We’re planning to tile the tub surround in the basement bathroom. The first step was to install Hardibacker board to the studs (with the correct special screws). I’ve read a variety of methods for configuring the backer board and the flange of the tub, and ultimately I just screwed the board to the studs and left a small gap above the flange. I believe the idea is that by leaving a gap, there’s enough thinset to hold together and not crumble. I put fiberglass mesh tape on all the board seams, including across the gap above the flange, figuring it would also help hold it together. Then I thinset over the seams, the screws, and the flange completely, to make a nice even substrate for the tile.

I didn’t put any vapor barrier behind the board. Instead, after the thinset cured, I applied two coats of RedGard over the board to create a waterproof surround. In theory, the water should never get into the wall system this way, but if it does it should still be able to dry. I haven’t drywalled the inside of the mechanical room yet. My intention is to thoroughly test the shower for leaks before we insulate and drywall the other side of that wall. I highly recommend the plastic sheeting over the tub; it caught more than a couple drops. The next step for the tub is tiling, but before that I need to finish mudding the drywall.

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4 Responses to Basement Tub Surround Prep

  1. Jon says:

    Love the blog!

    How do you plan on finishing the perimeter basement walls? In a previous post you mentioned you wanted to let the brick dry to the interior, but also deal with water infiltration. Can you elaborate on what you are thinking of doing?

    I noticed there’s no light above the tub. You might want to consider it, or even an infrared heater bulb. Search Home Depot for 9412D. If you’ve ever had one, even in a hotel, I think it might be an a-ha moment.

    Also, if you have any referral for someone that can move the gas line for a stove, and a mason in Logan Square, please drop me an email!

  2. Jon says:

    Actually that one is not listed for damp locations, so not above bath, but Progress Lighting and others make a damp rated housing.

  3. Matt says:


    We’re still working out the exact plan. The biggest piece is controlling water on the outside, but since we’re running into some challenges there, we’re going to try using hydrostatic caulk on the leaks and then follow up with some Drylock paint for the curb and bottom foot of the wall. The thinking is that water vapor in the brick will still be able to dry in, but liquid water that far down will be below the frost line and not freeze. The Drylock will (hopefully) force the water to continue down through the gaps in the stone footings instead of into the basement so it gets picked up by the weeping system. However, this is still a theory. As for finishing, (when we eventually do it) we’re doing different things along different sections. In most of it we’re framing above the curb at the inside edge up to the windows and building a shelf along the walls even with the sills. In the rest we plan to use an insulated wall panel system and putting drywall over that.

    We have an idea for lighting in the tub that we’re pretty excited about, but thanks for the suggestion. Off-hand I don’t have a good plumber recommendation, but for a mason we used Tuckpointing Masonry Systems.

  4. Jon says:

    Interesting, I guess I’m struggling with how to add some wall insulation, while still allowing the brick to dry in. External protection would be great to have, but it’s not realistic at the moment given the cost and proximity to neighbors on both sides.

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