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Unread 04-24-2022, 11:39 AM   #1
Chrisbbuehler
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15 yr old stone balcony leaking

Hi - I would appreciate any advice here. This balcony has finished space beneath it, and after a winter of rain we began to see leaks. I partially removed one of the stones and it appears to be a Ditra substrate. It’s all very wet under there - with significant gaps between tiles where the grout has shrunk and water is getting in. There is proper slope to the balcony, but now there are low spots where water is puddling and not going to the two drains.

Tearing it all out and re-doing the Ditra seems like a big job (400 sq ft of tile). I also read that there is a 15-year guarantee on the Ditra and wonder if it’s at the end of life. This balcony gets high temps in the summer. I don’t see a way to re-grout or re-level.

After reading several, similar threads the advice seems to be rip and replace… but I’d appreciate any advice from the experts! Thank you
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Unread 04-24-2022, 01:03 PM   #2
cx
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Welcome, Chris.

A geographic location in your User Profile would be helpful here.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris
There is proper slope to the balcony, but now there are low spots where water is puddling and not going to the two drains.
Don't think you can have both situations. Any places you have water puddling, you clearly don't have proper slope to drain.

Do you know the rest of the composition of your deck area? While Schluter does recommend Ditra for such installations, both Schluter and the ceramic tile industry require a primary roofing system before the ceramic tile installation materials are installed on a deck over occupied space. The only exception I'm aware of to that requirement is when using a product called NobleDeck from the Noble Company.

I don't know of anything likely to fail after 15 years in a properly executed Schluter deck waterproofing installation, but without knowing what's under your Ditra, it's difficult to speculate.

Do you know what's under there?

The cracking in your grout is not part of your waterproofing problem, but might be indicative of underlying problems with the deck construction.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 04-24-2022, 01:06 PM   #3
jadnashua
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At least from the pictures posted, I can't tell what waterproofing method was used for the deck.

Decks over living space require very carefully done water management. Ditra generally isn't ideal for this purpose, although it can be made waterproof by banding the seams, if it's in a freeze/thaw zone, the pockets will hold moisture and when things freeze, mess it up. THey do have a version called Ditra Deck that has holes in it, but it's not the waterproofing, but a decoupling membrane. The holes in it allow any moisture to weep down to the waterproofing layer beneath it.

Is the deck sloped to the drain? IT appears to have a solid wall around, so can't drain through that.
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Unread 04-24-2022, 01:32 PM   #4
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the grout will be cracking because of movement, probably caused by the timber frame getting wet and swelling
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Unread 04-24-2022, 01:35 PM   #5
Chrisbbuehler
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Thank you jadnashua and cx

Added my location to my profile... it's central valley California, so very hot summers, arid, short wet winters with very few freezes.

I've added a new photo showing what I believe to be hot mop tar under the Ditra (which was very wet underneath when I pulled it back). How is water getting under the Ditra, I wonder.

Correct that the slope is to the front, but not to the drains located on the extreme left and right. There's no drain in the center where the water pools, and no slope from one side to the other. The water just goes "forward" and settles in low spots where some tiles are lower than others (they are irregular limestone tiles of slightly varying thicknesses). In the photos you can see water weeping from the grout lines.
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Unread 04-24-2022, 02:13 PM   #6
jadnashua
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Unless the seams in Ditra are sealed, water will get beneath it. Is the Ditra bonded directly to the hotmop? Don't think that will work. When hotmop is used in a shower, they install deck mud on top of it that is then tiled. I'd expect a similar situation in a deck.

With an impervious (but maybe not continuous without the seams being sealed) layer on top, and another beneath, any moisture that did make its way between the two layers would have little opportunity to escape. Note, the slope needs to be in the waterproofing layer and that needs to slope to an exit point. Generally, if that's done, the tile will also have the right slope, too.

There's a lot that isn't known, so much of this is speculation.

There usually isn't a topical solution for this, so a tear out may be needed to ascertain the cause, and then fix it.
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Unread 04-24-2022, 02:29 PM   #7
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Like Jim mentioned, the deck (under the tiles) should have pitch. I can't tell but it looks like the Ditra was bonded directly to the hot mop.

I have done several decks that were similar. The wood deck was sloped and I laid welded wire in place (no fasteners) and added a mud bed over it (1 1/2- 2" thick). Then added another membrane over the mud and flashed it up the walls.

I might see a scupper drain in the corner (first picture).
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Unread 04-30-2022, 12:33 PM   #8
Chrisbbuehler
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Thank you to everyone who has replied. Yes, two drains on either corner... but there is a saddle in-between them. A laser level revealed that the middle is sagging -- and this is where the water is collecting. So the water never reaches the drains.

I don't see any evidence that the Ditra was bonded to the hot mop with mortar. And without a tear-out, I can't confirm that the seams were sealed properly, or that it was flashed up the walls.

Today, I think I'll open-up the ceiling in the finished space underneath and see if there's any indication of where the water is coming from.
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Unread 04-30-2022, 06:13 PM   #9
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Apparently the plywood didn't have pitch like it should have. If you don't mind, post a picture of what you find when you open the ceiling.
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Unread 05-01-2022, 12:15 PM   #10
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Here's a photo of the interior ceiling opened-up directly beneath the greatest concentration of water spots... approx in the middle of the deck closest to tge front. The joists you see are running perpendicular to the house. The water appears to be hitting the joists and running down to the drywall. Water has penetrated the drywall screw holes. If there's anything else you'd like to see, Davy, please LMK.
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Unread 05-01-2022, 04:56 PM   #11
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If the ceiling is level then the deck is also level unless there's a pitched mud bed under the hot mop that we can't see. You first said the deck has proper slope but then said there's flat spots. You can't have both. Proper slope to me is 1/4 inch pitch per ft. I've had guys on the job, especially builders and concrete guys say 1/8 pitch per ft is adequate. Since you have pooling, I don't think you have either one across the whole thing. If I'm controlling the pitch, I make it 1/4 inch per ft. If the homeowner, contractor or builder don't want to do it my way, I walk away.

When framing under the balcony, very few framers want to take the time to rip the joists down so the ceiling below is level and also have pitch above. One balcony I retiled 10-12 years ago was about 12x12. It had 2x12 joists on 12 inch centers that were ripped down to about 9 inches on the outside edge with full 11 1/2 at the house. They had 1 1/8 plywood on the joists which I put Mercrete paint on membrane over (with fabric). The Mercrete flashed up the walls 6 inches. I then laid down welded wire (no fasteners) with the mud bed over it. I then added a second Mercrete membrane over the mud, flashing it up the walls again. The deck and flashing were then covered with tile. This was exactly how Mercrete said to do it, so I did.
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Unread 05-15-2022, 12:24 PM   #12
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Demo begins on the tile balcony

After exposing the interior below the balcony, it seemed like the prudent thing to do was to demo and start over. I've removed all of the tile and Ditra. The mortar, both above and below the Ditra, contained rust... which I thought might be leaching from the limestone. Now I am finding rusted-out flashing. The Ditra did not wrap up the wall... it abuts. Is this standard practice? So what you have is 8"-ish aluminum flashing coming down the wall and under the tar&paper... Ditra on top of the tar&paper... mortar... tile.

I was hoping to salvage the subflooring and perhaps just re-flash and re-waterproof... but now I am finding that the flashing is rusted out. If I remove the tar&paper, I would expect to find dry-rotted subflooring.

Davy - a laser level indicates no pitch. There is slope away from the house however, that sends the water "down" to the drains. But without pitch, the water isn't getting to the drains on the left and right completely. Much of the water settles in the middle of balcony. More pics attached. Thank you for the continuous advice and feedback.... it really helps!
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Unread 05-15-2022, 07:35 PM   #13
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Ditra is NOT designed to be attached to anything other than cement, plywood, or similar materials where it can be properly bonded in place. It only becomes waterproof if the seams are properly covered with KerdiBand and water cannot penetrate beneath it from the edges.

If the area is subject to freezing, it would not be a good idea, as the pockets would hold water and the freezing would destroy the bonds to the tile as the mortar expanded and eventually pulverized. Schluter does make a decoupling membrane designed to use on decks, but it is NOT a waterproofing material...it has holes in it to intentionally let moisture penetrate, so there must be waterproofing beneath it in the system.

You need to prevent moisture from getting beneath the edges of your waterproofing, so if you assume Ditra was good (in this case it's not), you'd need to use something like KerdiBand up the walls to prevent moisture from getting down the wall and running underneath.

There's more than one way to build a waterproofed deck over living space, but what you have made numerous technical faults and the person installing it did not understand the materials used or apply them properly.

No product, used opposite it's intended use, is a good choice, and does not indicate a materials failure, but an installer's error for the materials chosen.
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Unread 05-15-2022, 07:38 PM   #14
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When I mentioned a mud bed in my other posts, I was talking about a 1 1/2 or more bed of mud. What you're calling a mud bed is nothing more than thinset mortar. Thinset was used to stick the Ditra down and also used to stick the tiles to the Ditra. So I guess all their slope was made in the plywood.

Kerdi Band is usually used over the joints in the Ditra (stuck with thinset) and also bonded to the Ditra around the perimeter and folded up the walls as a flashing. The Kerdi band makes it water tight.

So, is that a layer of tar paper or a hot mop pan? I realize tar paper is used to make a hot mop pan but I'm wondering which one you have.

I think you'll be able to tell if you have any areas (especially large ones) that are rotten. Walk with caution or you may end up down stairs.
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Unread 05-19-2022, 09:58 AM   #15
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I would get rid of the outer knee wall, run a flat sloped wood floor to a proper drip edge, no drains. Backerboard floor and 4-6 inches on the walls. Tape and skim coat everything with thinset. Next morning scrape it down real smooth with sheetrock knife. Roller coat everything with 9240, do it again. Do it again really wet and mount the mesh fabic, rub it down so the liquid comes through, dope it again, let it dry, dope it again, let it dry 2-3 days and set tile. 9240 is Custom, there is another, Laticrete 9235 I never tried. It dries super tough and thick and kind of stretchy. It will turn everything it touches orange forever.

I have seen plastic Composeal Gold shrink and fail in summer heat (Charleston, South Carolina). Shrink like from 36 inches wide to 30 inches wide over 10 years, disbonding tile, etc. I would not recommend any plastic membrane on a roll like a shower pan material that tile is set directly over. A deck in full sun, then a cold rain that gives thermal shock. Some products will fail.

Regardless, strongly I recommend you chop off that knee wall and give the deck a proper edge instead of trouble making drains. This is the root of the water pooling. The only other way is to pitch to both drains pretty heavily with mud, but I bet you have a height limit on the door threshold that prevents that kind of build up. You can't run flat to that threshold there must be a vertical flashing there. Usually that means mud is not going to work. All the more reason to cut that wall off.

PS I know the wall is there for a reason, but I bet the view is better with an iron railing. I have seen people slot out the bottom of the wall with just a supporting post in the middle, but that isn't as good and poses waterproofing challenges.
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