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Unread 08-10-2003, 01:01 PM   #1
OnAMission
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shower tile surround w/acrylic base

I wish I had stumbled on this before I started picking my shower apart ... but ... what's done is done ... and I'm ready for an education. Actually, I was ready before now ... but I couldn't find the information I needed. I keep hearing that flexible joints should be used at all changes of plane. Does that also apply to the area where the tile meets the shower base when working with one piece shower bases with tile flanges behind the tiled area? On the other hand, if you seal that area, how does any water that makes it's way down the back side of the tiles 'escape?'

I realize that my acrylic(?) shower base is not where your hearts lie ... but it's what I'm stuck with in my new home. I've tried to find a good source of information to tell me how it should have been installed, how the walls *should* have been treated and whether or not the area where the wall tile meets the top edge of the shower base should be grouted or caulked (or as is the case here ... grouted ... THEN caulked.) Does such a source exist - officially - or is it still one of those things that everyone kind of does their own thing???

I wanted to replace the sloppy mess of a caulking job that was previously done and pulled the caulking off. What I found was that the blue plastic liner that covers the floor of the base during construction had been left behind and underneath the grout in this location.

Since I decided that blue stuff shouldn't really be hanging out of there, I started removing the grout so I could get at it ... since the 'tile guy's' solution was to trim it with a knife and caulk over it.

The builder had also told him that there needed to be some weep holes in that grout ... so his solution there was to chip one area out on one wall, caulk over it ... and poke a screwdriver through it to make a 'weep hole.' Well guess what is filling up the space behind the front edge of the tile? The caulking that he pushed back in there. How is a 'weep hole' gonna work in that situation? I've since removed the caulking again and started on removing the grout which was what I had understood was to have happened in the first place.

Unfortunately, I've run into a few snags. Some of it seems to be about an inch thick (in depth extending beyond the back edge of the tile.) This is in an area where the wall is bowed out, and it appears that whatever they spread on the wall to set the tile in was applied much thicker there than on other areas of the wall.

Now ... I finally found one reference to installing one piece bases with a tile flange (as well as bathtubs) ... and it is my understanding from this source that there should be a gap between the lower edge of that bottom row of tile and the top edge of the shower base (or bathtub.) Seems that the grouting and/or caulking are truly only for the sake of appearance ... that people don't like seeing that gap.

Although, I've never seen one done and left open ... I was under the impression that was because those of us who don't know any better expect that gap to be covered. It makes sense to me to leave it open and that's how I would like it to be ... if it is reasonable.

Have I misunderstood? Am I making more work for myself unnecessarily? Is the grouted area underneath the bottom row of tile acceptable? With weep holes? Without weep holes? With additional caulking? No caulking at all??? And since the shower base seems to slop toward the shower door ... is the far corner where the tile actually SITS on the top edge of the base with no gap underneath, acceptable?

Too many questions, I know ... and probably not enough information ... but bear with me please? I'll grout it all back up if you tell me to. I'll caulk it if you tell me too ... but we're talking areas that are at least 1/2 inch wide ... down to bein non-existant.

Anything else I can tell you?

Cathy
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Unread 08-10-2003, 02:06 PM   #2
Jason_Butler
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Hi Cathy,

I think I understand your issue. I'm still not quite sure what the blue liner is though.

First of all, the acrylic base should be level along the top edges. If there is a dip along the width or length...the pan needs to be supported more underneath and leveled before you go any further. The lip on the shower pan is only 3/8" high at the most. If tile sits aboye this lip, you will be left with a large gap that is sure to leak water.

Grout vs Caulk.... You could grout this area between the lower row of tile and the top edge of the pan but the pan is flexible and will most likely move enough( when you stand in it) to crack the grout. This is why we recommend the caulking at this joint. It sounds to me that the gap you have is much more than the 1/8-1/4" we suggest. 1/4" is actually a bit on the high side.

The studs should have been covered with a vapor barrier ( 6 mil poly or 15lb felt paper). Then CBU should have been installed. The CBU would run down to the top of the flange on your pan. Then the tile would be set with latex modified thinset. The bottom row of tile would be secured to the CBU and sit over the flange - leaving an 1/8" gap for expansion/ movement of the pan relative to the wall. This 1/8" joint would be caulked.

Hope this helps

Jason
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Unread 08-10-2003, 02:55 PM   #3
OnAMission
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Jason ...

Thanks for the feedback ... I wish I could say it helped me to make a decision about how to approach this. Sounds like this has definitely not been done properly ... question is ... how much effort do I go to in regard to trying to prevent future problems?

The blue plastic is a protective film that is on the shower base when it arrives on the construction site. They haven't seemed to be able to determine who is responsible for removing it before it gets 'trapped' when someone installs the CBU in front of the tile flange, resting on the shower base. At some point, someone must trim it off ... but in my case, it is still visible underneath the grout. I don't suppose it is hurting anything ... but it bothers me that it is visible.

I just got back from looking at new construction to see how they have been handling other jobs.

What I saw today:

The shower walls are first covered with sheetrock, then the lower 2 feet have CBU (on top of sheetrock), the upper portion is greenboard (on top of sheetrock.) Saw no evidence of any moisture barrier. The CBU is installed in front of the tile flange and (in some cases) all the way down to rest on the top of the shower base. The tile flange is 1-1/2 inches high.

If my shower was constructed in the same way ... don't I have reason to be alarmed?

The construction superintendent has changed several times since my house (an inventory home) was constructed and the present one does not know for sure if they were even using the minimal amount of CBU they use now. When I stand on my head and look underneath that 1/2" gap where I pulled the grouting out ... I think I can see the edge of CBU. He says he has tried to convince 'them' to use all CBU and NO Greenboard ... but hasn't won that battle yet. In any event, what are the hazards of installing what CBU they DO use ... that far down?

Is it enough at this point to just recaulk and hope for the best? There are some places where the area to be grouted or caulked are 1/2 inch wide. Then, the opposite end of the run, the tile is sitting on top of the shower base, with no gap ... the result of the shower base not having been leveled when it was installed.

Do I dare push for the builder to fix this ... or is it possible that even though it seems to be to be quite sloppy ... that I should just let it go?
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Unread 08-10-2003, 03:32 PM   #4
Jason_Butler
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Hi Cathy,

I didn't remember the flange being that high but that doesn't really matter. The blue protective film doesn't either in this case.

If you have CBU on the lower portion of the shower...consider yourself fortunate. Most builders 'round here use greenboard exclusively. I doubt water will ever wick up 3 feet of CBU from your acrylic pan.

The part that concerns me is the 1/2" gap. That gap shouldn't be that wide. I sure wouldn't want to fill a gap that large with caulk. This is a leak waiting to happen. Perhapsthe best fix is to replace the bottom row of tiles such that the gap is minimal. If the first row of tile is a full tile ( as is), this will be a problem.

In any case, I would have the builder fix that 1/2" gap. Poor workmanship in my opinion

Jason
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Unread 08-10-2003, 04:08 PM   #5
OnAMission
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Thanks for the additional input, Jason.

The bottom row of tile uses full tiles. No way to fix that gap without ripping all the tiles off and starting over ... is there? Or tearing the shower base out and installing it level? I wonder how much of a chance there is of getting THAT done? No wonder they just caulked over the mess they left.

The height of the flange must vary depending upon the manufacturer of the shower base. Mine is a Fiat. Another builder is using one from Royal Bath .... and the tile flange on that one is only 1" ... as is the flange on the bathtubs used in our house. Which reminds me ...

When I walked through the other houses today, I discovered that they were not using CBU on the tub surround. They were installing greenboard in front of the flange and all the way to the top edge of the tub. What I don't recall is whether or not they were installing the greenboard on top of regular sheetrock (as they did in the shower.) Not good ... huh? Especially since I KNOW the grouted & caulked joint (caulk didn't fully cover the grout) underneath the tub spout in one of my bathtubs is getting water behind it. I had assumed that the CBU or greenboard would be higher and was going to tackle that joint next ... but looks like it might be more pressing than the shower.

I give up ... is there any way that most of us who feel production builders are our only option can get a really well built home without having to worry about the hidden hazards? I have to remind my husband every day that a NEW house is not necessarily better than an older pre-owned home that someone has already battled all these battles in.
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Unread 08-10-2003, 04:37 PM   #6
Jason_Butler
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It's unfortunate that builders ( most of 'em in the production business) build to a schedule - not necessarily to a code of ethics and workmanship.

Let me give you some good advice on this problem you have...get it fixed NOW !!!. Once the caulk begins to pull away and water gets in behind the shower pan, you'll have bigger problems. A shower like yours should be fairly inexpensive to replace. You can battle with the builder or pony up your own money and have it fixed THE RIGHT WAY.

I do tub surround tearouts and replacements for about $500 labor. Some are less - other a bit more. If your shower is the typical "2 walls tile with a glass enclosure", the price would probably be less.



Just my 2 cents

Jason
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Unread 08-10-2003, 04:44 PM   #7
John Bridge
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Hi Cathy, Welcome aboard.

I would have them tear the whole thing out and start over.

1. If the plastic shower floor (receptor) isn't installed absolutley level, it will eventually cause problems.

2. The uneven crack where tile meets receptor is unacceptable.

3. Greenboard has not been an approved substrate for tile in a wet area since 1999. Unfortunately, it still may be sanctioned in your local building code which overrules the standards we try to operate by.

It's a bad job, period.
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Unread 08-10-2003, 04:59 PM   #8
OnAMission
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Jason ... John ... thanks for the confirmation and support.

I was leaning in the direction of pushing for a 'real' effort here ... (since I don't see how I can maintain a 1/2" joint) but didn't stick to my guns when the 'tile guy' came out to assess the situation. (Of course, having 3 other sub-contractors in the house fixing OTHER things ... kind of distracted me at the time.)

I'll hit 'em up again next week ... and maybe SOMEDAY ... I'll have my shower back. Sure hate climbing those stairs to the nearest tub/shower combo.

John ... what kind of building codes do they adhere to in unincorporated areas of Harris County? Any???
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Unread 08-10-2003, 07:32 PM   #9
John Bridge
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I didn't notice where you were located. Sorry.

We have codes but no inspections, so it amounts to the builder being his own inspector. And to tell you the truth, I don't know where the county stands on shower construction. It doesn't relaly matter, though. The workmanship is inferior. Lay it on 'em.

Who's the builder? Where are you located?
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Unread 08-10-2003, 07:48 PM   #10
OnAMission
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No inspections??? Does that mean that they aren't required to bring things up to code, if someone catches it? They've been great about the minor things that I've brought to their attention in the past few months ... more so than they really HAVE to according to the guidelines of the homeowner's warranty. But it IS in their best interest to consider that it takes several months of living in a house to find the quirks. A pre-closing walkthrough just is not enough.

I'm in the Tomball area ... will send you an email with more detail. I suspect that I could mention any number of builders who have done the same or similar things ... so I won't single this one out here.

Just wish it was a house that we had built from the ground up and that we had our own private inspector following the entire process as it went up. Hard to do when you move from across the state and need a place to live NOW.
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Unread 08-11-2003, 08:07 AM   #11
tdoyon
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I walked away from a new house because the builder refused to tear out a similarly constructed cbu-green board shower. The builder, Stonebridge (www.stonebridgehomes.net), told me that if I wanted it done right that I had to pay for the tear out and the new shower. I took my business elsewhere....

In contrast, someone here had a bad shower from Darling and that builder rebuilt the shower to the highest standards.

If the builder does or doesn't do things right, please tell us who it and what they did. It helps to know who to avoid in the future.
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Unread 08-11-2003, 05:19 PM   #12
Jason_Butler
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Cathy,

One thing that may have been lost in this discussion is the shower receptor.. This seems to be the reason for the 1/2" gap ( or at least part of the gap). Is this pan level? Does it dip in the area where the gap occurs ? or was the tile job really that bad.

If the receptor is really that bad...I think you have plenty of ammo to have this fixed. I'm sure your insurance company wouldn't approve of such work either..

Jason
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Unread 08-11-2003, 05:50 PM   #13
OnAMission
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The shower receptor is not level ... it is lower along the side where the door is than it is along the opposite side. The receptor is level from side to side ... but not from back to front. Same thing with my one of my bathtubs ... it leans toward the wall with the fixtures ... and has this ever widening joint as well.

The tiles look fine ... the cause of the partial 1/2" joint at the bottom is because that's what it took to keep the grout lines level, when using full tiles. I guess it's too much to ask for the tile guy to notify the builder that the shower receptor and bathtubs (installed by the plumber???) aren't level and allow them time to fix them before proceeding? At the minimum ... to have avoided the ever increasing joint size, they could have used partial tiles on the bottom row and trimmed each as necessary to maintain a proper joint size, as you had suggested for a fix???

Now ... what hazards are there with the shower receptor not being level ... other than the grout joint being difficult to maintain properly? Unless I misunderstood, according to the building superintendent ... the filling of the joint at the bottom is more for 'looks' than a necessity. That seems feasible with a 1-1/2" tile flange behind it ... IF there wasn't areas with 1/2" joints. Seems like the only way water is going to get behind that flange is if I spray water directly in an open gap. If it were a closed joint and it leaked ... the flange is there to prevent a problem ... right??? Am I crazy here? I need to show the superintendent the 1/2" joint ... he was focusing on the other wall when I first approached him ... and the joint there was smaller.
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Unread 08-11-2003, 06:41 PM   #14
OnAMission
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Quote:
Originally posted by tdoyon

If the builder does or doesn't do things right, please tell us who it and what they did. It helps to know who to avoid in the future. [/b]
************
As soon as I have a real feel for where we are headed with this ... and know what the builder will and will not do ... I'll consider singing their praises or warning others.

Right now ... I just don't know ... they've been really good about addressing issues that I have brought to their attention ... but none of them required as much work as this will require.

Even though their printed guidelines about what IS and IS NOT covered under the 'warranty' state that water damage from cracked grouting or loose caulking is not covered ... I do know that they did tear a wall out for someone else to confirm that there was no mold damage from a leak where the glass enclosure was not caulked properly on top of a ledge on a partial wall.

So ... they seem to be fair ... but that situation involved water leaking down the wall on the outside of the shower receptor and out from underneath the front edge of the receptor. Instead of just repairing the joint, the homeowner wanted to see if there was mold damage in the wall ... and they complied. They could have refused based upon all the papers we signed at closing ... but they didn't. But ... I don't have visible water leaking anywhere at this point.
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Unread 08-11-2003, 07:20 PM   #15
Jason_Butler
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Pls let us know how it goes. As a minimum, the shower receptor needs to be leveled. These showers with the glass enclosures do eventually leak where the enclosure meets the receptor. Water also gets behind the receptor around this time as well. I've seen lots of 'em...just a bad design IMHO.

I would raise holy &(*_(( until I got this resolved. Water damage is one of those things that will creep up on you. Every time you take a shower you will be paranoid about a water leak.


BTW, you are also correct about the tile work. A smaller piece could have been used at the base to account for the unlevel receptor


Jason
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