluter prefabricated shower tray can then be installed on top of the compensation board.

The new drain and compensation board will be available March 1 and are being shown in the Schluter booth at The International Surface Event (TISE) January 23-25 and the International Builders’ Show (IBS) February 19-21.

About Schluter®-Systems
Schluter®-Systems products are specifically designed for the tile industry to ensure that installations maintain integrity and durability. The company’s product line includes over 4,000 items, including tile trims, uncoupling membranes, waterproof building panels, shower systems, and thin-set mortar.  Schluter-Systems is renowned for its state-of-the-art technology with attention to detail for highly functional and visually appealing results.  For more information, visit www.schluter.com.