A.Contributing editor Michael Byrne, moderator of the JLC Online tile forum and an industry consultant in Los Olivos, Calif., responds: I prefer traditional mortar-bed construction for both floors and walls because it allows me to build showers with features like benches and curved corners. However, that doesn't mean it's the best method for everybody: Shower surrounds built with backerboard substrates are perfectly serviceable, whereas in my consulting work I've seen thousands of mortar-bed shower stalls that have failed.

The most important elements of a good installation — regardless of method — are the placement of the waterproofing, the selection of materials, and the quality of workmanship.

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