Building a Wooden Shower Mat for the RV


It’s time to head to the woodshop!

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If you’ve seen our review of European motorhomes, you’ll remember that one of the nice touches that I really liked was the inclusion of wooden shower mats.  They feel better on the feet than cold plastic, they look great, and they help keep the shower floor from flexing.  But mostly, they look great – kind of like a yacht – and I just wanted one.  Since RV showers come in unusual shapes and sizes, and North American RV manufacturers don’t offer this amenity, you can’t just buy one.  So what do you do?

Well, if you’re me, you make one!  This isn’t really an RV project.  It’s more of a woodworking project that just happens to be an RV application.  Whatever.  It was fun!  Stef stuck around to take pictures.  Let’s get started!

First – we had to head to the wood store to buy some appropriate wood.  I had originally wanted Teak, but the only Teak I could get on a Saturday afternoon on a whim was $40 per board foot.  I needed about 5 board feet, and Stef immediately vetoed a $200 shower mat.  So we wound up selecting Iroko instead.  Though not related to Teak, Iroko has similar coloring, feel, and decay resistance.  It’s often called “African Teak”.  But the main feature of Iroko as far as Stef was concerned is that it cost about one-fourth what actual Teak costs.  Here I am selecting our Iroko plank.

0 Selecting Iroko Plank

The next task was to make a full-size template of our shower floor from cardboard.  Our shower floor isn’t exactly rectangular, and the shower pan curves significantly toward the bottom.  I thought a template would be more accurate than measuring.  I worked with the cardboard template until it was sitting on the bottom just as I wanted it.

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With that done, it was time to get to work on the Iroko.  First I surfaced one face and edge on the jointer.

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Next came planing it to thickness on the planer.  I just went with a standard ¾ inch (you’ll see why later).

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I had decided to use 2 inch wide slats to form the mat.  Once the stock was planed to final thickness, I ripped all the slats to width.

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With all the slats roughly to size, I went back to my full size drawing to refine the layout, and I made some spacers to give me consistent gaps.

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Once I had things straight in my mind, it was time to trim and crosscut the Iroko slats to final length using a sled on the table saw.

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Next, I rounded over the edges and ends on the router table.  (It is a shower mat, after all.  Nobody wants to step on a sharp corner barefoot…)

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I have a bad habit of losing track of time and working until 2 or 3 AM without realizing it.  By this point, it was getting late, and Stef reminded me to go to bed.  So here’s where I left it that first day.

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I mentioned earlier that I wanted ¾” thick slats.  Here’s why.  I wanted them thick enough so that I could set a crosspiece into them.  I didn’t want to take up any more than ¾” of height in the shower, and doing it this way let me keep nice sturdy slats.  Here I am dadoing out the underside of the slats for the crosspieces.

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As a side note – I HATE MY DADO SET!!!  IT SUCKS ROCKS!!  The holes bored in the blades and chippers are too small for a standard arbor.  I can get them on, but once they heat up from use, I can’t remove them and have to wait for a half hour before I can use my table saw again.  If anybody wants to buy me this dado set, I’ll make you an RV shower mat.  (Well, unless you’ve got like a 100 square foot shower or something).

 

With all the dadoes cut, it was time to work on the cross pieces.  Once they were positioned where I wanted them, I marked out where to drill for screws.  I had purchased some stainless steel screws for this, and I needed to counterbore to keep the heads of the screws from marring the bottom of the shower.  Here I am marking for those holes:

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and drilling them out on the drill press.

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And with that done, the only thing left was to assemble.  In addition to the stainless steel screws, I also used glue to hold them together.  After an initial wipe down with acetone to clean off the surfaces, it was an easy glue-up.  Spacer blocks and the dadoes kept things aligned, and the screws meant I didn’t even need clamps.  That’s my kind of low-stress glue-up!

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And done!  Not too shabby.

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So on this project, I was working with no plans to speak of, and I had exactly zero economy of scale.  Even so, it took me only about 6 hours and $60 worth of materials.  I like it well enough that I’m going to include it in every single RV I build.  (lol!)

What do you think?  Is this something you’d like to see included in your RV?  (I hear a lot of folks don’t use their RV showers, so maybe this isn’t relevant for many of you.)  Should I keep my day job?  I’m genuinely interested in your thoughts on this project.

Thanks for looking, and we’ll see you on the road!



James is a former rocket scientist, a USA Cycling certified coach, and lifelong fitness buff. When he's not driving the RV, or modifying the RV (or - that one time - doing both at once), you can find him racing bicycles, or building furniture, or making music. In his spare time, he works for a large IT company.


    10 thoughts on “Building a Wooden Shower Mat for the RV

    1. Bruce

      iroko…never heard of it! any other types/species of wood that would work? don’t think I can find either teak or near teak in any lumberyards near me in Kansas…

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        You could maybe try Lignum Vitae.
        (Although that’s probably harder to find than Teak!)
        You can order some of these woods from online vendors. Google will find some for you.

        Reply
    2. Robert Steele

      It is nice to see clean, custom work being done for those special touches in an RV.

      I have to disagree with some earlier comments, I think your mat would sell quite well to a significant sub-section of the RV market. I, for one, would love one for my Itasca Viva.

      Reply
    3. stefan

      I’m looking at your shop and thinking it’s missing something.
      ME! I’d like to be your neighbor and have access to a shop like that

      Reply
    4. Tom Boles

      WOW! Nice Shop!

      I love the idea of a teak or near teak shower grate in our RV. We’ve had them for years in sailboats and they are always much nicer than the bare plastic or fiberglass shower pan.

      However unless you have a boating background, I’m afraid most folks are not going to see the utility or comfort of a grate like that. Expensive US hotels or custom homes don’t have them, so clearly they can’t be all that good, right?

      Anyway, while it would probably be a watermelon scheme to make them, I’d love one, I just can’t see spending $300 (or the cost of your dado set) on one…

      (I take my first line back…You have an AWESOME shop!)

      Tom

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Thanks! The shop is awesome. I try to remind Stef of that when it’s snowing and she’s complaining about not having a garage. 🙂

        Reply

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