How can installing pebble tile flooring be a miserable endeavor?
After all, when you use words like organic, zen, natural, and feng shui to describe the bathroom that you want aren’t pebble tiles always in the scheme somewhere? Well, I have a huge pet peeve when it comes to pebble tiles.
A crash course on installing pebble tile flooring
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Those pesky pebble tile seams
Once grouted you can always see the seams between the sheets.
I can hear it already…
- “But ours are shaped like puzzle pieces so you can’t see the grout lines”. Yes, I know.
- “They told us that they are designed to interlock so the seams will be hidden.” I know.
- “We put a couple of sheets together at the store and it looked good.” Again, I know.
But, I’ll repeat: once grouted you can always see the seams between the sheets. Let me present Exhibit A:
And Exhibit B:
Although some pebble tile installations are more subtle than others it is highly unusual to find a brand in which the pebble tile sheet lines disappear.
So, what can be done about this? Well, there’s an installation “technique” that can make the seams disappear.
The Secret Installation Technique for Pebble Tile Flooring
Keep in mind I use the term “technique” in jest. But, this photo shows the secret to getting the seams to disappear when installing pebble floor tile.
Installing pebble tiles individually!
Consequently, this is where the misery comes in.
In addition to the tediousness of sitting down and pulling off all of the tiles from the sheets (make sure to pull the strings off too) you then have to install those tiles individually.
But I’ll share with you a technique that I and a tile friend of mine came up with. It’s pictured in the photo below:
It’s a mix of full sheets and individual pebbles and it works for most applications. The basic concept is that you don’t interlock the sheets. Rather, you keep them spaced from everything else about 2-4 inches.
Spacing them closer than 2 inches makes it difficult to find pebbles to fill the space. Spacing them too far apart makes for slower work. However, installing them in this manner will make the seams go away.
Grouting Pebble Tile Flooring
As you can imagine these pebble tiles have their own grouting quirks as well. For starters:
For pebble floor tiles you DO NOT want to use single-component “urethane-type grouts.” These include Bostik Dimension, Fusion Pro, and Flexcolor CQ.
Rather you’ll want to use either a standard cement grout or a high-performance cement grout (my preference) like Prism, Permacolor, or Ultracolor. In fact, Custom Building Products recommend their Prism grout specifically for pebble tile flooring.
Please be cautious with the high-performance grouts. They are fast setting and you can get into trouble with the grout setting up too quickly before you’ve had a chance to wash it.
Additionally, epoxy grouts are a good choice for pebbles tiles but you’ll always want to double-check with the particular product that you are looking to purchase.
For epoxy grout, I like Spectralock Pro Premium or Ardex WA and this is one of the few situations that I would recommend the full-size Spectralock unit.
This is basically the definition of an exercise in futility. What do you use for an average tile size? What about an average grout joint size? or depth?
Recently I used 23 sq. ft of black mini pebble tile and used about 85% of a 17lb box of Prism grout. A 17 lb box of Prism is supposed to be the same volume as a 25 lb bag of standard grout. Hopefully, this is helpful.
For grouting pebble tiles the steps are basically the same as a normal flat tile although it’s a good idea to not walk on the pebble tiles until they are grouted if at all possible.
For instance, if you have a pebble tile shower floor you can probably reach everything from outside the shower. Basically, it installs like a normal grouting application although wiping your grout float like a squeegee is much less effective.
You’ll want to be careful of the amount of pressure and force that you use with a grout float also. You won’t be able to remove as much of the grout as you would with a normal flat tile floor.
Because of this, you’ll be constantly ringing your sponge out during the washing step. Probably a good idea to change your wash water frequently.
More Thoughts on Installing Pebble Floor Tiles
Cutting pebble tiles
The good news is that you don’t need a lot of equipment for pebble tile installation.
I usually don’t cut any of the pebbles so there’s no saw to rent or purchase. It’s just a matter of finding the right size and combination of pebbles to fit the space.
I find a 1/4×1/4 inch square notch trowel works for most every pebble tile installation. It’s always case-by-case but I would start with that size and see how it goes.
How much should a shower slope with a pebble tile floor?
When installing pebble tile shower floors, it’s not a bad idea to slope the shower floor more than the minimum. So, normally the rule of thumb for a shower pan slope is 1/4 inch of fall for every foot.
For example: If your shower is required to fall 3/4 inch from the edge to the drain you may decide to just make it 1 inch or even 1.25 inches if you know that you are going to be installing pebble tile on your shower pan floor.
The reason for this is drainage. Because of the odd shapes, water will take longer to drain and may not drain as efficiently as a flatter tile shower floor. This is still a factor with the flatter sliced pebble tile but not as much as the bigger rounded pebbles.
Point load on foam shower pans:
If you are installing a foam shower base, like a Kerdi shower tray or Wedi system, it would be advisable to read the instructions before committing to this tile.
They may have a minimum tile size requirement and if so, the pebbles are not likely to meet the minimum tile size.
Now obviously if it’s a residential shower you won’t be rolling heavy carts through. So you’ll have to use your judgment on whether you want to go ahead with it anyway.
Shower Wateproofing Crash Course
So, get some nice cushy pads to kneel on, mix really small batches of thinset, and get into your patient zen-like frame of mind. Your organic Feng Shui bathroom is taking shape!
Look at the bright side: at least you don’t have to worry about spacers, chalk lines, and difficult cuts.
I use this same technique to install pebble tile for an accent strip
One last thing, when doing some research for this post I found this design blog had some good tips on what kind of pebble tile to select. You may find it helpful (although the background drives me nuts).
Rich Perkins says
My tile supplier suggested using the quartz grout. Why do you say not to?
The tile supplier is giving bad advice. For instance, in the Limitations section of the instructions for Fusion is clearly states “Do not use Fusion Pro with irregularly shaped or spaced tile or stone, such as pebble stones, where joint widths or depths exceed 1/2”.
For Mapei’s Flexcolor, again in the Limitations, says “Do not use with pebble-stone or river-rock tile or mosaics, irregularly shaped tile or stone, or any time the grout joint width or depth equals or exceeds 1/2″
I’ve heard of several grout failures from tile contractors that are related to using these premixed grouts on pebble shower floors and it’s because they didn’t read the instructions.
I don’t know which premixed single component grout product that you are looking at but I can almost guarantee that it’s not ok for pebble tiles.
Question – I’m having river stones/pebbles laid in a threshold, about 3.5 in wide/deep, by the usual space/length of the door threshold. I’m asking the tile installer to remove all the stones needed from the 12 by 12 sheet, and that they must each be placed individually to ensure a tight, compact fit – he is debating that and suggests he can lay it down by cutting a strip 3.5 in wide, to lay down. What is the correct way to lay these stones into a threshold – tile on the bathroom side and carpet on the bedroom side.
Thank you –
It depends on the pebbles, really, but the bottom line is that they need to be installed in a manner that looks appropriate for the product.
The purpose of pulling them off the sheets is to disguise the seams. With that application the seams won’t be an issue.
My inclination would be to leave it up to the installer and make clear what the end product should look like. However they want to get there is up to them.
thanks DIY tile guy – my concern is, in some areas there may be a “half circle” where a stone would have laid, but there is a gap because the stone is ‘cut in half’ by the edging and therefore is not laid – in that instance, shouldn’t the gap be filled with a smaller stone if possible, vs. filling in that half-circle area with grout, and leaving many instances of pockets of grout? The similarity is like your edges of the shower floor, where you place specific pebbles to approximate the gap or space that exists, to avoid having larger, noticeable gaps.
I understand what you are saying and you guys should probably have a conversation about how big of a space is acceptable. Now that I’m thinking about it the installer may be planning on cutting strips to fit into the doorway. If that’s the case you’ll want to talk about that also. Cutting pebbles could mean that the edges will want to sit proud.
It’s a good thing that you are thinking of this because it’s important to talk things over and make sure both sides are expecting the same thing. But my two cents worth is to talk about what it needs to look like not how it should be done.
Based on your post I’m returning the grout recommended by my supplier for a pebble tile shower floor, but my larger concern is now the Kerdi foam pan. I’ve installed it meticulously to Schluter’s specs but you raise a compelling question regarding point load as it pertains to tile size. Research on the issue led me to this extensive thread: https://www.johnbridge.com/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=52673
I’ve spent hours reviewing that debate, since Schluter maintains any tile size is acceptable (not all are convinced of this claim) and am still afraid to proceed with my installation. At this point, the pan, drain base and curb are installed as well as Kerdi membrane with the corner pieces. My question to you is, would you suggest troweling (at a notch of your recommendation) another layer of unmodified thinset OVER the membrane in the pan to potentially increase the point load resistance? I could then install the pebble tile over the additional layer of mortar…
I don’t think adding an additional layer of mortar is a good idea. You will have a layer for the pebbles anyway and I don’t think more mortar equals more strength in that way. As far as the pebbles on a foam pan the best thing is to use your judgement. If Schluter says it’s acceptable and it’s relatively light duty (residential) then probably it would be ok. Bigger flatter pebbles would probably be preferable.
Roger that. Since you recommend 1/4″ x 1/4″ square notch minimum for pebble tile installation, maybe I’ll bump up to 1/2″ x 1/2″ for the added support. Next question is, to modify or not to modify? Schluter of course always demands unmodified mortar, but after speaking to a rep I don’t have their warranty anyway, since the walls are Redgarded over Hardi for glass tile, as opposed to covering with their orange plastic membrane (which I read numerous times isn’t suitable for glass tile). So in your professional opinion, for the foam shower pan lined with Kerdi membrane, which mortar would you endorse for the pebble tile and drain installation?
Also, thank you for providing this free resource, which provides priceless peace of mind to those of us who obsess about getting it right the first time!
I appreciate the comments. If you don’t have a warranty then there’s no reason not to use a good modified mortar for your pebbles. Whatever you have access to that has the A118.4 stamp on it.
One more thing- check the glass instructions (if there are any) to see if it’s ok to go over redgard. Sometimes they don’t like going directly over a waterproofing layer.
I don’t think you’re going to have s good time with a 1/2×1/2. I have a hunch 1/4×1/4 will be ideal.
DIY tile guy – Wish my contractor had read your posts! The newly installed pebble tile shower floor has seams showing just like your exhibit A and B photos. Any remedies?
At this point the only remedy is to remove pebbles along the seams and reinstall.
One thing I should mention is that just because the seams show doesn’t mean that it’s improperly installed. It’s an issue with the product and not the installer.
Good point. It is the product not the installer. Is there a concern about damage to the membrane or any other potential problems with removing pebbles along seams?
Yes the membrane can be damaged. It’s better to remove sooner than later but it’s a risk no matter what.
Bibis Lopez says
I have noticed this separation between sheets, and your technique is amazing. I am installing a pebble floor in the shower this weekend, I was getting nervous, but your post made me confidence :)
Annie MacMurray says
Help? My newly installed tile shower floor was installed improperly. The water will not drain. It pools in the center. The original installer came back, ripped up some tiles and “fixed” it. Wrong. I know there is a rubber liner thing. I saw it. They laid a nice cement like base but the tiles themselves actually sort of lean up hill rather than down toward the drain. You can run your hand over the tile and feel the rise in the wrong direction. I would have to get down on my knees after every shower and squeegee the water to the drain. So. Can I pull up the tiles and install a pebble floor. How thick can the thin set be in order to get the proper slope! Any ANY ideas would be most appreciated. Thank you in advance.
Unfortunately the only way to do it properly is to redo the top layer of the shower pan. The “mud” that’s used for this layer (sand/cement mix) is designed to let water drain through it. Trying to fix things with too much thinset or other types of patches can interfere with the system.
Also when using pebble tile the shower pan should have additional slope to it in my opinion. More like 1/2 inch per foot so that things will drain well.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news and I hope things turn out well with your shower.
Annie MacMurray says
Thank you for responding. I am currently removing the 12×12 tiles on the floor. As carefully as possible. Can I lay a new mud layer directly over the remaining mortar? Or must I remove it too?
If the mud mixture allows water to drain through it, where does it go? Just sits there on the rubber seal thing? I’m confused? Sorry.
It sounds like you currently have 12×12 tiles on your shower floor? It’s hard to know exactly what is happening without photos. However, when you removed the 12×12 tiles there should be a sandy concrete layer below that. Then the liner should be underneath it. The sandy concrete layer is usually 1-2 inches thick. If the 12×12 tiles are stuck directly to a rubber liner with maybe 1/4 inch of mortar between then that probably isn’t good.
What color is the rubber liner?
Thank you that was quite helpful.
Miguel P says
Do you have a recommended epoxy grout that is available at the big box stores (HD carries CUSTOM and Lowe’s carries Mapei). I was going to use Fusion pro until I read this, and am looking for a good epoxy grout. I’ve also read that CUSTOM Prism would work, but then I have to seal it and I’d rather do an epoxy based grout.
Either brands epoxy will work. If you are using it for pebbles then you’ll need a lot of it and it’s hard to estimate. However Custom’s CEG Lite comes in a large container and I’ve used it before and it was ok to work with and seems to work well. Mapei is a good brand and I’m sure their epoxy works well also.
Miguel P says
Thanks! Picked up the CEG-Lite 1 gallon. I’ll read up on coverage, but it’s about 55 sq ft of pebble that it needs to cover. Does that sound about right?
Dennis Rizzi says
I have a similar job I am in the middle of and need some advice. I am doing a glass border a bathroom that runs through the shower. it’s call “symphony bubbles” and consists of round glass and marble tile with small and large gaps. pretty sure I need to use sanded grout because of the large gaps. but I’m pretty sure the sanded grout will scratch the glass tiles. any suggestions.
It really is hard to figure. I usually use one of the online grout calculators on the company’s site and guess at the average tile size/depth/grout joint thickness. Use the one gallon up and buy another if you need it.
I’ve found that sanded grout scratches less things than I would imagine. You might try Mapei’s Ultracolor FA which stands for Fine Aggregate. It’s a little smoother than normal.
I just spent a month tearing up my pebble steam shower floor over a foam base. I made every mistake you mentioned. I let the thinset dry out twice without completely removing it and made it too deep, used fusionpro grout, and didn’t leave gaps between the large squares. My largest problem was several pebbles kept falling even after numerous repairs. I loved the look, and your advice has given me the confidence to try again after the difficult removal of the pebbles and the thinset.
Good! It’s frustrating if you aren’t aware of what to improve. Have a bucket of individual pebbles, make small batches, and something to kneel on. It’s tedious but people that love pebbles really love the pebbles.
Thanks for the feedback.
Soooooo…I had an impossible time finding ANY tile people in my area that I felt a) confident they knew what they were doing, and b) they weren’t meth-heads that were going to scope my place and rob me blind while they had a key. Obviously by your comments and my current issues, I still ended up screwed because my guy used Mapei on my smooth/flat-top river pebble floor (the workmanship on the large subway tiles I used for the shower walls, while not just stellar, is acceptable).
The job cost me a small fortune to begin with. Is there ANYTHING AT ALL I can do or use to FIX this to at least reasonable appearance without tearing out the floor and spending another half-a-small-fortune? I have staining in a lot of the dips between stones, despite my best efforts to keep it clean (and even wore away some of the surface from scrubbing, exposing pieces of netting).
I’m just sick and I am afraid if I hire someone else to tear it out and re-do it, they’ll just screw it up just as badly and honestly, I canNOT afford more mistakes. (I had another local tile guy look at it and he, apparently defending those in his craft or being just plain ignorant, said he didn’t see where the guy did anything wrong). PLEASE…Any suggestions to improve the grout surface and appearance, and what I could try, would be GREATLY appreciated.
I’m not sure what you mean by “my guy used Mapei”. If you mean that he used Mapei Flexcolor CQ grout for the pebbles then you’re right that it really isn’t the right product for that. The only practical way to remove the grout would be to scratch it out I would think. Not an easy task but those kinds of grouts are softer than cement grouts. So there’s that.
To regrout- you could use either an epoxy grout (not very user friendly) or a high performance cement grout such as Mapei Ultracolor. I would recommend a sealer if you go this route.
You could also try calling the Mapei tech line and they may have some tips for removing the grout. Maybe there’s a chemical or something.
A word of caution: Depending on the way the shower was waterproofed you may not be able to remove the grout all the way down. There may be waterproofing immediately below the pebbles. Other times there’s a layer of sand/cement that the pebbles are adhered to and the waterproofing is below that. In that case there’s no reason not to remove all the way.
Dennis Rizzi says
Thank you diy tile guy. I took your advice on looking into the “Mapei’s Ultracolor FA” . worked out great, it is designed for very wet areas. Never needs to be sealed , gaps or joints up to 3/4 inches. And I tested it on a small section of extra tiles that I had leftover to make sure it wouldn’t scratch /damage the mosaics.
Thanks again my MAN!
Izabela w says
Any advice on which grout or apoxy I should use on white standing pebble rock for wall installation?
I find Spectralock to be a decently user friendly epoxy and I like Prism, Ultracolor, and Permacolor for cement grouts.
You’ll go through a lot of grout with pebbles so an epoxy would be quite expensive.
I’m thinking about using the river rock tiling on my kitchen
Table. Do you think that would hold up to heat from hot pans
I think it would hold up fine. You might check with the store you but it from to be sure but pretty much all the pebbles are cement based so it shouldn’t be a problem.
Our newly installed pebble shower floor pools water quite badly. Installer is recommending installing regular tiles over the pebbles. Thoughts?
Pebbles typically should have more slope than normal tiles. But it needs to be determined of something is wrong with the shower floor or if it’s simply slow draining due to uneven pebbles.
I don’t think tiling over pebbles is a good idea.
Ellen Crimmins says
What is the best way to remove stone/pebble tiles? My daughter is contemplating purchasing a house with these tiles throughout the kitchen and hallway. Yep, it’s pretty ugly. Since you’re the expert in installation, I thought you’d know the best way to remove them! They’re not afraid of DIY projects.
Thanks in advance
I think once you get started it’ll be easier as you go. Probably a pry bar or chisel to get going would work fine.
Question for a installed pebble stone floor in a Schluter stand up shower. Used top of the line grout mixed with grout once an additional sealer applied several times. There are hair line cracks here or there in different spots. Is this a major problem and is there a good fix for it?
There’s a lot of things that can cause cracks in grout. If top of the line grout means epoxy then that’s good. If it’s a urethane then that’s not good (for pebble floors). It sounds like it might be a cement grout which is usually fine but it depends on which one and which kind (hopefully not unsanded).
One thing to note: Pebbles aren’t supposed to be used over foam shower pans. The reason being that the pebbles are under the size requirement which is usually 2-inches. What this can do is cause too much pressure to be concentrated in too small of a spot. The term for this is “point load”. If you used a foam Kerdi pan then this could be what the cause is. A lot of times people will push the limits with lighter-duty residential showers and usually don’t have an issue.
So while it’s difficult to diagnose your cracked grout over the internet it’s possible it could be the wrong grout (for pebbles) or a foam Schluter shower pan.
Excellent post about how to do pebble floors correctly. I was originally searching about the type of grout, but found a confirmation of the supposed “they interlock”, “the seams looked fine at the store” and all the while I sat in the bathroom scratching my head seeing every line knowing that placing them individually is way better than the “interlocking feature”….
what do you do when one pebble falls out! I need to put it back in place how do you go about that? what procedure what glue , do I need to re grout and re seal the entire floor?
If it’s one pebble then you might try to clean the area out and just install the pebbles with the grout itself.
If that doesn’t work then you can reinstall it with thinset and then fill in the grout around it.
Alicia Nelson says
Just moved into a house and hate the shower floor. We cant stand on it because it is so rough. I also cant get it clean. Any suggestions. Renting so cant pull it out and landlord says just use a mat but that seems to be causing mold. The floor is more of a spray in type of stone. Very small pieces.
The only thing I can think of would be some sort of mat that has holes in it for air and drainage.
Maybe some of the other readers will weigh in with a suggestion?
Use a mat, but when done showering always remove the mat and hang it up somewhere. I had to do this with a bathtub mat that wanted to get moldy underneath.
Tara Salamone says
hi, I’m soo glad I found this site. thank you for keeping it up to date and assisting us “DIY’ers as well! I purchased 4 of these: https://www.lowes.com/pd/Style-Selections-River-Rock-Multicolor-Flat-Polished-Pebble-Mosaic-Wall-Tile-Common-13-in-x-13-in-Actual-12-in-x-12-in/4761507 to wrap around a fireplace. I had them cut I half to have 6″ width around. I really didnt want it any wider – but I’m not sure if I should leave this cut/clean edge against the fireplace edge or remove these and fill in with small stones to make it look more natural. I can see pros for each. Thank you so much!
I certainly wouldn’t leave a cut edge on the exposed corner. If it’s up against a wall on the inside corner then that works be fine.
Thank you for having a site like this to help everyone out. You offer some great advise. I thought I would share a technique I came up with while doing my kitchen backsplash. Going to save my knees when I use it again on my shower floor. Started with ripping the pebbles off the mesh. Knowing my overall dimensions, I started by sitting comfortably at the kitchen counter & arranged the pebbles in visually appealing manner. When I had a good portion done, I laid out clear contact paper on top of the pebbles. Once this was done, with a marker I outlined between the pebbles approx. a 6” square & numbered them, then with an x-acto I cut them out leaving the contact paper intact to hold the pebbles. It made the job a breeze.
Now for my question: I have a regular mudset shower pan, modified or unmodified thinset? Best [non epoxy] grout? Thank you
Excellent tip! I hope others will read this!
I prefer modified thinset but unmodified is usually ok also. Best non epoxy grout is a high performance cement grout: Prism, Permacolor, Ultracolor are three names but definitely not the only three. If you go with a different brand then look for grout that is ok from 1/16 inch to 1/2 inch or more. That’s a clue that you have the right type of grout.
Thanks again for the great tip.
We installed river stone sheets and it looks horrid. This was last night should I tear it up quickly will I be able to use the torn up sheets or buy new???
Probably sooner is better than later. I don’t think you’ll be able to reuse the sheets but you may be able to reuse the individual pebbles. The bigger thing will be getting the surface scraped down flat and smooth and that’s why removing sooner is better than later.
Thank you so much for sharing your experience!
I’m buying the pebbles and grout (for my shower floor) tomorrow so I read it just in time. The sales person advised to lay the pebbles, seal them, grout them, and then seal again. Do you agree? What sealer do you recommend?
Also, if I get the Custom Prism grout – is that mold and stain proof like NeverSeal Urethane grout?
I really, really don’t want to have to scrub the shower floor constantly…
Thanks so much if you find the time to answer.
It’s fine to seal them that way if you want. I prefer to apply the sealer after grout but sometimes it’s necessary to seal prior to grouting.
As far as a sealer recommendation, it really depends on what you have a access to. There’s a million different sealer and you get what you pay for. Look for one that isn’t water based and protects against oil stains.
The only way to get a stain proof grout with pebbled is to use an epoxy grout. For cement grout Prism if a good choice. It should be sealed. If you have access to Custom Building Products (makers of Prism) look for a sealer called UltraSolv. It’s from Aquamix which is also part of the Custom Building Products family.
Thanks so much!
If the pebble has left a perfect fit pocket in the grout, use polyurethane glue (Gorilla Glue) to seat the pebble back in its pocket. Excess glue that seeps around the stone after hardening can be easily snapped off.
Lori Gonzalez says
I know this is an older post, but it is the most informative that I’ve come across.
I hope you can help.
I did a cheapo diy from Pinterest, using individual pebbles over my existing shower floor. Thinset, a crapton of grout, and several layers of seal have been applied. Although I spent days sifting through pebbles, many are sitting uncomfortably high. So much so, that my husband is showering in our guest bath. He hates it. Although it looks good, I think I need to remove it to save his sanity lol. Any advice for removal?
If you’re waterproofing is immediately below the pebbles then you’ll have to be extremely careful and I would recommend doing another flood test to make sure nothing was punctured.
If you see over drypack (concrete) then just do the best that you can. There’s not a lot of technology that will help. Screwdrivers, chisels, and scrapers are still the best tools.
Lori Gonzalez says
Thanks so much for your response.
Have you thought about pouring a self leveler on top of the pebbles? It would save your waterproofer. Then just tile over that.
Thank you so much for the information! You have me seriously rethinking the installation process of a pebble floor in my shower. We are getting ready to gut the bathroom and start from scratch and I was going to use a tile ready shower base for ease of time and solid base. We are not professionals but have laid our share of tile throughout our house and the walls in the guest bathroom. Just never a shower floor. Sounds like I’d be better off pouring my own base to increase the pitch for drainage. Since that is foreign to me, any sound advice for prepping a base from scratch to accommodate pebble tile? I originally came to this post to read about smooth vs. rounded pebbles to see what is best for the shower floor too. I am worried the natural rounded pebbles will be too funky to stand on while showering and the smoother surface would be better. Hoping the tile store I will visit will have displays of both I can stand on but if you have an opinion on the tile I’m all ears as well! So much to research before we install!!!
Look into the Goof Proof system for installing a mud pan shower base. They have some products for getting the slope flat and consistent.
As far as pebbles, it’s just personal preference. People that like pebbles tend to like the unevenness of them. But definitely check them out and look at pictures of grouted pebbles. The grout changes the appearance of them quite a bit.
Mike H says
I’m doing my first shower and have a simple question,
Using subway tile on the walls and rounded pebbles on the floor, do I install the wall tile or pebbles first?
My thought was floor first so wall water cannot end up under the floor tiles?
Also, I’ve installed a high density foam base from “Simple shower solutions” with a 1/4″ pre slope. Is there anything I can put on top to increase the slope and will I have three same point load concerns as Kerdi?
If you have a foam shower base then I would just leave it as is and tile over it. The slope isn’t ideal but it still slopes and it’s consistent.
And, yes, the point load issues are still the same. I’m not saying that this will be a problem but it’s at least nice to know the potential pitfalls ahead of time. With a residential shower the likelihood of point load problems are reduced from a more heavy duty environment but they still exist.
As far as walls or floors first, it’s technically doesn’t matter which is done first as long as that corner is caulked. With that being said, the caulking of the corner is awkward with the varying size of joint.
So one way to do it is to install the floor first, then install the walls, and scribe the bottom row around the pebbles a little bit. That way you keep the caulk joint consistent in size. You don’t have to scribe and you could just caulk the uneven gap but it looks a little uglier.
Some installers will install the walls first then the pebbles and just grout the entire shower pan to the walls and not caulk. It does look ok doing it this way but it’s not technically proper.
Mike H says
Thank you for the reply and advice.
I learned a lot from this thread especially the tip on eliminating the pattern lines. I’ve noticed them in many images doing my research. I’m sure glad I found this info just as I’m about to start.
I have a pebble floor in my master bath shower. The whole bathroom has the Schuler orange grid thing with heated floors… including the shower floor. I hate the pebbles and cleaning the grout constantly. We run the fan consistently while taking shower, and the home is maintained at 45% humidity. There is always mildew growing a bit between some areas and in the corners. Because of the heated floors, I was told it would be very difficult to tear it out and replace with tiles. What are your thoughts about tiling over the pebbles ? Any recommendations ?
Tiling over the pebbles can be done and it’s probably the best course of action because of the heat and waterproofing in the shower. It will be a challenge because the current floor will have to be flattened and smoothed out prior to installing another type of tile over the top.
As far as which particular products and steps to proceed with, I don’t know that I would be comfortable creating a plan of action over the internet. I think your best bet would be to hire someone qualified and/or get a plan of action from one thinset manufacturer that will tell you which of their products to use for each step.
If you hire someone to do this, I would require that they consult a manufacturer that they like to deal with and have a written plan to proceed. There should also be a way to extend the drain higher but it will depend on the manufacturer of the drain.
Sorry I don’t have a better answer but doing the above will make sure that it’s done right.
I had a resin pebble tile installed in my master bath shower floor 3 months ago. The thin set is pretty deep between the pebbles so the grout is thin and has since eroded away. The thin set in one small area has softened up and left a hole. I don’t know if the type of grout used is the problem or the thickness of it. Tech power grout was the grout.
I don’t know a lot about Power Grout but I would think it would be ok for a pebble shower floor. I’m not sure what’s going on with your shower floor though. It might be a case of too much thinset between the pebbles and it not getting cleaned out prior to grouting.
It might be a case of simply not having enough room to get enough grout in.
I just spoke with a Schulter Customer Service rep and he told me that if you are using the Kerdi shower tray and membrane, it is OK to use pebble tile. Their website states “There is no minimum tile format in general. However, if mosaic tiles will be used and exposed to heavy loads a mortar base is recommended”
The rep said that these “heavy loads” are more for wheel chairs and that normal shower use will not be problem.
Thanks for the update. I hadn’t heard this but things are always evolving.
I need help! I just installed river rock pebble tile on my shower floor..over the existing tile. I was told by a local “expert” this was no problem. I used the thinset, let it sit for 24hrs, grouted and let it sit for 7 days. Looked great and had no issues for 2 weeks while using. Then the grout started cracking at an alarming rate and rock just came loose, then the entire sheet. the thinset was wet and the mesh backing was just mush. What should I do now? Do I need to rip up the old tile and start over? what type of thinset and grout should I use? Please help!
Not sure what thinset you used but I’d want to use one of the more expensive ones for that application.
Also, existing tile needs to be clean and existing sealers removed. You may have to grind the surface of the tile or put on a bond promoting primer like Eco Prim Grip.
Finally, if you used a nonsanded grout or a single component grout, like Fusion for example, you’re going to have problems.
Don’t know if any of that stuff applies to your situation. With more information I may be able to help further.
Thanks for your response. I used custom building product, simple set premix thinset. I did grind down the existing tile & used sanded grout. Im thinking I can use the eco prim grip and then a better thinset? Should I use an epoxy instead?
The “thinset” that you used is a problem. I put it in quotes because it’s not real thinset mortar.
If you’re going tile-over-tile in a heavy wet that like that I recommend Custom MegaLite. Get ready for sticker shock but it grabs and it works.
Available through Home Dept.
I’ll try it out! Thank you!
Hey tile guy. I’ve had trouble figuring out a few things with my bath renovation and hoped you could help. I will be setting “skipper” (rounded, 3″-4″ wide x 1″ thick) stones on sloped, deck mud shower pan, over redgard, and would appreciate any advice on best approach. Stone prep, setting, grouting, etc.
If redgarding onto a PVC Oatey adjustable clamp style drain ring, is there anything I should do to prep the drain ring? Scuff, scarify, acetone, etc? Will fiber mesh onto plate. Originally installed drain to use with a PVC liner but had to switch to redgard because of poor seaming at corners, so redgard won’t be under drain, only over.
Also, curious about the area where cement board meets drywall. Is it best to just thinset tiles on to drywall same as on cement board, or should something different be done? Using 4 x 12 tiles and I expect a single row to extend above the top seam.
Yes, I would definitely scuff and make sure the drain is clean. I like the fabric and the drain and would also add it to the corners.
Hopefully, you are connecting Redgard to the bottom of the drain and not just the center adjustable part.
It’s ok to adhere tile directly to drywall as you mentioned.
Yes. Redgard will be going over the top of the bottom flange, which is already secured to the floor. I”ve seen where it’s been “sandwiched” under and over the bottom flange and just wanted to be sure a top coat is adequate.
Thought’s on the 3″-4″ stones for shower floor mentioned above? Thanks for the insight.
3-4 inch stones should be fine. If they were tiles you could get some conforming issues if it’s a small shower but stones should have enough forgiveness that they will work fine.
Thanks for the reply, but my inquiry was for advice in what to use to set them to the redgard floor (modified thinset?), what if any preparation to the stones be done prior to ensure a good adhesion, best suggested grout (a local contractor mentioned an unsanded “poly” grout due to its flexibility and less likely to crack), and a sealant suggestion for keeping the “wet look.” I’ve searched for weeks and can not find anything that seems informative enough for the best route to take. Sorry for the continued posts. Thanks again. Your site is an invaluable resource.
Starting a new thread because the comment margin became too thin to read. Please reply here rather than above.
Thanks for the replies, but my inquiry was for advice in what to use to set the stones to the redgard floor (modified thinset?), what if any preparation to the stones need be done prior to ensure good adhesion, best suggested for grout type (a local contractor mentioned unsanded “poly” grout due to its flexibility and less likely to crack), and a sealant suggestion for keeping the “wet look.” I’ve searched for weeks and can not find anything that seems informative enough for the best route to take. Sorry for the continued posts. Thanks again. Your site is an invaluable resource.
Yes, modified thinset if what you want to set them. Versabond would be a bare minimum and I’d rather see you get better than that. I believe Home Dept carries either Versabond flex or Flexbond.
Whatever you do, don’t use unsanded grout. That and Fusion Pro would be the worst choices that you could make for pebble tile on a shower floor.
Prism if a good choice but will have to be ordered in to Home Depot. Epoxy grout is another good choice but can be more difficult to install. Regular sanded grout will work too.
They make wet look sealers- Miracle (blue bottle) has one called seal & enhance, I think. Also you should be able to find something in the Aqua mix line which is carried at Home Depot.
Nothing needs to be done to the stones in preparation to install unless the instructions on the stone call for it. I usually pull them off of the sheets and install them individually so you don’t see the sheet lines but that’s a personal choice.
No need to apologise for the questions. That’s what this blog is for and I appreciate that you are willing to participate. Good luck on this project!
Sorry. I didn’t see this until after I already answered the other question. Anyway, my reply if below.
Margin is so far shifted that I can’t click reply there so…
Not tile. They are individual, uncut, unpolished river rock stones gathered from a landscaping supply company. Round edged, oval shaped, 3″-4″ wide, 1″-1 1/2″ thick. Best HD/Lowe’s grout suggestion for those and I think I’m set. Thanks again for the other tips.
Ok. Now I understand. What concerns me is the thickness of the stones. 1.5 inches might be thicker than what some of the grouts recommend.
You might be better off calling the tech line of whichever company’s products that you have access to and tell them what you have and have them specify which product to use.
You may even be better off using masonry cement or sand/cement mix.
1.5 inches is being the limits of some grouts.
Lori Thompson says
Hi diy tile guy,
Boy, I wish you were working this job! We’re tiling our shower and using flat pebble tile on floor and up center, including niche, of one wall. The installers failed to apply any sealer to the surface of the stones. Then grouted. What to do? What to do? Any help would be appreciated.
Lori Thompson says
Also, they used Polyblend sanded grout. Is that OK? If not, what type do you recommend?
Hi Lori, I’m not sure what the problem that you are having is? If they left too much grout haze on the surface then that can be cleaned off with a grout cleaner and elbow grease. Otherwise, please let me know a little more about the issue.
Joey mcbryant says
You dont mention tec power grout is it acceptable with the peebles?
Tec Power Grout says that it works for grout joints up to 1/2 inch, so it should be OK for pebble tiles.
Hello, DIY Tile Guy,
Thanks for sharing your expertise!
I am about to have a sliced pebble backsplash installed in my kitchen.
I got the net sheets and, trying to be helpful, I pre-sealed the tops AND SIDES of all the stones, using
Superior premium gold water-based sealer. Now I have two concerns:
– Will my sealing the sides of all stones prevent the grout from adhering to them securely?
Current spacing between stones on net sheets varies considerably. In some sections it is very tight, just a hair between stones, while other spacing is more like 1/4″ or up to 1.2″
The grout I am using is Superior Pro Grout Excel
Is there anything I can do to make sure that grout will work well?
Do I have to remove stones from net and set them individually to make grout work effectively?
Can I leave any sections on net ?
Is grout more likely to crack or release stones now that sides have been sealed?
– Many of the stones seem large (over 1.5″) and I’m concerned that the weight of the backsplash will be too much for my drywall to support.
What do think? If yes, how do I address the situation?
Thanks in advance for your advice…I’m feeling pretty panicked…
The weight of the stones shouldn’t be an issue. Typically, weight per sq. inch would need to be really heavy to have to worry about it pulling the wall out.
For the grout, I would say to just make sure the grout is capable of joints as big as 1/2 inch or more. Then just do the best that you can with getting grout into all the joints. It doesn’t make any sense to switch from non-sanded to sanded and having the pebbles too tight in spots is probably not a big deal for pebble tile.
Usually, installing pebble tile still mounted on the sheets is fine. However, thinset needs to get through the mesh backing so if you see a heavy glue or epoxy coating over the entire back then the sheet mounts probably won’t work.
My preferred method is to install the sheets about 2 inches apart and then fill in the space with individual pebbles.
Pre-sealing the pebbles is probably a good idea and it would be very difficult to apply sealer only to the tops and not the sides. So I would think that you probably will be fine and using a water-based sealer, as opposed to a solvent base, is in your favor.
I would think that you’ll want a sealer that protects against oil stains for the final sealing coat (after grout).
These are all good questions.
Thank you so much! Phew! I feel very relieved.
Your generous help is very appreciated.
Hey Tile Guy! I bought a house about three years ago with a recently renovated pebble floored master shower with 4″ x 4″ tiled walls. The shower has about a two foot knee wall for glass shower wall and bench seating on the side. I have two problems that have begun recently. One of the problems is that the little larger than 1/8″ horizontal grouted joint at the top of the knee wall where the tile turns from vertical to flat has begun to crack and grout has started falling out. The second issue is that the grouted pebble floor has started to wear away exposing some mesh below. The wearing seems to be in the common areas where the shower stream mostly hits the floor leaving a slight depression.
I know the grouted mix is sanded just based on some sand residue observed in corner of shower and in drain when cleaned. I am guessing both issues are that the contractor who did the work for the previous owner didn’t seal properly?. Is this the common culprit for such issues?
I plan on cleaning out tile joints that are cracked and regrouting with similar grout. Guess I can just reseal after I finish and this will solve my joint issue. Are there grout and sealer products you recommend for that?
In regards to the shower floor…is it as easy as removing some grout between pebbles and regrouting and resealing? Do i even have to remove any grout or can i just grout over top of whats there and reseal? Did not know if there is a minimum grout thickness required before it just debonds later. Also looking for approved products.
Thanks for the help in advance!!
I can’t definitively diagnose this over the internet but the possibilities range from minor cosmetic/maintenance fixes to serious problems.
Sometimes cracked grout is just cracked. There might have been a little movement or settling and the grout joint cracked. Another possibility is the grout is weaker than normal which is generally caused by improper mixing.
But sometimes the cracked grout on the half wall under the glass is cracking because the wood framing in the wall is swelling. It is swelling because it wasn’t waterproofed properly and moisture is getting in.
So the best that I can tell you is to regrout it and keep an eye on it for continued expansion and cracking. Also, keep on the watch for more cracks. Typical areas that are prone to problems if not waterproofed properly are the bench and the curb.
In regards to pebble tiles this, again, could be a weak grout issue. If the grout is a urethane (or another single-component grout) then that would likely explain the issue. Probably the best way to tell is to see if the grout turns dark when it gets wet. If this happens then it is a cementitious grout. If it doesn’t then it’s likely a urethane-type grout and should be replaced.
Urethane + pebble tile + shower floors don’t mix.
If you replace the grout with a cement grout then you want a minimum of 1/8 inch of depth for a regrout. Additionally, grout sealer is a good option and one that I would recommend but it is not a waterproofing and it is not a water management solution. Sealer should be used to help maintain the cosmetic appearance but don’t rely on it as a waterproofing component.
Thanks a bunch for the info. I’ll regrout and recheck the joints later. Pretty sure it is cementious and product of poor mixing which just causes maintenance headaches until I’ve got most of the problem areas redone. As everybody else has said thanks so much for your time and explaining everything thoroughly! I stumbled on this website but man it has lots of good stuff.
Great advice! Some of the spaces between the rocks I installed are wide and grout cracked in some areas. Can I add more grout over top? I just installed earlier this week. Do you have a suggestion for removing grout that stuck to some rocks/dried too fast? We did seal them first. Thanks!
First thing that I would do is check your grout. It needs to be sanded or an epoxy and can fill a 1/2 inch void.
If it’s unsanded or a single component/ urethane type (premixed) then it’s the wrong product.
Assuming it’s the right kind then you can grout over it. Ideally you want the new grout to be 1/8 inch think but with pebbles that can be difficult to gauge
For cleaning, a grout cleaner is what you want. It takes some work and the longer it sets the harder it is to remove.
First, thank you so much for such an extensive article. Our tile installer didn’t listen to me about the lines, sure enough, you could see them. It was luckily before grouting, so I chipped up around the joints and tried to orient the rocks so it obscured the seams. I finished the rest of the floor using your article. My mom loves it. My question is, if I had to quote a price by square footage, what is a range to quote?
Keep in mind that the grout lines showing is a product flaw- not an installation flaw. It’s not incorrect to install them in full sheets unless is was specifically negotiated that they would be hand installed.
As far as installation costs- these are widely different and hand installing would pay more than installing full sheets. There’s no way to give a range without knowing a lot more information.
B.P. Bishop says
I hope i can explain well enough my roblem! We have a black stone shower floor with grey grout(I think?). The shower floor was in the master bath shower when we bought the house. Recently I’ve noticee white, hazy lines on the grout. I clean the stone floor regularly with Mr. Clean(cut 1:2 with water) but the white hazy stuff doesn’t get better, it’s getting worse. I jus read a couple articles about sealing stone shower floors. We’ve been n the house for 3 years and have never done anything but clean the floor. HELP!
If the shower floor is stone then the whole thing should be sealed regularly.
To do this, you want it clean and the grout joints to look right before it’s sealed.
With natural stone, such as marble or granite, you have to be really careful what you use for cleaning.
I would recommend a cleaner in the tile section of your local home improvement store. Stay away from the acidic cleaners. There should be instructions on the back that say the product is safe for natural Stone.
If this doesn’t work then you may have a bigger issue and it might require a natural stone care specialist to take a look at it.
We are getting ready to put a pebble tile floor in our bathroom. Not in the shower, but it will still get water from splash etc. The last time we did this, we sealed and enhanced the pebbles and then thinset, grouted, and sealed again. Would it be better for the sealing of the pebble to be done after the thinset? Do the unsealed pebbles adhere in the thinset better? Just curious before starting this project. We have moved from our last home so I can’t check how the floor is doing on our last attempt. Your advice would be appreciated! Also, what do you typically use as a between room edge? We will be putting the tile in right up next to a carpeted hallway. Should we lay a wooden threshold? What do you typically do?
The way that you are sealing them should be fine. I think a decent thinset will grab the pebbles without an issue.
For transitions, I do have a post on tile edges. It’s more for walls but very much applies to floors also.
Metal profiles are very popular for this application. Depending on the thickness of the materials involved you may need one that does double duty as a reducer.
First of all thank you for taking the time to help all of us DIY’s. Your suggestions are practical and obviously backed by some great experience. Now to my dilemma. The existing shower base is terriza (concrete with flecks of color throughout) but the base has a sloped outer perimeter lip that makes laying the pebbles (tiny irritating pebbles) almost impossible. I came up with the idea to fill the pad 28×48 inches with some type to concrete leveler to make the surface area flat (with a slope). Am I crazy and if I’m not what brand or type of “crete” would you recommend., And yes I didn’t pick out the critters, the spouse did.
How can you increase the slope as you recommend for pebble tile in an already existing pad?
This is a tough one because I’m not sure I really understand what type of shower base that you have. Also, it matters how porous the base is and if it will accept a leveler.
Your best bet would be to call the tech like of one of the companies that makes leveler products and explain what you have and what you want to do.
They can then explain the products to use and how to go about installing them.
Custom building products, Ardex, and Mapei all have floor leveling products. I would try one of them and hopefully they can help you out.
Hi Tile Guy-Thanks for providing great info!
Our contractor installed our 2 yr old flat cut pebble shower pan floor on Wedi with Fusion grout and it has some issues. The floor was never even from pebble to pebble and there are 1/8-1/4” wells in some areas around pebbles and a few small holes. It looks like the grout shrunk in places. I’ve cleaned out some of the old grout wehere there are problems. What about skim grouting a new layer to even out surface? I’m regrouting and recalkiing some wall areas where the grout failed and not sure what to do about the floor.
Pebbles are going to have some unevenness by nature. They won’t all perfectly slope in a straight line like flat tiles would
However, that doesn’t mean that they can dip in and out either.
So there could be some depressions in the foam pan but it’s hard to diagnose over the internet.
Fusion grout is the wrong grout to use for pebble tile. So that will have to be removed and regrouted with either a cement or epoxy grout.
You might be able to skim over Fusion with another grout. Usually it needs to be at least 1/8 inch of new grout.
But that’s a good question for the new grout manufacturer. I’m not sure how they will view going over a single component grout like Fusion.
Also, Wedi, or any foam shower pan isn’t the best choice for pebble tile but with flat pebbles in a residential shower it’s probably not a problem.
Thank you for the great tips. Sure wish I could have seen this prior to my tile layer installing my shower pebbles. Unfortunately, I have gridlines. I’ve been told that the lines “aren’t as bas as some I’ve seen”, but I can still notice them. The stones have not yet been grouted but they are stuck on the mud pan with thinset. Is it a viable option to pull a few stones off within the gridline areas and replace them, or would this damage the mud pan too much?
If the shower is built so that the cement pan is directly underneath the pebbles and the waterproofing is underneath the cement layer then you should be ok to pull some out.
If the pebbles are adhered directly to the waterproofing layer then that is more of a risky situation as it’s critical that the waterproofing not be punctured.
This post may be helpful to understand which way your shower is built.
Thank you very much. I have Wedi walls with a Chloraloy liner and mud pan on top of that, so the cement pan is directly underneath the pebbles. What is the risk of pulling up everything and redoing the whole floor?
The biggest challenge will be getting the mud pan smooth after the pebbles are pulled up.
This will mean a combination of scraping and filling.
Alternatively, the mud pan could be removed and replaced but it’s important not to harm the waterproofing layer.
If this is the chosen course then I would recommend a flood test of the liner once the mud bed is removed.
Hello, I have gutted my bathroom down to the joists and started new, including sistered joists and all new wood. The Schluter Ditra and Kerdi board is my plan,
The shower pan measures just under 38″ along the two walls of the neo-angle shower, as I had to cut it from a Schluter square pan to fit my neo-angle and because of sistered joists had to move the drain a bit closer to the shower door and further from the inside corner because there were joists in the way of the drain underneath. I already have the foam pan and curb cut,and almost everything is ready, except for me. I am the sole DIY, and at 63 am thrilled to find your site about this particular thread on pebbles!
I have just purchased Botany Bay sliced pebbles for my home shower floor, to go over the Kerdi preformed neo angle foam pan and orange membrane, as directed by Schluter. There is Kerdi board on the walls and on top of the Kerdi curb will be quartzite stone curb slabs and three glass shower walls with entry door.
The tile store sold me the following:
1- TEC Sturdi Flex Thin Set Mortar to install the Schluter Ditra over plywood floor.
1- TEC Uncoupling Membrane Mortar White YA-338 to use for installing my ceramic wall tiles and my sliced pebble tiles.
1- TEC AccuColor Premium Sanded Grout (Polymer enchanced Portland cement grout for 1/8″ – 1/2″ joints.
Please take a moment to tell me if I have the CORRECT products for the job (minus the pebble sealant),
There is indecision on my part with the shower Kerdi curb regarding what tiles to use inside the shower and outside where the curb rises up from the floor.. Do you suggest placing the pebbles along the vertical shower floor curb on the inside of the shower? The glass doors will go on top of the quartzite stone curb top and the curb is less than four inches higher than the foam pan.
I’ve spent a long time looking at Houzz photos with no decision at this time. I would appreciate your view on this. Tiling the curb has me guessing.
Thanks so very much, I’ve learned alot just reading this one pebble tile thread.
The materials that you’ve mentioned are suitable. The inside of the curb is a design decision. I can’t think of a technical reason to go with one over the other.
Please keep in mind that pebbles over a foam Kerdi pan may violate Schluter’s terms for a warranty. It’s a point load issue- too much pressure concentrated on too small of a tile.
For a residential shower, it’s less of an issue and it’s not unusual for people to willingly go ahead with a pebble installation over a Kerdi shower pan. But if you have any questions about that particular aspect of your installation then you may want to call the Schluter tech line and see what they have to say.
My installer set the tiles without checking with me now there are the seam gaps and I want to tear it up, actually just get strips up to do the details of mosaic to make it fit together as you said. Not sure what he used but it’s not grouted yet. How to I get the pebbles up? Note; they are beautiful Porcelain 5 mm deep pebbles ranging in sizes and color and surfaces.
If they aren’t grouted they shouldn’t be too difficult to remove. A chisel or screwdriver or something should work OK. However, you do have to be very careful if the waterproofing membrane is directly underneath.
Ava Ginter says
Am installing pebble tile floor and in the process have handset stones in seams with thinset. Problem is the stones I’ve set in by hand are coming up. Do I need a different kind of thinset? I’m doing this by buttering each stone and setting it in place. Is there a different method I should be using?
Ava Ginter says
I didn’t mention,I have not grouted yet.
That’s basically the method. It’s not unusual for some stones to come loose prior to grout if they are being walked on. If this is the case, I typically reset the loose ones as I grout by fully embedding them in grout.
Otherwise, I’m not sure why they are coming loose or what the circumstances would be that lead them to loosen.
island stone offers seamless pebble interlock that doesn’t require pulling off the mesh. islandstone.com
Ava Ginter says
Thank you .I think I could have mixed the thinset a little loose and am thinking that could be the problem?
I’d be interested to field test this claim. ?
It could be.
Thank you so much for this helpful informationl. We installed a sliced pebble floor in our shower. Fortunately, I knew about installing some of the pebbles by hand to avoid being able to see the seams. We found it difficult to fit the stones quickly before the thinset hardened so I think it is important not to do a very big area at a time. Once the thinset was hard, my perfectionist self wasn’t happy with the spacing of some of the pebbles. Even though the pebbles were set over a Kerdi membrane, I was able to pry them up without damaging the membrane. I ended up pulling out over 150 stones in order to fit them together more tightly. In my quest to have as little grout as possible, I ended up using a bench grinder to re-shape many of the pebbles so they would fit better. (Yes, really.)
I would advise that if you are even close to as picky as I am, buy several extra sheets of pebbles so you will have more sizes to choose from. We had seven extra sheets for our 3×6 ft shower and I’m glad we bought that many. My family said that I was crazy to be so meticulous about fitting the pebbles. It took forever but the pebble spacing is tight and I’m very happy with the result. I used Sikaflex Construction sealant from Home Depot to adhere the replacement pebbles. It looks and smells just like Kerdi Fix but it is much cheaper. I would never trust a professional to put in a pebble floor. It takes too much time to make it look right. No contractor is going to do that for you unless you pay him by the hour.
You suggested extra sloping for the floor when installing a pebble floor. I wish I had read that before we did our shower. In a couple of spots, the pebbles are slightly low so water pools in these places. I didn’t notice it until after the floor was grouted. Would it be possible to pour epoxy to fill the low spots? If so, what product should we use?
This feedback is excellent! I typically have recommended not getting very much extra because you use all the pebbles but your point about having multiple sizes is a good one.
As far as an epoxy, I’m not really sure what you are looking for. Do you want a clear epoxy to go over the pebbles? Or simply additional epoxy grout?
No matter what, pebbles won’t drain as well as smoother tiles. But if you have low spots you could experiment with filling in more grout but typically removing and raising the pebbles up is a better plan. This should be done with thinset or with an epoxy grout.
But thanks for sharing your experience. I think it could be very helpful to some of the readers.
I’m about to tile our bathroom floor (NOT the shower) with river rock mosaic tile that’s 12×12, where each pebble is glued to the underlying mesh. I was concerned about the seams showing after grouting, so I was considering ripping each pebble off the mesh and placing them individually. I’m really glad I found your article because your method seems so much easier!
But I had another thought:
1) take off all the pebbles from all the mesh pieces
2) lay new mesh covering all the exposed floor area you’d like to tile
3) glue down each pebble to the mesh, thereby achieving your own personal grout spacing requirments with no visible line seams like using 12×12 sections
4) using razor, cut mesh into sections as large as you can physically handle
5) bond coat each large section, reconnecting them in the same placement as when you cut them apart
Since you’re still dealing with a large ‘panel’ of pebbles, you can put down the mortar and pebbles faster than doing each pebble individually. And because you cut your own lines, when you reassemble them, there should be no apparent seam when you’re done.
If someone was willing to take this approach, where would we find the mesh and what type of adhesive would we use to bond the pebbles to the mesh?
What you’re describing sounds like a lot more work to me but if you try it I’d be interested in your feedback.
However, I have no idea where you would find the materials to remount the pebbles.
The last photo on this blog, just above the line that reads “I use this same technique to install pebble tile for an accent strip” which looks like a backsplash for a bathroom sink, to me,….
That’s GORGEOUS. What is that? Did you make that strip with pebbles and something else? Is it a tile that came that way? Never saw anything like that.
Thanks in advance for any information! And thanks for the time you spend to answer the comments. I’ve blogged so I know what that is. Much appreciation.
Thanks! And yes it’s a pebble backsplash around a vanity. The top is trimmed with chrome Schluter Rondec. Otherwise, just black pebbles.
I did a black pebble shower floor 3×3 about 4 years ago and over the years we have had chunks of grout, mostly near the drain and where we stand pop out. Initially It was no big deal but now enough has come out that it hurts my feet. I was going to pop out any loose grout and re grout. Would epoxy be a better choice to eliminate the issue in the future or should I stick w the high end cement grout?
If something is loose around the drain, such as the drain itself, the best course of action might be silicone around the drain. That way it allows for some movement.
I’m not talking about the acrylic caulk that cleans up with water but you should be able to get a similar color 100% silicone that will work for that. I’ve noticed the Home Depot in my area now carries 100% silicone caulk that matches a good number of their grout colors. That might be a good option.
A most excellent site and source of information. I have a similar pebble bottom shower problem, a stone or two every now and then. Not sure about the type of pan, but know the pebbles were on a mesh, 12×12. I am thinking I need a good waterproof grout or something like that to keep the pebbles in place. I will try to get more information on the installation materials and check back since I know who installed it and it is on a raised wood foundation, 2×6, t&g over girders on 4ft centers. I also need to check for any leaks.
Hi DIY Tile Guy! I appreciate your post and your insights on this issue. We are building a custom home and our master walk-in shower has flat white mosaic rock tiles. They look horrible. The seams are WAY worse than in the two pictures you posted above. I paid a “professional” tile installer (he works with a tile store, has done work for my builder a lot in the past, etc) over $7,000 (including tiling the floors in 31/2 baths and the laundry room and doing the shower) and I expected him to know how to install it without seams, especially for that price. At the very least, if it was going to have seams showing (so it looks horrible) due to the tile, then he should have told me so I could have chosen a new tile. Am I wrong to be upset? Is there anything I can do to remedy it? Thanks!
The installer should communicate what to expect prior to installing but having the seams show usually isn’t an installation issue. It’s a characteristic of the product.
So I have a hard time blaming the installer when it very well may have been installed properly according to manufacturer instructions.
It would be tough to fix at this point but not impossible. It would involve removing several of the pebbles along the seam lines and reinstalling them. It might be easier to redo all the pebbles and specify that they be installed individually.
my installer used a ton of thin-set when putting the pebble floor in my shower. So much so that it looks like it has already been grouted. The thin set is dry and i have spent nearly a week using different tools such as a dremel, a grout saw, wire brushes, etc to get the thin set out from between the pebbles in order to make room for grout. My installer says its fine to leave the thin set in between the rocks and just grout in the few places that there is not any thin set as long as i use a sealer. Is this correct? If not how can i remove the excess thin set?
That is incorrect. A proper installation is left so it’s ready to grout. At this point, it may be easier and look better in appearance to just remove what’s there and start over.
It’s not unusual to get a couple of spots with excess mortar and those should be cleaned immediately. But if it’s throughout then a smaller size notch trowel should be used.
Carolyn J Pearson says
I’ve been installing tile & doing custom shower bases for almost 40 yrs. I’m building my last house to age in place in, Japanese theme. So I’m doing a roll in shower, with Forest green marble walls, & a pebble floor. I ordered the sheets, I too hate the seams. So took most of them apart. Problem is once I really started handling them. I noticed they have been WAXED, to look “nice”. Most have a fairly heavy coat of wax ALL over them, sides, backs & all. I can scrap it off with my fingernail? It is my opinion that NOTHING will stick to wax!! Not polymer-modified Thinset, not even 3 part epoxy I have on hand(I did a custom fiberglass base, using planed floor joists for slope), grout. So even if you can get them to stay in place long enough to grout(you have be ON them to do so??), you are going to get loose ones & grout cracks, & water under, & then everything failing, right? I tried to clean with Muriatic acid, nope. Has ANYONE ever set these waxed pebbles??!
I’m not sure if I’ve seen these waxed pebbles, or not. The manufacturer hopefully has some instructions on how to install them and what to install them with. But not all of them do.
You are correct that some of the pebbles can come loose when grouting and I usually replace them as I grout. This is where epoxy grout is quite helpful. But usually, if they are set in a good bed of thinset mortar and allowed proper drying time, very few of them will come loose after the fact.
Carolyn Pearson says
At 64, I’m NOT taking a chance with the waxed ones, & having to tear it up, & redo. And I put up a review, telling about it.. To me there is no way for a bond, & no way to get it off. I could see buffing the top, but it’s like they dripped them in hot wax. I am going with the cut pebbles. (Plantar fasciitis more than once). So I should get a better bond. When I’m grouting, say in a hurry for the thinset. I sit /kneel on a piece of ridge foam insulation, better for my knees too.
I don’t blame you for not wanting to take a chance on a suspect product. I wouldn’t want to either. Thanks for your comments!
Dear DIYTileGuy, I want to put an accent strip around my shower and have a bunch of loose pebbles that perfectly match the tile I bought (it looks like sandstone from Home Depot but I’m not sure if it is real sandstone or not). Do the pebbles have to be attached to a back mesh for the “thinset” to hold them or can I put up the regular flat tiles 12″x24″ (the lower 2/3 of the shower), have a 4-5 inch gap with just thinset and stick my pebbles individually by hand onto this strip, then put up the the other flat tiles (top 1/3 of shower) and then grout everything? I Know I from your blog I should use an epoxy or cement grout for the pebbles, can I use the same for the flat tiles so it all matches? I was going to use Flexbond for the pebbles, I’m assuming that will work for the other tiles too, is that correct? My two biggest concerns are the waterproofing behind the pebbles and that they stay on the wall and not fall out. Thanks for your blog and all your advice. Monica
Robert Halton says
If I install the pebble tile to plywood floor–Do I need to put some kind of primer on the plywood before the thinset ?
You definitely do not need the mesh on the back and sometimes that can even prevent a good bond. Your plan sounds good. There’s no reason that you can’t use the same grout throughout.
I’m not sure that Flexbond is an LFT mortar. I would definetly use an LFT mortar for the 12×24’s and you can usually use that same mortar for the pebbles. If the pebbles are light colored you’ll want to use a white mortar.
Hopefully, this is a second layer of plywood and it’s an exterior grade like ACX. You don’t want to install any kind of tile directly over a plywood (or OSB) subfloor.
But, assuming the above is OK, any A118.11 mortar will work without a primer.
Carmen Rodríguez says
Pebble shower floor installed 4 years ago.
Grout is fine. Pebbles have black lines that look like cracks. What can I do?
Can I send you a photo?
It’s hard to know why grout would be cracking in this situation. It could be that it didn’t bond well to the pebbles. It could be that the floor, or even mortar bed, is flexing. If it was installed over a foam shower pan then it could be that there’s too much pressure on individual spots. This is called point-load. It could also be an issue with how the grout was mixed or what kind of grout was used.
Grout problems are quite common, especially with the more econonical grouts, and the reasons behind the problems can be quite diverse.
Sorry for such a vague answer but this is something that is hard enough to diagnose in person, let alone over the internet.
If you have more information then that may help narrow things down.
Steve Rodden says
I agree with the 1/2″ trowel. You will have a mess to clean!
Mike Carr says
Diytileguy, many thanks. I literally found this article minutes before I began tiling our shower floor. The dry layout without gaps obviously indicated seams that probably would not have been so obvious without reading this post.
It’s always nice when the blog gets read BEFORE tiling. Thanks for the comments!
David Gartner says
I had single stone chip/flake horizontally after about a year. Could I fill the divot with a 2-part epoxy resin? It would need to adhere to the remaining stone, grout edge, and possibly mortar bed.
I think it would be easier to replace the stone but a two-part epoxy might work also. They have color kits that you can mix with the epoxy to get a better match.
I just ordered all my tile & we picked out a rock tile for base made by Shaw, They were quite expensive but they come flat cut for uniformity & match our tile perfectly. Tile store told me there will be no problems with drainage due to the uniform flatness of rock & I should run grout level to top of stone just like a normal tile. They are 12 x 12 on mesh & I was just wondering if I will still be ending up with the tile lines as shown above. I am using the Schluter foam base & shower is almost 6′ x 6′. The more I read above the more concerned I get, I only want to do this once. Any input would be appreciated !!
Ava Ginter says
Am having trouble with a 12ft x8ft bathroom floor . Have to keep replacing sections of pebbles that come loose .I think it’s from walking/kneel on it to redo these small sections. Can I grout say 3ft. Sections at a time or do I have to grout the whole floor at once?
It’s impossible for me to say with certainty that you will, or won’t, have seams showing in the pebbles. But my experience is that more of them show the lines than don’t. If you’re concerned about it then I would pull them off the sheets and set them individually.
Additionally, I would check with Schluter about setting pebbles on one of their foam pans. Pebble tiles can create point-load concerns with foam shower pans but with a residential shower sometimes it’s not a problem.
Pebble tiles can be a challenge until you get them grouted. Yes, you can grout small sections at a time but be careful not to leave the grout too high at the edges so you can blend the old + new sections.
Ava Ginter says
Thank You so much for your advice ! I love 200 miles from most civilization and appreciate having experienced advice!
Glad I could help!
Ron Perkins says
Well I talked to Schluter & Shaw & both said there should be no problem,Shaw says all the stones are cut flat uniformly thus no pressure point problems should be encountered. I guess I just have to hope for the Best !!
Good to hear. They have a 2-inch minimum size in writing but a lot of times they will OK the installation over the phone when they know the details of your specific application. Sounds like you’re OK to go!
Norie Guthrie says
We have discovered the same issue with the wrong grout. The floor was installed before we bought our house. First I noticed some of the grout disappearing under places where water drips (a hanging washcloth). Since we’re in humid Houston, mold began to form in sections where the grout did not meet the tile. Following someone else’s advice, we added a clear sealer around the perimeter. Mold began growing underneath.
I’m thinking that we should first remove the sealer and bleach out the mold. To create the space to regrout, should we chisel around the pebbles or do you have other advice? Then, after we chisel or whatever you advise, we should seal the old grout. Put down the new grout and then seal the new grout. Does that sound like a good plan?
Thank you sooo much!
Like my comment above, the eroding grout could just be a mixing issue or it could be a sign of further troubles. I would keep an eye on it.
Chiseling out grout around pebbles can be tough. With some showers, the waterproofing layer is IMMEDIATELY BELOW the pebbles so you have to be careful with chiseling with this type of shower.
Sometimes the waterproofing is further down and isn’t an issue.
Defiitely don’t seal the old grout prior to installing new grout.
Really awesome thread, thank you so much for starting and maintaining this.
I’m setting cut river rock into a shower floor that’s a cement sloped pan that has Redguard over the top. I plan to find one of the recommended thinsets, and one of the recommended grouts, so thanks a TON for listing those.
What I can’t find anywhere is the correct process of laying the thinset… you propose 1/4 by 1/4 trowel, but do you also butter the mesh? That seems problematic… if you do, what’s your method?
Next – I wonder about colors. You recommend white thinset, but you are setting white stones. When setting dark color stones do you recommend matching color thinset? I’m using charcoal stones, and I plan to use a dark grout – maybe not as dark as the stones but still on the dark side.
Lastly, once again thanks so much for putting this info out!
With a 1/4 x 1/4 inch square notch trowel you would simply apply the mortar to the substrate and not the backs of the sheets. If the pebbles are a bit bigger and thicker then a 1/4 x 3/8 inch square notch trowel may be a better choice.
Additionally, I would recommend matching the color of thinset to the grout color. So dark rocks and dark grout would get the gray thinset.
Thanks for the comments!
Wow, I am so glad to come across this post before my project. I like to place flat pebbles for my shower floor due to existing tiles looking old and stained. My guy is saying that there is no need to remove the existing tiles and that he can put the pebbles on top of it and then raise the drain length and replace the drain. Is that true? I do not want to make mistakes yet want to get it done as minimally invasive as possible.
Also how can he control the slope if he doesn’t remove the existing tiles?
Thanks a million
Tiling over the existing tile is feasible. It’s a case-by-case basis and you’ll have to rely on the professional to judge whether it’ll be acceptable to do in your case.
There isn’t really a way to increase the slope. He’s going to install the pebbles over the existing slope.
First I want to thank you for your blog and all your wonderful advice! I want to use natural pebbles for an accent strip in my shower. In reading your blog, several people talk about “sealing the pebbles” but I thought I read on your site, I don’t have to seal them. What, if any, would be a reason to seal them? It just seems like an extra step, and I just want a natural look.
You should have instructions for your pebbles or at least be able to look them up. They will tell you if they need to be sealed, or not. Additionally, using a clear sealer doesn’t change the appearance of the pebbles. If you were to use an enhancing sealer then that would change the look of them.
But I would guess they could benefit from a clear sealer.
I notice that you use contrasting tile and grout for showing the problem, but in the pictures showing your solution, you show matching grouts. It would add credibility if you were consistent throughout.
Those are just the photos that I have. When I made this post I was working with black pebbles and black grout. But your point is taken and I’ll look to update the photos the next time I have a pebble project.
Sandi J says
I’m so impressed with your site and your dedication to answering so many questions! Thank you!
We just had Islandstone Pebble installed in a 4 x 6-foot shower and you can barely see grid lines so it would seem (as someone suggested above) that their interlocking system does work well. Not sure how much the installer may have picked out pebbles.
My problem is I was told by the supplier if I wanted a natural look to not seal them. So I picked grout to match the dry stones. My contractor had recommended the epoxy grout but unfortunately didn’t give me any advice on how to pick the grout. Now I see the epoxy has basically sealed the stones and has made them look MUCH darker and always wet. And now I feel my grout is way too light and contrasting to the stone.
He’s trying to make it right and he thinks a think layer of darker grout over may help but I already feel the grout lines are pretty large and don’t want to risk more of the pebbles to disappear under grout. Is this even a feasible option? Any advice on how I can darken the grout and/or bring back the lighter look of the stones?
The only thing I can think of would be to try to do an epoxy colorant on the grout. More grout over the top won’t work and I don’t think you’ll be able to do anything to the pebbles to lighten the color.
For those that read the comments, this could have been prevented by doing a grout mock-up where you install a small sample of the pebbles on a board and grout them to see what it would look like in real life.
Thanks! What would you have done to keep the more natural color and texture or do you think the color change, gloss and sealing was inevitable with stones?
In hindsight the mockup sounds obvious and is something the contractor probably should have advised.
The epoxy grout will enhance the pebbles. So I think you would have to go with a cement grout and clear sealer if you wanted to keep them natural looking.
Patrick French says
The secret to tile/stone in a shower is…..to not do it. They all eventually leak.
Kathy Driggers says
I am installing flat, unsealed pebble tile in my 4×4 shower stall. We have put down roofing felt, wire lathe and one floor of cement. At this point, I will be painting on red guard and then another cement floor, followed by another coat of red guard, then the pebble tiles. My question: I want to carry the pebble tile out of the stall and into the bathroom proper, meeting up with stranded bamboo click flooring. The bamboo flooring is about 1/4″ thick. My plan is to put down either the same roofing felt, lathe, cement, red guard, tile. OR red guard, hardibacker, pebble tile. The subfloor is 1″ thick particle board painted with oil based Kilz. Which plan would be best for creating a floor with no flex? Another question: how would you finish the edge between the curved pebbles and the bamboo flooring? I would prefer the edges to be as close to even as possible. Thanks so much for your help! I have learned a good deal about how to install pebble tile from your site. Very much appreciated.
I couldn’t disagree more
Your plan that you’ve outlined is not a good one. Take a look at my post on waterproofing systems and how the different ones work. Multiple layers of waterproofing are not better than one good one. Additionally, reading and understanding the instructions for the different products that you want to use is essential.
If your bamboo floor is a floating floor then there is probably some sort of transition piece that goes with it. That should be used on the edge between the pebbles and bamboo flooring.
Great site for tile questions!
I had a river rock floor installed in my shower. they were the 12″ square tiles with average about 1″ stones. It has a 1 – 2″ cement/sand base. It was grouted with unsanded cement grout and sealed with “Miracle” Tile, Stone and Grout sealer (water base). We now do not like the stone floor as some of the stones are uneven and it never seems to dry. I have to squeegee the floor to get as much water down the drain as possible after every shower. Is it possible to put regular ceramic or stone tile over this floor? If so, any recommendation as to what type of thin-set and grout to use?
I would think it’s possible but I wouldn’t want to have to do it. You’ll have to smooth out the floor first before installing tile over it. I’m not sure what exact product to use but it would need to be a floor patch that can withstand a good amount of water. It’s probably best to contact the helpline of whatever manufacturer that you have access to and have them outline a plan with specific products.
They can also recommend a thinset to install the tile with.
PK Hardin says
Hello, I’m liking my flat stone shower floor but there is one issue, there is one line that the water seems to run and wasn’t high enough. Rest of the shower drains well but this one avenue seems to not drain. I use a squeegee which works so so. Is there anything I can add to the grout to raise this area a tad? I don’t think I can add grout to grout.
You can add grout to grout. You may need to dig the grout down about 1/8 inch in the area that you want to repair.
PK Hardin says
Thanks, the stones are between a 16th or 8th higher now so I may be ok. I’ll play around in trying to get the dry color to match what I have then I’ll add it. Thanks again
I have a pebbled shower and the installer used a grout color that I don’t like. Is there a way to lighten the grout? It looks fine when wet and actually turns a darker color, which I actually don’t mind. If I put a sealer on would it help to darken the grout or who’ll it be the same color. Thanks for any input you might have!
I don’t really understand if you are trying to lighten or darken the grout but your best bet would be the grout colorants. I’d try to find one that is the same brand as the grout that was installed and I think the epoxy colorants work better. It’s easier to go darker than lighter but either way can work.
Hi- I have created a pebble mosaic table top for outdoor use. I used Wedi board for the surface and use Thinset to adhere both flat sliced river pebbles individually as well as tiny pebbles that I placed in between each larger sliced pebble.No seams, no empty areas-all filled with pebbles. I made sure the surface is flush…without inverting the entire project. But now I wonder if I need to grout and if so what is the best approach. Do I need to seal the pebbles before grouting if grouting is the way to go?
Grout would help hold things together but it’s up to your judgment if you think that’s necessary. I would use a cement grout, preferrable one of the high performance, rapid setting grouts. Otherwise, a sanded cement grout. If the pebbles say you need to seal prior to grouting then that’s the way to do it. I’ve had success pre-wetting the pebbles immediately prior to grouting on several occasions. Then seal with a everything with sealer 72 hours after the grout has dried.
Hi DIYTileGuy, I built and tiled my shower about 8 years ago. I used a premade pan and pebble tile on the floor. It still looks pretty good except there are a few places where I didn’t put enough grout in and the water tends to pool and hence get moldy. I’ve been able to use bleach to get it clean but it’s a lot of work. I want to regrout but I can’t figure out what is the best tool to use to remove the existing grout on a pebble mosaic. Do you have any suggestions?
I think it would probably be easier to remove the pebbles and redo the shower floor. But, if I had to remove the grout around the pebbles I would probably try using an oscillating multi-tool with a pointy carbide bit like the one that you see in this kit from Amazon (affiliate link).
But I would seriously think about redoing all of the pebbles.
Hi DIY Tile guy!
I read through all your comments but didn’t find my exact scenario. We are DIY a stacked pebble backsplash for my laundry room. It’s the type of stacked pebble that doesn’t have very many spaces to grout but it does have a little here and there. I’ve looked up ungrounded stacked pebble kitchen backsplash and love that look where the pebbles are squeezed together so tight you can’t grout anyway. I’d post pics but can’t see how to do that here.
So here’s my questions: I’m guessing we should space them out 2-in just like your flooring technique. But what should we use on the wall/back of mesh to keep the stacked pebble in place best, if not grouting?
If we do have to grout a little here & there, which grout would be best for this purpose and what color? It’s white stacked pebble so I’m thinking a light sand color (?)
At what point do we clean the stacked pebble and seal it? I bought the miracle 511 cleaner and sealers from Amazon.
Thank you so much for your time & expertise, you’re awesome!
You’ll be able to see exactly what the sheets look like if you install them right next to one another. If you don’t like that look then you can space them apart and fill in to get rid of any seam lines.
Pebbles typically should be installed with a thinset mortar. I would use white in your case because you have white pebbles. Most of the mortars on the market will work for your application which is pebbles over drywall.
For grout, I’m assuming you’ll want to fill in the larger gaps only so maybe a sanded grout in the color that you prefer would work. You could also try a sanded acrylic caulk for your application. This is one of the few times I would suggest using that product. It cleans up with water and can be easier to apply in spots than grout.
For sealer, it’s probably not a bad idea to apply sealer right at the beginning before you install anything and before you pull any of the pebbles off of the sheets. Then sealing again after they’re installed would be a good idea.
curtis lachance says
Looking for some instruction… Riverstone shower floor with a lot of cracking grout. You could see wet floor below.w
What is the best solution for repair? Can I grout over after cleaning existing grout?
Before you grout over I’d want to feel like the root problem has been addressed. Cracked grout joints can have a lot of different causes. What kind of grout was used for the pebbles? What were the pebbles installed over? A foam pan or a mud bed? If a mud bed, how thick is it? Is water penetrating through the primary waterproofing membrane?
If none of those issues seem to be the cause then I would start looking at the structure and how things are built. It’s not always a simple solution.
Thank you so much! ?❤️✌️
Lisa F says
Hi Tile Guy,
Thank you for this valuable resource. I have a 5 year old river rock shower floor (new build). The installer did a good job, but the grout is cracking/crumbling from the water pressure in the area where the water hits the floor.
A few questions: 1) can/should I use a Dremel to dig down into the cracks? 2) what if there is water in there? should I wait until it is completely dry before filling? 3) If I can find the original (5 y/o) bag of grout, should I use it or buy new?
Lastly, how often should I be re-sealing this grout? This shower sees a lot of use. I have pictures if you would like to see them.
Even at 5 years, I don’t think the grout should be crumbling out. You may have another issue like deflection or an improper grout installation, for example.
However, a Dremel might work, in particular one with a smaller or more narrow tip. Not sure if you are using the oscillating or spinning version. Just a note, there’s more than one way to build a shower and it’s possible that your waterproofing is immediately below the pebbles. If that’s the case, then you’ll need to be extremely careful not to puncture the waterproofing below the pebbles.
Hopefully, you can find the bag of grout but I still wouldn’t use it. I would purchase a new bag of the exact same grout for that.
For sealing, I believe they recommend every year, or two. Assuming that you have a cementitious grout I would look into a good quality solvent-based sealer.
Lisa F says
can I send you a picture?
Evzen - EH Tile says
I actually once grouted pebbled shower pen with one of those fancy quarz grouts. The manual indeed doesn’t recommend grout wider then 1/2″. But the owner paid big money for the grout from a local fancy store, where the know nothing manager recommended it and the owner was in love with the look of it, so I grouted it, and when it cracked the next day i grouted over the cracks again. A few cracks were just a hair line, so I widened it with a utility knife. You can actually do it and doesn’t take that long. Since the owner is my neighbor, I occasionally visit her, and 6 years later the grout is like new. So you can do it, but it is a little scary when you see the cracks the next day. Watch out with these grouts though – some of them need to be wiped off very quickly.
You can upload one to my DIYTileGuy facebook page if that works. Otherwise, you might try out the John Bridge forum as a way to upload photos and get feedback.
Rick Wyatt says
I have installed a cut rock floor (1″-2-1/2″) rocks on my shower floor and want to give it a wet look but don’t want it to be slippery or too glossy. What product would you recommend, since there are uneven areas I would like a sealer that flows out nicely and doesn’t puddle and drys perfectly clear.
I would buy both an enhancer and a wet-look sealer and try them out and see which one that you prefer. Miracle sealants makes both products and I’m sure other brands do also.
Vadim Kashtelyan says
We have a river rock shower floor. The grout in many places had worn away and was missing. I used a grout saw and dremel to remove all of the existing grout. I don’t know what material the rocks were set in, but I did not remove or penetrate this layer. I used Polyblend sanded grout mixed with Custom Building Products StainBlocker Additive for Grout. I then used Custom Building Products TileLab Grout and Tile Sealer. The grout looks good, but I created a low spot in the floor when I put in the new grout. It’s about a 1sqft area that stays wet long after the shower is used and the rest of the floor is dry. Is this an issue I need to worry about? If so, how do I fix it? I’m worried that if I add more grout the color will not match and I may create a new low spot for water to pool. I’m happy to send you pictures. I appreciate your advice!
Bob O says
I have a slightly different question, unrelated to shower floors. We just bought a house that has a grouted river pebble floor – around the toilet, of all places. Unfortunately, the pebbles are not smooth and level, but rather irregular and bumpy – with a few that stick up enough to make it painful to walk on with tender, old, feet. Since the floor is walled in on three sides, and sits slightly below the adjacent flooring along the fourth side, I was wondering if it would work to even out the surface by adding a self-leveling clear epoxy (or similar material…?) over it – so the stones were still visible, but not sticking up. Do you know if there would be any concerns with a reaction between the epoxy and grout, or any other issues that come to mind? It’s a white grout (no idea of type or brand) over a concrete slab, and appears to be in very good shape – no cracks or spalling that I can see. Any guidance or suggestion would be greatly appreciated!
The low spot will require more frequent cleaning than the rest of the floor. That’s about all that you have to worry about.
I don’t really know anything about epoxy coatings but I don’t see anything that would be a problem with going that route.
Bob O says
Yeah, that’s kind of what I’d guessed, too. Thanks for the reply!
We did a large pebble (more like stones) backsplash. We avoided the seams, using your suggestions. We got grout you suggested. It turned out horribly! The grout hides the majority of the rocks. Some rocks are completely hidden. The rocks are all different sizes (of course, because they are rocks), so scraping the grout over them lefts waves and obvious unevenness. We can’t add more grout to even it out, some areas would completely bury the rocks. My husband wants to dremel between the stones to even it out and expose more of the stones; I see bigger disaster trying that.
Can we salvage this? What do you suggest?
If you don’t see what the pebbles look like when they are grouted then the grout can change things in ways that you don’t expect.
What you might try is taking some sample stones, mounting them on a scrap board, and grouting them how you think they should be. Firstly, this will tell you if it’s reasonable to take the grout down some. Secondly, it will show you what it looks like.
But trying to remove grout from around stones is a tedious process at best. I guess, if you get to that point, then you have nothing to lose but remove and replace is going to be easier, labor-wise.
Vadim Kashtelyan says
Great, thank you!!!
I appreciated all of the information, details, and recommendations. Although this does not apply to everyone, “sometimes simple is hard to achieve”. When looking at your photograph showing the tile sheet seams, one reason your seams are so obvious is because you are using a contrasting grout color.
Once again this is not a suggestion which will apply to everyone, but I did a large bathroom shower (sorry i don’t have the pics anymore; we sold the house) with black river rock tile sheets. Using black grout completely obfuscated the seam lines.
That certainly would help. However, in a shower, grout will darken so light pebbles with similar light-colored grout would show when it gets wet.
How much extra do you think a client should have to pay the tile installer to pull the sheets 2 inches apart and fill in individually in order to hide the lines?
We used black pebbles and grout in our shower and it hid the seams. But! (lol)
My prob is the grout and stone get weird from the sealant. It was too matte and it crackles. It holds a weird color until I scrub it off as it wears away. It was $70. Still crappy, though.
Any suggestions for the wet look? Trying to cover the half worn seal. It just looks dirty. :,(
I’m trying to replace the sub flooring under the toilet flange because it has rotted due to a broken flange and poor installation. There is tile, then backer board and then subflooring. It is only rotted around the flange area. The tiles are about 12″ squares and I was hoping to only replace two of them. Can I cut out a 10 x 20″ piece of backer board and then replace it and the sub floor and tiles? Any other suggestions?
I would estimate it takes 2X the amount of time to pull the pebbles off the sheets and install them
The enhancers are really the only product that I am aware of that would give it a wet-look and they would need to be tested on the actual pebbles in use.
You can replace a small section but you don’t want a continuous seam throughout all three layers. So, let’s say that you want to replace a 10×20″ inch piece. You would remove 10×20 inches of tile and backer board. Then remove 6×16 inch piece of subfloor.
To rebuild, block all the seams on the subfloor, replace the subfloor section, then replace the backer board, and tile. This way the backer board will overlap the subfloor seam by two-inches on all sides.
James Immler says
Hello, I am installing pebble tile to the top of a concrete curbing that surrounds a pond. I am using epoxy mortar to ensure that the bond is rock solid and so far I am extremely happy with the bond strength. Also, I am removing the pieces from the sheets to ensure that lines are not visible.
I have noticed the adhesive that connects the pebble tiles to the sheets gets soft and gooey after some sat in water for several days. Should I be concerned about moisture in the stone working it’s way to that layer over time and causing a bonding failure? I am contemplating the concept of grinding the adhesive off of every single pebble tile. Thousands!
That sounds like a lot of grinding! I would try to leave the adhesive on the tile if possible in your situation. Try to get enough mortar on the pebbles that it surrounds the pebble. Alternatively, you might be able to soak the adhesive off in water with enough time…maybe.
I have someone complaining about rough stones in their shower. They asked me to sand them down. I saw planning on choosing a spot less visible and sanding it by hand with 220 grit. I have 1/4 sheet sanders, orbital random sanders and an air powered DA. What do you think is the best option. Im going to look at it tomorrow i really dont have more information but ill take some pics while im there. I can get 3000 grit from an auto body supply place which was my plan if the 220 didnt do the job.
Any concern over sanding away the waterproofing its just the top.
Or having a stone pop off while sanding? Id rather do it by hand if that is a potential problen.
Thanks in advance, i read through the entore string of peoples questions i didnt see anything related to sanding down stones.
I wouldn’t even try sanding them in a less visible spot. I would try sanding whatever extras still exist. My hunch is that it won’t go well.
If the homeowner selected the stones and you installed them the way that the display shows then it shouldn’t be your responsibility to fix the stones unless you are getting paid to do it.
Glad I found this site. You mentioned misery and I think of my project as insanity. I removed all of the old tile in my foyer which was cement underneath. I did not feel confident enough to pour self leveling cement so I used premixed leveling compound and got it as level as possible. When I started laying pebble tile sheets I would get thin set on the top of the pebbles and a lot of the thin set failed. Then I tried glue which also got on the top of the pebbles and all over me. One Saturday I spent hours cutting each stone off of the mesh. Now I am cutting some of the stones on a tile saw so they are more even to walk on. So, I am placing them one at a time and I know I will eventually finish. In addition to the stones I’m also placing polished stones from my rock tumbler and a few “fish” tiles so hopefully it will look like a creek. I have needed three massages so far to get the knots out of my muscles. I have sanded grout and want to seal with a glossy sealer. What do you recommend?
I like the fast-setting high-performance grouts like Prism, Ultracolor, and Permacolor because they are the most color consistent. Regular sanded grouts would be fine too, especially if you are going with a gray color. They would be cheaper and easier to apply.
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For sealers, I would test before you commit to one product. Your results will very much vary. The enhancer sealers like Miracle’s Seal & Enhance will bring the colors out without the sheen. These are the most popular way of enhancing.
I’m not as familiar with the “wet-look” sealers. I know Mira Matte has sheen to it and it can be enhanced with multiple coats. There’s also this high-gloss one that I’ve never used. Additionally, I have no experience with the general concrete/masonry sealer/enhancers and don’t know how they would perform on your floor.
Two things: the non water-based sealers will have a heavy smell and can overwhelm the house with fumes. So plan accordingly. Also, you may try emailing some of the sealer companies as a lot of them have 1 once samples that they will send out for you to try out.
Thanks for your tip about the grout to use. Do you recommend sealing the floor to keep it clean? product recommendations?
If it’s a cementitious grout then I think sealing it is a good idea. Miracle Porous Plus and 511 Impregnator are both good sealers and widely available. Additionally, Home Depot carries UltraSolv. Those are all solvent-based sealers and should work fine.
I have a pebble tile shower floor and there are 3 or 4 pebbles that keep popping. I have tried to use thin set multiple times to adhere them back to the floor but they continue to pop up. All the pebbles that keep popping up are around the drain. Any suggestions?
I’m not sure what would be causing this. If you have a Schluter drain then this is something that can happen if the drain is coming a bit loose. Also, if you used a single component grout, like Flexcolor or Fusion, then the grout may be wearing away. Otherwise, I’m not sure why this might be happening.
Ok, thanks, What grout would you recommend?
Probably a good cement grout like Prism, Permacolor, or Ultracolor. An epoxy will help strengthen the shower pan but it would be really expensive and it’s hard to figure how much you need for pebbles.
We have one random pebble that has popped loose off the mesh backing in our shower floor. Reading other comments, it would appear we should just lob some thinset on the back of the stone and piece it right back into the grout. Is this correct? Are there any other preferable products to ‘glue’ the stone back in place?
It appears that the grout still matches the stone’s contour perfectly, but would you recommend any other grouting or sealing after replacing the stone?
Thank you so much!
Thinset would be the best thing to use to reattach the stone to the shower floor. I think just matching grout and regular sealing of the shower floor are a good idea in general.
CATHERINE STOCKINGER says
I am having a drop in tub installed. My vision is to use river pebbles 1-3 inch size to put on the side. I don’t like any of the stone tiles they are way too uniform for me. This is what I have been told to do. Is this correct? 1. sealer paint on the drywall, 2 fibalath (easier to use than metal lath. 3 mortar/thinset a layer to cover the lath 4 thinset layer, dampen pebble, smidgen of thinset on each pebble. when done, use a sealer/ with enhancer for stone color. grout. I appreciate any help. Im retired so the amount of time to do this doesn’t matter. Is there a specific thinset or grout that I should use or avoid?
The way that I’ve installed pebbles is to install backer board (probably cement board or Hardibacker), then tape & mud the seams, then thinset each pebble, then grout, then seal. I’m assuming this is for a tub platform and not a shower. You can do it the way that you’ve described but I think it’s more work.
We recently purchased our home and the master bath has a pebble tile floor and 2 accent rows on the walls of the same pebble tile. The rest of the shower walls are white subway tile. The pebble tile is just ugly and we hate the color of it (a gross green). There are a few other projects we’d like to tackle before ripping out and re-doing that shower. Can we paint the pebble tile white? Lots of people online use Rust-Oleum tub and tile to paint bathroom / shower tiles, but I haven’t seen any where the shower has pebble tile. Does that make a difference? Help! I’m open to any suggestions to change the color of the pebble tiles.
I have no idea how this would work but you could try
Fey Gilo says
This was a really interesting article. I want to add that if you decided to use a smaller rock you will still see the seams even if they are set further part. The rocks themselves are not angled the same way so it becomes really evident. I tried removing the sections that I did separately and then cut smaller patches of the tile patches to fill in. This didn’t solve my problem. I would also say that the stones are adhered to the sheets you can actually soak them in warm to hot water and it resolves the adhesive so you don’t have to work hard pulling the stones off. And it gives you smooth stones 😁
First, wanted to thank you for keeping this awesome site running for so long. I’ve read thru every post here about pebble tile and learned a lot. Wish I had read your technique for the seams issue a month ago. I too pulled a ton of rocks off and achieved a seamless look, but your method looks like it would have been much easier/faster!
Now I’m hoping you might have some ideas for my problem which I’ve not seen listed in any other previous posts. In fact, I’ve never even heard of anyone, EVER having this issue before…
We just installed a lighter tone pebble tile (light grey/beige rocks – natural, not polished) glued on black mesh sheets.
Once set and fixed (i.e. dry and ready for grout), we first cleaned the rocks w/the Miracle Sealant cleaner. Then once completely dry (left for at least a day), we applied two coats of Miracle 511 Porous Plus sealant. We applied it as directed using a brush. Here’s where the problem happened.
Although the rocks are light in shade, they temporarily look darker when the sealant is applied. My husband is color blind and therefore not the most observant when it comes to subtleties of color/tone. It seems somehow the black dye from the mesh backer leached into the sealant and was then streaked and dripped all over the rocks. I don’t know if this happened on the first application, the 2nd, or both because he applied 2 coats of sealer to the entire floor before I saw it. He didn’t realize the streaks were being created by what he was doing – he thought the subtle variations in the rocks were just coming thru!
So now, in the most bitter twist of irony, we have rocks that were stained and ruined by applying the very sealer that was meant to prevent them from being stained!! Needless to say, after all my tireless hours of backbreaking effort to get the beautiful, seamless install, this is a real kick in the gut.
I’m hoping you have some suggestions on what we might be able to use to strip the rocks? And/or to try to remove the black dye that’s now on, or perhaps IN the rocks. The dye is definitely in/under the sealer but I don’t know if it’s been absorbed by the rocks.
In an inconspicuous location, I’ve tried all the remedies I can think of, but thus far nothing has worked – mineral spirits, acetone, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide/baking soda paste. I bought some stone stain remover that’s an acid based product which I’ve not yet tried bc it was too cold to vent the room properly.
I’m willing to spend the time scrubbing the rocks individually if there’s something out there that will remove the sealer/dye stain. I just really hope the only solution isn’t tear it up and start again! My eyes will have to learn to live with it for the sake of my back and my wallet!
I’m also curious to know if you feel natural (aka unpolished) pebbles should always be sealed on bathroom floors? I ask because, despite what the label claims, without question the 511 Porous Plus changed the color of the rocks – not just the black dye, but the color of the rocks as well. Given the choice, I wouldn’t seal them again, I REALLY wish I had thought to try your sample grout board idea! If the grout color didn’t stain the rocks in a sample test, I would have definitely skipped the sealer. Live and learn as they say…
Hopefully my experience can/will at least help someone else, but as I said, I’ve never heard of this happening before so, maybe it’s an unfortunate first.
Thanks again for all your excellent advice. The DIY community is lucky to have you!
It sounds like there are two things here: black streaks on the pebbles and then a separate sealer issue. If the sealer is on too thick then usually it can be fixed by adding more sealer, letting it reactivate itself, then buffing off the excess sealer with a rag. So you might try that.
I’m not sure if you’ve removed the sealer already with your efforts. You might see if water beads up on the pebbles and grout and that would be an indicator of if it’s still working or not.
I’m not sure what caused the black streaks. It might be that the sealer reacted with the netting and caused the netting to bleed. If you have a few extra pebbles you might try to wet them down and wipe them off and see if you can find the black streaks in the uninstalled pebbles. They may be there and not show up until the cleaning process. You could also try to get the sealer to react with the netting just as a way of gathering more information.
To remove the black marks, assuming they aren’t supposed to be there, I’m not really sure how to go about it. Try some different cleaners and I would advise not doing the acidic cleaner on the whole shower pan right at first. It may change things also.
Lastly, if nothing works, you could try coloring the black streaks so they aren’t black anymore. Maybe a grout colorant or even a colored sharpie? It’s worth a shot.
Thank you for your thoughtful suggestions. In response, I felt I should post a follow up for the sake of inquiring minds and to allay any fears I may have inadvertently created regarding the black mesh backer found on many pebble tile sheets…
I’m embarrassed to say, the black streaks are in fact IN the rocks! Because I wasn’t home when my husband cleaned them, I never saw them wet. And, as I mentioned, my husband’s attention to/awareness of tone/color is such that he didn’t notice the altered appearance of the rocks during the brief period they were wet during the cleaning.
That said, I still wish we had tried the grout board to test whether or not we might have gotten away with not sealing them since they’re on our bathroom floor and not in a shower.
My advice to those who fall in love with the look of any natural finish pebble tile – get a few pieces of it wet before you install it – especially if you know you’re going to have to seal it (aka if you’re using it in a shower). The sealer – matte finish or not – definitely has the potential to alter the color. It may not for all rocks, but those that are in the lighter or medium shades will likely shift in tone. My previously light grey/beige/white rocks are now all sorts of colors! Some have green hues, pink, yellow… and most have the formerly “hidden” black streaks.
So again, for the benefit of those who are savvy enough to seek out a site like this BEFORE they start their pebble tile project, let my experience be a lesson learned to spare you the same disappointment. If you’re going to heed the suggestion to seal your rocks (and most often you probably should), do yourself a favor and use the COLOR/tone/shade they are WHEN WET to determine how well they will or won’t match your overall intended color scheme.
I’ve yet to try the sealer stripper to see if there’s any chance that I can return them to their former unsealed appearance, but I highly doubt that’s even possible given the nature of how 511 Porous Plus works. DIYTileGuy, if you or anyone have tried this and know if it’s possible, I’d appreciate the insight. If not, I might still give it a try if I can find the product locally to test this weekend. Although at this point it would just be easier to find a new color to paint the walls! Lol
Thanks for following up on this. I’ve seen pebbles change color once everything gets cleaned and it sounds like that’s what happened in this case. I think the color is the color at this point. I don’t think removing the sealer will change the colors or make the black marks disappear. If repainting the walls fixes things then I do think that will be the easiest route.
I appreciate your honesty and diligence in following up. I hope others see your experience and benefit from it. Thanks again.
Judy Larson says
We are first time tile installers and decided to tile our shower floor also with black pebbles, so far doesn’t look to bad but i am worried i don’t have enough of the thin set cleaned away which is white in color and i want to use black grout with my black pebbles and i am afraid some of the white thin set is going to show through, any suggestions?
The only suggestion that I have is to do the best that you can. It’s no fun when the mortar shows through and you’re in the grouting process.
Larry Arcement says
Like many others, wish I had come across this site prior to choosing sliced pebble floor for shower (installed ~ 1 month ago). The sheet lines are visible but the maintenance to keep the grout from looking discolored is what I don’t want to live with. The plumber installed a vinyl waterproof liner then contractor installed thinset base with blue waterproofing painted over it(sloping only from 1 sq ft around the drain, then laid the sheets of tile.I still have 3.5″ of curbing. Can I just retile over the existing floor with another tile with tiny grout lines?
Thank you for your very helpful Blog!
Yes, you can. It’ll be somewhat difficult to flatten the pebbles but that should be the hardest part. They sell drain extenders at specialty tile stores and I would think that you could find them on Amazon.
Thank you for your excellent blog! I’m doing sheeted pebble tile on bathroom countertops that have laminate surfaces. A couple of questions…
1. What Thinset do you recommend?
2. Do you recommend I do anything to the laminate other than scuff it up good?
My apologies for multiple comments… one other question for pebble install, what sealer do you recommend and do you seal both before and after grouting?
Scuffing it up should be all that you need to do. For thinse, you’re going to want something that sticks. Something like Megalite at Home Depot
Check with the manufacturer of the pebbles but you’ll probably want a solvent-based sealer. Most will want a clear sealer but some might want a wet look sealer/enhancer. I would think that would go on after grout but, again, check with the manufacturer’s instructions.
Thank you so much for your prompt reply! I’m headed to HD this morning!
Thank you again! Your blog has been a wealth of information!
Can I install new pebble tile over my old pebble tile? It’s also on a concrete boat and I need to better slope it to drain properly this time :/ ? How should I do this. It’s a unique shower floor to begin with, with the way it slopes up the wall on one side.
I think your best bet is going to be to smooth out the existing pebbles first before installing others right over the top of them. Probably you’d want a bonding primer (Mapei Eco Prim Grip) first, then some sort of sloping mortar, then more pebbles. I would contact a company like Mapei and see which sloping mortar they recommend that will work for a wet area like you have.