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How to choose and install shower tile backer board

Feb 14 2022

Are you looking forward to purchasing the best shower tile backer board for your bathroom? Then you will notice that there are multiple options available to consider. In this guide, we will provide a comprehensive guide to you on how to find the best shower wallboard. On top of that, you will also be able to learn how to proceed with the installation of your shower backer board as well.

What is a shower tile backer board?

A shower backer board can act as a waterproofing barrier in between your shower and the wall. Traditional shower wall boards are made out of Portland cement, and they also come along with fiberglass reinforcements. The backer board is in a position to provide much-needed support for the shower system by working as structural sheeting. On top of that, it will create a secure bonding surface for tile, thin-set mortar, and waterproofing membrane as well.

The new shower wall boards available for purchase in the market are made out of cementitious materials. Likewise, you will also be able to purchase them with wood fiber, silica sand, foam, fiberglass, and gypsum constructions. No matter what the material used for the construction of shower boards is, you can expect to receive outstanding mold resistance and moisture resistance. When you get a foam board, you will also be able to have a completely waterproof shower system.

Four types of Shower Wall Boards

When you are trying to purchase a shower wall board as a part of your shower system installation project, you will notice that there are four main types of boards available to consider. Let’s take a look at what those different types of boards are. Then you can decide the best type of board that you should buy.

  • Cement board

Cement boards are quite common. If you are looking forward to purchasing a shower backer board that is similar to the original cement backer boards, this would be a great option available to consider. They are made out of inorganic materials. In other words, you will notice that cement boards come along with fiberglass reinforcement and Portland cement. You can expect to receive excellent impact-resistant properties out of these boards. On top of that, these boards are rigid and fire-resistant. You can use them as an efficient bonding substrate for shower tiles.

When you take a look at new cement boards that come to the market, you will notice that they contain polymers along with fiberglass mesh on the rear and front sides. You can also see this wrapping alongside the edges of the board. It is important to keep in mind that cement boards don’t offer any moisture-resistant properties. Instead, they will go ahead and absorb moisture. However, you don’t have to worry too much about fungal growth because the boards come with some extra additives. On the other hand, you shouldn’t worry about the durability of these boards as well.

One of the most important things to keep in mind when you get cement boards is that they only come along with a thickness of ½ inches. If the thickness increases, the board will get too brittle. Hence, you cannot expect to get cement boards with higher thickness.

  • Fiber cement board

You can discover multiple variations in fiber cement boards. These variations mainly differ from one manufacturer to another. However, all these come along with wood fibers or cellulose fibers. Hence, you can expect these shower wall boards to be more flexible than other options available for purchase in the market.

It is possible to find a uniform composition in the fiber cement boards as well. In other words, they never come to you with a layered composition. In some of the fiber cement boards, you may discover a mixture of cellulose fibers and silica sand. However, there are boards that come with cellulose fibers and gypsum as well. The non-layered composition of these boards is more density in the overall composition. Due to the same reason, these boards are available in two different thickness levels as ¼ inches and ½ inches.

All fiber cement boards that you purchase from the market come along with excellent compression-resistant properties. They are also in a position to resist mold and moisture. You will be able to use the fiber cement boards instead of cement boards as well. However, the price of a fiber cement board would be around 1.5 times high when compared to a cement board.

  • Glass mat gypsum board

Unlike previously discussed shower wall boards, glass mat gypsum boards come to you along with a layered composition. In other words, you will be able to discover fiberglass on the front and bottom layer, whereas the middle layer consists of a gypsum inner core.

At a glance, a glass mat gypsum board would look quite similar to an ordinary gypsum wall board. However, they are completely water-resistant because of the fiberglass layers on the side. On the other hand, these gypsum boards are not made out of paper or wood.

You will only be able to purchase glass mat gypsum boards with a thickness of ½ inches. Therefore, you cannot expect them to offer a high level of structural rigidness. However, you can still use them in the shower system and get your work done without encountering any major problems. The prices of these shower wall boards are much higher when compared to other options available in the market.

  • Foam backer board

As the name suggests, foam backer boards are made out of extruded polystyrene or XPS foam. However, you will also be able to find denser versions in the market, which are made out of high-density polyisocyanurate. There is a reinforced material layer around these boards. It is usually made out of cement or fabric. On top of that, you can discover a design that can accommodate thin-set mortar on the sides of the board.

One of the biggest benefits that you can get out of a foam backer board is that they offer an 80% lightness when compared to the ordinary cement boards available. On top of that, you can also expect them to deliver excellent moisture-resistant capabilities. Hence, you don’t really have to worry about going ahead with additional waterproofing as you use these boards. Upon the installation of the boards, you can simply seal them with fasteners and seams. This will eventually help you to cut downtime and effort that you have to spend on installation as well.

The foam backer boards are available to you in different thickness levels. It is up to you to take a look at your specific preferences and select the most appropriate thickness level. However, the minimum thickness that we can recommend you get would be ½ inches. If it is under ½ inches in thickness, you will notice that the board is quite too flexible.

How do shower wall boards differ from each other?

We will share a quick table, which will assist you to understand the differences between different shower wall boards. You may go through this table and decide the best type of wall board that you can buy for your use.

Waterproof Cost Ease of installation Ease of cutting Mold resistance Interior moisture resistance Exterior moisture resistance Structural rigidity
Cement Board
Fiber Cement Board
Glass Matt Backer Board
Foam Backer Board

 

Comparing different shower wall boards

Now you are aware of the four different types of shower backer boards available for you to get. What is the best option out of these to buy? We will do a cross-comparison between these options so that you can end up deciding the best option for you. To help you with making a decision, we thought of paying attention to the four most prominent features that come along with a shower wall board. This understanding can help you to buy the best board and proceed with your shower system installation.

  • Secure mortar bonding

One of the very first things to consider when you buy a shower wall board is to determine the level of mortar bonding that it would offer to your tile surface. Then you will be able to experience long-term durability and functionality.

The traditional tile backer boards made out of gypsum absorbed moisture. Due to the same reason, they caused delamination in between the gypsum core and paper face. This is one of the biggest problems that people who get drywall boards had to deal with. However, you don’t have to deal with the same problem with newer shower wall boards. For example, the cement boards and other types of boards we discussed above come along with pre-bonded textured surfaces. Therefore, you can get the thin-set mortar to stick to them quite effectively.

  • Structural rigidity

The second most important thing you should be mindful of is structural rigidity. When it comes to structural rigidity, we strongly encourage you to take a look at the backer boards made out of cement. That’s because such boards offer the highest level of stiffness and strength to them. You will also need to be mindful about limiting the movement so that you can prevent your tile assembly from cracking and moving. This is where the structural rigidity can benefit you.

However, it doesn’t mean that the glass mat backer boards are fragile. They are not so stiff as the cement boards, but you can expect to receive a decent level of strength out of them to support your tile assembly. However, they will not be able to withstand accidents. For example, imagine what would happen when a heavily-built person falls against the shower. This would eventually result in the fracturing of the grout.

The level of structural rigidity that you can get out of foam shower wall boards is quite low. That’s because they deliver poor rigidity and strength to you. You should be mindful of the level of rigidity that you expect to receive. Based on that, it is possible for you to proceed with purchasing the best type of shower wall board available out there.

  • Mold resistance

You should never ignore mold resistance at the time of purchasing a shower backer board. It is something that you need to be mindful of when you purchase parts for the entire shower system, including shower curbs, shower niches, and shower pan.

It is true that a properly installed shower wall board will not create any room for mold to grow. However, you should be careful not to take any risks with it. That’s because you can never underestimate the problems that mold can create.

Assume that your tile assembly and the wall in the bathroom are not properly constructed. Then there is a possibility for mold to grow. Even the mistakes you do with shower system installation can lead you to problems with mold. This is why the mold-resistant properties of the shower board can be beneficial to you.

If you buy a shower wall board with moisture-resistant properties, you can make sure that there is no possibility for mold to grow. Even if there are the right moisture levels or right temperature, mold will never continue to grow on such boards. This is where foam shower backer boards can benefit you. These boards are designed in a way, so that mold will not be able to grow on them. You may keep peace of mind and stay away from all sorts of problems that you may come across with the help of these boards.

  • Waterproofing

It is also essential for you to think about purchasing shower wall boards that exhibit waterproofing properties. Most new shower backer boards that you can get from the market come along with moisture-resistant capabilities. However, you should double check and verify this before you spend your money. Then you can make sure that you will not run into any problems with it.

You need to keep in mind that the foam backer boards tend to repeal water effectively. Therefore, you don’t need to worry about getting an extra waterproofing membrane for them. Due to the same reason, foam backer boards are quite popular among people who go ahead with DIY installation projects.

Shower backer board installation tips

Now let’s come to the most important section of the article, where we share some useful tips on how to proceed with shower backer board installation. There is no need to seek the assistance of a contractor for installation because you will be able to get the job done on your own. If you can adhere to these tips, you will be able to end up completing your installation without a problem.

  • Installation of cement boards and fiber cement wallboards

The steps to install cement boards and fiber cement wallboards are pretty much the same. This is where you will need to pay extra attention to the way how you fasten them to the wall studs. That’s the trickiest part of the installation, and if you can do it correctly, you will not have to worry too much about the results.

We strongly encourage you to proceed with using tile backer board screws to get the job done. Then you will not have to worry too much about the results you will get upon installation. However, it is also important to keep in mind that both cement boards and fiber cement boards are quite brittle. If you don’t use the correct screws, you will end up fracturing them. On the other hand, using ordinary screws is not a good idea as well. That’s because they are not designed to be installed in environments where there is lots of moisture. Even if you install them in your bathroom, you will end up with corroded screws after some time.

You can think about using rock-on screws to get the job done. That’s mainly because they come along with a low/ high threat configuration. You will be able to get the screws to bit to wood quite effectively. As you use rock-on screws, you shouldn’t worry about the brittleness of these boards as well.

  • Installation of glass matt tile wall boards

The core of glass matt tile wall boards is made out of gypsum. Due to the same reason, you should use the same screw installation method as you proceed with the installation of drywall boards. However, you should be careful to use backer board screws. On the other hand, you will also need to be careful not to send the screws too far as you install them. That’s because there is a possibility for the screws to break through the face of the board. If that happens, you will not be able to get any holding power from the screw.

If you want to get the job done quite effectively, we encourage you to use a driver that comes along with a stop collar. It will help you to install screws quite effectively. In other words, you will be able to create tension on the boards, which will deliver a perfect installation at the end of the day.

  • Installation of foam shower backer boards

The process of installing foam shower backer boards is quite different. That’s because these backer boards come along with a low-density structure. In other words, the foam shower backer boards are a bit too flimsy. Therefore, you should only use manufacturer-recommended sharpeners to attach these backer boards to your tile. The manufacturer recommended sharpeners would usually come along with large washers. This will help you with enhancing the screw head surface area, which will assist you to go for a smooth installation.

The foam shower backer boards can work as effective backer boards as well as waterproofing membranes. Due to the same reason, you will need to make sure that you properly cover the fasteners with a sealer. This will assist you with maintaining the integrity of the waterproofing. You can do this by applying the sealant on top of the screw heads. It is also important to use a sealant as recommended by the manufacturer. Or else, you may proceed with applying a membrane patch on top of the screw heads along with a small layer of mortar.

Final words

Now you have a good overall understanding of the different types of shower wall boards available out there for you to get. Along with that, you also know how to pick the best shower wall board available out there. You can stick to our suggestions and proceed with purchasing the best shower wall board available in the market.

There are lots of DIY installation guides on the internet on how to install your own shower wallboard. Since this is a DIY installation project that you can do on your own, there is no need to seek the assistance of a contractor or spend money out of your pocket. While keeping this in mind, you may proceed with buying the right wall board and proceed with the installation.

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