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midwest girl 04-10-2021 04:53 PM

Need Help - professional shower install
Hope everyone is having a good weekend.

I have some Qs regarding a shower installation that’s being completed right now at my home. It’s part of a bigger renovation project that includes kitchen/hall bathroom/master bathroom/staircase/refinishing existing hardwoods/replacing all carpet with wood floors/floating media center in family room/fire pit, patio, and covered deck/laundry room (including mud room type built-in + doggie shower.

My contractor had to leave town - unexpected passing of his father. Work is continuing while he’s away - a subcontractor/employee (it’s still a little unclear) is working on one of the showers.

I’ve been on Houzz for several months - looking for ideas. I’ve also been learning some important/useful things along the way. Whenever someone posts a tile question on Houzz that relates to a shower, at least four people jump in and comment about waterproofing. Now, don’t get me wrong - it’s EXTREMELY helpful most of the time - some people seem to make comments just to “scare” the OP. Houzz is where I learned about this forum. Many professionals direct others in need over here to you guys for help.

I’m going to give some facts here reluctantly because I had two people “jump on” me because of it. I own my home - my SO is getting ready to move in with me. Instead of buying a new house together - we decided to renovate this one. The housing market in this area is CRAZY (maybe it is almost everywhere - based upon some comments on Houzz - it’s not crazy everywhere). While I could sell my home and make a nice profit - there’s basically NOTHING TO BUY. My SO wanted to pay for the renovations. I thought this info was needed in order to explain why my SO actually engaged the contractor and is the one communicating with the subcontractor/employee (SC).

Contractor has been awesome - he’s completed quite a few projects for my SO’s law partners (and my former law partners). He’s already installed wood floors in the house and completed work in another bathroom (tub/shower combo).

On Wednesday, I discovered that the PVC liner had been installed. I was surprised (photo #1 below). I immediately noticed an issue. No preslope. My understanding was that this was going to be a traditionally built shower with a clamping drain. I discussed the issue with my SO. He’s never researched anything about shower construction. He was surprised that I knew something was wrong - I explained it was from threads I read on Houzz. It was clear that he didn’t think Houzz was a great resource (he’s never been on there - he only knows about Houzz because of me). He said that he’d talk to the SC.

On Thursday, my SO told me that the preslope was going on top of the PVC liner - and then another PVC liner would be installed prior to the deck mud. I questioned that - wasn’t typical based upon what I’ve read. Late Thursday afternoon, I saw that the “preslope” had been installed (photo #2). There were a few problems that I noticed (pls forgive if I fail to use/misuse the correct terminology):

1. There didn’t seem to be enough room for another PVC liner + deck mud

2. There were screws on the inside of the curb - one is BARELY above the “preslope” - there are also many screw on the top of the curb

3. Part of the shower walls (lower) had CBU attached - this seems like an issue because another PVC liner wouldn’t be able to be placed behind it.

4. The liner looks like it was cut (not an issue I guess if that’s not the real PVC liner) + it’s not notched into studs. I know that shims/furring can be used in order to make wall plumb - but there wasn’t any behind the CBU that I could see.

5. I also didn’t see any sand - all I saw was thin set. I also looked in the materials stored in the garage.

6. There are significant gaps in the curb corners and between the top and inside of curb (photo #3)

There may be other issues - these are the ones I remember of the top of my head.

I immediately told my SO. He said that he would discuss it with SC in the morning. Yesterday I was home all day in bed (not feeling well). No work was completed. When I spoke to my SO in the early afternoon, he told me that I was worrying for no reason. He said that the SC told him that he’s been building showers for over 20+ years and that he’s NEVER had an issue. He then told me that the SC wasn’t installing another PVC liner and layer of mud - he was putting a liner on the top (I assume that the SC actually said or was referring to a surface waterproof membrane).

I told my SO that we definitely had a problem. There was a clamping drain installed with no preslope already + now a surface membrane = trapped water siting on a flat PVC liner. I told him that it wasn’t allowed by code. I asked when/if an inspection was being performed. I asked about a water test.

I was pretty upset at this point - I have some serious health issues that basically caused me to be bedridden for 4 years. I only as able to move back into my home last fall. I have a form of mast cell disease - specifically, systemic mastocytosis. My mast cells basically attack other systems in my body. Mold/bacteria/dust/etc can all trigger my health issues = trips to ER for anaphylactic shock at times. I’ve spent quite a bit of money adding an air purification system to my home + ripped out all carpet + donated/trashed all furniture that wasn’t wood/marble/etc. I CANNOT risk having something happen because of the way this shower is installed.

Both of us being attorneys = some interesting arguments. While I explained all of the compliance issues - being an attorney, my SO wanted me to give him the exact codes/regulations/specifications that weren’t being complied with by the SC.

The SC was on his way over to my house - I needed the exact sections ASAP.
So - I tried to join this forum in order to receive some guidance. I had an issue with my email - so I couldn’t post until now. I went on Houzz out of desperation - I received some good advice. I also received some nasty comments. That’s typical - and that’s why I didn’t want to post my issue over there.

The SC never showed up. I had a conversation with him this morning. He told me that he was using Kerdi in the shower. I asked if he was using a Kerdi drain - he said yes. I felt relieved. I know the PVC is still unusual - but if Kerdi works as well as I’ve read, no water is going to go down there anyway. . .

Then I purchased John’s book on Kerdi. My drain doesn’t look like a flange . . .

My SO is playing golf. I sent him some texts letting him know that I didn’t think the issue was solved. He was not happy. He told me to stay off of Houzz because they are giving me bad information. I didn’t even post this issue on Houzz - I was waiting to discuss everything here with you all.

I’m sorry about the long post. I’m upset. I’m not feeling well. Stress greatly aggravated my health - I am worried that I’m going to wind up back in the hospital.

All guidance/suggestions/advice is greatly appreciated.



midwest girl 04-10-2021 05:00 PM

I hit submit accidentally. I apologize for any grammatical/spelling errors - I’m typing on my phone.

I just tried to add my photos. They uploaded. I hit submit. It started going - and then didn’t finish. I just tried to add them again- now when I hit “manage attachments” - nothing happens.

John - sorry - I think I broke your forum. . .LOL.

midwest girl 04-10-2021 05:28 PM

3 Attachment(s)
Here are the photos. I had to resize them. My brain isn’t working.

sammyiammy 04-10-2021 05:31 PM

#1. If you meant for there to be photos, there aren’t any—at least none that I can see..
#2. Stay away from/off of Houzz, please. I’m sure I can guess exactly who posted nasty and/or critical comments. And trust me, even though they have the word “Pro” next to their name, they are anything but. There’s one certain member who has created multiple fake accounts, including some “pro” accounts. Weird, right? When in doubt, ALWAYS check the profile of the “professional” giving advice. Real professionals: give their REAL first AND last names; give their REAL contact information; don’t use profile pictures that are generic/unrelated to their profession/are of someone else entirely/are silly, etc. Anyway, I can tell you the specifics privately, if you’d like, but let’s get your situation resolved.
#3. This relates to #2: Unless you COMPLETELY understand these codes of which you speak, DO NOT accuse someone of noncompliance. As a lawyer, you should know this. [emoji6] There are more instances of incorrect code interpretation/applicability on Houzz than there are correct instances. By a lot.

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sammyiammy 04-10-2021 05:36 PM

Need Help - professional shower install
Just saw that you added the photos, which is good, but, the resolution sucks. Can you post enlargeable or clearer versions of them?

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midwest girl 04-10-2021 05:53 PM

Sammy - I meant to edit my post. I haven’t actually accused the SC of noncompliance. Today I just asked some Qs - conversation was completely relaxed. I know not to ruffle any feathers - definitely not a good idea if I want to get this addressed civilly!

I think I might know one of the people you are referring to - if it is a woman - she was banned before I started reading stuff on Houzz. I’m sure there are others. I’d love to discuss with you. It’s very unfortunate - there are some extremely helpful pros on there (I’m receiving some great advice re: refinishing my wood floors). I just don’t understand why as soon as someone posts a photo questioning some work that’s been completed, people jump in and accuse the OP of being cheap and hiring a hack. This happens before anything’s been disclosed that would lead to that conclusion - and even if someone didn’t spend very much money for a project, that’s no reason to personally attack someone.

I tried to defend someone who was being attacked - and - WOW - the person who was being RUDE decided to focus all his/her attention me instead. Oh well - it helped the OP. Some pros defend their conduct by claiming that they are just being direct and that the OP doesn’t want to hear the truth. I’m sorry but when someone posts a photo asking if people like the OP’s new bar stools, why do people feel free to make nasty remarks about their housekeeping abilities/their “ugly” oak kitchen/ their “hideous” window coverings (the OP had just installed the window coverings about three weeks earlier). I don’t understand it.

Anyway -

I received MANY noncompliance comments. They included specific code references and specification references.

I truly hope that everything is fine with this. I would be extremely relieved. I am just worried now that so many builders/tile company owners/construction pros (only listening to the ones who use actual business names) all told me to basically immediately STOP all work. When I asked a Q about Kerdi - I was kind of “jumped” because I was “choosing to ignore all the advice I was given previously.”

I’m not going to fire someone without knowing all of the facts. As I already said, my actual contractor is great. I trust him. I just wish he was here so I could ask Qs and feel like I was receiving a straight answer.

midwest girl 04-10-2021 05:58 PM

Sammy - really? They look fine on my thread. I had to compress them down to under 50 KB. I wasn’t sure how to do that other than sending myself an email - it asked what size I wanted the attachment to be. I chose the only one that was just under 50.

If you don’t mind explaining how to do it, I’ll try again. I tried to use one of the recommended options, it said it was shutting down. I then tried to use a random app - it didn’t work well. I then thought of email - since I was scrambling to upload the photos, I just went with that method.

Not going to be very helpful if no one can actually see my photos!

sammyiammy 04-10-2021 06:05 PM

Need Help - professional shower install
This is how your pics look when I click on them. I don’t know if you can tell or not, but they actually get smaller, not larger!
I just sent you a message, btw.

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cx 04-10-2021 06:10 PM

Welcome, Dani. :)

You've got some problems there. Tell your SO his objections are overruled.

If your contractor intends to use a direct bonded waterproofing system, everything he has currently installed should be removed, including the drain.

You should have had a code compliance inspection of the waterproofing membrane installed for the traditional shower receptor. That membrane is part of the plumbing system and is required to be sloped a minimum of 1/4" per foot from the farthest corner of the shower footprint to the drain. That is mandatory for code compliance even if you happen to have a compliance official who doesn't know it, which is not uncommon. And the material under the waterproof membrane is what creates the slope and is therefore called a pre-slope.

The plumbing code also requires that no mechanical fasteners penetrate that waterproofing liner below a point two inches above the curb. Nailing on top of or inside of the curb to attach a CBU is forbidden.

The building code also requires that all product manufacturers' installation instructions be followed. The manufacturer of that waterproof liner also requires that it be properly sloped to the drain and properly attached to a proper type of drain.

The ceramic tile industry standards also call for that pre-slope and while not law, if you go to court those standards will bite you severely in the posterior every time.

I would suggest your contractor tell you specifically how he intends to waterproof your shower receptor and walls. Specific products, specific explanation of how he plans to remove what we see in your photos, install an appropriate drain (if he actually intends to use a direct bonded waterproofing membrane (ANSI A118.10) system, etc, etc. This is a very reasonable request on your part.

There are a number of ways to approach shower waterproofing and any of them can work successfully for decades if properly installed. One thing you [/b]do not want[/b] is for the contractor to try to use more than one of them on the same shower project.

My opinion; worth price charged.

sammyiammy 04-10-2021 06:10 PM

What device are you using? Are you on a computer?

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midwest girl 04-10-2021 06:48 PM

3 Attachment(s)
It’s really strange - when I pull up this thread, my pics are pretty big! Let me know if this is any better. Thanks.

Davy 04-10-2021 07:01 PM

I can see the pics fine but don't like what I see. I'll echo what Cx said. There's no way I would let them set tile on what you have there. I'd put a halt to this shower.

midwest girl 04-10-2021 08:17 PM

1 Attachment(s)
CX and Davy,

Thanks for taking a look at this.

I just got home after being at my sister’s house all day. The photo shows what I found. The SC came by and worked on the shower today after I left.

My SO thinks I’m being making an issue where there’s not one. He’s upset because we now have to tell him to rip everything out. I brought up the issue on Wednesday when the liner was just sitting flat on the floor. The fix would have been easy. I said something again on Thursday. This morning when he said he was using Kerdi, I specifically asked if he was using a Kerdi/flange drain. He said yes.

My SO thinks I’m being paranoid bc of my health issues. He doesn’t understand why I am taking the advice of strangers on the Internet over a man who has done work for people we know - and has been working in this profession for over 20+ years.

I told him it’s because (i) this forum is HIGHLY RESPECTED - there are MANY EXPERTS who participate on a daily basis, (ii) I’ve read many posts on this forum about this very issue, as well as reading articles about how shower drainage systems work, and (iii) I’ve read the applicable building code for our city. . .

It’s not that complicated of a system - if you use a drain that has weep holes, water will go into the deck mud. That’s how it’s designed. If the PVC liner is flat, the water isn’t going anywhere. That’s physics.

I read CX’s post out loud to him. He asked me if the post was made by John Bridge. I told him no - but it was made by one of the moderators for the forum. He said, “Well, how do you know that he’s an expert? He could be some troll posing as an expert.” I looked at him, STUNNED by how he’s acting - and left the room.

He’s not typically a jerk. He’s been working almost nonstop for the last few months - he’s stressed and tired.

BUT - this is an important issue. I don’t know how to explain it any better to him than I already have.

I am not willing to gamble with my health. I’ve already lost many years of my life because of it. . .

CX - woukd you mind sharing your professional experience with me? I’m embarrassed to ask - but I can’t argue about this anymore.

Thank you.

midwest girl 04-10-2021 08:19 PM

Davy - I just noticed that you’re a moderator also. I also just clicked on the the link you have after your signature. That’s helpful also!

cx 04-10-2021 10:32 PM

You shouldn't be embarrassed at all to ask that sort of question, Dani. I would call it just part of your due diligence. I share your SO's concern about getting information on the Internet from persons not known to you.

I started building custom homes and remodeling other residential structures in 1985. I've had hands-on experience with every part of the construction of a home except for actually installing carpet.

When I started building I had the good fortune of finding a very good tile subcontractor from whom I learned mud work and the rest of ceramic and stone tile installation. When he was not available, I frequently did my own tile work in the early days and then most of my own tile work in remodeling in the later years.

I completed a week-long tile inspection course at the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) years ago and half a dozen or more tile installation products manufacturer's seminars and workshops after joining this Internet group some 20 years ago. During that time I have acted as owner, moderator and ordinary member at various times. Also during that time I represented the management of this website at the national technical committee meetings of the NTCA and TCNA, including the annual Handbook Committee and TAG to ASC A108 Committee meetings. A fella can learn a surprising amount about the problems of the tile industry hanging out among the people who attend such meetings.

Currently, I'm just an ordinary member here, but I spend a lot of time on the forums.

I'm pretty familiar with the ceramic tile installation industry from several viewpoints and I'm very sensitive to the fact that there are many, many people out there who say they "have been doing it this way for (insert number of decades) without a single failure" and are doing things similar to your current contractor. I know how easy it is to think you are doing something correctly due to simple ignorance because I've been there, done that. It's always a little embarrassing to learn that you've been wrong for years, but that's just another opportunity to learn something new.

Bring your SO and your contractor over here to join us and I think they'll see that there is a lot of learning going on. I've been here longer than most, which is why I learn more here than most. :)

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