Popular during the Roman Empire, travertine tiles are cut from quarried stone blocks with massive diamond-blade saws. Travertine is a sedimentary rock that is easy to work with. It is a lightweight rock that doesn’t require a lot of support, making it a superior option for walls and showers. This stone is durable, so it is easy to install on the walls and floor of your shower. You will need to maintain your tile regularly with a water and oil repellent sealer so it keeps its color and luster.
1. Remove any tile and grout on the walls and shower floor using a chisel. The area needs to be clean.
2. Have a plumber install all of the piping and drain, including the lower flange, if the shower is not already there.
3. Make sure your shower pan is solid and sturdy. If you are installing a new shower pan, check the plywood subfloor to ensure it is sturdy.
4. Create a slope using latex-modified mortar or concrete. Slope your floor 1/4 inch per foot of shower space. Slope it toward the drain. Use a trowel to install and slope the mortar. Let the mortar dry completely. This layer will be 1/4 to 1 inch deep, depending on the size of the shower.
5. Cut a piece of roofing asphalt paper and place it over the concrete bed.
6. Cut a hole in the flexible waterproof membrane in the area where the drain is located. Cut the hole large enough so that it will not interfere with the draining of the shower, but not too large so the subfloor shows through. Secure the liner to the drain using adhesive silicone caulk on both sides of the liner. Spread the liner out so it runs 6 inches up each wall and over the front of the threshold. Nail the liner about 1/2 inch from the top to the studs. Nail in the perimeter of the liner, and fold the corners over so they do not buckle. Leave enough liner so that it fits properly into the corners of the shower pan.
7. Install the top of the drain.
8. Install cement backing boards to the wall all the way down to the shower pan. Leave a gap of 1 to 2 inches above the bottom of the shower pan. Use the appropriate masonry screws and a drill to install the board. Butt the edges up against each other.
9. Remove all dirt and dust from the shower walls and floor. Start with a clean surface so the tiles stick properly. Also, make sure your tiles are clean.
10. Mix your thinset according to package instructions. Use thinset on all corners in the cement board. Add a second 2-to-3-inch layer of concrete. Insert pea-size gravel around the drain, so the concrete won’t clog the drain. Insert a sheet of chicken wire, half after you have poured 1 to 1 1/2 inches of concrete and then cover with another 1 to 1 1/2 inch of concrete. Now you have a stable base. Add a piece of 2-by-4 board to create a form on the threshold. Wrap the chicken wire over the threshold and pour the concrete.
11. Measure the wall, allowing for a floor tile, one set of wall tiles and the spacers in between. Use your tile and spacers to determine the exact measurement. Make a line around the shower at this level, and make sure the line is level.
12. Install the wall tiles, starting with the second row. Apply the thinset mortar using a notched trowel, and set the tiles in place, squishing them onto the wall so they are secure in the thinset. Insert spacers between each tile. Work your way from the second row up to the top of the shower. Use nippers or a tile saw to cut the tiles around the plumbing.
13. Install the floor tiles and first row of wall tiles next the notched trowel. This prevents you from walking on the tiles you just installed. Go from the outside of the shower pan in and from the back wall out. If you have to use partial tiles, determine how they fit best in your shower install before beginning to tile the floor. Start in the center of the back and install the back floor tiles, followed by the back wall tiles. Then move forward on each side. Then install the remainder of the floor, nipping the tiles to fit around the drain. Let the tiles sit for at least 24 hours.
14. Apply the grout using a rubber float. Make sure all of the joints are full, and sweep the grout at a 45 degree angle from the joints. Remove excess grout with a big sponge and lukewarm water. Let the grout dry for at least 24 hours.
15. Seal the tiles. Wait at least 21 days after the shower has been grouted before you seal it. Apply the sealer with an old cloth and remove any excess. Seal the entire travertine tile to prevent discoloration and maintain the tile’s natural shine.
Tips & Warnings
Wipe dirt, stains and spills from your tiles as soon as possible so they maintain their texture and color. Keep dirt and sand out of your shower to prevent scratching. Polish your travertine tiles to increase sheeting.
Avoid using vinegar or acidic cleaners on travertine because they will discolor the stone.