The two most popular types of tile backing are mortar bed (like concrete), and cement board. Mortar beds can be used as an underlayment for floors, walls, and shower pans. Cement board can only be used as an underlayment for floors and walls. Hardibacker is my favorite brand of cement board because it cuts clean and is available almost anywhere. 1/4 inch cement board should always be used on a floor that is built with wood and not concrete, this adds rigidity and a better surface to bond to. When installing a mortar bed, I will usually use a pre-mixed bag (just add water) of wall float or deck mud made by quickrete. Wall float is made stickier so it will hang on the wall inside the cups of the lathing. Deck mud is a sandier formula that is mixed with less water so that it can be shaped into a bowl form in a shower pan having every square inch of it sloped towards the drain.
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