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Roger Bisby, of TV & Skill Builder fame, recommends tiling onto elements board, particularly in the bathroom, due to its waterproof properties. Then again, I notice most/all of the videos where he suggests this product are sponsored by the manufacturer. For balance, my professional tiler says that they would actively avoid elements board.

This leads me to the following questions.

  • Is elements board really better than tiling on to plaster board?
  • Is tiling onto plasterboard still the preferred method?
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  • Does the tiler mean they'll actively avoid Elements board or any other kind of backer board? I guess the key is making sure there is an appropriate moisture barrier. For what it's worth, we had a professional tiler finish our bathroom with tiles around the vanity and bathtub as part of a bathroom update. He tiled directly onto waterproof plasterboard and then used a waterproof sealant on the tiles. We moved out a couple of years later so not sure how well it lasted.
    – DWGKNZ
    Nov 25, 2021 at 14:24
  • Just thinking back on it, because it wasn't technically a shower over tub, it was a tub with a spout and diverter to a hand-held shower head (large walk-in shower in the room with it) it didn't have to meet code as a water barrier. That was 5 years ago now.
    – DWGKNZ
    Nov 25, 2021 at 14:28
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    I think it's also fair to remember that professional tilers will work around customers' time and cost parameters, they know their work will be properly sealed and they can work around high and low spots on the wall efficiently without impacting the finished look. The real question is what would a tiler use in his own bathroom?
    – DWGKNZ
    Nov 25, 2021 at 14:34
  • My experience with ordinary gypsum (plaster) board, even though coated, is that it eventually disintegrates in humid locations, such as a shower stall. Though there are moisture resistant gypsum boards (see homedepot.com/c/ab/types-of-drywall/… for types), I've used glass-fiber reinforced concrete board for really damp locations, after having replaced crumbled gypsum drywall multiple times. Higher initial cost, but far longer life! Nov 26, 2021 at 0:51

3 Answers 3

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Around here (France) most tiled showers are done with waterproof drywall. There are a few caveats, and it needs to be done properly, but it tends to just work fine. For some reason cement board isn't popular.

I've used the elements board you link. It isn't 100% waterproof, because the foam is open-cell, but it sure is water resistant. It comes in various thicknesses.

They're made of open cell foam with a layer of fiberglass reinforced cement on both sides. The thinner ones cannot be used like drywall on studs because they're quite flimsy, so they need support. Foam isn't the strongest material... They're meant to be glued to an existing wall with thinset. This can be useful to make the wall flat and waterproof before laying the tile. They're also insulating, which is nice for a shower if the wall is not well insulated and cold in winter.

The thicker ones are must stronger and can be used as a more expensive but easier to work with alternative to drywall or ytong blocks.

The flimsiness of the thin panels can be used as an advantage to make curved surfaces, but this needs very small tiles or mosaic. I used it to make a conical slope in a walk-in shower with the drain in the center, and due to the insulating properties the floor gets warm very quickly.

However it still has corners which needs to be treated properly, just like drywall, with waterproof compound and moisture barrier. If you don't do the corners properly, or if the structure it's installed on moves and cracks the corners... or if there isn't enough studs and the wall bends when someone leans on it, cracking the grout... you'll be in trouble no matter what the material is.

If you want something fancy and new, that's actually useful, try epoxy grout instead.

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  • Ah - it's the foam stuff. That, I don't wonder as much about a tiler preferring to avoid. The web page description was rather vague.
    – Ecnerwal
    Dec 25, 2021 at 17:27
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    Yeah it's the foam stuff. Not using it for walls, because a shower should survive enthusiastic sex lol.
    – bobflux
    Dec 25, 2021 at 18:45
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Assuming that "elements board" is a UK term for some type of tile-backer/cement board...which the link states to be the case.

My logic goes like this:

Tile is one of the most expensive wall finishes, typically - in both cash expense for materials and time (more cash if not DIY.)

Using tile backer rather than drywall provides a better foundation, and reduces the odds that it will fail. In light of the cost of the rest of the job, the small saving on NOT using tile backer is questionable.

If your professional tiler prefers some other type of tile-backer, that may have to do with differences between "elements board" and other tile backers. If your professional tiler prefers drywall to any tile backer, I'd question their qualifications.

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We had bathrooms done where there was a waterproof sealer applied to the plasterboard then the tiles applied to that and sealed with waterproof grout.

Been up over 12 years now and still as good as day 1.

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    I stopped putting tile on drywall before I started using waterproof sealer so it's interesting to hear how it preforms. It's actually crack isolation membrane, that's why you're getting away with it. - Every instillation I've ever done on drywall has failed eventually. Backer board the way you're supposed to do it has been a winner every time.
    – Mazura
    Nov 26, 2021 at 3:30

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