Shower tile - Is it a problem or only aesthetics? [Archive] - Ceramic Tile Advice Forums - John Bridge Ceramic Tile


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12-08-2016, 08:54 PM
Yep, I did it. I put Cararra marble floor tiles in my shower. Beautiful 4x4 tiles. :tup2:

And guess what? I found this forum when I was looking for answers as to why my tile is darkening. Seems to be happening in one area, along the long wall and sloping down towards the drain, but not reaching the drain. The grout in this area also stays dark. Here are the details to answer as many questions as I have seen asked in other posts (sorry so long).

The shower was put in 5 weeks ago. If I go 3 days without using it, it mostly returns to normal (not exactly the same as before use, but close enough for me).

My question mainly is this -- is there a problem or is it just a matter of not liking the darker tiles? I've read all about pre-slope. But what I am trying to understand is that those mistakes could just as easily be present with a ceramic tile floor, but you would never know it because the tile wouldn't change color. Is the reason installers are so down on marble in the shower purely aesthetics? If there's a problem with how the shower was built, is it covered up by using ceramic and that's why installer prefer it (no offense).:o

As long as the tile & grout color mostly returns to "normal" within 3 days of non-use, can I assume all is OK? Long term damage & mold is what I am mostly concerned about.

I'm also wondering where the water is coming from? The floor? the wall? Grout is not water proof so I assume water gets under all tile, right, and it flows to the drain weep holes? What's "normal" for how long it takes to evaporate?

Floor tiles were sealed before installation with a penetrating sealer, then sealed again, along with the grout, after installed. Wall tile is ceramic subway tiles and the grout was sealed after installation (2 coats). Grout used was Bostik non-sanded dry tile grout.

Here's how he did the installation: he first tiled the walls, leaving about 4" off the floor for the bottom row, which he didn't do until after he installed the floor. (see photo below) The wall tile sits on top of the floor tile. He said this is so water doesn't get behind the wall.

The change of planes is done with grout. There is no caulk. Of course, now 5 weeks later, I see very small cracks, but nothing huge, and mostly in the corners of the plumbing wall, where the color of the tile is fine. My color change is mostly along the long wall perpendicular to the plumbing wall and in the middle.

I've attached a few pictures:
1) the only construction photo I have
2) wall tile installation (the board along the bottom was eventually removed)
3) the finished shower before being used (to see original color of tile)
4) floor 24 hours after shower
5) close up of dark grout. It's really only along this one tile
6) floor after 3 days of non-use, returned to mostly normal

Thanks for all your advice!

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12-08-2016, 09:02 PM
You're seeing the marble get wet from the bed underneath. After it slowly/finally evaporates, it gets back to normal. Marble is more susceptible to cleaning chemicals, so be gentle on it. And it stains, too, so no red wine in the shower! Other than that, enjoy. (And it scratches easily,

Btw, some iron can be present in marble naturally. If so, you'll start to see some yellowing, which is oxidation of the iron (rust). That's natural, too.

I did an entire bathroom in carrarra marble subway tile, including the floor. It's held up quite well. There was minimal yellowing on a few tiles after a while, but not to bad.

12-08-2016, 11:27 PM
Some ceramic tiles will show color variations if they become saturated. Porcelain, by definition, has a VERY low absorption rate, so it would be unusual to impossible for it to change color (well, maybe if it was glazed). If you do not build your shower per one of the proven methods and you're using something that can absorb moisture, you will see problems.

FWIW, cement based products won't fail if submerged if they initially cured properly. If your waterproofing is not done right, that moisture buildup could cause things like the wall, floor, or curb components to degenerate.

Those cracks on the changes of plane are the reason why industry standards call for them to be caulked or made with an engineered joint, not rigidly grouted.

Not all marble tile works well in wet locations...some is much more dense than others, and the variation on moisture absorption can vary by quite a lot. This could account for some people loving it, and others hating it. It's hard to beat natural stone, but you have to live with the potential variations and performance issues.

There's a HUGE failure rate in the installed showers because people do not follow the industry guidelines. Not all of them produce physical damages, but they may produce visual problems.

12-09-2016, 08:04 PM
Welcome, Gail. :)

Did they create a sloped floor before they installed the shower pan liner material?

The really poor job of centering the tile layout in the drain area makes me want to question the more important aspects of the shower construction.

12-10-2016, 11:48 AM
Thanks everyone. Points all taken. I'm going to label it aesthetics and just use it and enjoy. I still love the marble more than I would a ceramic/porcelain. I guess I'll know in a few years if there's a bigger problem, but I'm am choosing to be optimistic, with your reassurance. As for the tile around the drain, it was a trade-off as there were other limitations. Thanks again!!

Tool Guy - Kg
12-10-2016, 07:58 PM
Hi, Gail. :wave:

After reading a hundred thousand posts and helping folks more than 10,000 times, there are lots of patterns to mistakes that we see. It's not always true, but even with minimal information from folks like yourself, we are triggered to ask you questions that may seem trivial. But they're worth investigating. Between the grouted corners (wall to pan joint appears to be caulked...and appears to be quite uneven), off-center expensive drain, and staining issue on the pan tiles...makes me ask...

I, like CX, would really like to know if there is a pre-slope under the liner or not.

If the answer is no, the next questions I'd ask are: How where corners of the liner treated? Where any cuts to the liner at the corners to the curb welded back together with "outside corners"? Was the liner run up and over and to the front face of the curb? Did the installer install cement board to the curb? Are there any penetrations to the liner ANYWHERE below a level 2-3" above the height of the finished curb?

It's not just aesthetics. :shake:

12-16-2016, 10:13 AM
Got it. You're right, no pre-slope, but the rest of it, the liner etc., is all fine. (btw, no caulk anywhere - only grout. Agree it looks that way in the picture, but doesn't in person.) I think you are saying that if there was a pre-slope, that those pan tiles would not be discolored, as the water being held under them now would flow into the drain. Is that it - no pre-slope you get discoloration and with pre-slope it looks perfect? Then why have others said they wont do marble in the shower? Maybe even when you follow all the steps you still can get this kind of discoloration with marble?

I'm guessing short of ripping out the whole shower and starting over there isn't much that can be done about it at this point. And as long as I am certain water is not getting under the liner, the structure is sound, and the concerns are only aesthetic? I'm going off this comment form Jim: Not all of them produce physical damages, but they may produce visual problems.

Again, thanks for all your help!

12-16-2016, 10:41 AM
Gail, it may take years for the swamp you'll be creating under your shower floor tiles starts to cause more problems than just a little discoloring of the stone tiles, but you will have more problems.

You're paying for a properly built shower and you should get one before you do any paying.

My opinion; worth price charged.

12-16-2016, 05:57 PM
Some inspectors seem to disregard the code and reality and allow a liner flat on the floor. Industry guidelines and plumbing code prohibit that. Tile and grout are NOT the waterproofing layer. IF they were, why put in a liner at all?

In theory, the inspector is supposed to uphold the plumbing code. It's really scary that there are so many that don't. Plus, lots of people think they're saving lots of grief by never getting a permit and inspection, so that extra layer of protection is gone. In some jurisdictions, a permit is only functionally a tax, but it is supposed to actually protect the people in the project at hand.

12-16-2016, 07:34 PM
I here you, I really do. I am not trying to cause trouble here, but I still am wondering about my real question -- is this really a problem if I leave it as is? Even in an article on this website, I found this:
"When you begin using the shower, the mortar becomes saturated with water and remains that way as long as the shower is used regularly. In essence, when you take a shower, you displace the water already in the floor with new water. There are small “weep holes” at the base of the drain fixture that allow the water to move down the drain pipe."

So even if there was a pre-slope, wouldn't those same tiles still always be wet and look the same?

Or this question: Is that a guarantee that the marble will not change colors if there is a pre-slope and the rest of the shower are built to code? I did pay a lot for this marble from a very reputable tile and stone dealer, so believe it to be high quality. I guess I want to be sure that if I decide to rip it out and do it over with a pre-slope, that the same thing won't happen again. Would you bet money on that?

12-16-2016, 07:38 PM
Is the curb/shower pan even waterproof? I see no evidence of such,and it appears in one of the pics,wood curb smeared with thinset.

Was possibly a liquid used?

Curb looks pretty narrow,if a liner was used.

12-16-2016, 08:08 PM
Gail, the water in, water out, system that you are using for your shower receptor has been used successfully for many decades. If you have a proper pre-slope and open weep holes, the water in the mortar bed is being refreshed with each shower.

If your shower has constant heavy use, yes, the mortar bed is likely to remain damp continuously and you could have some discoloration of a stone tile such as you used on your shower floor. But even at that it will not be as bad as with the lack of a pre-slope and a continuous stagnant 3/8ths" or so of water laying in the bottom of the liner even when the shower is not in use.

And a properly built traditional shower receptor will never have the more serious problems associated with the shallow swamp your contractor has created for you.

My opinion; worth price charged.

05-05-2017, 08:13 AM
Several months and lots of research later, I wanted to follow up with how this problem was solved. Sealer. That's it. A good solvent based sealer. The original sealer I was sold by the tile store was water based and apparently, it was crap. Chis at Stone Essentials was awesome, and walked me through step by step how to remove the old sealer and apply the new. My beautiful cararra marble is back to all its glory. I couldn't be happier!