Blue vs Orange: What waterproofing system is better?
Waterproofing your bathroom showers, floors and tub surrounds is a small but integral part of any bathroom renovation. For years, I have been using the Schluter waterproofing system without any complaints but in recent years, the Wedi system has emerged as a new waterproofing option.
Recently, I completed the Wedi training program hosted by Catalyst General Contracting and demonstrated by Stephen Leask from Wedi.
Having done the Schluter version of the training years ago, I thought it would be good to give a comparison of the two systems.
What is Wedi:
According to the interwebs Wedi board is a German product normally used in the construction industry as an underlayment for bathrooms, showers, floors, anywhere that needs waterproof material.
In short, it’s the cement coated blue styrofoam stuff you have seen on TV used by Brian Baumler among others.
What is Schluter:
According to the interwebs The Schluter ®-KERDI-SHOWER-KIT is an all-inclusive package containing each of the components required to create a watertight shower assembly. Designed to create a fully waterproof and vapor-tight enclosure in tiled showers and residential steam showers.
In short, it’s the orange stuff you have seen on TV for years that Mike Holmes made popular.
Waterproofing - Tie
With any waterproofing system, it only works if it’s installed properly. We’ve been doing showers for nearly a decade and never had an issue with the Schluter system and I am not going to delve into the science of why one waterproofing system is .0000001% better than the other.
So, for the sake of being speedy/lazy, it’s a tie.
Options/Features - Tie
Niches, benches, panel sizes...these systems are so customizable and versatile that you’re the winner because you can’t go wrong.
When Schluter came out, it was the best. The orange fleece membrane upped your shower protection.
Wedi’s cement coated panels took it up a notch. But really, you’re not losing on either system as long as they are installed properly.
Prep - Tie
From a technical standpoint, your prep should be the same; walls should be plumb and square, floor should be level and everything should be clean.
The biggest take away from the Wedi seminar was that precision for cuts was greater importance. The Wedi materials are less forgiving and fixes for mistakes in your cuts are not recommended.
The Schluter system is more forgiving since you can use the Kerdi band, mortar, offcuts and Kerdi fix to.
Availability - Schluter
The big orange marketing machine has Schluter in so many big box stores it’s easily make Schluter the more available system compared to the Wedi system.
In our area, only a few suppliers carry the Wedi system in stock. There are starting to be more but the availability is not nearly as widespread as the Schluter System.
Installation - Wedi
When the Schluter system came out, it made waterproofing installation for your shower. It cut your time down because you could be ready for tile in half a day if you knew what you were doing and you could begin tiling right away.
No more rubber membrane, cement board, dry pack, roll on membrane. Everything came in a box and you could be done in less than a day.
Well, Wedi one upped the Schluter system. The caulking adhesive they use has eliminated all the Kerdi band, inside corners, outsides, corners, Kerdi membrane, and the buckets of non-modified mortar you have to mix up.
Once you have mortared in the shower pan, it’s all the adhesive.
However, while Wedi cuts away a lot of the extra steps it does require you to be more precise with your cuts and install. Where the walls slide into the shower tray you have to keep it tight because it’s a friction fit. The adhesive completes the waterproofing.
It’s also a quicker install than the Schluter system.
It’s more finish carpentry type work than rough framing but Wedi gets the edge here.
Price - Schluter
This one is an easy one. Schluter is half the price of Wedi in our area. If you break down the pieces of the system, the main cost difference is the shower base. Wedi’s shower base is much more expensive than Schluter’s shower base. The wall panels are about the same price.
Tiling - Wedi
What stood out most to me from the Wedi training was how true and flat the surfaces would be for tile install versus the Schluter system. Because the Schluter system uses the Kerdi band and mortar to seal all the corners and seams, it can lead to build up.
No matter how thin you get the mortar mix to apply the Kerdi band and the Kerdi membrane, it won’t be completely flat and square.
The Wedi system, because it requires you to get all your prep work square, level, plumb and true, makes for a better install. But it’s really that there’s no build up in the corners that struck me as being a big advantage to the system when it comes to tile installation.
It’s difficult to pick an overall winner in this comparison since both products offer excellent waterproofing if they are installed properly.
But since I suffer from severe recency bias I am going to label Wedi as the winner since it makes for better tile installation for a custom shower.
Sure, Schluter is cheaper, more readily available and you can fix your mistakes easier but if the goal is the perfect shower for waterproofing and tile install, the big orange monster of waterproofing isn’t as good as the Wedi.