August 8, 2015:
I had a good day working on the tiny house yesterday. Andrew came down to help me again (bless his heart) and together, we got the shower installed which is amazing. That is something I have been planning and worrying about for at least the past six months and it is quite wonderful to finally have it done. I think it actually turned out pretty well. It’s not perfect, but it’s more than functional and I’m so happy to have it done that I’m more than willing to learn to love its imperfections.
I spent most of the first few hours of my day prepping things prior to Andrew’s arrival. One of the first things I did was cut the left and right FRP (Fiber Reinforced Plastic) shower panels down to size. I had originally split a 48 inch wide sheet of FRP into two 24 inch pieces, but later realized that those panels really needed to be the depth of the shower pan which was closer to 23 inches, so I removed 1 inch of material off of each panel.
By the way, if you ever need to cut FRP, the best way to do it is with metal shears. It takes a little bit of effort, but it gets the job done. Two days ago, I tried to cut an FRP panel with a fine tooth plywood blade on my circular saw and that worked terribly. FRP has glass particles in it and those glass particles ruined my brand new blade almost immediately. After that, the rest of the cut was basically me melting my way through the panel while kicking up all kinds of fiberglass dust. Not good. The metal shears are definitely the way to go.
The other thing I did before Andrew arrived was to hook up a hose to the tiny to the city water inlet that I installed on the tiny house a couple of weeks ago. I wanted to test all of the PEX in the house one more time with full water pressure before I closed up the shower walls. I was a little bit nervous about doing this, but once again, all of my water lines seemed to hold without leaking. Not sure how I got so lucky on that front.
Once Andrew arrived, the first order of business was to connect the ABS drain lines under the trailer for both the bathroom sink and the shower pan. This was something that definitely required two people. I was really worried about this connection because once you apply ABS cement, you have to get things together very quickly and trying to do it with two people on either side of a floor seemed a bit complicated. However, I’m happy to say that everything came together perfectly. Andrew held the bathroom sink drain pipe so it was sticking through the bottom of the floor about an inch and a half. Then, I applied glue to that pipe and to the rather complicated drain line I had created a couple of months ago, maneuvered them both together and then had Andrew push down while I pushed up and everything locked right up. After that, it was only a matter of connecting up the shower drain which was a little bit easier to get to.
After the plumbing lines were connected, we could finally secure the shower pan. This involved drilling 1/16″ oversize holes in the flange that runs around the upper edge of the shower pan at each stud and then attaching the shower pan to the studs using coated screws. To finish this process, we also had to install the final shower wall, which was the first interior wall that I have installed in my tiny house. This is the wall between the shower and the stove cabinet. Before Andrew arrived, I had carefully marked where this wall should go on all sides, so installing it was really just a matter of lining it up and screwing it to both the floor and ceiling. The only mistake we made with that was that we discovered that we should have screwed the shower pan to the lower part of the wall before screwing the wall to the floor just to make sure there was no gap between the shower pan and the wall. We installed the wall in the opposite order and ended up with a small gap which we fixed by removing the screws we had used to attach the wall to the floor, attaching the sharp and flange to the wall and then reattaching the wall to the floor. Once again, I was very glad that I typically use screws to secure everything in the house. When you make a mistake with screws, it’s just so easy to undo.
I have to say that I was a little bit nervous about drilling holes in my perfectly good shower pan. However, that is what the instructions said to do. The instructions also said to make sure the holes were 1/16 inch bigger in diameter than the screws so that the screws would not crack the fiberglass. I drilled a hole at every stud and used coated screws to make the attachment, adding a generous amount of silicone to the hole before attaching the screw.
By the way, the shower pan that I used was a 24 inch by 32 inch fiberglass pan that I ordered online from Dyer’s RV. Unfortunately, the continuous 24 by 32 inch shower enclosure that goes with the pan that I purchased was no longer available when I needed it (at $300, the enclosure was also a bit expensive). I couldn’t find anywhere else that made a continuous shower enclosure of that size which is why I decided to make my shower out of the FRP panels instead.
The next thing that I did was to apply some rubber, stick on flashing all the way around the top edge of the shower pan flange to create a watertight seal. The shower pan installation instructions said to use a bead of caulk, but I thought that the flashing would stick a little bit better to the plastic sheeting I had lined the walls with earlier in the week.
Next up was to attach the plywood paneling to the shower walls. This was relatively easy since I had already cut all the panels to the exact size earlier in the week. It only took about 30 minutes to screw all the panels to the walls. Once we finished that, the shower enclosure started to look like an actual shower which was kind of cool.
I also decided to run a strip of rubber flashing down the inside corners of the shower, overlapping the flange of the shower pan at the bottom. The inside corner of my shower was going to be made by basically pushing the edges of two FRP panels together and filling the space with caulk. Since this is not a continuous piece of plastic, I thought it might be good to have some secondary protection in case the seal between the rear and side panels of the shower somehow broke open in the future, maybe due to the walls racking a little bit during transport of my tiny house. I wasn’t entirely sure how well the FRP glue would stick to this rubber flashing. However, it was only a couple of inches of flashing on each side and I thought it was probably okay. Frankly, I would rather have my FRP panels fall off than risk having a leak in my shower enclosure.
After a quick break for lunch, we moved onto the next task of the day: gluing the shower panels to the wall. This was another thing I was a little bit nervous about seeing as I have never glued FRP to a wall before. However, I did watch a number of videos and read some instructional guides online and all of that made me think I could probably handle it. It was kind of a three-step process. The first step was to cut the trim pieces to size, apply a small bead of silicone to the channel and press them into place on the appropriate size of the FRP panels. For this, I needed a strip of edge trim along the top of each panel, a strip of corner trim on the inside edge of the left and right panel and another strip of edge trim on the outside edge of the left and right panels. We also had to be careful to when installing this trim to leave a 1/8 inch gap where the left and right panels were inserted into the corner trim slots to allow for expansion of the panels.
The second step was to carefully, but rather quickly apply the FRP adhesive. The adhesive comes in gallon containers. The instructions said we were supposed to use 1 gallon for every 50 square feet. I calculated that this would amount to one third of a gallon on the rear panel at a quarter gallon on each of the two side panels. Andrew and I applied to glue together. Andrew used a large putty knife to quickly get the glue onto the panel while I spread the glue out evenly using a special notched trowel that I had ordered from Amazon a week ago for just this purpose and which had arrived at my house just hours earlier. We knew that this process had to be done in less than 20 minutes before the glue set up so we were rushing a little bit on the first panel. However, I timed it and spreading the glue ended up taking us less than 10 minutes for each panel.
The third step was the moment of truth: sticking the panel to the wall. It was a little bit difficult to lift the panel, carry it to the shower enclosure and stick it to the wall without getting glue all over ourselves and everything around us. However, we were as careful as we could and tried to quickly wipe away any glue that had gotten on anything else off as soon as we got the wall in place. Luckily, the FRP glue is water soluble and cleans up pretty easily. After we stuck to the panel to the wall, we had to make sure that it was in the right place, again allowing a 1/8 inch gap between the bottom edge of each wall and the top of the shower pan. I was kind of amazed at how quickly and securely the FRP panels stuck to the walls. It was possible to slide them slightly left to right or up and down after attaching them to the wall, but doing so required the use of a pry bar near the edges. After the panels were stuck to the wall, I used a carpet roller to press the panels into place, working from the center outwards all the way around the panel as specified in the installation instructions.
We put the rear panel in place first, followed by the right and then the left panel. Before installing the right and left panel, I applied a generous bead of silicone to the inside corner of the shower to ensure a good seal between the two panels.
Once each panel was in place, we spent a little bit of time cleaning up any leftover any glue that had gotten on the panels or anything else and any extra silicone that had oozed out in the corners. I think we might have single-handedly kept the paper towel industry in business yesterday.
The finishing touch to the shower was to add a bead of white tub and tile caulk to the bottom edge of each panel, where it met the shower pan. I was kind of amazed at how good this made the shower look.
That was about it for the day. When I finished adding the final bead of caulk, it was nearly 5:00 PM. That’s when Sheila came to visit and to ooh and ahh over our progress. She also spent a little bit of time cleaning the panel walls which had gotten a little bit scuffed and still had a little bit of glue and silicone on them. She did great job. I thought the shower looked good beforehand, but when she was done with it, I though it looked downright beautiful.
Favorite parts of the day:
We had some major accomplishments yesterday so it’s hard to pick which one is my favorite moment. Here were some of the highlights:
- Hooking up the tiny house to the city water supply for the first time and still having no leaks.
- Getting the ABS piping to connect properly to the bathroom sink and shower drains underneath the trailer.
- Admiring my new shower.