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Unread 09-03-2022, 04:38 PM   #1
ybakos
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Critique my Leaking Shower Plan

Hi everyone,
New to the forum and I'm an inexperienced DIYer. Would a few of you please critique the plan I have for addressing a shower leak? I will provide as much information (too much?) here.

Short version: troubleshoot the source of the leak, demo the bottom curb and up to two rows of tile and address/assess mold/damage, then decide on just a new tub or complete shower renovation.

What should I definitely not do or be careful about when demo-ing?

House is a 2011 build, we are the second owners. Prior to purchase, the previous owner resolved two things:
  1. A termite issue beneath the master bathroom cabinets
  2. A leak in the master bathroom shower

I believe #2 may have contributed to #1. I'm satisfied with the pest treatment (to my knowledge), but two years after purchase, I noticed some water on the floor. First time, figured it was human dripping. Second time, thought it might be a broken outdoor spigot near the shower wall. Plumbers came out and inspected the spigot - no leaks. They pointed to the shower.

I noticed small, quarter sized water spots on the floor at the foot of the interior shower wall, where the plumbing is. (Plumber checked for leaks and does not think it is the plumbing, conclusively.) I also notice the tile on the curb cracking, a piece of corner molding warping, and some recurring efflorescence on the grout on the curb.

I learned from the previous owner that #2 was addressed as follows. "We noticed that the bottom floor tile didn't quite come up high enough to meet the wall tile. We laid another layer of tile on top of the existing floor tile, which raised it up enough to seal the shower."

Seal, indeed!

I am new to this stuff but have read and watched as much as I can. I understand that a shower should properly be waterproofed without the tile in place and should, of course, not leak. Is the best solution to demo the whole shower and redo it with Kerdiboard from top to bottom? We like this, because we get to pick new, large-format tile with far less grout to clean. But I am hesitant, since the tile work wraps around and also goes all the way up to the ceiling.

Here are some photos, and then my plan. Feedback welcome, thank you!

Foundation is slab. Floor is polished concrete w/ in-floor hydronic heating.
Walls are "thicker" staggered 2x4. Shower is on two exterior walls, corner of house. Shower floor is 34 x 63". Outer curb side is 5.75" to floor, inner curb edge is 2" from shower floor.

Plan
  1. Troubleshoot source of leak: pan fill, hose to drain, hose to corners, plumbing
  2. Remove bottom wall trim, curb tile, as much as the bottom area as needed to assess/address mold and damage
  3. Get a GC / specialist to do a new shower pan OR demo and redo the whole shower
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Unread 09-04-2022, 05:10 AM   #2
Just In Tile LLC
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Welcome to the forum Joe, after you determine what's leaking which at this point I'm going to assume is the pan I'd opt for a redo. I've done one where we cut halfway up the shower and retiled the pan and bottom and thankfully haven't had any issues but there's no good way to tie in waterproofing.

Not only that but from a build standpoint it's far easier to start fresh then to tie the repair seamlessly into the old work...it's do-able but requires attention to detail. Plus you can then see any damage when everything removed and address it.

The only real pain about that wrap to the outside is exactly what you've shown. Having the outside trim cut around the vanity backsplash will make tear out there delicate as to not disturb it. This leads to two choices, retile again to that area to cover up where the old tile is (and repeat that funky cut), or get some drywall repair done in that area so you can slim down the trim option there at the opening. Which also means lengthening your baseboard if you trim it down. Unfortunately going back to what was there seems to be the best option especially so you dont have a tiny piece of drywall showing against the cabinet if you were to minimize the opening but maybes theres other options others will have.
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Unread 09-04-2022, 04:15 PM   #3
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Troubleshooting does not reveal the leak

I have completed the following troubleshooting steps, but could not determine the cause of the leak. Here's what I did.
  1. Sealed drain. Garden hose, watered about 1/4" in the basin w/o touching the walls. Set for 10 minutes.
  2. Fill shower floor about 1" full over water. Sit for 10 minutes.
  3. Open drain, let water in basin drain out.
  4. With garden hose, spray into drain at angles. Let water flow for ten minutes.
  5. With garden hose, spray down each corner, about five minutes each.
  6. With garden hose, spray corners of door framing, about five minutes each.
  7. With garden hose, spray interioer bottom edge of door frame.
  8. Turn on shower, cold only. Let run for ten minutes.
  9. Switch shower to hot, let run for ten minutes.

The only water outside the shower was #6. The water seeping through one corner of the door frame was very visible. We are pretty conscientious and would have noticed significant water pooling/dripping/flowing out of that spot onto the bathroom floor... have never really seen it before this test.

I could not cause the water areas I have noticed in the past appear!

Here is my "theory," can you critique it?

We have not used the shower for three weeks, so it has likely dried out quite a bit. If two people were to shower, back to back, daily for a few days, the water (from wherever the shower is failing) would saturate the wood, drywall, etc, and eventually start puddling where I had seen it in the past.

So, here is my concern: I do not want to do a shower remodel twice. Isn't it best to find the cause of the leak, first? Or, should I go ahead and start demoing, with the hopes that it reveals the cause?

Thank you for any suggestions.
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Unread 09-04-2022, 07:58 PM   #4
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Welcome, Joe.

Two tests I always recommend when there is water coming out of the bottom of a tile shower.

First, remove drain grate and plug drain below first plumbing connection. An inflatable test ball is best used for this. Then fill the shower receptor, using a water source other than the shower, to near the top of the curb. Mark the water level and let that stand for at least 24 hours and note any decrease in water level.

If no leak noted, drain the shower and let dry. Remove the shower head from the pipe that comes out of the wall. Install a half-inch (almost certainly) pipe cap in place of the shower head. Turn on the shower and wait another 24 hours or until a leak is detected.

That should tell you whether you have a shower receptor failure or a plumbing failure.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 09-05-2022, 04:41 PM   #5
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Joe, CX is on the money with those two tests, and yes I would try and see where the failure is first to determine how far you want to go on fixing said failure.

As far as where you saw water by the toilet I can tell you that sometimes the shower head isn't screwed in tight to the drop ear behind the wall. So when you move the shower head it can cause a leak BEHIND the waterproofing of the shower. Even if the shower is built properly if the drop ear doesn't stub out far enough into the prep it can leak behind the shower in a sense.

Since you also have water damage around the curb as well those two issues are probably not related and need to be addressed but both tests CX recommends would let you know that.
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Unread 09-06-2022, 10:25 PM   #6
ybakos
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Thank you, both. I will do a more thorough 24-hours test of the receptor and the shower head.

For plugging the drain, would the following kind of product be what I should use?
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Unread 09-07-2022, 05:16 AM   #7
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you should only need that top one since most shower risers are 2" old ones sometime 1-1/2"
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Unread 09-07-2022, 07:20 AM   #8
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is the door track screwed into the curb?
is the shower valve sealed to tile?
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Unread 09-07-2022, 09:23 AM   #9
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I agree with the others. The front of the curb looks to be bulging and I think that's where you're showing the cracked tile. The curb is usually the first place a shower will leak because they're seldom done correctly.
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Unread 09-07-2022, 01:38 PM   #10
ybakos
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Thanks everyone.

I am not sure how the door is attached.

I'll get the smaller air bladder to plug the drain.

For the "cap the shower head" test, here is a photo, attached. Do I cap at A or B?

I too am very suspicious of the shower receptor. But I was surprised I could not cause a leak over the course of my initial tests. Previously, we would see signs of the leak after a shower, maybe a back-to-back shower.

Do you think my "theory" of things not being saturated over time (we have not been using the shower prior to my receptor/drain tests) is likely?

I have ordered the bladder and will report back with the results.

What about this: since I know there is damage, should I go ahead and start ripping out the baseboard trim, the door, and tile on the curb? (Or should I proceed "scientifically" and just try the 24-hour receptor/drain test first w/o changing anything?)
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Unread 09-07-2022, 01:39 PM   #11
ybakos
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Or am I overthinking all of this and should I just demo the whole damn thing and do a complete new installation, without identifying the source of the leak first?
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Unread 09-07-2022, 01:45 PM   #12
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If you don't have a leak at either A or B, you can cap at either place.

Rebuilding an old shower is sometimes a good idea, but what if you still have a plumbing leak? I'd do the testing first.
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Unread 09-07-2022, 02:54 PM   #13
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Hello Joe,

First off I am no expert, most others who respond here are.

That said I have done my own shower in 1998 as well as a dozen or so for clients in the past few yrs. I noticed its your own house and it appears you plan to do the work yourself?

If this is the case and you plan to stay in the house for a long time, then IMHO I would recommend you tear out the shower completely and start from scratch. The reasons are two fold. As said previously (Just in tile) its difficult to do a receptor separately and also if I read right its already 11 yrs old and may have other issues. If you are like me you may not want to be doing it again when you are 2-10 yrs older ;-)

As far as doing it yourself, as long as you follow all the steps with no shortcuts and tear out all the way to the framing you will expose any shortcomings as well as being able to properly address any out of square issues which almost always present to some degree.

The shower I did 24yrs ago (mud pan, cement board and porcelain tile) has received daily use most of its life, and for many years it was used two to three times per day and its still completely dry and solid. There is a great deal of satisfaction in doing it yourself and doing it right.....however if you lack the skill or desire it can be an absolute disaster....so choose wisely.

Good luck, whatever approach you take.

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Unread 09-12-2022, 06:18 PM   #14
ybakos
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Thanks everyone, I am awaiting the drain plug and will report the results of a 24-hour test before proceeding...
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Unread 09-22-2022, 04:55 PM   #15
ybakos
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Starting the receptor 24 hour test

Took me a while to get what I needed but I have started the receptor test per the advice above.

After 24 hours I'll try the shower head test w/ cap.
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