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I have a shower with original, 100-year-old tile.

The tile and the drywall-like material above the tile line has survived well, but we're planning to replace it in the entire bathroom due to significant cracks from settling and leveling.

My plan for most of the bathroom is simple: barrier plastic, moisture-resistant drywall and replacing the ancient exhaust fan.

But I don't feel confident about putting moisture-resistant drywall in the shower. The tile line is only around 5 feet off the ground, so splashing and steam are significant. This will only get worse because I plan to move the shower head up another 6 inches to be more comfortable for me (it's installed with the head around about 5'6" now, and I'm 5'10").

Matching, replacing, or adding more tile to bring the tile line higher isn't an option.

What sort of material can I install above the tile line that meets the following requirements:

  1. Does not aesthetically compete with the vintage tile.
  2. Will be reasonably steam-and-splash-proof.
  3. Ideally, can be painted to match the rest of the bathroom.

I've been considering Kerdiboard, but don't know if it can be floated and painted like drywall. The only other option I've seen are the plastic sheets, but I don't expect I'd be able to paint them, even if I find one that doesn't have some faux-tile or other ugly texture to it.

Any ideas?

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Whatever is under the paing needs to be sealed with a water resistant sealer.. also you need to make sure to avoid any water going under the tile which is difficult. But using an oil based paint will seal it well.. and create a seal on the top of the tile with silicon. also extractor fan is highly recommended. PS- if you use plastic sheets you can buy plastic primer- then paint what you want on that.. –  ppumkin Aug 24 '11 at 7:54

2 Answers 2

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In the US, most code only requires sheetrock. At a bare minimum, I'd go with green board. Better yet would be the fiberglass faced boards such as Densarmour. And then, of course, a really good paint.

Or consider some other materials...galvanized aluminum...copper...back-painted glass...all could be a nice contrast to the tile.

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Given your requirements, and in the shower area only, I would put up a cementitious backer board like Hardibacker or Kerdi-board and use drywall mud to smooth it as necessary. Elsewhere in the bathroom I use normal sheetrock.

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