11 Rookie Mistakes DIY’ers Make Remodeling a Shower

Transforming your shower from a tired, outdated space into a spa-like sanctuary can be incredibly rewarding. But for DIY enthusiasts, the thrill of a remodel project can sometimes be overshadowed by the fear of making costly mistakes. Fortunately for you, this guide will unveil 11 common pitfalls that rookie DIYers encounter when tackling a shower remodel, along with valuable tips to help you navigate your project with confidence.

1. Choosing the Right Shower Pan

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The shower pan, often an afterthought, is the unsung hero of your remodeled shower. It serves as the crucial waterproof foundation that prevents water damage to your subfloor and surrounding walls. Here’s how to avoid rookie mistakes when selecting your shower pan:

  • Don’t Be Penny Wise, Pound Foolish: While a cheap pan might seem appealing initially, remember that a leaky shower pan can lead to a major, expensive headache down the line. Invest in a high-quality, pre-made shower pan constructed from durable materials like acrylic or composite stone. These pans are pre-sloped for proper drainage and come with integrated curbs, saving you time and potential waterproofing woes.
  • DIY Mud Bed? Maybe Not This Time: For seasoned DIYers, a custom mud bed shower pan might be a viable option. However, for beginners, the complexity of creating a perfectly sloped and waterproofed mud bed can be daunting. Opt for the reliability and ease of installation offered by a pre-made pan.
  • Accessibility Matters: Consider the needs of all users when choosing your shower pan. If you have young children or elderly family members who might require a walk-in shower, opt for a low-profile pan with a minimal curb height.

2. Planning Makes Perfect: Don’t Forget the Plumbing

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Plumbing considerations are paramount before you get swept away by the excitement of choosing fixtures. Here’s how to ensure your new shower functions flawlessly:

  • Measure Twice, Buy Once: Before purchasing your shower pan, meticulously measure the location of your existing drain. Ensure the pan’s drain outlet perfectly aligns to avoid costly plumbing modifications later.
  • Hot and Cold Comfort: Don’t underestimate the importance of strategically placing your hot and cold water valve controls. Ideally, position them within easy reach outside the shower enclosure for easy access and temperature adjustments. Consider installing a thermostatic mixing valve for a consistent and comfortable showering experience.
  • Showerhead Symphony: Planning the location of your showerhead and body sprays is crucial for optimal functionality and a luxurious showering experience. Think about the height and angle of the showerhead for maximum coverage, and position body sprays strategically for targeted massage.

3. Taming the Tile: Know Your Limits

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Tiled showers add a touch of elegance and can be customized to your taste. However, for DIYers, tile work can be a tricky beast. Here’s how to avoid common mistakes:

  • Simplicity is Key: As a beginner, steer clear of intricate tile patterns and complex layouts. Opt for larger, subway-style tiles that are easier to cut and install with minimal grout lines.
  • Precision is Paramount: Cutting tiles requires a steady hand and the right tools. Invest in a quality tile cutter and practice on scrap tiles before tackling the actual installation.
  • The Power of Preparation: Don’t underestimate the importance of a properly prepared subfloor. Ensure your walls and floor are flat, plumb, and free of any imperfections before installing a backerboard, such as cement board, and waterproofing membrane.

4. Embrace the Schluter (or a Similar Savior):


For many DIYers, waterproofing a shower pan and walls can be a source of anxiety. Here’s where Schluter products (or similar shower pan liner systems) come to the rescue:

  • Waterproofing Made Easy: Schluter systems offer pre-formed liners with integrated corners and waterproofing membranes that simplify the process for DIYers. These systems eliminate the need for complex mud pan construction and provide a reliable, watertight barrier.
  • Strength in Numbers: Schluter systems create a stronger and more reliable shower base compared to traditional methods. The pre-formed liners and membranes work together to ensure a watertight seal, minimizing the risk of leaks and future repairs.

5. Carving Out Convenience: The Shower Niche

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A well-designed shower niche can be a game-changer, offering valuable storage space for toiletries and keeping your shower clutter-free. Here’s how to avoid rookie mistakes when incorporating a niche:

  • Planning is Key: Before construction begins, determine the ideal size and location of your niche based on your needs and the available space. Consider how many shelves you want and the size of your typical toiletries to ensure functionality.
  • Waterproofing 101: Don’t forget to extend the waterproofing membrane inside the niche to create a continuous watertight barrier. Use the same waterproofing material used for your shower walls and ensure all seams and corners are properly sealed.
  • Material Matters: Resist the urge to use drywall for your niche construction. Drywall is not water-resistant and can deteriorate over time in a shower environment. Opt for cement board or a similar waterproof material that can withstand constant moisture exposure.

6. Breathe Easy: The Importance of Ventilation


Proper ventilation is crucial in preventing mold and mildew growth, especially in a steamy shower environment. Here’s how to ensure your new shower stays fresh and healthy:

  • Fan Power: Don’t underestimate the importance of installing a bathroom exhaust fan. Choose a fan with enough power to adequately ventilate the entire bathroom, considering the size of your shower and bathroom space. A good rule of thumb is to choose a fan that can exchange the air in your bathroom at least eight times per hour.
  • Size Matters: Don’t settle for an underpowered fan just because it’s cheaper. A weak fan won’t effectively remove moisture, leading to condensation and potential mold growth.
  • Venting for Success: Ensure your exhaust fan vents directly outside the house, not into the attic. Improper venting can trap moisture within your walls and ceiling, causing long-term damage.

7. The Grout Grind: Patience is Key


Grouting is the final touch that defines the aesthetics of your tiled shower. However, rushing the grouting process can lead to problems down the line. Here’s how to ensure your grout job is beautiful and long-lasting:

  • Let the Cure Happen: Never grout before the tile adhesive has completely cured. Grouting on uncured adhesive can lead to cracking and grout failure. Allow the recommended drying time for your adhesive as specified by the manufacturer.
  • The Right Grout for the Job: Don’t use all-purpose grout for your shower. Opt for a sanded grout specifically formulated for wet areas like showers. Sanded grout is more resistant to mold and mildew growth and can accommodate slight variations in tile size.
  • Sealing the Deal: Once the grout has cured completely, apply a high-quality grout sealer. This creates a protective barrier that repels water and prevents stains, making your grout easier to maintain over time.

8. Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Foggiest of Them All?

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Bathrooms are inherently steamy environments, and neglecting proper ventilation can lead to a frustrating issue: foggy mirrors. Here’s how to avoid this pitfall:

  • Defogging Strategies: Consider incorporating a built-in defogger behind your shower mirror. These electrical heating elements prevent condensation from forming, keeping your mirror clear for post-shower routines.
  • Ventilation Matters Again: Ensure your bathroom exhaust fan is positioned strategically to capture steam rising from the shower. Ideally, the fan should be located directly above the shower or on the same wall within close proximity.
  • Airflow is Key: Don’t block the airflow path between the shower and the exhaust fan. This could be anything from an oversized shower curtain to improperly placed shelving units.

9. Not Allowing for Movement: Expansion and Contraction

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Ceramic and porcelain tiles are beautiful and durable, but they can be unforgiving when it comes to movement. Here’s how to avoid common mistakes related to expansion and contraction:

  • Leave Space to Breathe: Don’t grout tiles directly to the shower curb or walls. Leave a small gap, called a caulk joint, between the tiles and the surrounding surfaces. This allows for natural expansion and contraction of the tiles due to temperature and moisture fluctuations, preventing cracks and grout failure.
  • The Right Caulk for the Job: Not all caulks are created equal. Choose a high-quality, 100% silicone caulk specifically formulated for showers and wet areas. These caulks are more flexible and resistant to mold and mildew growth.
  • Caulking is an Ongoing Process: Caulk breaks down over time due to constant exposure to moisture. Make it a habit to inspect your shower caulk regularly and reapply whenever you notice cracks or deterioration.

10. Lighting the Way: Avoiding Shadows and Glare

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Proper lighting is essential for a functional and aesthetically pleasing shower. Here’s how to avoid common lighting pitfalls:

  • Banish the Shadows: A single overhead light might cast unwanted shadows in the shower. Consider installing recessed lights in the ceiling or strategically placed sconces on the walls to create even and shadow-free illumination.
  • Dimming is Divine: A dimmer switch allows you to adjust the shower lighting based on your needs. Opt for a dimmer switch compatible with your chosen shower lights for added functionality and a spa-like ambiance.
  • Glare Beware: Avoid placing light fixtures directly opposite the showerhead, as this can create uncomfortable glare. Opt for diffused or directional lighting to create a more inviting atmosphere.

11. Overlooking Safety: Grab Bars and Shower Seats

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Showers can be slippery, especially for young children, elderly individuals, or those with mobility limitations. Here’s how to prioritize safety in your shower remodel:

  • Grab Bars are Lifesavers: Install strategically placed grab bars in your shower for added stability and support. Consider bars near the shower entrance, next to the showerhead, and by the shower seat (if installing one).
  • Shower Seats for Comfort and Safety: A built-in shower seat provides a comfortable and secure place to sit while showering, especially for those with limited mobility. Choose a shower seat that folds up when not in use to maximize space.
  • Slip-and-Slide Prevention: Select shower floor tiles with a textured or non-slip surface to minimize the risk of falls. Consider adding a non-slip bath mat for added security.


By avoiding these common rookie mistakes, you’ll be well on your way to a successful and rewarding shower remodel project. Remember, thorough planning, meticulous execution, and a healthy dose of patience are key ingredients for a beautiful and functional shower that you’ll enjoy for years to come. Don’t be afraid to consult with experienced contractors for specific tasks that might be beyond your comfort level. With the right approach, you can transform your shower from a utilitarian space into a personal spa oasis, adding value and functionality to your home.


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