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Unread 08-03-2015, 08:49 AM   #1
CatMom
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Help! Discolored Grout Problems with New Shower Install

Hi, and thanks in advance for any advice!! We had our master bath remodeled. It was finished about 6 weeks ago. After we started using the shower we noticed that some areas of the grout on the floor seemed to never be drying out. I think we noticed this about a week after using the shower. The shower is all ceramic tile. The grout is regular old sanded grout in a whisper grey color. The grout was sealed twice after the floor had been in place about a week or two (and not used). The grout looked fine initially after the install. I've attached pics after we noticed the problem. The first one shows the grout after 2 weeks of not using the shower (we stopped using it after we noticed the grout problem to see if it would change the color back.) As you can see the grout still looks discolored. If it was a water problem under the tile would it still be wet after this length of time? The blue tape indicates what the contractor's moisture reader said in those areas. It was a moisture reader he uses on wood though, so I'm not sure if it's accurate on tile? It measured about 32 in the "stained" looking areas about about 23-25 in other areas of the shower. Neither of us are sure if that's unusual or not? He's never had this problem with an install before.

We had the contractor come back out last week. He removed the discolored grout and re-grouted those sections. I've attached a pic showing what it looks like now. The discolored areas are fewer, but some have still shown up after the re-grout. These never looked lighter since the grout was redone. We have not used the shower at all yet.

Any ideas what could be happening? Could this be "bad" grout? Or do we have a bigger problem? When the contractor took out the grout last week he mentioned that some of the grout seemed "softer" than the rest. He said it was still hard to remove (not really, really soft), but he could remove it by using an ice pick type tool.

Another thing we learned last week was that the guy who actually formed the shower pan (different person from the one who laid all the tile), did not put any pea gravel or anything around the weep holes. Also, I'm not sure if he did any pre-slope. He got very defensive when asked about the pea gravel and said he's been doing this for 37 years and never used pea gravel and has never had any problems. Also, he stated that if it were a problem with the weep holes the wet looking areas would be more centered around the drain and not more random.??

I've also attached a pic of the drain. As you can see it's a little off. Would that cause a problem? Also drain was silicone caulked around. That ok?

Just need advice on what to ask the contractor to do next. He's unsure. He wants us to start using the shower again and see what happens. Good plan? Thanks for reading such a long post!!!!
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Unread 08-03-2015, 08:59 AM   #2
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Welcome, Laurie.

The guy who built the pan is probably correct that he's never had a problem with the way he builds them; it's his customers who have the problems.

The lack of a pre-slope and no protection for the weep holes could well be your problem. Once water starts to build up in a pan like that, it has no way to escape except through evaporation at the tile surface. Could take months for a saturated pan like that to fully dry when not used at all. With just periodic use it may never again be dry and the quarter-inch or so of water laying in the bottom will get very nasty as it's never replaced.

The fact that the grout staining is not centered around the drain area is a testament to his lack of pre-slope, not evidence that the weep holes are clear. Without a pre-slope, you may as well not have weep holes at all as the standing water below the top section of the clamping drain is enough to cause the problem.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 08-03-2015, 09:11 AM   #3
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Ok, let me ask this. If I find out he did do a pre-slope, then any ideas what could be going on? I wish I had taken pics while he was working on the pan, but I didn't! I do remember a thick rubber/plastic liner and some dry looking concrete on top. If a pre-slope was done, should it have been a more than 1 day project? He was only here one day.

I'm assuming that if this all needs to be torn out and redone that it should be at the contractor's expense, right?
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Unread 08-03-2015, 09:19 AM   #4
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The pre-slope would be under the "thick rubber/plastic liner" and is usually placed and left to cure at least overnight before installing the liner. It is possible, of course, to do it all in one motion if he was careful not to damage the pre-slope while installing the liner. But then the wallboards would normally need to be installed before he placed the final mud bed. Did he do that part as well?

If you have a pre-slope and your drain holes are plugged the distribution of your wet spots will depend upon the flatness of the pre-slope and the shower use. The wetness will usually manifest at the drain area first, but could also spread to other areas with continued shower use.

It takes a long time for even a properly constructed mud bed to fully dry after shower use is stopped.

That all assumes you discoloration is due to moisture. You could go in there with a hair dryer and see if you can make the discoloration go away in selected area at least temporarily in order to narrow down the options.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 08-03-2015, 09:39 AM   #5
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More questions and another pic

Thanks again!! I did find one pic of the mud bed. I'm not sure if it will shed any light on anything.

I think we'll start using the shower again and see what happens. I'm figuring if it is a water problem (and we're thinking it probably is) that the spots will get more numerous again and then we'll know for sure.

Another question--I don't think any plastic was put behind the Durarock on the walls. Should that have been done?

The floor pan guy was telling the tile guy that the caulk should come out around the drain and that it should be grouted?? What do you think?

I'm not sure that we want the same person coming back to do a new pan if that's what it turns out to be. Any idea how we would locate a good "pan" person in our area? We're in southeast Wisconsin.

Thanks again for any advice!!
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Unread 08-03-2015, 03:27 PM   #6
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We really need a photo of the day before that one, Laurie.

If not moisture barrier was installed behind the wallboard, which is obviously the case in your shower, it's necessary to apply a direct bonded waterproofing membrane to the entire inside of the shower walls. Either method is acceptable, but one or the other must be used.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 08-03-2015, 04:42 PM   #7
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Ok. I don't think I have a picture of the day before. But, I do know that no waterproofing was done either behind or on top of the Durarock. Oye--it's going from bad to worse!!
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Unread 08-03-2015, 05:27 PM   #8
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Hi Laurie, welcome. Do you know if he used gray thinset when sticking the floor tiles down? And, did he grout the floor tiles the same day he stuck the tiles down?

If he did use gray thinset and grouted the same day, it's possible the gray bled into the light colored grout but wasn't really noticeable until the floor got saturated due to clogged weep holes and no preslope.

I would have grouted against the drain.
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Unread 08-03-2015, 05:43 PM   #9
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I like what Davy asked. We had a similar problem once...1/8" joint sanded Polyblend "Bone" on a cream colored 5/16" white body subway tile (Emser Classica)
Grout discolored in some areas to a dark brown where installer set and grouted same day. Thinset was Ardex x-5 white. Looked very similar to your shower floor there, no real consistancy to the discoloration.
We've set/grouted same day many times so couldn't figure out why it did it and it only happened on specific spots.
Ended up having to remove a lot of grout/tiles to get rid of it. Did some mock up boards to try to replicate it...and it seemed to be a combination of the wet thinset+grout that was causing discoloration, but again it was not consistant.
Still kind of a mystery to me but we stopped grouting the same day if we used the X-5. The X-5 does have a chemical cure so I don't know if that did it or what.
I guess it pays to follow instructions
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Unread 08-03-2015, 06:02 PM   #10
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In the old days, the showers were smaller and many times we would mud, tile and grout the floor in one day. If the mud ended up being a little too wet, the gray from the portland would bleed into the white grout. Like you said, not everywhere, just in places. It wouldn't show til the next day.

In this shower, it looks like the floor wasn't tiled the same day as it was mudded but if gray thinset was used, maybe the same bleeding occurred, just a guess.
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Unread 08-03-2015, 06:27 PM   #11
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I tried the hair dryer--didn't change anything

Hi, I tried taking a hair dryer to the spots that are darker. I sat on the floor with the hair dryer on one or two of the spots for about 15 minutes. There was no visible change.

The tiles were not grouted the same day they were put down. I know that for a fact. I believe he used white thinset. But, I'll double check on that. Also, last week he removed the grout from the areas that were darker originally and regrouted (with grout from the original bag). Now some of the areas look better, but there are those few that are darker again/still. So those areas the thinset underneath has been in place a long time already.

I'm wanting to believe that there's hopefully an easier fix than ripping it all out and starting over!

Thank you all for your advice and info!!! I truly appreciate it!!!!
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Unread 08-03-2015, 06:36 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Laurie
I sat on the floor with the hair dryer on one or two of the spots for about 15 minutes. There was no visible change.
Makes some of us think it's not a moisture problem at all, but...............
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Unread 08-03-2015, 07:26 PM   #13
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I think it boils down to the thickness of the floor mud. I have seen many showers that are 20 to 30 years old with no pre pitch that don't have any spotting like that and then I have seen 1 year old showers with great pre pitch with spotting. My conclusion is the floor mud must be at least 2.5 inches thick through out the floor or this will happen, 3 inches is a good depth. I also wonder if to much pre pitch can cause this by forcing the Portland out of the mud to the surface.
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Unread 08-03-2015, 07:50 PM   #14
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What if the floor mix was too rich ?
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Unread 08-03-2015, 08:09 PM   #15
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Very possible too.
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