Is this a big problem? [Archive] - Ceramic Tile Advice Forums - John Bridge Ceramic Tile


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04-28-2015, 09:54 AM
So I just bought a house and am attempting to re-grout the shower which was not in great shape. It is all one inch tile on the ground, so a lot of grout to remove. When removing the grout some tiles came loose and I noticed a gap at the edge where the floor meets the wall right under the spigot.

My question is, can I simply reattach the tile and then re-grout trusting that the grout will fill that gap or do I need to do a more serious repair? Again I'm a complete newbie so please ask questions if I left out pertinent details.


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04-28-2015, 01:55 PM
The best thing you could do is browse this site, try to figure out the one or two or four ways (there are a few combinations), but it's pretty basic to properly waterproof a shower, then determine if your shower meets those design principles. When was the house built?

I don't think anyone will be able to tell from that picture. It's not a great sign that it's black, but nothing is proven just yet...

The very first thing you need to understand is that grout and tile are not your waterproofing. They are the armor that protects your waterproofing system (if you have one under there). Is that stuff under the tile like a felt material? Kind of like paper? If so, do NOT cut it.

The problem you have is that you may compromise your waterproofing system (if you have one) if you start digging and poking around with sharp implements, particularly if you don't know how things are supposed to be built. Can you get behind the wall somehow so you can see what the back of it looks like?

Pictures, you are going to get lots of requests for pictures, and the more you post, the more help you will get.

04-28-2015, 03:09 PM
The house was built in the 70s. There doesn't seem to be a felt or paper underlayment. The layer is much closer to cement. Getting behind that wall would involve a good bit of cutting. It is doable but would be nice to avoid. Here is a picture of the whole setup. If anybody tells me what to get a picture of I'll happily add it to the post.

04-29-2015, 08:00 AM
That damaged area looks like it is right under the faucet. Can you get the handle and escutcheon off and look into the wall? Maybe get a finger in there or a cotton swab and swab around to see if there's any water back there. It might be leaking into the wall, behind the tile and substrate. Maybe. Maybe not. If there's a shower head above it, that's a candidate too.

Is that a tub faucet under the handle? Is that a bathtub made of tile?

What room, if any, is on the other side of the wall with the faucet? Is it a room with drywall? It's not a huge thing to carefully poke a small hole in there to look inside the wall and repair the viewing hole later (try removing the escutcheon and looking in from that direction first, though).

For that matter, what rooms are behind the other two walls?

04-29-2015, 08:21 AM
I don't want to alarm you, but this is what my house looked like after I poked a hole in the wall behind my tub/shower (which was to the right of the toilet in the foreground) and found that the showerhead had been slowly leaking for years, creating a nice environment for mold.

Yeah, it was the wall between both of the bathrooms in the house. You get depressed a little, maybe weep when nobody is looking, get to the acceptance stage and start the demolition.

There's NO guarantee you have anything this bad. I'm just offering some perspective, which is: a small hole in the other side of the wall isn't too much to ask, if you gotta do it to see what's in there...

04-29-2015, 08:59 AM
Things like this usually require more invasive investigation but exhaust all non-invasive attempts that you can to see if you can figure out the extent of any issues you might have. The cold hard facts are that you rarely see everything without first removing everything.

Do you have access from below? Can you cut and then repair a drywall hole?

Are you ready for a nice new shower? Read read read this site and keep on searching and learning before you take the plunge. If you understand how a properly constructed and properly waterproofed shower is done, you will understand better the advice and better understand your particular issues and better understand how to tackle what you have.

Remember that most of the folks on this site are pros. Very few of them would attempt repairs because they are difficult to guarantee and warranty if they don't know how the whole shower was constructed. This is why the pros will often suggest a complete gut/demo. Then they can build it correctly and know it was done correctly and therefore can guarantee their work over time. Otherwise, it is a gamble for them.

04-29-2015, 10:41 AM
The handle and escutcheon were just replaced when we had the house re-plumbed so I should be able to get it off, I'm assuming that they only caulked behind/around it and didn't affix it with anything stronger.

Yep the damage is right under the faucet, that is a handle above it, and the shower head is actually on the opposite wall. Yes the tub is all tile.

The wall behind where the damage is connects right under the bathroom sink. So I'd have to cut through the side of the vanity and then drywall, but the plus side is that the hole would be under the sink.

I think the other side of the long wall is the other bathroom, and then the opposite wall from the damage connects to our living room, a less ideal place to put a hole in the wall.

No access from below as it is first floor and sitting on concrete slab.

I'm starting to get nervous that a simple re-grouting of the tub is about to turn into a much bigger and much more expensive project. Welcome to home ownership I guess.

04-29-2015, 11:56 AM
I'm starting to get nervous that a simple re-grouting of the tub is about to turn into a much bigger and much more expensive project. Welcome to home ownership I guess.

Indeed...welcome to home ownership! :yeah:

04-29-2015, 02:24 PM
Welcome Dave. :)

Take a deep breath, and relax. You've taken on quite a job with regrouting 1x1 tile. Take your time and you'll do just fine. :tup1:

It doesn't look that bad to me. You have what appears to be some discoloration on the concrete & tile below a faucet, which almost any floor could have from just drips over the years. If there's no leak, then clean up what you have and stick some new tiles down. Might need to grind or scrape those areas real good.

Are the wall tiles loose too? Are the rest of the floor tiles in the area stuck down real good? Does the plumbing leak? Does the faucet supply, or supply line leak?

Post some more photos of the plumbing under the sink, and stand back a bit and show us some more of the tile in that area. :)

04-29-2015, 11:10 PM
Just for kicks, I might do a flood test before replacing any tile. If there's a leak, this is a good time to find it.

Florida showers are notorious for not having a liner, especially showers that are 40+ years old. Who knows, might have a lead or copper pan in there with mud walls and roofing felt as your waterproofing layer. A flood test will tell you very quickly what you're up against.

04-30-2015, 07:10 AM
As you said you were a total newb, here's how to perform a flood test:

Get a rubber stopper that fits your drain tube perfectly. Plug the drain and fill the tub as high as you reasonably can (just under the overflow drain, if there is one, otherwise an inch or so under the rim of the tub) and put several marks on the tile, not the grout, right at the water level with a crayon or grease pencil. Wait 24 hours and see if the water level has gone down.

Some tips to help you sleep:
Be sure of your stopper. You don't want a false positive. If you can't find a rubber stopper that will fit, you can get an inflatable test plug that goes into the drain pipe, at your local HardwareBorg. They are very reliable, and not very expensive. If you end up doing a re-build, you'll need it again for the next flood test anyway.

Check it periodically; if there is a leak and you notice it within a shorter time frame than 24 hours, you don't really want to let it keep leaking.

If evaporation is a concern (it shouldn't be, just close up the heating duct in the room and keep the door closed) and you are really worried about it, and you'd like to avoid another false positive, you can put a layer of bubble-wrap on the surface to prevent evaporation. When your time is up, make sure you get most of the water back off the bubble wrap and into the test tub.

04-30-2015, 07:23 AM
I appreciate the instructions on the flood test! I'll get some more pictures and a fuller response when I get to the house later this afternoon. Really appreciate all of the encouragement so far. It helps calm my ever so slight anxiety about this!

04-30-2015, 03:46 PM
Some answers and more questions.

1. None of the wall tiles seem to be loose. But there is definitely some suspect caulking or lack of caulking in corners and around edges. I'll try to post some pics bit at the moment phone isn't cooperating.

2. Floor tiles are mostly pretty good except around where some of them have already come up. It seems like I find one or two loose ones each time in in there mostly moving from the wall towards the drain.

4. The flood test seems like a simple solution however it does make me nervous to do it with the caulk in bad shape, lots of the Grout taken up, missing tiles etc... I think being new to this I'm a little scared I'll send water all through my house. But if that's the best game plan I'm give it a shot.

I'll try to get some more pictures on here as soon as I can.

04-30-2015, 03:52 PM
Some of the pics

04-30-2015, 03:56 PM
Previous pics were caulk in the corners. These are under sink supply lines to bathroom and shower I think go through that wall.

04-30-2015, 03:59 PM
As requested wider pic of the tile. And the drain which I haven't even started thinking about yet...

05-01-2015, 06:43 AM
Again, the tile, caulk, and grout are NOT your waterproofing anyway. You have to let go of that very common misconception.

In general, there are two ways to waterproof a shower. The waterproofing is either behind the tiling substrate or in front of it, in which case the waterproofing is the tiling substrate, but it has to be supported by something.

For the traditional "behind the substrate" method:
You put up waterproof sheeting on the studs, and those drape down into a pan of some sort (can be copper, lead, PVC or other rubbery sheeting, or even something called hot-mop) that should be, but often is not, sloped toward and connected to the drain. Then cover the walls with some sort of cement slab. It could be concrete backer boards, or the traditional mud on lath wall. In addition, there typically is a cement floor that is installed above the pan on the floor. This "cement" in this case is deck mud -- not brick mortar or concrete, it should ONLY be made from deck mud. These are not presented in the order of construction, but more like the path that splashed water will take: onto the surface of the shower walls, then seeping through the tile, grout and cement on the walls, then down the sheeting behind the wall, into the inside of the pan, and seeping through the deck mud above the pan and into the drain.

For the newer "surface-applied" waterproofing systems:
The other way is to install your wall from cement material, or in some cases you can use drywall, then build the pan sloped to the drain, and then waterproof the surface of the walls and floor before you tile. You can only use drywall for certain specialized systems that are specifically designed for it, the most popular being Schluter Kerdi, which is sheets of orange fabric that you adhere to the surface of the shower walls and floor and bond the seams together to create a waterproof barrier. There are other similar sheet-type products. These are the ONLY ones that you can possibly use with drywall, and even some of those cannot be applied to drywall.

The other sub-type of surface-waterproofing system is a liquid-applied waterproofing membrane. Think of it like paint meets caulk; you apply copious amounts of this stuff to the walls and floor, all the way down into a special wide-flange drain, to form one thick, continuous hard-rubber-like waterproofing membrane.

Note that NOWHERE in either of these systems is tile, grout, or caulk part of your WATERPROOFING SYSTEM. These things only serve to protect the waterproofing system from damage, but they are otherwise NOT part of its function.

From your first descriptions, it sounds like you have the traditional construction I mentioned above, since you found a cement substance, probably deck mud, below the floor tile. That in itself is perhaps a good sign. You may have a decent, intact waterproofing system under a merely crappy tile job. Staying optimistic here, but you don't know until you flood it.

So do the flood test, and if you are worried about a fast leak, keep an eye on it for a while at first. If it is obviously and certainly leaking before the 24 hours are up, the test is done and by all means drain it immediately. But you really need to test your waterproofing system, and if it is failing, it doesn't much matter if the tub is full or not... your waterlogged tile and grout will have been leaking, and will continue to slowly leak with every shower or bath anyway. You need to find out if it's leaking before you proceed.

Another thing to consider is maybe only fill it an inch or two. If that passes that test, fill it another few inches at a time and keep testing. The reason here is that the pan may be fine, but it may not extend all the way up to the lip of the tub. In a traditional system, it is not required to seal the wall sheeting to the pan, it just has to drain into it, so if you overfill, you could overflow the pan which would otherwise be fine (except that you can't use it as a bathtub in that case anyway). I think if this were the case, though, the first big bath would have caused a pretty noticeable leak.

PS - there are many more details about the slopes on the floor, the construction method, drains, pans, why deck mud is special, etc. I just wanted to get you started thinking about waterproofing systems.

05-01-2015, 01:55 PM
As scary as the thought of a flood test may seem, it's going to tell you very quickly if the shower is leaking. Wouldn't you rather it run out all at once so that you know what you are dealing with, rather than have water slowly seeping into your structure over the next days/months/years?

05-01-2015, 04:14 PM
I agree with these guys. Flood test it and be sure.

We typically fill the shower up to about the top of the curb during our tests, but you don't have to go that high to start with. Just put an inch or so in, mark the depth with a pencil, let it set a day, and see how it goes. Increase the depth over a couple days to get up to the top of curb.

If there's no liner and leaks, it won't usually take much water to find out. :tup1:

PS, that looks like the old tub drain they used when they removed the tub. My guess is you'll know before getting up to the top of curb.

05-01-2015, 06:52 PM
I grabbed a drain plug today to start the flood test but grabbed 2in when I needed 1.5. Something about measuring twice started running through my head when I realized I got the wrong side. Or maybe even measuring once...

I'll get started on the flood test tomorrow and see where it gets me. Would there be any significance to that being the old tub drain? I think that ps should mean something more to me but because of my ignorance it might be a little lost on me.

Will update when something happens.

05-02-2015, 01:44 AM
Tub drains are for tubs, not showers, as they're not designed to work with any type of shower floor waterproofing membrane.

The shower drains we typically see for tile are either a 1) clamping drain, which clamps a vinyl/pvc liner between the upper and lower flanges; or 2) the newer drains like a Kerdi or Laticrete drain with an integral flange designed to bond surface applied membranes to them. There are others as well, but these 2 are most common. :)

Take a look at all the info in the Liberry about building a proper shower.

05-02-2015, 05:51 AM
Ahhh. Now I understand. Thanks for the illumination. I'll check out the link. Learning tons over here!

05-02-2015, 08:49 AM
Started with a few inches of water. 20 min in and level is holding.

Tiger Mountain Tile Inc
05-02-2015, 09:03 AM
The flood test for something like this should be in the neighborhood of 72 hours I would think. :)

05-02-2015, 10:51 AM
That was the plan to do a longer test. I just wanted to do a few inches first in case there was a big leak. I'm guessing I just fill it up higher now. Since I know I'm not about to rapidly flood my house.

09-19-2015, 09:06 AM
It is shocking how time flies when you have other projects you are doing. I did the flood test on the tub and it holds water just fine. I'm also finished taking out the old grout but had a few more questions

1. Right along the edge of the wall the surface the tile rests on has eroded some and is not at the same level as the rest of the floor. Do I need to do anything special to bring this level? You can't entirely see from the pictures but most of the tile I would be setting in there would be on level ground, just the top edge would not. I'm wondering if the adhesive I use would be enough to fill that gap if I just put a little extra down. Any advice would be helpful.

2. The guy at the big box store (before I knew this forum existed) suggested I use AcrylPro ceramic tile adhesive to replace the 1 in. tiles that have come off. Is this an acceptable product to use? I already purchased it, so if it will work reasonable well that would be great for me! Thanks again for the assistance, I have already learned way more than I had anticipated!

09-19-2015, 09:24 AM
Welcome, Dave. :)

1.If I'm judging size correctly from your photos you may be able to set your tiles properly in that small area using only the thinset bonding mortar to make them flush with the surrounding tiles.

2. AcrylPro is an organic adhesive (mastic) and if you'll read the manufacturer's installation instructions ( you'll find it clearly states that it is not to be used on shower floors.

You'll frequently see us recommending that you purchase your materials from Homer's or Lowe's if it's convenient, but that you get your installation information somewhere else. This is a good example of why we make that recommendation.

My opinion; worth price charged.

09-19-2015, 09:38 AM
I'm starting to gather that with advice from those stores. I've noticed that in a few other areas as well the suggestions I received were worth the price paid for them. Makes me quite grateful for the internet and forums like this.

So I need to pick up some thinset mortar that says it is made for use in places like showers... Does it mater if it is premixed or in powder form to be mixed by me? Any specific recommendations of what I should purchase for this task? Thanks again.

09-19-2015, 10:17 AM
Dave, anything you find premixed in a bucket is not a Portland cement-based thinset mortar, regardless what it my say on the label.

You want a product in dry form that says on the bag that it meets the requirements of ANSI A118.4 when mixed with water.

09-19-2015, 06:29 PM
Dave, the mud bed you're wanting to stick to looks to be covered with white build up of some sort. I would scrape the surface to try and get down to some cleaner mud rather than try to stick to what's there. I wouldn't dig far, just 1/16 or so.

Sounds like you've already been to Home Depot, grab a bag of white Versabond thinset for your repair.

09-20-2015, 04:48 PM
Let me just say how much I appreciate everyone's patience with my lack of knowledge on almost everything pertaining to this project. I know far more than when I started!

I picked up the versabond thinnest. They only had a 50lbs bag so I should be set for a few lifetimes.

To scrape down that surface would you just use something like a putty knife, or is there another tool I should have in mind?

Another question, when I regrout the floor of the shower, I know I am supposed to caulk the edges where the horizontal and vertical planes meet, does this mean that I should keep the grout from going into that outside line where the floor meets the wall? Or do I simply caulk over any grout in that line? Let me know if that doesn't make sense.

Thanks again for all of the help!

09-20-2015, 07:29 PM
A putty knife or chisel will work most likely. That mud is usually fairly soft and should scrape away the top layer without too much effort. Then vacuum it well.

You can avoid getting grout into that corner joint but some might get in there anyway. As you are washing the grout, you can scrape any grout out of that joint to keep it open. Use a margin trowel or maybe the putty knife you used before.

09-21-2015, 11:04 AM
Excellent. Well, as soon as I finish grinding down the remaining grout lines, which has been a less than joyous process thus far, I'll turn my attention to the repair and re-grouting.

I'm sure I'll be back with more questions. Thanks for the guidance.