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Old 02-15-2018, 08:20 PM   #1
R.J.Macreedy
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Hydroban Blistering After Flood Test

I flood tested four showers and three seem to have bubbling issues and blistering in some places. The fourth shower had a small area with some blistering, but not too bad. The kicker is all of them held the initial fill for a full 24 hours. I noticed the bubbling on all of them at around the 20 hour mark or towards the end of the test.

The mortar beds are installed on a floating slab (2nd & 3rd floors) and had about three weeks to dry before applying the first coat. It was cool when I did them (about 55 degrees) and waited 24 hours before coating making sure it was dark green. I used reinforcing fabric in the corners and checked thickness as best as possible using the mil gauge. I even really forced the first coat on the bed to make sure it was keyed in all of the voids.

I'm really stumped as to why all of them bubbled and blistered (some worse than others). Laticrete says it could be moisture underneath. IDK, perhaps it was a little on the cool side when I did them and didn't cure enough even though it was dark green and dry? I filled the pan almost even with the curb (about 3" deepest) and was thinking perhaps too much pressure on it but doubt it.

I let all of them dry for 24 hours and everything looks normal again. So Odd. Do I just remove the portions that are suspect, reseal, and test again or should I bite the bullet and attempt to scrape everything off?


I'm just not sure what went wrong here and if I missed a critical step before attempting a repair/ redo.

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Old 02-15-2018, 09:08 PM   #2
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Hi Anthony -

I've had the exact same problem you're describing on almost every hydroban pan I've done, maybe a half dozen total. Some with fabric, some without (either is fine with Laticrete).

Similar to your situation, flood test passed a full 24 hours with no drop in water level.

I'd call Laticrete for their official stance, but here's what I did. Pop the blisters (they usually had water in them). Let dry. Apply one more regular-thickness coat of hydroban over the blistered areas and overlapping at least a couple inches onto surrounding hydroban. Let dry, then tile as normal. I normally didn't re-do the flood test.

I *think* the issue for me may have been gooping the hydroban on too thick, and it didn't dry completely before next coat or flood test. Even with a wet film gauge, I'm always paranoid about complete coverage, so I may have erred on the side of too thick. That's why I switched back over to sheet membranes, consistent thickness without those worries.
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Old 02-16-2018, 12:12 PM   #3
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Did you wait at least 48 hours before flooding it?
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Old 02-16-2018, 02:56 PM   #4
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Talking with some laticrete folks earlier and this was brought up. Cracking of the hydroban means applied too thick, bubbles means moisture below.
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Old 02-16-2018, 08:39 PM   #5
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When we use liquid membranes, the first layer is massaged into the drypack using circular motions of a chip brush to really drive the liquid into the pores. A thin layer to make contact. The second and third layers are normal thickness applied with a roller or brush.
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Old 02-16-2018, 09:48 PM   #6
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It is really important to have the wet film within the min/max listed on the instructions...too thin is just as bad as too thick. Sheet membranes seem easier to ensure you get it done right. In a proper seam on a sheet, moisture might penetrate maybe 1/4" or so on a flood test. Since they all require at least a 2" overlap, that gives you a huge margin while still remaining water tightness.

Three weeks should have been plenty to allow excess moisture to escape from the mudbed, so I don't think that's part of the problem. That way exceeds their requirement.
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Old 02-20-2018, 10:15 AM   #7
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Hydrosatic pressures works its way into the nooks and crannies in surface imperfections inflating the blisters. The way we apply liquids it is difficult to make a coat entirely uniform and continuous thus leaving little imperfections that can inflate from the hydrostatic pressure. These are usually superficial and do not compramise the membrane (the thickness of the membrane in these blisters are usually very thin) which is why all passed the flood test. I would simply pop/scrape the blisters (take care not to damage the membrane under the blisters) and do another coat around these areas after it drys out. Keep in mind when thinset and tile is weighing down the surface little shallow imperfections in the membrane won't have a chance to inflate.

You can flood test again after repair and see if any new blisters form.
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Old 02-22-2018, 08:29 PM   #8
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I just thought I should follow up on this. Probably not a ground breaking discovery for the experienced, but here's what probably caused the issue.

So most of the corners and were pretty solid, except for a few spots, while the field is mostly roughed mortar bed. I used a roller for the field, but either not enough product (not likely) or too much pressure applied probably created pinholes between layers. Having a rough surface possibly aggravated the situation.

To test it, I removed one shower down to solid mortar (a real headache), and reapplied the corners liberally with a brush along with new fabric. In the field, this time, with the roller really loaded, I applied light pressure with minimal movement on the roller. Two coats allowing 24 hours between each and random check with the mil gauge. After flooding, only two small suspect areas with no leaks.

I repaired the other showers by popping the blisters, fixing the blistered areas first, and then reapplying a good uniform coat using the method above with positive results.

As others have stated, after applying the tile, those small blisters would probably be a non-issue due to the weight of the tile and thinset. Considering I didn't have any leaks the first time, it probably would have been leak free anyway.

The Laticrete official stance is rip it out and redo. The off the record stance is repair the blistered areas and don't worry about it if it passes the flood test.
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Old 02-23-2018, 12:31 PM   #9
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You've experienced my concerns with using a liquid waterproofing material. You really need two, nearly perfect layers of the stuff painted on. It's not as easy as one would like to think. Each layer does need to be between the min/max as listed in the specs...too thin is as bad as too thick. Then, you have to wait long enough for the substrate to dry before you can do the first coat, then wait for that first coat to dry, then wait (most of them want at least 24-hours) before you can flood test. Depending on the surface, you might need to do an initial primer (thinned) coat (HardieBacker is an example - it's VERY thirsty) before you can then install the waterproofing layers. Most of the sheet membranes want 24-hours, but there's no waiting for the substrate to dry much. At least one membrane, if you use their adhesive verses thinset, can be flood tested after 15-minutes! which can be a major savings of time on a tight schedule.

They all work, it's partly a factor of familiarization, but each has its little gotchas if you don't follow all of the steps exactly.
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Old 02-23-2018, 01:09 PM   #10
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Easiest way to avoid that problem is to use a sheet on the floor and up the walls a couple of inches, then you can switch to a liquid on the walls. I did a small number of those a few years ago with good results.

And I would always use reinforcing fabric where the walls meet the floor, regardless of the manufacturer's recommendation. It's a very small step that when not taken, can potentially cost a lot.
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Old 02-23-2018, 01:27 PM   #11
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As a DIY homeowner I can take as much time as I want. I honestly can't imagine doing liquid pans as a pro. Just takes too much time and waiting and if you damage the membrane during tiling without noticing it can be a very costly mistake.

But I do think liquids are easier to apply for people who aren't used to working with thinset and trowels. Most DIYs are very comfortable painting with brushes and rollers. They just need to learn how to read the thickness. We've seen plenty of badly fubarred sheet membrane installs (which is an expensive mistake to redo due to the material cost) by diy's. I myself used liquids for my pans because I was intimidated by getting the sheets applied and cut cleanly and dealing with a combination of angles and inside/outside corners. But if I was a pro I would learn how to do sheets and not look back or potentially do hybrids with a sheet pan if there are any tricky angles/corners.
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Old 02-23-2018, 09:41 PM   #12
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The one liquid pan that I did had this problem and I ripped it out and re-did it because I didn't have time to monkey around with problem solving at that point.

To be clear: this isn't a Hydroban issue. It's a liquid membrane issue. Mine wasn't Hydroban.

Here's thread with some more info.


But they can be done right but it's just too finicky of a process for me. I'll stick with sheet membranes.

Thanks for posting your experience and also following up with what you found out.
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