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We're giving our wood stove surround a makeover. We're going to build out the front with steel studs and cement board, then tile over it.

For the cement board, does one need to mesh tape the seams and corners? I know that's required for a wet install (such as a shower) but since this is a completely dry install, is that a required step?

If it is a required step, any tips? I've done it before for a shower, but it was a huge pain to get a final flat surface for the tile. I ended up with some slightly lumpy walls.

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Why are you so worried about a flat surface? The thinset you're setting your tiles in, will allow you to compensate for any slight imperfections. – Tester101 Nov 27 '12 at 20:52
Unlike Sheetrock, the edges of the cement board (in this case, hardibacker) aren't beveled at all. In the past, when I've done this, I had a rough time getting a relatively flat surface. I can tape and mud sheetrock fairly well. I guess I suck at cement board. :) – DA01 Nov 27 '12 at 21:32
It shouldn't matter, you should only end up with a raised area just thicker than the tape itself (which should be almost immeasurable). The thinnest bed that the tiles are set into will be thick enough to compensate for this tiny imperfection. – Tester101 Nov 28 '12 at 4:14
up vote 6 down vote accepted

The thinset and mesh tape are to strengthen the seams. If you are going to tile over the cement board, you should tape the seams.

This should not be that difficult. Pack in thinset, lay on the tape, and flat-knife to get it set in. In the corners, use a corner knife.

If you just want to leave the corners untreated that will probably be fine, because that seam won't split the center of a tile.

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so...I'm using hardibacker. Hardibacker is completely flat so taping a seam would create a bit of a mound at the seam. To compensate, should one skim coat the entire piece with thinset, let dry, then add more thinset and set the tile? – DA01 Nov 26 '12 at 22:34
I may be overthinking this...something I have a bad habit of doing. ;) Can I just tape WHILE setting the tile? Meaning that as the tile approaches the seam, add the tape, thinset over it, and keep on tiling? That would save the problem of a dried 'mound' over the seams. – DA01 Nov 26 '12 at 22:39
@DA01 You can tape and mud as you tile. But, even so... it creates a bump... but your tile is set off the backerboard anyhow. – Matthew Nov 26 '12 at 23:17
@DA01 Use a wider knife for the thinset and mesh tape. This makes any change in angle from the tape more gradual. And when installing the tiles, you use a notched trowel that gives you room to adjust the level of each tile. Typically, I'd recommend a caulk in the corners between the tiles (matching the grout color if possible) since grout will crack as the two surfaces shift over time. – BMitch Nov 27 '12 at 2:23
Thanks @MatthewPK I'll give that a shot. – DA01 Nov 27 '12 at 3:06

I always tape and mud the seams. Thin set with mesh tape for strength. The build up is insurmountable, and when installing tile a 1/4" notched trowel will allow for tile placement and any variation in wall surface , but it's more important to fill all voids to give the shower a tight enclosure yes ,more importantly it gives you 100 % surface glue contact for tile adhesion " better to glue to solid surface than a void "

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