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Unread 05-09-2015, 07:06 PM   #1
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Tile Bench cracking - Replace bench or more?

I have a steam shower with two tiled benches. Both have horizontal cracks that run across the top tiles of the front face. I do not know if the wall tile extends behind the benches and I also don't know if the floor tile extends underneath the benches. I've gotten one quote from a contractor who wants to rip everything out of the shower to bare studs and rebuild from there, basically all new pan, tile, and benches. I have another quote from a different contractor who thinks they can remove and rebuild just the benches. His plan is to build a mortar and block bench. Will the second approach work? Its quite a bit less costly and there are no other issues at this time with the shower? What if the existing tile doesn't fully extend behind or underneath the benches, will he still be able to properly replace just the benches or will he end up telling me I need to completely redo the shower? I don't have alot of experience in this area and am looking for some thoughts/opinions, any feedback is greatly appreciated, thanks!!
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Unread 05-09-2015, 07:23 PM   #2
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Without knowing how the shower and seats were built, there's no way to say exactly what's going on. Like the two guys that have looked at it, we can only guess. If I had to guess, I would say that the seats are made out of wood and the wood is getting wet, swelling and causing the problems. Even if I'm right, removing the seats and building them out of concrete blocks may keep the seats from cracking again but it might be hard to waterproof behind the seats. You could end up with more problems than you have now if it's not waterproofed properly.

In my opinion, there are too many unknowns, the only safe thing to do is to tear it all out and start over. But, if you want to tear the seats out yourself, then you can post us pics so we can let you know which direction to go at that point, it might could be salvaged, who knows.

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Unread 05-09-2015, 09:38 PM   #3
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Welcome, Jaime.

What Davy said.

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Unread 05-10-2015, 09:36 AM   #4
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Like Davy mentioned that's a tough repair to do especially with a steam shower. As a contractor, I would not take this repair on I would only do a complete remove/replace.

With that being said I'm curious as to what's going on with those benches. If they are getting wet that's something that you want to know. I'm also curious as to how that shower was built and waterproofed originally. Steam showers are higher risk projects than a standard shower but a lot of contractors don't treat them as such.
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Unread 05-10-2015, 03:13 PM   #5
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If I were asked to bid this job, my proposal to you would be that I would price it both ways, but I wouldn't be able to tell you which one would work until the benches were taken out. So you would plan for the complete re-do, but hope for just the bench replacement.

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Unread 05-10-2015, 03:50 PM   #6
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Most good pros do not like to warrant someone else's job, and just 'repair' part of the thing. In most cases, that means they now 'own' the whole job, and they had no control over how it was done, even if their part is good.

If your benches are just sitting on the floor, and it is properly waterproofed underneath, then rebuilding with a new monolithic bench could work. No way to tell now unless you have some photos of how it was put together. And, even then, as said, steam showers are VERY detail oriented - much more so that a conventional shower, and any one error can spell big problems. With a steam shower, problems often show up quicker than with a conventional one. The high vapor pressures in a steam shower will find the smallest leaks. Things like wood MUST be thoroughly protected from it.
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Unread 05-10-2015, 05:32 PM   #7
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We know the installer didn't know how to install the seats correctly. Past experience tells me that if some parts are installed wrong then most likely other areas of the shower are done wrong also. As a homeowner you might want to do some tearout yourself but if I were involved, I would only want to do a complete redo.

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Unread 05-11-2015, 02:16 PM   #8
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I can almost see the average of 1.5" from the top, along the front face. And you can sorta make out the shape of the wood framing from that picture of the side of the bench, which also looks cracked. I'll bet a doughnut it's wood framed, and a bonus doughnut that the top of the framing is 2-by-something, laid flat.
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Unread 05-11-2015, 06:54 PM   #9
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I agree...if the boards bowed at all, and they were laid flat, I'd expect the damage you see. Nice call, Gerry.

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Last edited by cpad007; 05-11-2015 at 06:59 PM.
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Unread 05-12-2015, 07:15 AM   #10
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Well, hopefully the OP (Jaime) will take some pictures of the demo and settle the figurative bet.

I feel bad "betting" on this, Jaime, since I'm pretty sure you have exactly what I describe. Please don't take it personally; it's anything but fun or funny, and after completely demolishing both bathrooms in my own house, I certainly feel your pain, even though you aren't feeling the brunt of it just yet. But I've been here long enough and seen enough of the pictures of what's underneath these benches. If I win the bet, I'll send you both doughnuts.

The best thing to hope for is that the benches were built completely inside a proper vapor-proofing system. There probably won't be any tile behind them. But if they are wood, the chances of a proper vapor-proofing system are fairly low. But it's not out of the question and I hope for the best for you.

It's really a shame to waste nice materials on shoddy, or perhaps simply ill-informed, work. Hopefully you can at least salvage the glass and fixtures.

Last edited by Platypus; 05-12-2015 at 07:29 AM.
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