Make your own shower – a window to the world

This post is about tiling around a window in the shower.  I originally tried to combine this topic with some information on sizing up a shower and buying our tile, but really the window deserves separate discussion on its own.  At least half of the time I spent tiling was just because of this window.  Here’s the window:

No way around it.

No way around it.


Many DIY posts about showers either don’t have a window, don’t describe what they did with the window or just acknowledge that some tiles will have to be cut into funny shapes.  But, like most things in home improvement, there is more than one design for how to actually tile around the window.

Short detour: I really wanted to take it seriously since I’ve had some pretty sketchy experiences with wet wood in bathrooms (helllllo $298/month room in Pittsburgh, PA, summer 2005).  The ceiling literally fell in while I was in the shower:

Bathroom Mess Ceiling

Ceiling of bathroom after wood gave away.  I wonder if that wire was live and wet…nice.  NOT in our current house!

Bathroom Mess 1

Contents of ceiling, including giant light, having fallen from ceiling to floor. Tub is to left of toilet.

I escaped to my cousins for memorial day weekend while the landlord fixed that guy back up.  That right there is pretty much my best story ever, so it’s all down hill from here, readers.  Now, obviously, the window sill wasn’t a matter of life and death like the photos above (glad I wasn’t brushing my teeth right then!), but between this and the mold in my rental house in Berkeley, I wanted to make sure this sucker is sealed up tightly!

But I digress.  I’ve seen people handle windows differently online.  The trick is to decide before you put up the backerboard so that you can get the backerboard in the right places (ie, over the window frame).  You’re also virtually guaranteed some ‘L’ cuts so make sure you have a power saw (recommended) or patience and good edges with a carbide rod saw (not recommended for ‘L’ cuts).  Here are two bad options: just ignore it and decide to let the wood rot and tile right over the window.  702 Park project has a lovely image of what that looks like down the road, about 6 images down the page in that link.  They cleaned it up and replaced it with a tiled/marble frame not made of wood.  Here (if you are patient) is a video that framed a window with marble entirely.  Another good option if you don’t fear wood in showers like I do is the method Mary and Jay used at Lemon Grove Blog to add a marble sill but leave the wooden frame, painted over with semi-gloss paint (thanks for the info, Mary!).

As you can tell from above, we took another route of tiling right around the frame, removing all wooden window sills – so now the “sill” is a continuation of the tile.  There is a nice diagram here about how to deal with the backerboard – you can read about our specific choices of supplies in the backerboard posting.  Here is a concise online tutorial I could find on this method, but nobody knew what “deck mud” was at the our local hardware stores so I just did my best with thin set to angle the bottom tiles back toward the shower and there will be a fair amount of caulk.  I did take them up on the taping tile up idea though:

photo 5

Taping tile over a window since there’s nothing below to support it.  And you can see that thinset I scraped off of the tiles later.  I haven’t put in the tiles on the underside of the upper frame yet.

Did you miss out on part one on how to put up backerboard?  Or part two about the influence of the tile we chose?  


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