Shower waterproofing and vapor barriers: Part 5

tile shower waterproofing wrap-up
Wrapping up shower waterproofing. (Image from Google Images)

Part 5: Conclusion

The final post of this series will review the three different methods for waterproofing a residential bathroom shower that have been previously discussed and the whys, or why nots, for each method.

Conventional Shower Construction with Durock cement board and 6 mil plastic
Conventional shower construction using Durock cement board over a plastic vapor barrier. (Image courtesy of Tiger Mountain Tile Inc of Issaquah, WA

Traditional showers

The good:

lowest cost

tried and true


water is allowed to soak into substrate which may lead to mold growth and minerals coming to the surface (efflorescence) through the grout

Liquid surface waterproofing

Hydro Ban tile swimming pool construction
Surface waterproofing is applied over the surface and the tile adheres to it. (Image courtesy of Laticrete International)
The good:

blocks water at the surface, rather than letting it absorb

easy to install


lack of vapor protection

more prone to user error by not getting spots thick enough

Waterproof sheet membranes (and foam board)

Waterproof sheet membranes come in rolls and are applied over the surface for tile waterproof applications. (Image courtesy of Noble Company)
The good:

blocks water at the surface, rather than letting it absorb

excellent vapor protection



sheet overlaps can cause flatness issues

It’s important to remember that all three of these methods are specified by the Tile Council of North America. There’s no right or wrong, it’s up to you to choose the one that works the best for you.

If I had my choice, I would use a sheet membrane on every project. I think it’s the best way of waterproofing a shower. Unfortunately, not every budget allows for it.

Catch the parts of this series here:

Part 1: Waterproofing membranes vs Vapor barriers

Part 2: Conventional Tile Shower Construction and Water Management

Part 3:  Liquid Surface Waterproofing for Tile Shower

Part 4:  Surface waterproof sheet membranes for tile showers

Leave a Reply

2 Comments on "Shower waterproofing and vapor barriers: Part 5"

Notify of

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
2 months 27 days ago

Ok I’ve read your whole piece and now I just want some confirmation about how we are going to proceed. Our home is a Craftsman. All areas of the home have been done very well except the bathroom. Here they scrimped a bit choosing to use sailboats over lathe and a glued on shower surround. We intend to keep the tub but want to use subway tile in the bath area. From your article I have many choices..ultimately if I am going to invest my time and supplies I don’t want to worry about mold etc ruining or making more… Read more »