Can you actually build a shower using ceramic or stone that doesn’t leak?
It’s actually pretty simple but for some reason a lot of people now believe that unless you install a one piece shower stall you are guaranteed of having leaks eventually. We actually built a cut-away shower for a home show a few years ago because we had so many questions concerning how to properly build a shower stall and that display unit helped considerably.
There is a lot of information out there detailing how to properly build a shower stall. The TTMAC (Tile Terrazzo and Marble Association of Canada) and the TCA (Tile Council of America) both have very detailed specifications on shower installations. So do many of the manufacturers of accessory products for the ceramic and stone industry (ie Mapei, Schluter, Proma…etc.). All these sources of information will show you what needs to be done, with heavy emphasis on the use of water-proof membrane systems. You should be able to find some great details and informative pictures so this post won’t be covering those details.
What I want to stress is testing the water-proofing before you complete the shower.
That’s right, test the system before you finish tiling or installing whatever finish you’ve chosen. After the water-proofing has been installed and has cured plug the drain and fill the shower with water. Then let the water sit for at least 48 hours. Don’t rush the test, wait the the two whole days and make it official. Unless of course it starts leaking immediately, like into the next room or downstairs in the ceiling below the shower floor.
If after two days everything looks good then pull the plug and carefully inspect the shower floors and walls. If you are certain there were no leaks then complete the shower stall. If there is a leak, address it and then test the water tightness of the shower unit again. Don’t assume anything. Remember that old saying, if you assume something you risk making an Ass out of yoU and Me. Test, don’t just trust and this is equally important if you hired a contractor. Test, don’t trust. Anyone can slip up and it’s much better to find the leak before you finish the job then after.
Can I use marble for my kitchen counters?
I get asked this question a fair bit so although I have talked before about the different characteristics of marble I think we should talk specifically about marble in the kitchen.
First, a simple question. If you were going to a toga party would you wear silk, fine cotton or permanent press?
Let’s face it, silk and cotton are beautiful fabrics but they do come with a few drawbacks. If the Greeks and Romans could have worn permanent press fabrics would they taken over the market? Today most of us would probably pick the permanent press cloth but no one would argue the feel and look of silk or fine cotton.
So the simple answer to the marble question is……..yes……..why not.
However, like silk or fine cotton you need to be properly informed of what kind of a product you’re getting. You need to know about the properties of the specific marble you are looking at and understand what can happen to the marble in a kitchen environment. There are pluses and minuses but you should make an informed decision.
Ask yourself, is the look and feel you want to achieve worth the drawbacks? And let’s be honest here, there are several major drawbacks that I can think that I would tell you about if you walked into our showroom and said that you were considering marble as your counter-top material.
1. Marbles will stain.
2. Mild acids will etch the surface.
3. Marble surfaces will scratch.
Please note, I used the word will and not might.
On the other hand however, pastry chefs, bakers and candy makers have been using white marble counters for years. They obviously work extremely well for rolling out dough, fudge and probably dozens of other things in the kitchen that I don’t even know about.
Can you tell I’m not a chef, baker or candy maker?
Marble also has a totally different look and feel than granite. Some designers want that old world charm and character of a well used marble counter. Let’s remember that the ancient Greeks and Romans who could afford it used marble exclusively and thousands of years later everyone still loves it.
Next question. Can you stop the staining thing, etching thing or scratching thing with lots and lots of sealer?
This time the simple answer is…..no…..not really.
Sealers are very important but those problems I mentioned have more to do with the chemical composition of marble and not what kind or how much sealer you use. Look back at my post “Natural Stone and Your Counter”. However, if you want marble in your kitchen there are a couple of things you can do to help maintain the appearance of the stone.
One simple thing is use a honed marble and not polished. In this way when you spill white wine, lemon juice or some other mildly acidic liquid on the stone you won’t notice the etching as much. Also scratches are much less visible when you use a honed stone. Another item to consider is using mineral oil as a sealer. Most people will tell you just to seal the stone with a good impregnator however I would disagree. Get a sample and try. We do the same thing with Soapstone and yes this will darken the marble to some extent but it’s an excellent sealer, simple to reapply and totally non-toxic. Finaly, clean-up spills quickly, especially fruit juice and wine.
So, if you simply love a certain marble and you think you want to use it in the kitchen get a couple of samples of the stone and play around with them. Try sealer on one sample. Try the honing thing and the mineral oil thing. Spill stuff on the samples, drag pots across them, scratch them, clean them, reseal them, etc., etc., etc. Then take a long hard look at the results. If you’re fine with the outcome go for it and consider throwing a toga part to celebrate.
I hope that helps.