Shower Tile Backer Board: How To Choose And Install The Right One

shower tile backer boardI often get questions on why use a shower tile backer board or what it does? Today, I am finally going to answer all your questions. A tile backer board is mainly used for tub surrounds and showers.

There are different types of tiles backer boards available and choosing the right one could be a difficult choice to make. The advantage of backer boards is that they are moisture resistant. This is why they are used to support tile installations.

They are not just used in shower walls, but also for flooring. However, you shouldn’t confuse it with drywall with a backer board. Drywall is visible, but a backer board is not.

If you are remodeling your bathroom or kitchen, you can consider installing tile backer boards in the walls as well as in the flooring. In a bathroom, a backer board is installed behind showers and also in the walls surrounding bathtubs.

It is also used underfloor tile if you have a wood sub-floor. This can be any tile flooring in your house that are “wet areas”.

As far as your kitchen is concerned, you should install a backer board behind the backsplash. If you are planning to install a new shower tile backer board, you should go through this guide once.

Best Backer Board For Shower

When it comes to choosing the best backer board for shower, you will come across different types and each of them is different. In this section, I am going to give you a brief idea of the types of tile backer boards.

Here you go with the details:

1.Cement board

Cement tile backer boards are made of inorganic materials. They use lightly aggregated Portland cement with fiberglass reinforcement. These types of backer boards are designed to be both fire-resistant, and impact resistant.

They are also more rigid than other types of backer boards. Modern-day cement boards contain polymers with a fiberglass mesh on the back and front.

2.Glass Mat Gypsum Board

Glass Mat Gypsum board is a layered product consisting of a gypsum inner core, while the front and the back is made with a fiberglass layer.

These boards are water-resistant which makes them a great choice for shower walls. You can find glass mat gypsum boards at varying prices.

3.Fiber Cement Board

Fiber cement boards are available in different versions from different manufacturers. But all of them are made of cellulose fibers. This makes the board less brittle and more flexible.

Some boards contain a mixture of cellulose fibers and silica sand, while others are made of gypsum and cellulose fibers.

The best thing about fiber cement boards is that they can resist compression, mold, and moisture. This could make the best backer board for shower.

4.Foam Shower Tile Backer Board

These types of backer boards are made from extruded polystyrene foam. But some of them are also composed of high-density polyisocyanurate closed-cell foam.

Each side of the board comes covered with a layer of fleece, fabric, or cement. Comparatively, these boards are 80% lighter than cement boards. Not just that, but it is also more moisture resistant.

What is the backer board for tile?

So what is a backer board for tile? This is one question I often come across. Let’s answer this once and for all. A shower tile backer board can be of different types based on the material it is made of.

These boards are installed in the shower wall framing as it serves as structural sheeting. It secures a bonding surface for waterproofing membrane, thin-set mortar, and tile.

Cement and fiberglass backer boards are the two most common types of backer boards you will find. But there are some newer versions available too.

This includes foam glass mat gypsum board and foam backer board. These new boards are both moisture and mold-resistant. Some of them also provide a complete waterproofing solution.

A backer board is used for almost all types of tile jobs, including walls, floors, and counters. They are mainly used in damp areas, such as bathrooms and kitchens. This helps protect wall studs from water and moisture.

Builders install tile backer boards in wet areas of the house. The most common places are:

Now that you know what is a backer board for tile, you should consider installing them to protect your wall studs from moisture.

How to install tile backer board in the shower?

If you want to know how to install tile backer board in shower, you are in luck. In this section, I will share the detailed steps of the entire process.

  1. At first, you need to decide how you want to install a shower tile backer board, horizontal or vertical.
  2. Use plastic sheeting to cover the wall studs. This will act as a moisture barrier for the wall studs behind the backer board. To keep the sheeting in place, staple them. Also, layer them following a waterfall method. Make sure that the shower pan flange is covered.
  3. Split the board into two pieces to share a wall stud across the width of the stud. Mount each piece to the wall stud.
  4. Now measure and mark your pieces. Take a utility knife to cut straight pieces.
  5. Cut around pipe stub-outs, such as faucets and showerheads. You can use a keyhole saw to make precision cuts.
  6. Now stack the pieces up the wall. You should start with the lowest piece first. If you don’t have a helper with you, use a few screws into the wall, above the shower pan, so that you can place the first sheet on top of those screws.
  7. Mount each piece to the wall studs and drill through the board into the studs. Make sure that you place each screw 6 inches apart up to the wall studs. You should leave about a 1/8-inch gap between all pieces for expansion movement.
  8. Use silicone to caulk the gaps between the pieces. Also, don’t forget to caulk the lowest piece on top of the shower pan.
  9. Cover the edges with drywall mesh tape. Apply masking tape and apply thinset for the tile installation.

Well, now you know how to install tile backer board in shower.

Waterproof Backer Board For Shower

 Before getting a waterproof backer board for shower, you need to understand the difference between waterproofing and water-resistant. Since many of you are confused between the two, I am here to clear things out for you.

Both terms may sound the same, but they have different approaches and definitions. By waterproofing, it means adding an extra layer on the exterior wall or floor. This is important when the top layer is not water-resistant.

For example, if you have a wooden wall, you need a waterproof layer to protect it from water damage. The same is applicable for cement walls with less density. On the other hand, water-resistant is about the capability of withstanding water.

A Waterproof tile backer board is usually applied in the shower or bathroom. Any wet area should have an extra layer on the floor and wall for waterproofing. Before getting the waterproof cover, you should check the material quality and capability.

Waterproofing cement board for shower

Many of you are confused about whether to waterproof cement boards for showers or not. Before you make any decision, you should read the pointers below. Waterproofing cement board for shower is crucial when the boards are not waterproof.

To prevent moisture from seeping through to the metal or wood studs beneath the tile, you need to apply a sealant on porous materials. In case, you didn’t know grout and tile are not waterproof. They can let in some moisture even if you use a sealant.

This is why it is important to protect the materials underneath vapor and water damage.  Fiberglass-coated gypsum board, allow you to dispense with using any kind of moisture barrier or sealant to keep it underneath the tile.

But in this case, a concrete backer board could be better because it is more durable and stronger than a gypsum board. However, a water vapor membrane must be placed underneath it.

How to install cement board on walls?

Many of you want to know how to install cement boards on walls. In this section, I will be covering that for you. Installing cement board is important when you want to waterproof tile floors. By doing so, you can make them last for years and also protect them from getting cracked.

Here is what you have to do:

  1. The first step is to plan the backer board placement. You should do it in a way so that it completely covers the subfloor joints. If needed, you can cut the backer board in small spaces as well. Use chalk to mark the cement board placement.
  2. You need a thin-set mortar to install the cement backer board. Spread it evenly and allow it to dry. Ridge the mortar with the notched side of the trowel.
  3. Now lay the backer board sheets, while the mortar is still wet. Lay one sheet at a time and maintain a 1/4-inch gap between the backer board and the wall. All the sheets should have a 1/8-inch gap between them.
  4. Use screws to secure the backer board sheets. Place the screws at a gap of 1/2-inch.
  5. After you are done with the screws, fill the visible gaps with mortar. Use the flat side of your notched trowel to fill the joints between the backer board sheets.
  6. Now take fiberglass tape to cover the joints. Once the tape is embedded, scrape off any excess mortar.
  7. You also need to cover fiberglass tape with mortar. Just spread a thin layer of mortar and smoothen out the edges as much as you can.
  8. Allow the mortar to set and dry. This should take about 24 to 48 hours before tiling.

Now that you know how to install cement boards on walls, you should be able to complete the process without any professional help.

Tile Backer Board Floor

A tile backer board floor is often installed when you want to replace an old cracked tile floor. It helps you to create a solid setting base for the new tiles.  As you already know there are different types of tile backer boards available.

Each of these boards is used in a different setting. For instance, if you have a wood subfloor, you should use a cement tile board. No matter, what you do, but you should not install tile directly over plywood, especially in areas like the bathroom.

That’s because plywood tends to contract and expand beneath the ceramic tile. This can result in loose or cracked tiles. But when you install cement board correctly, they provide a stable base that stays permanently bond to the tile.

This makes your new tile floor long-lasting. Also, you should get the best backer board for tile.

Here are some tips to install tile backer board floor correctly:

  • For long-lasting tile installation, you need to have a solid subfloor. No matter, what your subfloor is made of make sure it is squeak-free before you start installing cement board.
  • You should never install a shower tile backer board without applying a thin-set underneath it. The thin-set goes on the top of the backer board and helps the tiles to stick. Also, you cannot replace thin-set with screws or nails.
  • When installing a cement backer board, you should not skip using mesh tape on the seams of your backer board.
  • It is never a good idea to install a cement backer board over a concrete subfloor. In this case, you should opt for a foam backer board.

By installing a tile backer board, you can have long-lasting tiles. But make sure that you follow the correct installation process for backer boards.

Hardie Backer Board For Shower Walls

Hardie Backer Board For Shower WallsIf you are planning to install shower tile backer board, the HardieBacker cement board could be the best choice for you. Hardie backer board for shower walls has been improved to perform better. They are even recommended by installers and contractors.

HardieBacker provides 100% waterproof cement backer board with HydroDefense™ Technology. This provides unmatched strength, excellent tile adhesion, and ease of use.

Installing Hardie backer board for shower walls means, you don’t have to waterproof it separately. These backer boards are designed for exceptional performance.

They offer rock-solid protection for your tile. Some of the main features of HardieBacker cement board are:

  • Made of 90% Portland cement and sand, plus proprietary ingredients. This makes it completely non-abrasive.
  • No loose filler or aggregate. This is to ensure that you get a solid foundation.
  • High flexural strength to enable a rock-solid foundation for your tile project.
  • Easy to cut than other competitive boards.
  • Less dust and debris than competitive boards when cutting. This results in less mess and clean-up than other cement boards.
  • Unique cement formulation provides excellent tile adhesion. This helps prevent damage from moisture and thus, make your tile work long-lasting.

HardieBacker boards are not only high in quality, but they also come with a unique formulation that makes it one of the top choices for builders and contractors. To get the best results, you should consider using HardieBacker boards.

Foam Tile Backer Board

When it comes to choosing a shower tile backer board, you will come across many options. While cement and fiberglass backer boards are traditional choices, gypsum and foam board falls are included in the modern group.

Now speaking of foam tile backer boards, it has two big advantages over other backer boards.

  • The good thing about a foam backer board is that it is extremely lightweight. It weighs lesser than any other types of backer boards out there. A 1/2-inch thick, 3 x 5-foot sheet weighs just around 7-1/2 pounds.

Not just that, but it is also super easy to cut. You can cut it using just a utility knife. This makes the installation process much easier.

  • Another advantage is that the foam boards made of polyisocyanurate are waterproof. This means you don’t have to add a waterproofing membrane for shower walls. However, you should still take some steps to waterproof the seams.

It is because of these features that foam tile backer board is preferred by both homeowners and contractors. If you are planning to remodel your bathroom or kitchen, you can consider installing foam backer boards.

The main benefits of using foam backer boards are:

  • It is lightweight.
  • It is waterproof. Some of them are also vapored retardants.
  • Can be fastened without washers.
  • Easy to cut and dust-free.
  • Suitable for continuous use in steam shower.

Comparison Of Different Boards

As I already mentioned, shower tile backer boards can be of different types. Now the thing is every type has some special features to offer.  So before you choose a backer board, you need to know the types and which is better for what.

To give you an idea, we have compared the different types of backer boards in this section. Once you go through the comparison details, you will have a better understanding of backer boards.

Kerdi Board vs Cement Board

If you are stuck between the kerdi board vs cement board, I can help clear your confusion.

Kerdi Board

kerdi board vs cement board

Kerdi board is considered to be a lightweight alternative to cement board. It is made of polystyrene and is available in various thicknesses. You can use it in place

of drywall or cement board. Kerdi board can be installed with screws and tapes.

Although it is more costly than cement board, it has more advantages than cement board. For instance, they are light and easy to cut.

Not just that, but they are also waterproof and easy to install. Lastly, they are more insulating than cement boards.

Cement Board

A cement board is possibly the most common type of backer board used. They are made of cement and reinforced with fiberglass on the back and front. But the problem with cement boards is that they are not waterproof.

They are mostly used for tiled floors and shower surrounds in wet areas. It can also be used for exterior tiling jobs. They are available in sheets ranging from 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch thick.

In comparison to the Kerdi board, they are difficult to cut. Also, they are heavy and hard to hold on the wall while placing the screws.

In between the kerdi board vs cement board, you should consider opting for the kerdi board. It is the best alternative to cement board.

Green Board vs Cement Board

In this section, I am going to compare green board vs cement board.

Green board is a type of drywall that is widely used in bathrooms. Although it is resistant to mold and moisture, it is not waterproof. This type of board is commonly used in damp areas, but not wet environments.

Installing it in a wet area can cause water to get to the gypsum part of the wall which will eventually lead to water damage. If this happens, your tiles may fall off the wall.

This is why you should use green board only for the walls in the bathroom that are not directly exposed to water.

On the other hand, cement board can be used for wet applications in walls, tubs, shower walls, and even floors. A cement-based board usually comes with mesh glass underlayment, which makes it waterproof and durable.

If every caulk or grout fails, the wall will stay waterproof and won’t lead to any water damage.

This means you should use the green board for damp areas, while cement board can be used for all types of areas even the areas that come in direct with water.

In the comparison between green board vs cement board, cement makes the best choice as it can be used to make your tiles last longer.

Permabase vs Durock

 In this section, we will be looking into Permabase vs Durock. If you are unable to decide between the two, you should read this section carefully.

Permabase happens to be a product of National Gypsum. If you are using it, then you would know that it is very similar to WonderBoard from Custom Building Products. Both of these boards come with an aggregate and concrete core with fiberglass mesh skin.

On the other hand, Durock from USG is lighter than Permabase. No doubt, the latter makes a better option, but the former is fine too. The good thing about Permabase is that you can screw them nicely without blowing through.

Also, they are easy to cut. You can just use a utility knife. Not to mention, it smells better as well. The new Durock is also easy to cut, but the older version was not. But it is not easy to screw as it would just blow through.

From the above comparison between Permabase vs Durock, it is clear that the former is a better choice.

Durock vs HardieBacker

If you are finding it difficult to choose between Durock vs HardieBacker, I can help you clear your confusion. Let’s take a look at the comparison below.

Durock cement boards have glass mesh and reinforced fibers, while HardieBacker contains only reinforced fibers.

This makes Durock cement boards more cumbersome. Not just that, but they are also difficult to cut. Also, glass mesh provides more support than reinforced fiber. In terms of durability, Durock is the clear winner.

Both HardieBacker and Durock have polymer-based fiber mesh. Due to their flexibility, they can be installed on contoured and curved and contoured. However, HardieBacker cement boards are more flexible than Durock.

In case, you weren’t aware, flexible fibers are easy to install. This allows you to save more on installation costs.  In terms of appearance, cement boards are textured from one side and plain on the other side. It depends on you which side you want to expose.

But according to guidelines, the smooth side is the adhesive surface. After application, both types of cement boards have a similar texture as drywall.

In Durock vs HardieBacker, it is mainly up to your choice. It’s about whether you want to go with a cement board or not.

Wonderboard vs Durock

 When it comes to Wonderboard vs Durock, the former is heavier and stiffer than the latter. Durock features a smoother surface than Wonderboard.

WonderBoard is a cement-based backer board that is widely installed in wet places. It is mainly made of Portland cement, aggregates, expanded polystyrene (EPS) beads, and fiberglass reinforcement.

On the other hand, Durock can be used for both dry and wet places. This makes them ideal for both external and internal situations.

Also, they are reliable cement products containing glass mesh. They are more flexible because of which they are easy to install.

In terms of waterproofing, 1/2″ WonderBoard stays unaffected by water. However, they are not waterproof. To keep the back of the shower tile backer board dry, you need to use a waterproof membrane or a moisture barrier.

In this case, you can use RedGard Waterproofing and Crack Prevention Membrane must be used. Wonderboard vs Durock seems to be a better choice because it can be used in both dry and wet places.

This makes it more versatile than Wonderboard. However, the final call is yours.

Cement Board vs Drywall

In this section, we are going to compare cement board vs drywall. If you are unable to select between the two, go through the details below.

First of all, drywall is available in 4-by-8 sheets, whereas cement board comes in 3-by-5 sheets. Due to the smaller dimension of the cement board, it is difficult to install on the wall.

As far as drywall is concerned, the regular one is not recommended by professionals. They usually prefer cement backer boards when it comes to wet or high-moisture places.

A cement board is made of reinforced fiberglass and cement. This type of board is known to add strength and impact resistance to a wall surface. On the other hand, drywall feels hollow.

So if you want a long-lasting and solid wall, you should go for cement board. In cement board vs drywall, the former proves to be more superior.

Schluter Ditra vs Cement Board

After comparing so many backer board types, it’s time, we look into Schluter Ditra vs Cement BoardIn terms of durability, ditra is any day more durable than cement boards. That’s because it can withstand high pressure without breaking.

Ditra is made of a sustainable and efficient polymer which are chemical resistant. Not just that, but it also has low in-flammability. This is why it can suffer heat and stains easily.

Polyethylene membrane used in ditra doesn’t get damaged easily. It is strong and resilient. The only drawback is polyethylene is not much resistant to strong acids and alkalis.

On the other hand, cement boards can withstand harsh chemicals including strong alkalis and acids without any adverse reaction. They are also durable and can withstand different weather conditions without damage.

As far as thickness is concerned, ditra boards are thicker than cement boards. The latter is made of cement with fibrous mesh or glass mesh. Some particular types of cement boards can be used over contoured surfaces.

This is possible because of their flexibility. But the problem is that they can break upon slight pressure. Even after application, they can crack when hit.

On the contrary, the polyethylene membrane in ditra makes it more flexible. It is because of this reason, it can be used in curved and contoured surfaces without breaking. Also, they can withstand high vibrations and pressure easily.

In Schluter Ditra vs Cement Boardthe former makes a better choice than the latter and you already know why.

Green Board vs Purple Board

If you are confused between the green board vs the purple board, I will clear your confusion with this comparison below.

Green board is usually resistant to moisture. But the purple board can be either sound block or abuse-resistant drywall. Usually, the product comes with a label that helps you to identify the type of drywall it is.

You will also find purple drywall boards that are mildew and mold resistant. These Purple drywalls are made of a specially treated, moisture- and fire-resistant gypsum core.

That core is pressed between moisture, mold, and mildew resistant and 100% recycled paper that is gray on the back and purple on the front. In the case of green board vs purple board, it’s up to you what you want to use.


Should the backer board touch the shower pan?

When installing your shower floor make sure that it is straight and level as you create your mud job. The level lip or flange around the top of the shower pan gives you the perfect spot for installing the wallboard.

While the backer board will not touch the pan, you can level it by placing its bottom edge parallel to the shower pan. This makes the installation process easier.

Can you use a green board in a shower?

Green board is moisture and mold resistant, but it is not waterproof. It is mainly used in damp environments, but not in wet environments. This is why you should not use the green board on the shower walls.

Does shower wall tile need a backer board?

Whenever installing tile in your house, you need a special base layer. In showers, they use a tile backer as the base layer. All types of tiles need a needs a stable, flex-free, and flat substrate.

Does the backer board go over the shower flange?

The backer board should go over the flange, for better water drainage. That’s because the board tends to come out when ‘lipped’ over the tub flange.

You are advised to use a waterproof caulk on the back of the board and the tub flange.

Do I need a vapour barrier behind Hardibacker?

Hardibacker doesn’t need a vapor barrier or any other waterproofing membrane. However, you do need to thin-set and tape the joints.

Q: Do you install the backer board before the shower pan?

You install the shower tray first in the shower. You need to put the tray in before you put up the backer board. Once the tray is in place, you can place the tiles and run a bead of caulk around the perimeter.


A shower tile backer board is essential for your shower. The most obvious benefit of any backer board is to provide a secure bonding surface for your tile. That being said, there are different types of backer boards available and each of them is different.

You need to choose a shower tile backer board that can withstand water and is durable and install them behind the shower walls and surrounding the tub.

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