Spotting on marble shower floor [Archive] - Ceramic Tile Advice Forums - John Bridge Ceramic Tile


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02-01-2011, 11:16 AM
[FONT="Arial"][SIZE="1"]Seeking advice on how to permanently rectify spots that appear on marble shower floor hours/days after showering. (not looking for a quick fix).

Had a marble shower installed with Carrera marble subway tiles on the walls and basket weave marble on the floor. After showering I squeegee and dry it completely with a towel. It looks fine at that time and then following that (within the next day or sooner) spots begin to appear on the shower floor. They start out small and then the spots get bigger and more appear. After several days of no showering they are still there.

BTW: The bathroom has an excellent ventilation fan that is located directly above the shower. I typically ran the fan for 1 to 2 hours after showering.
When the shower was first installed I used it and the marble seemed to appear to be wet (I'm referring to the shower floor, eventually the very lower tiles on the walls that meet the floor, and the threshold that you step over to get in and out of the shower. I'm concluding that because it darkened dramatically.

After several months (probably 3 to 4) it still hadn't returned to normal so I placed a fan and a space heater in the bathroom to try to dry it out. This took well over a week of drying. Eventually most of the marble’s color returned to normal but the threshold (step over) into the shower still seems darkened.

I observe that because the threshold is made from a piece of slab that is the same slab that was used for the window sill (so I am comparing the two colors). My pictures show a piece of trim that matches the marble slab used on the window sill placed on that threshold (that shows the discoloration - notice how dark the threshold is compared to the trim piece).

There is also a row of tiles that is partially discolored. It's the row on the shower floor that is next to the part that you step over to get in and out of the shower. I've included a picture of that.

After the shower dried out my contractor came back and checked everything. He concluded that everything was done correctly but when I used the shower again the same thing happened. When I compare photos from the first episode to the ones from the second set (the second set was taken after showering twice) the discoloring pattern seems to be in the same places.

Here's what we've learned so far. I was told by one person that after a shower there would be a certain amount of graying but it should dry out within a couple of hours.

I have been told by different people that this is not a problem with the sealant. I was advised told that no sealant would not completely seal the marble from water and according to the research that I have done the did the purpose of the sealant is to keep the marble from staining (from shampoos etc. ) not to keep it from getting wet.
As for the subway tile walls: I suspect that they are working correctly. So after a shower the very edges of the tile appear to be wet and then it dries back in approximately 3 to 4 hours.

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02-01-2011, 12:07 PM

I'm not a pro, but I've got a couple of questions that I'm sure the experienced people willa sk as well.

How was the shower pan constructed? Was there a preslope beneath the liner (based on the drain I'm assuming it's a "traditional" shower.

How long have you been using it?


02-01-2011, 01:00 PM
Yes this is a traditional shower and install with a pre-slope underneath the liner.

I first used in the shower early spring of 2010 (best guess - late March). I'm not sure how long I used it. It wasn't all that long before it became more and more discolored and it looked like the discoloration was moving into the bottom rows of the walls and the shower threshold. The apparent spreading was what really started to raise concerns and made me stop using it. If I were to guess - I'd say I showered for no more than 2-4 weeks, probably not every day, and it was always squeegeed and toweled.

From there the shower was unused until December of 2010 (it's possible that it was very late November 2010).

So I had left it to dry and after 2-3 months it still didn't dry completely so I ran a fan and a heater in the bathroom. Even with the heating unit and a fan to push the heat around, took a very long time for it to dry.

02-01-2011, 01:10 PM
That sounds typical of a conventional mud bed shower with clogged weepholes. The mud bed and all setting materials become saturated with water because it cannot drain properly. There is no easy cure for this. The shower floor tiles need to be removed from around the drain fitting, the mud dug out and the weepholes cleaned out. Before everything is put back, the weepholes would need to be protected with some drainage gravel or a purpose made filter screen.

I don't know what your contractor could have checked, but he owes you a shower that can dry out in a reasonable time.

02-01-2011, 01:44 PM
I asked my contractor about the possibility of clogged weep holes because from all the research I did that was the most logical potential problem area. He responded that the weep holes couldn't be plugged because they had put nails in them to keep them from getting plugged. When I had researched this on other websites there was mention of putting a nail or something in the weep holes to plug them during installation.

Providing that's correct, and they put nails in the weep holes, how could they now be plugged? By the way I did check my installation regularly along the way but of course not being an experienced shower person I never checked to make sure that they were plugged with nails during the install so I am going on trust here.

I'm not questioning your advice. I'm querying further to see how they might have become clogged after the last chance to remove them and the final finishing of the shower. In other words, are there opportunities after the last possibility of removing the nails out of the weep holes for them to become clogged?

The good news is: We are all in agreement that he owes me a shower that dries correctly. We're just at a loss on how to get there which is why I'm posting.

Thank you for your ideas!

02-01-2011, 01:56 PM
I assume he pulled the nails out?

02-01-2011, 02:18 PM
I assume he pulled the nails out. He typically works alone with no distractions and focuses on his work, takes the time to try and get it right (I realize that we do have a problem but he does aim to get things done correctly), and is also detail oriented. I know that because I'm here when he's working. I will ask him as a double check but for the sake of this thread let's assume the nails were removed.

With your knowledge, would there be any way for the weep holes to become plugged after that (meaning after the last chance to take them out during the installation)?

Thanks in advance.

02-02-2011, 04:18 AM
I dunno, I'm grasping at straws right along with you.

I'll ask around, maybe one of the stone guys has a better theory.

02-02-2011, 07:51 AM
Thanks Bob!

02-02-2011, 08:33 AM
I assume he left the nails in the holes, which I don't really understand. Looks like the nails would partially block the holes.

Some type stones show moisture more than others and this type is one of the worst. Even with a properly working mud bed that water easily flows thru, the mud will stay damp and that's enough to keep the marble dark. Why some pieces show moisture more than others, I don't know.

John Bridge
02-02-2011, 09:04 AM
I agree with Davy. I think the shower might have been done correctly and that the marble is just very absorbent. A conventional shower floor will usually remain wet constantly once the shower has been put to use. I don't know that there is anything that can or should be done in this case except to make sure the weepholes are not plugged. Check to see that the nails have been removed by taking off the strainer and looking in. If there are nails the head will show protruding in from the edges of the sub-drain about two inches down from the strainer.

02-02-2011, 09:11 AM
Yes..As John indicated..the first thing i would do is take the cover off the drain and peek in with a flashlight..You will see if the nails are still there.:tup2:

02-02-2011, 09:15 AM
I have mentioned this before but it has been a while. A few years ago I installed a Limestone shower that did the same thing. It stayed dark on the floor and lower parts of the walls. I know it had a preslope and protected weepholes. I experimented with several sealers and found that HMK S-34 kept the darkness from coming back. While the homeowners were out of town, the builder placed a dehumidifier in the shower for 3 weeks and taped poly across the doorway. It ran 24 hrs a day. He would go in and empty the water out of the machine daily. It finally dried out and I sealed it with S-34 and the customer was happy. I don't know why the S34 works and the other sealers wouldn't. It is a silicone based sealer instead of water based or solvent based. You might try that. I remember this well because the homeowners were about to have me tear out this shower just because of the darkness.

02-02-2011, 09:27 AM
I know that weave pattern is expensive but perhaps you could build a smaller mock up to see if the tile remains dark with proper drainage. Would be pretty easy to build and test.

02-02-2011, 11:32 AM
Looked down the drain & didn't see any nail heads. But I may be unclear of exactly where to look, or would it be under the standing water that I reference below?

Couple of questions regarding the pictures below:
1 - Is that brown stuff (whatever it is) supposed to be at the bottom?
2 - Should there be standing water in the drain? There is 4 inches of standing water at the bottom. Measured this by wrapping paper around a measuring stick and dipping it.

Although I realize that this is a porous material doubt that it should always be wet. Here's a few reasons why:

This is a common material for showers and built-in bathtubs are sometimes constructed from Carrera marble tiles.

Marble that's always wet will start to grow an house mildew. I can't imagine everyone living with all that mildew.

In my case, it's not wet immediately after the first shower. A spot starts to appear, it grows and then more appear. The wetness was moving up the walls and so that would translate into people having wet shower walls all the time - doesn't seem to make sense. According to everyone I spoke with it should typically dry to normal in 2-4 hours. I also tried soaking tiles in a bowl of water and put them on a non abosorbant surface. They dried within the specified time frame.

Niether my contractor nor I am convinced that a different sealant is the optimal solution in this case. This has been confirmed by local stone vendors as well as professional organizations that set standards for the stone industry. Each situation is different.

Any details on how to build a small mockup would be appreciated.

Thank you everyone for your help. Interested in your comments based on this post as well as the pictures.

02-02-2011, 01:14 PM
Silvana, keep in mind that even though we may not have all the answers, you're asking guys that have torn out hundreds of showers and have years of experience.

First off, I don't know what the brown stuff is in the drain. Take a metal clothes hanger, bend a hook on it and see if it will lift out. Maybe the pipe is stained and it's no big deal

Yes, there should be standing water in the drain. That's the P-trap holding water to keep sewer gasses from entering your home, similar to what's under your sink.

Yes, this stone is common but is very soft and porus. Not all stones are, some will absorb little to no water. If the mud bed stays wet enough, the stone won't dry out completely until the mud bed does.

It's not the stone that grows mold but the soap and grime that the mold feeds on. With a proper mudbed, the water runs thru the mudbed and is replaced with water, never having time to grow mold. If your mudbed is causing the water to stand still, in time, it may very well start to smell like mildew and mold. We see it all the time.

The sealer I mentioned worked for me. I applied several different sealers to 12x12 pieces of limestone and set them on a wet towel on my driveway. I even had the water hose running slowly to keep the towel wet so the moisture would be coming from the back side to the surface, like yours is. The S34 kept the surface from turning dark, it's the only one that did that. Just like you, I wasn't convinced and was surprised that the sealer worked.

02-02-2011, 02:25 PM
I certainly appreciate the folks in this forum have many years of experience. I value and respect that experience. Thank you for your reassurances.

I hope you didn't think I was questioning your expertise when asking that I e-mailed you. Wanted to circle back around and doublecheck. Communication can be very complicated. Sometimes people don't read correctly or they mishear (including myself). Wanted to be sure the cases were identical.

The information regarding the ptrap & sitting water -- that all makes sense.

Ah yes - need try to pull out whatever is in there. Didn't have right sized hanger or wire so will look for something else.

Also, I've spoken with my contractor and according to him the nails were not left in the weep holes.

Thank you also for your assurances on the sealing. Follwing up with that. BTW: Current sealer is Aqua Mix Sealer's Choice Gold - water based penetrating sealer.

02-02-2011, 05:21 PM
Can't wait to hear what that brown stuff is. If I was to hazzard a guess on a pretty new shower, I'd guess that the contractor stuffed the drain with something to keep debris from going down it while setting the tile but forgot to take it out. Either that or you're using a high-fat shampoo. Go with low-fat for sure.

No other comments to add re: the wet spots on the stone. It looks just like marble that gets/stays wet. Agree weep holes may be the issue, or the pre-slope had birdbaths in it.

02-02-2011, 05:32 PM
Weep holes are tiny, only a pin nail or small finish nail would fit.They are easily clogged,and it looks like there is black weeping where it would be coming from the weep holes.

Don't wanna think about the brown stuff,maybe shampoo globs.

I would tap the drain at the screw mounts and try to unscrew it and remove it,and see if you can see a proble, take a pic for us.

All the possible scenarios have been covered far as i can see.

02-02-2011, 07:51 PM
Okay. First of all I don't use fatty shampoo and I'm a superlight user of both shampoo and conditioner. Conserves product and reduces rinsing. But I got a good laugh out of that one.

Pulled the brown thing out. It's a ball of hair which I find amazing giving how few showers have been taken.

As to weep holes. I'm starting to weep. Can't find the darn things. Could be that the picture makes it look like they are there but I'm not finding them. Have probed around with the flashlight and hanger will do some more tomorrow.

The mention of the word birdbathing: I spoke with a stone professional organization today. The shower does slope to the drain but there is some birdbathing around the edges and there are some low spots. The man I spoke with said that if the thickness of the mortar is not consistent the low spots can absorb more water than the other areas and that may be causing the problem.

When I explained that the pieces for the basket weave pattern are small tiles that came in on 12 x 12 sheets he said that may have other implications. We weren't able to finish the conversation but we will pick it up on Friday. He's also going to go to my Flickr photo gallery and take a look at the pictures.

I'll be sure to post how that conversation goes after Friday.

Again thanks everyone for your help.

02-03-2011, 08:07 AM
Hi Silvana :)

Of all the showers I've torn out these are the most common problems:

1. No preslope
2. No gravel or other protection system at weep holes
3. Improper mud base (concrete or wet mix used vs. dry pack)
4. Pan liner not properly installed over curb, jambs, and bench
5. Porous stones (such as yours) lacked a surface waterproofing system
6. Curb improperly constructed
7. Low quality sealer used

If any item of 1-5 exists, the pan needs to be torn out. If #6 exists, sometimes a curb replacement only can be performed (very rare).

From you photos I recognized the hair in the drain, and water pooling areas.

To correct your issue, more than likely I would:

1. Remove the shower doors
2. Remove the 1st 2-3 courses of wall tile
3. Tear out the shower pan and curb
4. Install block or cement curb (pitched at top into shower)
5. Utilize Schluter Kerdi system and drain (or equal surface waterproofing system)
6. Retile & grout
7. Seal stone & grout with a upper end STT sealer (such as STT SB-VRM)

NOTE: Before starting such extensive projects I ALWAYS remove a section of the shower pan tile down to the drain, and another section next to the wall. When these areas are uncovered, they usually reveal several potential issues that need correcting. When the pan is removed, even more issues become revealed.

I realize that you have a very detail oriented person doing your work. More than likely he doesn't belong to the MIA or NTCA, or minimally possess a current copy of the TCNA manual (let alone participate in online forum such as this one).

When I started in the business over 30 years ago, I didn't utilize those tools either. Technologies and methods constantly change. There are too many carpenter/tile setters, and other trade/tile setters (heck tile setters period), that aren't up to date with a proper installation of a tile or stone shower (which usually end up in failure).

02-03-2011, 10:20 AM
Thank you John. Very helpful info.

05-13-2011, 08:40 AM
Which shower drains do you recommend for a traditional shower install? (this will not be a Kurdi system because it is being placed into a pre-existing shower)

I'm asking because I had a prior post and in that post several of you recommended that I check the weep holes to be sure they were open (not blocked).

It turned out that the existing drain Sioux Cheif does not provide access to the weep holes once it's installed. So if they calcify several years down the road the end user can't get the weep holes without removing part of the shower floor.

That's a concern because several tile/shower experts had told me about customer situations where the weep holes were plugged, they unplugged them and water came gushing out.

My contractor is telling me that there aren't drains with direct access to the weep holes once I take the drain cover off. I find that hard to believe and so wanted to check with the experts here to make sure I end up with the best situation possible.

Thank you to advance for your help!

05-13-2011, 09:11 AM
I appreciate all the advice you have provided. I queried my contractor numerous times about the install and he insisted it was correct.

I ended up going to Home Depot and purchasing a Sioux Chief drain so I could figure out where the weep holes are. It turns out that you cannot access the weep holes to clear them once the drain is installed.

I did fill the shower with 1 inch of water to let the water soake in, dried the inside of the drain, and then looked in with a flashlight to check the weep holes. There was some draining. However I had been told by one expert in the area that just because I saw some draining it might necessarily mean there was enough.

I also went to the Sioux Chief website to get the installation instructions. I ended up asking my contractor if there was in fact gravel around the weep holes. He said no and that he had never heard of putting gravel around the weep holes. I stated that this is a known procedure and is written up all over the web.

Where I'm really confused, and very disgruntled, is around the work that his subcontractor did. Because my contractor had never done this type of shower I offered to pay for a subcontractor to come in as an expert and do that portion of the job for us. I researched local folks and had recommendations for two experts in my area but he chose to go with someone who he knew. Trusting him, I was fine with that and now I'm stuck with this situation as well as his frustration towards me about it.

He is planning to tear out the shower floor but not the mud bath.

Now my concern is finding a drain that allows access to the weep holes. It turned out from my research that there are situations when weep become plugged from calcium buildup and someone has to go in and open them up. Since the Sioux Chief drain does not accommodate this I am trying to find a drain that does.

05-13-2011, 09:13 AM
Hi Silvana,

Since you posted in another thread (link below) about a similar problem, I'll ask the same questions I asked over there about the plumbing.

How many shower heads or body sprays in this shower? How many and what diameter drain in this shower? :)

05-13-2011, 09:24 AM
Hi Dana,

Part my situation is different from yours. I wrote because I think you have several problems going on and wanted to share information that might help in regards to your subfloor / sloping / materials part of your situation.

Since I spent seven months researching, and I mean I went everywhere I don't want you to have to go and spend the same amount of time.

I only have one showerhead and the same Sioux Chief drain that you have so I don't have issues with the drains ability to read the water.

However, if you look at my old post (it's now near the top of today's postings because I added a comment) I have identical problems with spotting and weeping up the walls.

Something for you to know: And I'm 150% sure about this because the information is largely consistent. If you have used a well respected seal and it is not a sealer problem. The sealer is not intended to make your tile waterproof its primary function is to keep tile from being stained by colorants and shampoo, soaps etc.. So its function is to keep the stone from staining not to keep water from going through.

Water should in fact travel down to that mud bed and drain out through the weep holes.

My shower is Carrera marble basket weave and I've been told things like it's not the right choice for the shower floor etc.. Not true. I'm in California and it's used all the time for shower floors, walls, and I've even seen bathtubs made out of Carrera marble tile.

The issue with those spots that won't go away is coming from water sitting somewhere in that mud bed. Many many people, including myself after massive research, thought it was plugged weep holes. I went back to my contractor and just couldn't get him to budge on this and now it turns out that that's really what it boils down to since the gravel was not put around the Sioux Chief drain per their instructions.

One of my concerns is that the water has now sat in there on and off for about a year. Obviously my contractor doesn't want to pull out the mud bed but I'm wondering in the back of my mind what else could be wrong and also if there could be mildew or fungus now growing in that mud bed that will pose a problem later. That's why I'm waiting to see what they advise you in regards to a total tear out.

The other thing I'm considering is when he takes out the drain, there will be chips of cement / mud so I'm considering locating a lab in taking it in for a test to check for mildew / fungus.

05-13-2011, 09:31 AM
As far as I know your contractor is telling you the straight scoop. I don't know of a drain with weeps that gives you access to the weeps after install either. The whole idea of the weep holes is that water getting trapped in the bed can get out through the weeps. To do that the weeps have to be under the mud bed right? Its one of the big drawbacks of that sort of drain in my opinion. You can do everything right, and weep holes can still get clogged up over time and you end up with a pan that holds water.

As a side note, you can use a kerdi drain with many different shower builds. Not just a full Kerdi shower.

05-13-2011, 11:54 AM
I appreciate your advice and find it helpful. (Please read lower down about the slope I would like advice on this)

What about the fact that the Sioux Chief drain doesn't allow you to access the weep holes? That means when they eventually calcify there's no way to clear them out?

I'm also wondering, since that mortar/mud bed has had some moisture and water for over a year now (on and off) could there be mildew or fungus growing in there that might cause a problem later.

The shower also has birdbathing, low spots and does not slope correctly (It's not consistent slope to the drain. So when you're standing in it you're very aware that the drain is there because your feet become at an odd angle). This is the result of the pitch being different from around 6 inches of the edge of the drain to the drain.

He wants to raise the drain by a quarter inch and then try to re-slope the bottom of the shower so it slopes correctly. That would be by adding more mortar or ?? (He didn't say exactly what) but is that going to result in other problems since that means that that mud bed would not be one cohesive install (built up later and level differently in this repair process)?

I'm also concerned because that means my bottom row of tile won't be a true full row like it is now. Because it would likely be shortened a little bit by the raising of the drain and the re-sloping of the shower bed.

I sincerely hope to hear back from you.

05-13-2011, 11:59 AM
I appreciate your feedback, it will save me a lot of searching.

I don't doubt you. Here's what's odd. When I was at a local stone supplier/installer explaining the problem he pulled out a piece of drain and showed me where the weep holes were. They could be accessed from the inside of the drain (the open round part that the water passes through).

That's what prompted me to post this.

05-13-2011, 12:04 PM

I would start your own thread on this issue and no hijack someone elses thread. If theres no prepitch or no spacers around the weepholes and birdbaths in the floor, Im gonna say theres a good chance most of the stuff isn't done right. If a guys going to prepitch do the pan right the curb right and everything else right he would have made sure the weepholes were not clogged. I have used drains and made sure the weepholes were not clogged and some were still slow to drain even with proper pitch on the preslope. I would tear the bottom section of the shower out and do a kerdi hybrid shower. Sounds like there is more going on.

05-13-2011, 12:06 PM
the weep holes are in the drains upper flange they get buried with the mud, I have seen drains where theres holes on the threads of the adjusting drain like perforated to allow water to pass through the threads. I think all drains should be this way. I prefer kerdi showers cause you don't have this issue.

05-13-2011, 12:34 PM
Sincerely appreciate your reply and agree that I need to start a different thread. It wasn't my intention to hijack someone else's thread it just sort of took off on its own. I had the same thought (about needing to start a different thread) so I don't create confusion on the original thread. My apology in that regard.

Tiger Mountain Tile Inc
05-13-2011, 12:39 PM

I did a search for your other post and found it. I've read through everything and I will post later when I have more time.

There's two things that stood out to me that I will comment on right now:

1. I don't know of any drain that will allow access to the weep holes after the fact. I don't personally know of any situations where the weep holes have calcified and become blocked. It sounds reasonable that this could happen, but I think it would be somewhat rare and take a long period of time to develop. Maybe others around here have a different take than this?

2. When you say you filled your shower up with 1" of water, did you do this without plugging the drain? It doesn't sound right that there should be this much water filling up inside the shower.

I'll check in later.

05-13-2011, 12:40 PM

lol I always wanted to use that little guy. By the way Silvana, thats my moms name. :)

05-13-2011, 12:46 PM
:topicoff:Since you have been wanting to use it so long I'm glad the day finally arrived.

Don't hear of too many people named Silvana...

Take care!

Tiger Mountain Tile Inc
05-13-2011, 12:47 PM
Silvana's post is over here:

And that was Rick, not Jim. :o

05-13-2011, 12:55 PM
This is weird. When I showed my contractor the instructions for the Sioux Chief that shows flat plywood, then the first layer of mortar bed has a slope (pitch), the membrane (liner) goes over that, and then a secondary mortar bed goes over that.

He said that that's the old way and the code now requires that they create the slope with plywood, put the liner over that, and then the mortar over that.

Not trying to hijack this thread. Just find it interesting.

If you feel like this applies to this thread great. If it doesn't and risks creating confusion and you have any feedback please go to my specific thread noted above. I want to stay within the guidelines of the forum.

05-13-2011, 12:56 PM
I was talking about Jim DeBruycker's post - #25. IOW, Not Jim; Jim! :D

05-13-2011, 12:58 PM
He said that that's the old way and the code now requires that they create the slope with plywood, put the liner over that, and then the mortar over that.

That's certainly not helping your wetness problem. Ask him to show you the code he's talking about.

05-13-2011, 12:58 PM
Silvana, I've moved your questions about your shower from the other thread where you'd posted them here to your thread to prevent confusion on the other thread and loss of information on this one. Some of the other posts came with is and it may look a bit disjointed for a while, but it'll correct itsownself soon enough.

Please keep all your project questions here for continuity. Thanks. :)

05-13-2011, 01:04 PM
Thank you for moving the posts AND for letting me know.

I was trying to answer couldn't figure out which threat I was in and didn't want to continue to appear to be hijacking. Again that was not my intent I appreciate and respect the list usage.

05-13-2011, 01:10 PM
I was trying to answer couldn't figure out which threat I was in andWe're still the friendliest tile information site on the Internet, Silvana, and you shouldn't feel you're in any "threat" here. :D

05-13-2011, 01:13 PM
The other thread we were on started talking about how to properly build a mortar bed. I posted something there and it would be interesting to get your feedback.

I showed my contractor the installation instructions for the Sioux Chief drain. It indicates that you put a primary mortar bed that has the correct slope, then put the membrane (liner over that) followed by a secondary mortar bed over the top of that.

My contractor told me that the building code doesn't like that anymore and that they prefer to see the pre-slope made from plywood, with the membrane over that, and then the mortar on top of that.

What's your take on this? I am going to go down and see my building department. BTW: I did pull permits on my job and they were all signed off.

Yes I plugged the drain with a rolled up wash rag. That was so the water could sit and seep into the mortar bed. Uses less water for the experiment than running the shower for that long. Probably let it sit for 3+ hours and then drained it, dried the inside of the drain, and checked periodically with a flashlight.

During that process was when I discovered that the entire installation is not level. So when the water was sitting in there I measured the depth with a yardstick and the left-hand side when you are facing up a long way as if you are stepping in is 5/8 of an inch lower than the right-hand side (the side where the fixtures are).

And yes there is birdbathing and low spots plus I find the slope to the drain to be rather odd.

I feel like I paid $500 for a proper installation. In fact I did extensive research and found the name of two people that are considered experts in my area and supplied those names but he chose to bring in a subcontractor that he selected. Overall I had / have no problem with this, because I think it's up to him to control the job but now after the fact it just sort of adds to the stew.

05-13-2011, 01:21 PM
Yes I agree it's a friendly forum!

And I always appreciate a good laugh:clap2:

Thank you!

05-13-2011, 05:23 PM
My contractor told me that the building code doesn't like that anymore and that they prefer to see the pre-slope made from plywood, with the membrane over that, and then the mortar on top of that.

I've never seen or heard of this before. I would call my city guy ASAP and get clarification (it would have to be a local thing). I strongly suspect that is a crock o crapola, but I been wrong plenty of times before.

05-13-2011, 06:49 PM
I'm beginning to think it's a story also.

I googled plywood pre-slopes several different ways and didn't find any folks who suggested to do a pre-slope that way. There are people that say not to do it because the plywood wouldn't be as solid as a mortar created pre-slope and after some time passes the tile may crack.

I looked up building codes for my city. They use the California Uniform 2010 building code (not sure exactly what it was called). I found it online and went to the plumbing section. It talked about the pre-slope etc. - nothing in there about using plywood.

I did notice that it states the slope should be uniform from the sides to the drain. Mine certainly is not uniform. It has high and low spots and drops down faster beginning around 6 inches from the edge of the drain. Interesting because I had a permit and my job was signed off.

I'm planning to stop by the building department early next week to ask in person.

My gut is telling me, that the guy who did it was clueless and so not knowing how to create a proper slope, or not being a good trades person, might've figured it would be easier to start with a pre-slope that's built on the plywood. Takes the onus off him for creating the correct slope. Again this is all conjecture on my part but it's starting to sound very odd to me.

And that my contractor, for whatever reason, believed him.

By the way: I'd be interested in your feedback on how my contractor is proposing to fix this. He's planning to remove the tile, raise the drain a quarter inch, and then fill in the mortar so it slopes uniformly, put a protective collar that has openings were the pebbles are supposed to go (so it's a premade piece for this) and then retile it.

Should I have any concerns about that holding up over the long run??

Could mildew have grown in the mortar by now? It was wet for many months.

My other concern with this approach is that it compromises the first row of tiles. So that bottom row starts with a full tile. If he raises the drain and then fixes the slope that means I wouldn't have a full tile along the bottom and it seems like that would be visually ugly. Unfortunately, I have an art background so I see everything. It's not like I get in there and things are a blur. I'm conscious of lines and shapes everywhere because that's my world.

Thanks for your time. Your advice is very appreciated. Thanks goodness for this forum.

Tiger Mountain Tile Inc
05-13-2011, 07:46 PM
Hi Silvana,

First of all, this thread is all about your shower so don't feel like you have to be careful what you post in here. It all belongs in here.

If the plywood is cut from each corner to the drain, four triangles, in other words, I don't see this as being a problem. The point of the first layer of mud is simply to make the liner slope to the drain. That way when water gets down to the liner it will drain into the weepholes. The liner shouldn't leak, so water would never get below the liner into the plywood. I wouldn't say this is the "new" way of doing it, or that a mud pre float is the "old" way, but I think this would perform the function of draining the water that is in the pan.

The bird bathing, and the unevenness of the tile worry me. It makes me wonder about the skill level of the tile setter. Anybody can have a problem, from time to time, but this sounds like poor workmanship all the way around. You can see in the pictures how uneven the line is where the tile meets the shower pan. So you have to question the amount of slope in the prefloat, if there's pea gravel around the drain, and everything else about the shower.

The tile you have in there isn't cheap. What your contractor wants to do is "tile over tile" which can be done, but I am not crazy about, at all. He is going to go to the expense of purchasing additional tile, but not dig down a little deeper to inspect the weepholes around the drain?

My instincts tell me that the tile and mudwork need to be tore out and, assuming things look good from that point, the pan should be re-water tested and rebuilt from there. My instincts also tell me that the same contractors should not do the work.

I don't know how that will work out as far as who pays for what, and you may need to contact a construction attorney to know where you stand, but I don't think I would be comfortable having the same contractors back.

As far as mildew goes, I am not sure what to tell you. It would be hard to tell if there's any without doing further demolition.

I'll be curious what happens from here. Keep us posted.

chuck stevenson
05-13-2011, 08:25 PM
If the plywood is cut from each corner to the drain, four triangles, in other words, I don't see this as being a problem

Got a TCNA link?

I would not recommend using ply for a pre-slope.
Major support issues IMO.
Deck mud is easier, faster and cheaper.

05-14-2011, 10:37 AM
It's the fact that no pea gravel was put at around the drain and the highs and lows in the floor that are making me question everything now. BTW: Jim you're the only person who has commented on the unevenness of the tile where it meets the walls. I find it visually disruptive.

I'm questioning everything now because largely because it took me seven+ months of research, and continual questioning of my contractor, to find out that the pea gravel wasn't there when I've been querying if the weep holes might be plugged during all that time.

He's proposing:
Remove tile on shower floor, raise the drain by a quarter inch and then re-slope the bottom of the shower so it slopes correctly. That would be by adding more mortar or ?? (He didn't say exactly what), put a premade perforated ring of some type that's made to be used instead of pea gravel, and then re-tiling.

Again I'm concerned about not having a true full row of tiles at the bottom.

And now, I'm still bothered by the fact that the marble on my shower curb was Carrera White and its darkened & will never return to normal.

I supplied materials on this job, and expect him to order and supply the new tile.

The problem with bringing in a different contractor, is who's going to pay for that? Once I engage the services of an attorney it becomes another expense and from my experience they are a whole different type of person to interact with.

If I had things my way he would engage a consultant, hire a different person to come in and do a whole new mud job (entirely new shower pan), replace the curb with a new slab of marble, and re-tile.

I'm considering taking some of the mud that gets chipped out to a lab and tested for mildew and/or fungus. Which is why I was asking that question.

I have a house that needs roughly $200,000 worth of work, I wanted to make a major dent in to that last year, and I'm really exhausted by this situation.

TCNA? As in the National Tile Contractors Association? If I have been to their website. I downloaded the experts in my area get me started on the research I conducted over those 7+ months.

05-14-2011, 12:13 PM
He didn't know how to build it correctly. What makes you think he can repair it correctly?

I know thats not very helpful, but unless you can get some $$ back from him to hire an actual professional I don't see your situation getting any better.

05-14-2011, 01:20 PM
I agree with your logic.

That's why I have stress around this and exactly why I'm asking all these questions :bang:. lol - in the mood for pictures

Obviously what I will be faced with is: He'd rather fix it which translates into him working for free versus shelling out his own money out of pocket to pay someone to do it.

Then the other possibility is - 'this is if I want to use the give him the benefit of the doubt angle': Since it wasn't done correctly to begin with, and he didn't realize that, maybe he doesn't realize that his approach might not be the best long-term solution.

You never know what's going on in someone's head. My guess it's a combination of both.

And yes I am planning to broach the subject of him bringing in someone to fix it and paying for it but I doubt that conversation is going to go very far. That's why I mentioned I would be more comfortable with him using a consultant to monitor the work.

So there's a guy near here that is with the National Tile Contractors Association, who has about 50 years of experience and seems very knowledgeable. He charges $500 to come on site, which of course my contractor balked at. In addition I found a few other folks as a result of my reaching out during my research.

Also some people are not enthusiastic about working outside of their comfort zone. I tend to be a person who researches, collects data, and introduces new thoughts and processes into what I do but not everybody is the same.

Life always comes down to personalities :scratch:

05-14-2011, 01:27 PM
Another thought is that there's nothing wrong with inviting him here either. We'd give him info and answer his questions and try to help just like we would for anyone else.

05-14-2011, 01:56 PM
Thank you for your suggestion and inviting him to join the tread. I have found the people here to be good and kind.

You're hitting on another one of my frustrations.

He claims he doesn't really know how to use the computer other than typing something into Google and hitting return. Reading the posts in this thread really doesn't require computer knowledge beyond that.

Given the fact that his wife uses the computer, and he knows that I am super computer literate, I would've hoped he at least read the threads and either added comments or had me do that for him.

So I felt like I invested a large amount of time taking pictures, editing them to put on here & on Flickr, and posting these threads (which at the time was no small feat) and it wouldn't have taken much effort, on his part, to give the display of support by following the thread especially since I did mention the form more than once.

Part of my frustration with the situation is that I don't feel like he's been 'present' or 'here for me' in this whole troubleshooting process. He said he spoke with some of his colleagues and that people really don't want to invest time when they aren't getting paid. I did surface this frustration but nothing changed. I also know that I can't force someone to be interested in something, or change if they just don't want to.

Although I understand that, the problem has to be resolved and I've offered to pay people to come out and look at this or for their advise because ultimately it has to be fixed.

I called him with my frustration around not being able to find the weep holes in the drain, trying to figure out what the blob at the bottom was etc. and it seems like it would have been a very small effort (given the fact that he's local and visits his dad whose two blocks away quite often) to stop by and help me with these things. I ended up spending an hour at Home Depot to buy a drain that looked like the one I had to figure out where the weep holes actually are.

It would have been helpful, and a completely different client experience, to have him reading this thread and helping me versus me calling him to ask questions so that I could try to post accurate answers to the questions and suggestions that the folks on this thread made.

I know this may sound like venting, but all I ever really expected and hoped for was a team effort to resolve the situation. I come from a space of thinking that no one knows everything, and people do make mistakes, but then it would've been nice to feel supported. It's really about finding solutions.

I'm a marketing consultant and so everything I do (conversations etc.) are measured in terms of time = $. I've invested an enormous amount of time that I really should have been spending with my clients. I track my hours and I've invested roughly $4000 in time so far (that's on the conservative side and I don't get paid a very high hourly rate anymore). And then I have to add the fact that I have major health issues and the stress is making me sick.

It's interesting, because he's mentioned more than once that a lot of other people would have stepped away and left me with this situation. I've certainly paid the high end of market price for this work and spent a lot of time finding someone who came highly recommended and I believed was ethical. I wouldn't hire anyone different so I wouldn't expect him to step away from it. What I'm saying is: I don't think he's doing me any huge favor by fixing this. I do appreciate it but at the same time I believe I deserve to have a high-quality working shower at the end of the process.

05-15-2011, 12:12 PM
After spending close to 1 1/2 hours reading old posts this morning my concerns about having the pre-slowed made out of plywood are growing and I'm thinking that what we really need is a complete tear out of the shower pan (yes I realize this was recommended by a few of you).

Here's some things I read. Would be interested in your feedback:

If the plywood used for making the pre-slope, or the 4 x 4 used for the curb is pressure-treated wood I could be up for problems in the long run. Apparently pressure-treated wood is moist and can take a long time to stabilize in a installation like this and I could end up with cracking, warping etc.

I also read that any plywood used needs to be exterior grade.

Paul, from Cabot and Row commented in a different thread that the plywood absorbs water at a different rate than the mortar and so that difference can cause some friction on the liner, eventually causing a leak. Seems like that would be a big concern in my project since I sit on moist ground (clay) that constantly expands and contracts.

The flexing that is possible in the nailed plywood preslope, and the potential for nails to rise up after repeated flex is cause for concern.

With the use of plywood is the drain really mounted such that the bottom part is flush with the pre-slope? Or is there a bump in the liner right at the drain? This is from a different thread:

"While I'm an adequate woodworker and can conjure up a way to do that with plywood, I'd need to see what you have there to be convinced your guy went to that much trouble. I could have built about a dozen really good mud pre-slopes in the time I would have spent with the plywood."

Also since I didn't watch the entire install, and I'm now questioning the expertise of that installer, I have no way to know if that mud is thick enough (around 2 inches at the edges and no less than 7/8 of an inch at the drain) or if the liner is perfectly flat.

I've read on other threads that if there's any birdbathing in the liner, or a slight indent around the drain, water will sit there and it will take a few years but eventually there is the possible mildew problems.

Tiger Mountain Tile Inc
05-15-2011, 12:17 PM
Hi Silvana,

I was thinking about the plywood pre slope and it really doesn't make sense that he would do it this way. California is one of the areas in the nation that still does A LOT of mudwork, including walls. I don't think the guy is being honest with you about a change in code. A true tile setter that is proficient enough in mudwork to do a shower pan would never do a plywood ramp for a preslope. It costs more, takes more time to install, and involves additional tools. It's possible that it was done for the reason of being able to do the shower pan in one day. With a mud pre-float you are not supposed to get back on them until they dry. If this is the case, though, he probably didn't do a water test of the pan. If a water test was not done, I think this would be the most important step before moving forward with any repair work.

Additionally, in regards to the plywood, I got to thinking that I really didn't think about the different variables. For instance:
1. What kind of plywood was used?
2. How thick was the plywood?
3. Was there anything under the plywood to fill the void between it and the subfloor?
4. How much slope was created?
5. Was it, indeed, built with cuts from the corners to the drain- which would make the perimeter of it level?
6. If this was the case, how were the seams between the sheets dealt with? Were they reinforced, or somehow tied into each other so they don't flex?
7. How much mud was on top of the plywood (on top of the liner)? If it was, for instance, one inch, with all the unevenness, is it 1/2" in some spots?

The information that I'm going off of is internet posts and pictures. But from what I can piece together makes me doubt that your contractor knows the correct way to build a shower. It also brings me to question the other aspects of the shower, for example, did he install a vapor barrier on the walls?

So we're back to looking at the details and listening to the story they tell:
1. The plywood pre-float is baffling.
2. There is an unacceptable amount of unevenness in the finished mud work.
3. No pea gravel
4. An unwillingness of the contractor to have integrity in his work (he's not doing you a favor by "offering" to do some repairs.)
5. It appears a lack of honesty is an issue as well.

So you have to decide, are you comfortable with this contractor doing the repairs? If I had to guess, I think this person lacks the skill to do a nice job. He'll probably come in and get it closer, but you probably will have to settle for mediocre craftmanship. This is assuming that his repair work is an improvement. Only you can make this decision.

It sounds like, to repair it, the contractor wants to put on a drain extension and then tile right over the existing tile. This can be done with the proper thinset. I believe Laticrete's Platinum and Custom's Megaflex are just two of the thinsets that are approved for this sort of work. And, yes, it will make the bottom row less than a full tile.

In summary, it looks like your options are as follows:

1. Let the guy come back and repair it and hopefully it will be acceptable. The issues, that you explained earlier, about the pressure being on you to research and handle the situation will stay on you with this option. Also, I don't believe this will answer the additional questions about the construction of the shower. He may fix it cosmetically, but the shower could still fail down the road if there are additional issues that are not being addressed.

2. Hire a different contractor to do the repairs. This would be at your expense and mean that you are cutting your losses.

3. Hire a construction attorney. The purpose of this is to use the legal system to help you get the repair work done, in a satisfactory way, that would not come out of your pocket. Yes, you are paying an attorney, but hopefully the attorney will keep the contractor accountable for his work. Attorneys usually offer a free initial consultation I would encourage you to take them up on this. Even an email correspondence can be helpful.

4. Hire an outside consultant. It might not be a bad idea to have an independent expert assess the shower. He may feel that the repair work needs to be more extensive than what your contractor thinks and this can be used as leverage to get the necessary repairs done. This is also in the legal category and an attorney would probably require this step.

I'm sorry that this happened to you and I hope that it works out well, in the end. Keep us posted.

Tiger Mountain Tile Inc
05-15-2011, 12:26 PM
I would like to make it clear the I am not RECOMMENDING anyone put in a plywood pre-slope.

The easy thing to do whenever someone has a problem is to tell them to tear it out completely and redo it. But, I think the way to be of the most service in this situation is to try to figure out how much demolition is NECESSARY with what is ALREADY BUILT.

The plywood was already installed. I think that a plywood pre-slope could be constructed to perform the function it needs to perform. But again, this is not a standard way of doing it.

05-15-2011, 12:31 PM
silvana- if your installer used ply for a pre slope (assuming he did it as stated, cutting it into triangles so it can be pitched toward drain, actually pitching it, and filling the void below ply), i still would not consider this acceptable. it might work, but its not a time proven method of installation.

i would make him fix it properly or pay (his expence) a proffesional to fix it for him.
my personal opinion.

05-15-2011, 03:02 PM
]I was on a job where the plumber put a 1x around the perimeter of the shower and used foam for the prepitch, it came out perfectly. Proslope is also made of foam, i prefer to use drypack. I also do this instead of peagravel

Tiger Mountain Tile Inc
05-15-2011, 03:43 PM
I didn't realize you had posted before my last post.

Another concern I have is how the drain was installed with the plywood pre-slope. The drain would have to be on blocking to raise the height of it so that it is flush with the top of the plywood slope. Or the plywood would have to be beveled.

If the drain was installed over the subfloor, with no blocking or bevel, the liner could be pinching the weepholes and blocking them.

Did a plumber install the drain, or the contractor? If a plumber did it, it is almost for sure installed on top of the subfloor. If the contractor did it I would ask him how he did it.

If the plywood needs to come out, the shower pan will have to be torn out and the walls about 18" high and redone from there. It makes it a much bigger deal, but it would also tell you a lot more about it.

05-15-2011, 09:03 PM
Thanks everyone for your help!

A water test was done.

I don't know who actually installed the drain. My guess is that it was the contractor not the tile guy.

Thank you Jim for taking the time to think through the various issues with the plywood slope. I feel much more prepared for the conversation that I'm going to have with my contractor and with the building department.

Thank you also for the drawing! Since I'm a visual person it was very helpful. I had started to wonder about possible pinching of the liner also. Those eight channels are very small. According to Sioux Chief support staff the four weep holes in the top are the primary weep holes in those channels are supplementary to remove any small amount of remaining water. In looking at the drain those eight channels are critical to all the water being able to escape.

I was looking at the identical drain that I purchased and was trying to figure out how someone could get it onto a plywood base and have that plywood be exactly flush (butt up against) the very edge of it without carefully notching (angling) the edge of the plywood around that drain.

Thank you also for summarizing my options. Where I end up will depend on how the conversation goes. Obviously I want to end up with a job that isn't going to fail me -- while controlling my costs. If it comes down to getting an attorney versus cutting my losses and paying someone else to come in and do the repair/replacement then I'll get a few quotes to help me weigh out those options, as well as considering a consultant.

Net net - I feel strongly that I would like to have the shower pan removed and the job redone. Anything else and I'm always going to be wondering if the shower's going to fail over time.

I will come back to the forum and let you know how this continues. Many, many, thanks to all of you for your time.

05-16-2011, 08:25 PM
Welcome to the San Francisco Bay area! :oyeah::oyeah::oyeah:

Went to the building department to follow up on the practice of using plywood to build the pre-slope for the shower pan:

The inspectors were out in the field so they had me speak with a plans reader. She said it was not uncommon to use plywood for the pre-slope.

There was a construction guy there, who claimed to have 25 years plus experience, and says it's done all the time. I started raising some of the doubts that we discussed on this thread but the guy had obvious listening and communication skills and I got frustrated out of my mind.

He believes the only way to build a shower us with a prefab pan so that tells me a lot. :yawn:

I then went to a local tile / stone place that is respected here (although I don't like them) and he verified that the plywood pre-slopes are very common. We talked about the corners, the drain, the liner, the type of soil I'm on etc. and he was able to track with me. So, I felt like he had some credibility.

I then went to a different tile / stone place that's very high-end. Looking is free so that's the only reason I get to go in here. ;). The people who work there are sales folks and weren't equipped to answer my questions.

When I was leaving I connected with a contractor who was also on his way out. He also confirmed that plywood pre-slopes are very common here. He said a lot of people like to use them, and the building department likes it, because the pre-slope is usually accurate and they can okay it when they inspect the framing.

I spoke, via phone, with an inspector from the building department this afternoon who also said the plywood pre-slopes are used a lot now.

So there we have it. Seems this is a local custom.

I did query some of them about things like what to do or the triangles join. Some said that contractors fill it with something like a silicone (but it's not silicone) and same thing around the drain. Other folks (the building department for example) said nothing needed to be done where those triangles meet because the liner is 40 ml thick and its slopes towards the drain so no worries.

I asked the building department about the amount of mud they felt needed to be on top of the plywood. They said around 1 inch up against the wall and it could obviously be less towards the center.

With that said -- understand that I don't have a lot of trust in the local building department - won't go into that here. Nonetheless that's what he said.

Will keep you posted as the situation progresses.

Tiger Mountain Tile Inc
05-16-2011, 08:50 PM
Sounds like you did a lot of investigating.

Keep in mind that the slope of the pan is all in the pre-float. So 1" of mud at the wall = 1" of mud at the drain. In theory, there's not a lot of variation.

05-17-2011, 05:40 AM
wow silvana, you do your homework. this is gonna surprise a lotta the guys.

im assuming that your still unsatisfied with the floor and will not accept it as is. i still believe that installer error is a culprit here. i would document the tear out and find where he went wrong. if its up to par it'll be at your expence. if not, i would send him the bill.

05-17-2011, 07:25 AM
I was totally surprised. That's what got me running around. And yes, I do my homework way more and with much greater detail than anybody I know. I research all kinds of things and details.

I agree that 1 inch of mud at the wall in 1 inch of the drain would only allow for the pre-slope is made by the triangles of ply that are pitched towards the drain. From what I have read in old threads in this forum we need it least 7/8 of an inch at the drain.

It is true, that ultimately I'm still not happy with this job and just removing the tile around the drain, removing the mud around it, adding pebbles (or the premade ring that he purchased) is not going to leave me feeling assured that my job is really okay long term. It all makes me queasy now.

I'm not happy about the fact that the curb is discolored and feel like that should be replaced in the process (which he obviously is not going to like because that means touching the walls).

The whole point of having the curb made out of white Carrera marble (not gray which it is now) is to have the basket weave appear more visually like a feild when you walk into the bathroom. The gray makes the division much more noticeable breaking up the space.

I'll start looking for local labs today so that when the mortar comes out I can take some pieces in for mold / mildew / fungus testing.

I'll continue to keep you posted as this moves forward. Thanks again everyone for your help!

05-17-2011, 08:51 AM
hello silvana, I just layed 440 sq. ft of basket weave , white carrerra, and to be honest,aside from not likeing the plywood preslope, i think this is just the way the marble reacts, when folks pic a product of nature I have to remind them it's just that a natural pruduct[ color variation, viening,one portion of stone denser than another , etc.] On this floor i did, the slightest amount of water caused the floor to spot grey in areas, it dries up after a while[ even with sealer on it,dosent stop water from penetrating] ...and this is in a kitchen, so the water it get's on the floor as to the amount of water your gonna see in that shower...I think everything is functioning normal....i even put marble threasholdz and after i thinset them in[ useing white thinset, seems like they darkend and never lightned back up....the picture is a pikture of a pikture so sorry for the quality, i dont have any on file, hope this helps

05-17-2011, 09:36 AM
Hi Kevin. Thank you for your post. I agree with you on the basic principles of stone. The marble does, and would typically, darken when it gets wet. And water should penetrate the sealer.

According to all the research I've done (a lot) the marble should return to normal color within 2-3 hours. That's exactly what happens with my walls.

When it comes to the floor however, the water backs up in the mortar bed because it turns out that the the weep holes are plugged and eventually water starts to wick up the walls. This is not normal.

The Carrera white slab curb that has turned gray never returns to its original color even after three months (or more) of air drying, followed by several weeks of a fan + heater + dehumidifier. My research indicates that it wouldn't be uncommon for mold to have grown inside of the stone since stone is porous - thus the permanent discoloration.

My pictures show one row of dark tiles against the edge of the shower next to the curb. Those tiles are also discolored and never returned to original color. The fact that that row is not returning to original color, but the other basket weave tiles in the field of the floor are, indicates that something's wrong. Otherwise it would all consistently change back to the original color or none of it would return to the original color.

I realize the thread is five pages long so you may not have read it in its entirety.

Again I appreciate you sharing your knowledge / expertise.

03-21-2012, 04:59 AM
Hi Silvana,
I am wondering if you ever resolved your marble tile issue--hoping this will reach you and you'll be able to respond. We are having the same issue with our min-hexagon carrerra mosaic tile in the shower floor we just installed. After two showers, the tile around the drain and at the perimeter of the shower in two major areas became dark and discolored, and after 10 days of running fans/heaters on it, only the area around the drain has returned to its normal color. I am desperately seeking answers to how we can fix this--will it eventually dry if we keep running fans? If so, what do we do then? Am I going to have to tear this all out?

If you do happen to see this, please let me know what happened with your project.

Many many thanks!
PS And if anyone else sees this and has suggestions/answers, please feel free to respond as well!