Converting a Sauna to a Shower
LESLIE: John in Minnesota, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
JOHN: Yes, I have a sauna in my basement that I have to transfer over to a shower.
TOM: OK. You want to convert it to a shower?
JOHN: Yes. And I’m wondering what I can put on those walls to dress it up. Like some paneling or panels? Or do I have to use tile?
TOM: OK. Well, first of all, before we talk about what you’re going to put on the walls, how are you going to drain this? Is there a drain below the floor?
JOHN: Yes. I have a cement floor and there’s a drain right in the middle of the – in that room there. Yes.
TOM: Now, do you know if that drain is connected to the plumbing system of the house? Or is it just a basic floor drain that perhaps goes outside somewhere?
JOHN: It is hooked up to the – my sewer system.
TOM: Alright. Terrific. Well, that’s the hardest part. That’s solved. So now it just becomes sort of a décor question for you. And you say that this was a sauna at some point in time?
TOM: So I guess the sky is the limit here. What do you like? Do you like tile? Do you like solid surfacing materials like Corian? You have – you can pretty much do anything at this point. You’re going to start with the floor and you’re going to put – you’re definitely going to put tile on the floor, I would think. And place that drain with a cover that’s built into the tile base. And then from there, you’re going to build it up.
So you can do really anything you want to do at this point. You could put tile on those walls, you could put solid surfacing materials on those walls. Or if you want to keep it funky, you could leave them as a wood – you could leave it as wood. I’m presuming it’s probably cedar or some other type of moisture-resistant material.
JOHN: Well, the walls are that – it’s that clay tile.
TOM: Oh, the walls are clay tile? So then it has to be covered, yeah. So then the right thing to do here, if it’s just basically sort of a raw surface right now, is you’re going to need to put in a shower pan to start with. And then build up the bathroom from there. Now if you’ve already got walls that are sort of creating this – how big is the space that the sauna was in now?
JOHN: Eight by eight.
TOM: OK. Do you want an 8×8 shower? You want it to be pretty much a drive-in shower there? It’s a pretty big shower but do you want it to be that big?
JOHN: Well, I was going to probably have like 80 percent of it to shower. I wanted to put a double – like a double, two-headed shower or one on the – have a rain shower on top and one coming out the side and then the other …
TOM: Yeah, like a car wash.
JOHN: Yeah, exactly. Then the other part just kind of a drying area.
TOM: So, John, this sauna area, this 8×8 area, this is made of the terracotta clay tile?
TOM: Then I think you can glue ceramic tile right to that with a good-quality tile adhesive, as long as it’s fairly flat. Because the tile’s not going to bend. But if it’s a flat surface, you should be able to adhere the tile right to it, since it’s already a water-resistant back, and pretty much go up from there.
Now, the floor, you have to build up a shower pan there so you get good drainage down to the hole in the floor, so to speak. But once you get that established, I think you could adhere ceramic tile right to those terracotta walls and go right from there.
Now, make sure that you have ventilation in that space. Install an exhaust fan. Of course, do all your plumbing ahead of time and the last thing you’ll do is lay those tile walls in. Does that make sense?
JOHN: OK. Yes, it does.
TOM: Alright, John. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.