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Backer Board oh Pleeeeeease, what is it and why should I care?

As part of our Maronda Homes, Quality Starts Here Series it’s about time we discussed something that doesn’t show but is important none the less.  Backer Board is the laundryment that the ceramic tile is directly attached to.  Typically it is used in showers, around tubs and sometimes as back splashes for counter tops.  There are different types of Backer Board.  Moisture Resistant Drywall or “Green Board” was very common many years ago.  Some Green Board is now grey today but it is basically a sheet of Gypsum that has some moisture resistant properties and it acts as a base for tile.  Then you have your cement based backer boards which are a glass fiber meshed sheet of Portland Cement, ground sand and other additives..  Trade names for these are Durock(R), Wonderboard(R),  DensShield(R), and HardieBacker(R)

 

What difference does it make?  Initially, very little.  The backer board is covered up by the ceramic tile so you don’t see it.  Both provide backing and allow the tile to be placed on the wall in a workmanship fashion.  Where you will see a difference is in wet applications.  Have you ever seen a piece of gypsum wallboard after it gets wet?  Like on your ceiling after a roof leak?  The first time no big problem, maybe you have a stain but other than that once it tries out it’s ok.  Second time same thing.  What happens if you don’t fix the problem and you just let it happen time after time?  The Gypsum looses it’s strength and crumbles if you touch it.  Well, the same thing happens in your shower if regular wallboard or Green board are used in your shower.  Initially everything will be fine but over time, the wallboard will get weak behind the Ceramic Tile and eventually when something bumps against the  tile, the backer will crumble and you have a hole in the wall of your shower.  This won’t happen the first year you are in your home but eventually it will happen.  That’s why it’s worth asking your builder, “What kind of backer board do you use behind the ceramic tile in my shower”?   If you hear jargon or a brand name you are not familiar with ask “what’s the core made of?  If it’s a quality builder, it will be Cement not Gypsum.

Maronda Homes are built with Cement core backer boards behind the ceramic tile in our showers that have ceramic tile.  It’s quality you can’t see, but it’s there.  If our customers ever pay to re-tile the bathroom we want it to be because they wanted to change their decorating not because they had to fix a hole in their shower.

 

About Tom Greenawalt

Tom is a Licensed Builder in the State of Florida. He has been in the construction industry for 35 years building new homes in Pittsburgh, Washington DC, and Chicago before moving to Central Florida. The majority of Tom's career has on detached housing for entry level and first time move up buyers. He was with Maronda Homes for over 15 years.

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