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Unread 11-03-2014, 12:35 PM   #1
djn
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New shower floor grout lines are weeping

Hello. This is my first post although I spent many hours reading on this forum while planning my project. I am hoping that someone here can provide some guidance on an issue I am having with a newly installed porcelain tile shower. I know that you all like photos, and I will try to upload some later. I have not yet discussed this problem with the tile guy, and was hoping for some feedback before I do so.

I discovered yesterday morning that my new tile shower (37.5" x 47") is weeping water through the grout lines where the floor meets the wall in some areas. The problem was so bad in two areas that water accumulated on top of the tile and started working its way to the drain. Other areas simply look wet. Last night before going to bed, I noticed that some areas were beginning to dry, and the drying continues today. The areas that were weeping the worst seem to be drying the best. Yesterday I also started seeing signs of what must be mildew in some areas, although we used an admix that was supposed to add mildew resistance—Prospec admix in Prospec sanded grout.

Here are a few more background details:
We’ve only been using the shower for a week or so. Toward the end of last week, we thought our fixed shower head was taking too long to empty water after a shower, and then on Friday it seemed to be doing a slow drip that was keeping the floor wet in the area under the shower head. On Friday, I also noticed that grout lines in other areas looked wet. The tile guy came by on Saturday to look at something else, and we agreed that I would call the fixture manufacturer today. He did not know what was going on with the other wet areas and said perhaps water was wicking from the wettest area under the shower head. He did not feel that the admix was sealing the grout well enough, so he advised me to let the shower dry out and seal the grout as soon as possible. The last shower was taken Saturday evening. Yesterday morning, I noticed that the shower head was dry and yet the floor was still very wet under the shower head. I dried the floor with a towel, and immediately saw water begin to weep from some of the wet areas (along that grout line where floor meets wall).

The tile guy did not use a pan “system” but put three layers of waterproofing in place. I know one was the heavy vinyl pan liner, which I remember looking at and thinking it was done properly. One layer was the red spray. I do not know if there is a preslope under the pan. He did not do a 24 hour flood test because he said he’s never had a pan leak in 20 years. He pressure tested the rough-ins with no issues, and showed me that nothing leaked.

After inspecting every detail of the shower yesterday, here are a few things I see, but I can’t believe any one of them could be causing this much of a problem. One corner of the floor is flat, about a 4x4” area. That area was staying wet but did not ooze water. There is a tiny gap in the grout low on the wall where the shower fixtures are installed, slightly larger than 1/16”. That is an easy fix and surely not the problem here. The back bottom grout line for the shaving niche looks like the void wasn’t completely filled and it dips way down into a valley that could accumulate water. It has only been used once, but I sprayed it directly with water to rinse it after use. There was a hole in the silicone caulk in the lower corner where the fixed glass panel meets the wall and the curb. The tile guy added caulk on the outside of the panel, but I think there might be a small gap in the caulk on the inside of the panel. A number of items were installed by drilling holes in the tile walls: two Ginger baskets, a hook, the shower fixtures and valves, and a handheld on a grab bar. When he first installed the handheld shower, it leaked profusely. The manufacturer sent another cartridge and it seemed to be okay after that.

Does anyone have any advice on how to approach resolution of this issue? Overall, this guy has done an excellent job on my project and we have a good relationship, but I know that things can fall apart quickly when a big issue arises.

Thanks in advance for any feedback you provide.
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Unread 11-03-2014, 03:35 PM   #2
djn
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Talked to tile guy

I just spoke with the tile guy and he is as perplexed as I am. We talked about the construction of the liner/pan and it is presloped, and he used pea gravel around the weep holes, so they should not be blocked. We decided to continue to not use the shower and see if the floor dries out. He was suggesting that we might just have a wet shower floor, but that is not acceptable to us since we spent all this money to get rid of a wet shower floor! In a moment of frustration, he said he will tear the whole thing out if he needs to, but I don't want to do that any more than he does.

If anyone has any clues as to what is going on, both he and I would appreciate hearing from you. Thanks so much.
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Unread 11-03-2014, 03:43 PM   #3
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Can you post some pictures?
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Unread 11-03-2014, 04:07 PM   #4
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screw the showerhead off the shower arm, and put a 1/2" cap on it.... Turn the water on and check for leaks, especially where the shower arm is attached inside the wall. (shine a flashlight in the hole, you'll see it if it's leaking.

Water may be running down the back of the cement board into the pan, and exiting at the floor wall joint.

(Had a sneaky little leak just like this a few months back, plumber had sent his flunkie to install the fixtures.)
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Unread 11-03-2014, 06:56 PM   #5
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Thanks for the replies. I am working on the photos! Can I get a 1/2" cap in the plumbing dept. at a big box store?
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Unread 11-03-2014, 07:02 PM   #6
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yep... plumbing aisle, galvanized or black iron works... wrap the shower arm with teflon tape and screw the cap on snug....
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Unread 11-03-2014, 10:37 PM   #7
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Ok here goes, I am uploading one photo of my shower floor to see if it works. If it does, I will upload some close-ups. Okay, I think this is working but you may not be able to see much. Will add close-ups after I downsize the files.

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Unread 11-03-2014, 11:15 PM   #8
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These are closeup photos of the shower floor taken yesterday. The photo of the entire shower floor in my previous post was taken this evening. I just looked at the floor again and it is continuing to dry in most areas. One area that didn't seem that wet from the beginning hasn't changed much (second photo below). Also, I am seeing new wet grout lines as some of the others dry up, and I'm guessing the changing pattern of wet grout lines indicates that water is moving toward the drain under the tile--?

This photo shows an area that had water pooling on the tile yesterday. It is on the side opposite the shower heads.
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This is the wet area that is not showing signs of drying yet.
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This photo shows the largest wet area, which is below the shower heads. Enough water to cover 2-3 one inch tiles accumulated on the tile yesterday. It is now looking wet only at the edges of the floor.
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A closeup of the corner by the curb, also shown in previous photo. The grout lines on the curb are dry now.
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This is the corner that is flat, about 4" square.
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Please let me know if these photos tell you anything! Thanks!
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Unread 11-03-2014, 11:43 PM   #9
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I'm on a roll now...here are the only photos I took of the shower in progress. Wish I had take some of each step.

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Unread 11-04-2014, 12:50 AM   #10
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Debbie, the wet grout lines around the perimeter of the shower usually indicates a low spot either in the liner or in the mud bed that is over the liner.

You've got other problems, though. For one, the waterproofing goes up a very short distance, maybe 2-3 feet or so. It should go up higher. That one isn't the end of the world, though. The deal-breaker for me is the cement board on the curb. The only way to attach it is with nails or screws, which will puncture the liner. That's a no-no.

Get a short level if you can, one that is 9-12" and place it in the areas where the grout is wet. If you have one end pointing toward the corner of the shower and the other end toward the drain, the bubble should move away from the center toward the corner. If it stays in the middle or moves toward the drain, you've got back-falling, which is going to be the cause of the wet grout. As I mentioned, it could also be the mud bed or the liner that is flat or back-falling, and those you can't see with the tile on the floor.

A longer level that is about 2' will tell you if the slope is gradual from the corners to the drain. There should be no low or high spots.
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Unread 11-04-2014, 09:14 AM   #11
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Welcome, Debbie.

I'm still not at all clear on just how your shower pan was created. Sounds like a combination of methods, and that's not always a good thing.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Debbie
He did not do a 24 hour flood test because he said he’s never had a pan leak in 20 years.
And if he never does flood tests, how would he know?

The water weeping out the bottom of the tile walls could be an indication that he doesn't have good mortar coverage on the backs of the tiles as required by industry standards. Most likely the result of using a "dot" method of installing the tiles. Did you watch any of the wall tiles being installed?

It also appears that he waterproofed only the lowest portion of the shower walls. Do you know if there is a moisture barrier - usually polyethylene sheeting or roofing felt - behind the wallboard?

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 11-04-2014, 12:25 PM   #12
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Thanks for the continued responses. They are most helpful. Sorry this is so long but I do have more information and more questions.

Redguard: yep, looking back at the photo of the redguard after reading a good bit here, I realize it should go most of the way up the wall if not all the way up. However, when they put that on the wall they told me how it was an extra step on top of everything else (which is not clearly defined for me either at this point). Could there be a surface under the cement board to which they could have applied the redguard? Or perhaps there is another waterproof layer under the cement board. By the way, is cement board itself waterproof? I am noting that I need to find out more about how the wall was waterproofed.

Mortar on wall tile: I do know from the tile guy's comments about drilling the holes for the baskets and the hook that the mortar is concentrated on the center of the tiles and there is not complete coverage. He said holes more toward the center of the tiles would be easier to drill than those around the edges because there is more mortar in the middle part of the tile. I did watch a bit and it was much more than a dot application, more like a big smear, but there would be some gaps.

Cement board on the curb: I did take a good look at the liner when it was installed, and they had nice folded over corners and wrapped the liner to the outside of the curb and attached it only there. I can't imagine they would then drill holes in that liner to attach the cement board, but I guess they must have. I understand from reading here that this would be a huge problem that would not be overcome by the redguard.

Shower pan: I wish I knew more about the shower pan construction. He told me when he bid on the job that the curb would have three layers of protection on it, and I assume these are the same layers that make up the pan. This is on my list of questions now. I know there is a heavy black PVC liner, but I am not sure of what might be under it. And yes, I get it about the flood test. Should always be done.

Slope: I did my homework with a 9" level this morning. I am posting photos showing what I found. Overall, the slope in the first several inches in from the walls seems a little weak, and is even level or slightly sloped toward the wall in a few areas. I don't have a 2' level, but I looked at the overall slope to the drain using my 4' level as best I could, and once past the first several inches from the wall, the slope looks really good.

Here is the key to my markings in blue tape in the photos:
Horizontal tape on the walls = areas where the 9" level rocks when one end is next to the wall and the other end is pointed toward the drain.
Vertical tape on the walls = places where the tile closest to the wall is level or slopes toward the walls. More than one piece of vertical tape in the photo means the whole area between the pieces of tape is level or slopes toward the wall.
Tape on floor = noticeable unevenness on the floor.

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The funny thing about the uneven floor in the following photo is that the floor tile with the tape on it is much lower than the tile to the right, and yet it looks like the grout lines to the right are retaining water. Maybe the lower tile is keeping the water from moving toward the drain.
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After looking at the new shower floor, I checked the one he did for me about five years ago. The slope on that floor is near perfect and is more pronounced starting at the walls than the new one. The 9" level doesn't rock at all in that shower.

I think we have no choice but to at least pull out the floor. If the pre-slope and slope of the pan are defective, are we looking at pulling out the entire shower? Because the liner is behind the cement board, which goes all the way up the walls? I can't even think about this right now.

One last question, please. The tile guy's answer to the whole dilemma yesterday was to get everything dried out and seal the grout. My response was that sealing the grout will not keep water out of the grout lines. Is this a correct statement? I think it must be, because then he said he would pull the whole #@$* thing out if he had to.

You guys rock. Where are you when I am looking for tile guys??? Why can I not find the ones that work to your standards?

Thanks for the help.
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Unread 11-04-2014, 02:08 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Debbie
Where are you when I am looking for tile guys???
I don't know about everyone else, but I was right chere in Arkansas the whole time.

You were correct about the sealer, it simply makes the shower easier to clean. Does nothing for water management.

If CX is correct about the voids behind the tile causing the weeping problem, (and he's always right) then there's probably nothing you can do short of tearing out the shower that would solve that problem.

The slope issue could be solved fairly easily, although you'd have to buy more floor tile.

I just don't think I could get past that curb issue with the nails in it. I've seen that type of failure many times, and while the Redgard may extend the life of the shower, I think over time it will fail. It's just got too many issues.

And to answer your other question, cement board is not waterproof. It's water-resistant, which means it won't break down when exposed to moisture. Water containment in a shower involves either 1)putting plastic on the studs behind the cement board, draped over the liner, directing water that gets through the tile, grout, and cement board into the liner and eventually to the drain, or 2)applying a membrane on the surface of the wall board which stops water that gets behind the tile. You don't do a combination of those two methods, and you won't get proper water containment the way it appears to be done in your shower.

I suspect the areas around the perimeter of the shower that are flat are not allowing water to drain properly, which means it soaks the mud bed and lower parts of the cement board. That's why you see it pushing out through the grout as the water drains down the walls over time. If he takes the mud floor out, I would want to be standing there at the time. I think you'll see a big release of water as the mud around the perimeter comes out.
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Unread 11-04-2014, 09:07 PM   #14
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Okay, I am beginning to accept that I have some real problems here. We used the shower for less than a week, and we've already got grout lines that are not dry after three days of no use, and mildew growth in supposedly mildew resistant grout.

Is there a way to determine whether water is accumulating in voids in the wall? With as few grout lines as I have on the walls, can that much water be getting behind the tiles? When I tried to explain this to my husband I realized that I am not quite understanding. Water goes through the wall grout lines, and complete mortar coverage keeps it from staying behind the tile? And voids behind the tile give the water somewhere to go? And then it eventually makes its way down to the floor joint behind the tile and is stuck there because there is not enough slope on the floor. Correct? Could I spray a bunch of water on the walls, and then dry the tiles on the walls and floor and see if weeping starts again?

What would be the fix for the slope? Tear out the floor and re-tile with the correct slope? Will that be enough if the pan/liner is not correctly sloped? At this point, tearing out the floor seems like the minimum required repair.

And then there is the curb. I need to ask the tile guy how he attached the cement board to the curb. I know you guys are right in what you are saying but I need to hear it from him that he screwed or nailed it through the liner.

Thanks for your continued advice!
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Unread 11-05-2014, 12:23 AM   #15
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If there isn't a sloped bed of mortar under the liner, replacing everything above will be a waste of time.

Regardless of the size of the grout joint, water will get behind the tile. The only way it is directly properly is by the use of a waterproofing layer either behind the cement board or on the face of it. When it gets to the sloped liner, it eventually makes its way to the drain. But not if there is something impeding the flow, such a back-falling liner, or clogged weep holes.
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