Install a river rock or pebble floor to give your shower stall the look and feel of natural stone. Whether you are renovating your entire bathroom or just doing the shower, river rock, with its overall neutral color scheme, complements many types of decors. If you're a do-it-yourselfer who has little or no tiling experience, you may want to practice your tiling and grouting techniques on a different surface before tackling this moderately challenging project.
Clean Base and Apply Thinset
Begin tiling after all of the plumbing for the shower floor is complete and you are left with a clean, dry concrete base that is free of dirt, mildew and other foreign contaminants. Check to see that the floor slopes at least 2 inches toward the drain.
Put on gloves and spread thinset across the concrete base. Thinset is an adhesive used to set tiles in a thin layer of mortar. Look for a good-quality thinset at a specialty tile store. There are many manufacturers, and each offers several product lines, often according to geographic regions. Ask a knowledgeable contractor or tile specialist in your area for a specific recommendation. Choose the right adhesive to avoid problems in the future.
Start in a back corner of the shower and work in increments of 3 square feet or less. Do not spread more thinset than you can use before it dries, usually 10 to 15 minutes. Scoop the thinset out of the bucket and onto the shower floor. Use the flat side of a 1/4-inch notched trowel to spread it. Hold the trowel at a 45-degree angle with the notched side down and drag it across the thinset to form neat rows of ridges.
Install River Rock Tiles
Place the river rock tiles on the thinset. Retailers sell river rock tile mounted on 12 x 12-inch sheets of interlocking mesh. The advantages of these tiles are that the stones are spaced properly, it is much faster to set tiles than to set individual stones and it is easier to identify patterns across the tiles.
River rock tiles come in an assortment of colors. Some tiles try to mimic the diversity of a river bed, whereas others offer monotones of grays, whites, blacks or browns. Cut the tile backing to create shapes or patterns by mixing tiles.
Alternatively, try your hand at using individual stones. This method consumes more time and effort, but it increases your artistic options. Press the river rocks gently into the thinset. Ensure that each stone makes contact with the thinset across its surface. Do not press the rocks completely through the thinset onto the concrete underneath.
Seal, Grout and Seal Again
Open the windows and doors to ventilate the bathroom and put on safety gear, including gloves, goggles and a respirator mask. Seal the natural stones or tiles with a penetrating sealer. Then cover the stones with grout, pressing the grout down between the stones or tiles. Let the grout dry for 30 minutes. Use a stiff-bristled brush to remove excess grout. Use a clean, damp sponge to remove the grout from the surface of the tiles. Allow to dry completely and apply a second coat of sealant.
Lee Roberts has written professionally in different capacities throughout her career. She has written for not-for-profit and commercial entities since she received her Bachelor of Arts in sociology from the University of Michigan in 1986. She is currently writing an extensive work of fiction.