Mystery leak! [Archive] - Ceramic Tile Advice Forums - John Bridge Ceramic Tile


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01-03-2017, 10:54 PM
Yes, it is a complete mystery. I completed this bathroom for a customer about a month ago. Complete gut/remodel. I installed a 30x60 barrier free shower pan (no the pan is not leaking) and 2"x2" porcelain on the floor and 3x6 cararra marble wall tile and grouted the walls with unsanded grout and the floor with sanded grout. The wall joints are 1/16" and the floor is 1/8". The tile and grout came out beautifully. No pinholes, or shrinkage in the grout whatsoever, yet somehow water is getting in the wall and working it's way somehow, somewhere and dripping to the ceiling below. I know honed marble has some porus-ness to it but I can't see it sucking up enough water to give a steady leak. I removed a position of the ceiling below and the way this house and it's addition are framed makes it pretty impossible to see what's going on from the backside. I tried with my borescope camera and I even went as far as buying a 750$ FLIR C2 thermal imaging camera to detect where the water is entering and the route it's going to where the leak begins to drop and that got me nowhere. Durock sits in a heavy bead of 100% silicone which is on the top edge of the pan sidewalls with the tile redi flashing kit between that and the bottom edge of the durock...... The marble tile, where adhered to the pan is adhered with latapoxy 300 and adhered to the redgarded durock with Laticrete 253 gold. And yes the durock joints were all mesh taped and mortared as well as 2 coats of redgard.... The leak "seems" to be (after countless leak tests, including a 24hr flood test) roughly at the height of the top of the pan where the flashing and pan/durock transition is... How could this possibly be leaking?? I am at my wit's end and am baffled at how water can be getting behind the wall tile. And yes the grout is sealed.... Any thoughts or insight on this is greatly appreciated. Ive never had issues with tile redi pans and this is not the first time I've installed a tile redi pan, however I'm thinking of giving the laticrete presloped pans a whirl next time around. Anyways, thanks for your time, I do appreciate it!


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Tool Guy - Kg
01-03-2017, 11:39 PM
Welcome to the forum, Matt. :wave:

Do you have a picture you can share?


01-03-2017, 11:44 PM
Pics coming right up! Thanks for the reply. Also, I want to add that the leak is in the 60" wall

01-03-2017, 11:56 PM
Hang tight... Having a hard time uploading, sorry!

01-04-2017, 12:01 AM
Also, There are no soap dishes, niches or corner shelves on that wall. Just a 5x8 wall of nothing but tile and grout....and a mystery....And there isn't an ounce of plumbing in that wall either.

01-04-2017, 09:38 AM
Welcome, Matt. :)
and am baffled at how water can be getting behind the wall tile.I think you're failing to grasp one of the basic concepts of shower construction there. The reason for a water containment system covering the walls and receptor is to keep water inside the shower. The entire shower should be watertight before any tile or grout is installed.

Have you any photos of the installation showing that joint between walls and your Tile Redi shower receptor?

01-04-2017, 09:44 AM
How is the Redi Flashing attached and sealed to the durock? Is it attached to the face of the durock or is it behind the durock? Is the entire face of durock covered in redgard or just the joints?

01-04-2017, 04:06 PM
How far outside of the sloped shower pan did you run the waterproofing?

How did you perform a flood test? Did you make a temporary curb? If not, how high were you able to get the water?

The waterproofing should run at least 2" above the top of the drain (normally, it would be 2" above the top of the curb, but there is no curb!).

FWIW, Durrock is not waterproof, but is not damaged by being wet.

HooKooDoo Ku
01-04-2017, 04:32 PM
Just a DIYer logically trying to think through the problem (so take this with a grain of salt given all the professionals around here).

I assume from your description, the leak only happens while the shower is in use (if so, how long after the shower is turned on before the leak appears and how long after the shower is turned off before the leak stops?)

As cx's comments allude to... tile, grout, and durock are water impervious but not water proof (meaning water doesn't harm them, but water can penetrate them). But as you (Matt9184) allude to, the leak seems to consist of a water flow rate that exceeds the speed at which water should be penetrating tile/grout/durock even if there wasn't any water proofing behind these materials.

You also say that you've done an over night leak test and you're satisfied the pan isn't leaking.

The only thing else that I can think of then is a plumbing leak beyond the main shutoff valve (pin hole in the pipe, or more likely at one of the joints between the valve and the shower head).

I know you say that there is no pluming on the wall where you are finding the leak... but water is obviously a tricky thing. So just to throw out a wild idea, is it possible that something is going on like the following:
The fitting just beyond the valve is leaking. The water travels down the valve stem, hits the back side of the durock, and travels down the durock until it drips onto the "shelf" of the redi pan shower pan. Like everything else in this world, the shower pan is not perfectly level, and the water travels along this top edge of the shower pan, perhaps even rounding a corner, before it finds a low spot in the pan and drips over the edge there.

01-04-2017, 06:13 PM
From my experience, if it's a new shower and water is getting to the ceiling below already it could be the drain. Check to make sure nothing is clogged in there and check the connection at the drain also.

01-04-2017, 06:55 PM
just for sake of elimination did you take the escutcheon plate off and at least look at the mixing valve and whatever plumbing you could see from there? Water can travel a long way before it to where the drip is.

01-04-2017, 07:33 PM
Sorry but only answering to the professionals. It's not a plumbing leak. The shower arm was the first thing I tested by capping it and turning the water on. I already stated how the flashing is installed, and no the drain or weep holes are not clogged.

The leak has been found though and thank you all for your thoughts, insight and concerns!

01-04-2017, 07:45 PM
Are you not going to share where the leak was found? It's helpful for everyone to know in case we run into a similar situation on an install.

01-04-2017, 08:10 PM
Very true! My apologies. Found a hairline crack in the corner of the wall in the tile course directly above where the durock sits on the flashing/pan.... Yes I know the corner should of been silicones and not grouted. So tomorrow both inside corners are getting silicones floor to ceiling. Where the flashing sits on the pan, it gets notched so one flashing piece overlaps the piece adjacent to it... This flashing lap joint must of not been silicones by my employee (of course he won't admit it though).... So I'm pretty sure the water was trickling in the hairline crack in the corner grout (again, should of been silicone) joint and making its way a few inches straight down to the lap in the flashing out the corner and leaking down the backside of the side of the pan.... Tomorrow both inside corners are getting a bead of silicone and the corner that was definitely leaking when concentrated with water (steady stream with the shower head off and just holding the hose right on the crack) should be watertight once silicone is cured.... At least that's my hypothetical outlook of the issue. Thanks again everyone!

01-04-2017, 08:23 PM
Glad you found the issue. My post was something that actually happened. The gc had someone do the demo and prep and debris got into the drain. I vacuumed out the drain and the leaking stopped.

01-04-2017, 08:24 PM
Thanks Matt, I've never used the tile redi pans I've heard the flashing is kind of intricate and not very forgiving. Hope that fixes it. Part of the reason I read on here is to hear different situations and resolutions to help me when diagnosing an issue.

01-04-2017, 08:30 PM
Your GC/plumber didn't replace the drain assembly after the demo when doing a full gut/remod? And shame on the demo crew for not at least plugging the line. I wonder what went down the toilet drain? Lol. I always cap drain and waste lines during demo ASAP... No one likes the smell that comes out of them... Not to mention what debris can wind up in them lol. But hey, different strokes for different folks. I had a customer years ago wind up with a broken pink 4x4 wall tile jam up their main. Whoever remodeled their bathroom before they bought the house must of not liked plugging waste/drain lines either lol

01-04-2017, 08:36 PM
Ryan, the tile rediThis flashing kit is paper thin aluminum that they nail you 60$ for. I can easily bend 1000 feet of he the identical flashing on my aluminum brake. However I've always ordered the flashing kit when i order the pan. I get that it's paper thin so it doesn't cause any variations in the plane of the wall, but yes, it's extremely unforgiving. If you opt to not use the optional flashing, you can run a bead of silicone on the top edge of the pan and smush your durock into that.... My only issue with the tile rediThis pans is that you MUST use latapoxy 300 to bond your tile to the pan. Nothing else under the sun sticks to these pans...So that really stinks. I redgarded a 1' square on a pan a while back and once it dried, it pulled up like dried latest paint in a paint tray. I thought maybe if the pan was redgarded, you can use normal thinset to tile to the pan... But that idea went out the window within an hour of testing the redgarded bond to the pan.

01-04-2017, 08:45 PM
Matt, for the benefit of future readers of this thread I'm gonna reiterate what I said in post #6. Caulking the tile corners in your shower will not correct a shower leak.

While redirecting the water going through the joint in your particular shower appears to have stopped your leak, you still have the same leak, you just don't have water going there currently. If water finds its way to that area later, you'll still have your leak.

My opinion; worth price charged.

01-04-2017, 08:56 PM
CX, with all do respect, I'm not sure what you're not grasping. If water is blatantly getting directly into a corner...When testing direct water on it, and that's the only place in the shower that's generating a leak, And trickling down to an unsiliconed corner flashing lap joint and sneaking under that lap joint, making its way 1/2" to the backside of the vertical side of the pan, and trickling down the backside of the pan, how can a bead of silicone not stop the water from entering? Are you suggesting to rip out tile down to the flashing corner laps to silicone them as opposed to running a bead of silicone as it should be anyways on the inside tile corners?

01-04-2017, 09:16 PM
The industry calls for the shower to be water tight BEFORE the tile is even installed. This does happen if it is installed properly...Thus, any patches after the tile is on is just that...a patch, not a fix. IOW, except for contaminating the surfaces, you should be able to shower in there before the tile is up without it leaking. Tile is a decorative, wear surface, not waterproofing. NOr is a grout sealer a reliable aid to waterproofing the shower.

01-04-2017, 09:18 PM
Obviously! What don't you understand about the flashing corner lap joint not being silicones in the corner prior to tiling. And of course I know it should of been done, however like I said, I was not there when my employee began tiling. I arrived when he was about 6 courses high.

01-04-2017, 09:22 PM
Don't think there's anything at all here that I'm not grasping, Matt.

We get many, many visitors who come here because they had a new shower built and it leaks. I don't want any of them to get the mistaken impression that it's OK for a tile contractor or remodeling contractor or any other professional to put some caulking in a grout joint to temporarily redirect some water away from a leak in their shower receptor.

I trust there was some sort of contract between you and your customer saying you would build them a new shower and implied in that contract, even if not actually stated, was that it would be built to contemporary professional standards and would not leak.

That shower should have been completely leak proof before you installed the first tile in it and it wasn't.
Are you suggesting to rip out tile down to the flashing corner laps to silicone them as opposed to running a bead of silicone as it should be anyways on the inside tile corners? I'm not suggesting anything at all, Matt, I'm simply trying to warn future visitors that what you have done in this instance is not a repair of the leak in the shower and should not be accepted as such. That's all.

If you want to leave that shower the way it is, that's entirely up to you. My obligation here is to the folks less knowledgeable who may visit the thread. We get many thousands of visitors each day and it's likely some of them will happen by here.

My opinion; worth price charged.

01-04-2017, 09:44 PM
Welcome to mold-ville, where shortcuts are taken and someone pays the price for it later with drywall repairs, rotten wood, juicy boards for termites to nibble on and mold growing through out their bathroom and adjoining rooms.

01-04-2017, 09:46 PM
So if silicone redirects water temporarily, I guess grout does also, along with roof shingles, siding, paint, etc redirects water temporarily also.

And yes there was a contract. However they do not want to see their brand new shower be ripped out. Contrary to your belief of me being some half assed fly by night, I am not.

And I'm with you 150% on the water test prior to tile. It's always done when I'm on site before tile starts. But like I said, this time I was not. So yes, go figure, the one time you're not on top of your employee, things go wonky. Believe me, I am not happy about this and am against band aid repairs.... However I don't see how siliconing the corner joints floor to ceiling really being a band aid. Tile gets silicones where it meets tubs on every tile job. Years go by and the silicone needs to be replaced where the tub meets the tile, it's a maintenance issue. I've re-siliconed dozens of tubs/fiberglass shower pans for customers bc their old silicone went to crap. Again, it's required maintenance. Not to mention that those horizontal joints take more abuse from water than a vertical joint in a shower. If these corner joints need to be re-siliconed ever 5-7 years, to me, that's considered required maintenance.

.....In conclusion, I get where you're coming from and appreciate your feedback and understand the looking outlet for others although you don't seem to see where I'm coming from

HooKooDoo Ku
01-05-2017, 12:14 PM
No shower, correctly built, should need maintenance to keep it water proof.

01-05-2017, 12:44 PM
Ditto what CX said in regards to waterproof containment.

Without seeing the walls/substrate prior to tile....can only speculate what probs you have. Lack of WPing at change of plane/s I.E. pan and floor,water wicking its way up from pan perimeter to board substrate,corners/walls not WPed,water from out floor finding its way in and under pan,drain leak,which I guess you already ruled out.

Putting silicone over/between the tile is a band-aid,and nothing more. I would wager my fourth child(if I had four kids lol) that it will leak again in "x" time frame.

As it's your box of Dominos,with your name on it,you're welcome to rectify it in any fashion you deem fit.

Tool Guy - Kg
01-07-2017, 02:15 PM
Welcome to the forum, Matt. :wave:

Thank you for understanding that our obligation on this forum is to provide rock solid information that is up to current industry standards. And that means impressing upon folks that all showers need to be completely watertight before any tile, grout, or caulk is applied. No application of any of these should be a prerequisite for the waterproofing to be complete.

Yes, we completely understand where you are coming from. We absolutely do. Because none of us are perfect. As hard as we try, weird stuff happens. In the past, many of us have made a variety of repairs just like yours in an attempt to avoid a re-do of some sort.

As painful as it is for you to hear this, what you did is not up to industry standards. Having a good or great reason to make the repair instead of a re-do doesn't make the repair any more reliable...just less costly or less painful to the installer. Will your repair work for a period of time? It sure seems like it. But will it last equally as long as if it had been properly been waterproofed before the tile and grout and caulk went in? With a high degree of certainty, the answer is "no".

Yes, we understand where you're coming from.


By the way, I dislike tile-redi pans for a couple of reasons. One is making them fit perfectly with framed openings. The second is their ridiculous method of flashing. I call it ridiculous because it seems like an afterthought instead of being engineered into a system. I have talked shop with this company at trade shows and I have been severely underwhelmed by the quality of their body of knowledge.