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Unread 11-02-2015, 02:24 PM   #1
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Foul Odor Coming from Travertine Shower Floor Tile

I have a remodeled shower, the walls of which were done in Durock, and the wall and floor tiles in Travertine. The shower floor is sunken below the slab, so there is no rubber pan in the original construction. The new travertine tile was laid over the existing ceramic tile.

I have absolutely ruled out every other source of the odor, and it is without question coming from the tile itself. I don't know how to describe it, other than a urine/sewer odor.

My assumption is that the porous Travertine has soaked in organic material and bacteria, which is now "rotting." I plan to fill the shower pan with water and a hospital grade disinfectant, and let it soak for several days to see if it will take care of the issue.

Any other advice/input would be most appreciated, particularly in trying to avoid a recurrence.

Thanks!
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Unread 11-02-2015, 03:15 PM   #2
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Hello, Michael. Welcome to the forum.

Are you in Florida? We see a lot of sunken showers (and some that are level with the slab) that have no waterproofing layer at all. I assume it's because the installers believe that water going into the floor and earth below is okay.

It's really not a good thing, though. You really want a receptor that will stop the water and direct it to the drain completely. If you don't have that, you basically have sewage going into the concrete and ground below, and after a while, you're going to smell it. This is particularly true when you have an excess of ground water and the sewage has nowhere to go.

In my opinion, that's the reason you're smelling raw sewage, and nothing short of taking out the shower and replacing it with a properly waterproofed shower is going to help.
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Unread 11-02-2015, 03:26 PM   #3
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Thanks for the reply...Yes, I'm in the Tampa Bay area. Oddly enough, there was no odor coming from the shower pan until the Travertine tile was laid over the original tile, so I believe the issue is with the Travertine, and/or the thinset used to lay it over the existing tile. We did the shower floors in our other home in the same neighborhood (same sunken style) in the same way, and had no issues for the 12 years we lived there. This issue has just arisen in the last 3 months, and we've only been in the home for 2 years now.
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Unread 11-02-2015, 03:48 PM   #4
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There's no reason I can think of for the tile or thinset to produce an odor that smells like sewage.
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Unread 11-02-2015, 03:57 PM   #5
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Welcome, Michael.

If you'll add that geographic location to your User Profile it'll remain permanently in view to aid in answering some types of questions. If not, it'll likely be gone before we leave this page.

I gotta agree with Kevin on this. No reason at all the Travertine nor the bonding mortar (we're assuming it was a Portland cement based thinset mortar) should be causing that smell. None at all.

The typical Florida abomination that passes for a shower receptor down there, on the other hand, is quite capable of resulting in such smells. If the smell happened to arrive coincidentally with the new tile installation, I would still need to assume it's a defective (no matter what your building code says) shower receptor construction that's the cause, not the tile or bonding mortar.

Perhaps you know the name brand, make and model of the bonding mortar?

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 11-02-2015, 04:15 PM   #6
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I'm thinking that putting the travertine on top of the existing tile added an additional layer to slow the water from escaping to someplace other than under the shower, giving it more time to develop it's wonderful aroma! My house had a cultured marble pan on a depressed slab here in Arizona. Water was getting under the pan, and sitting on the slab until it developed the most wonderful smelling and looking mess. I think you basically have a scum pond under your shower.
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Unread 11-02-2015, 05:24 PM   #7
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We ran into a shower that reeeeeeeked because the travertine floor was dot set. The shower water collected below the tiles.
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Unread 11-03-2015, 12:57 PM   #8
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Unfortunately, I don't know what bonding mortar was used. I'm beginning to think it's water trapped between the travertine and the original ceramic tile.

A sniff of the tile itself clearly reveals where the odor is coming from. Interestingly, it's "water activated" in a sense, where the odor really makes itself apparent when the tile is wet.

I'm beginning to think I may need to re-do the pan.
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Unread 11-03-2015, 01:42 PM   #9
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WOrst case, when they were getting ready to install the new tile layer, in jockeying around the drain to get the top level with the now higher surface, they broke the trap which now does not have any water to stop sewer smells from coming into the shower.

I really don't understand how FL or anywhere else gets around the plumbing code that says the pan should hold water when flood tested. There's no way that happens with just tile in there. The state has (at least to my understanding) adopted the national codes which all require that. Local ordinances can make those codes more strict, but they are not supposed to be more lenient. FL is not alone in a proper, sloped liner...places in MA still prefer and will pass a copper pan, flat on the floor. A great place for stagnant water to accumulate.

WIth the water tables in FL, even a few inches of elevation change in the same neighborhood could have different soil and water table levels relative to the surface...IOW, one might have worked, and another, a few inches lower, may not. That extra moisture going into the ground is a great way to attract, roots, termites, and carpenter ants...IOW, it's a lousy way to do things! There's a reason why the national codes require a liner installed properly.
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Unread 12-28-2017, 08:15 PM   #10
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Outcome of Foul Smell

Michael/All, I realize this thread is old, but we are experiencing the same issue with our travertine tiled shower and we live in Chicago. We just returned home from a trip, turned on the shower and the smell returned. I do not see any visible mold, but the smell always returns after the shower has been dormant for a few days. Any advice on how to remedy the situation is greatly appreciated. Thank you.
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Unread 12-28-2017, 08:33 PM   #11
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Like Jim mentioned, it is possible to get sewer gases coming up thru the drain if the shower hasn't been used for a while. How many days did it go unused?
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Unread 12-29-2017, 04:58 AM   #12
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I am by no means an expert. Would adding a sealer over the top help? Or possibly redguard on the travertine and adding a third layer? I know it is just a band aid, but i am trying ideas so that he doesn't have to rip it all out.
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