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Unread 03-18-2021, 05:05 PM   #1
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Shower pan failure in new home (< 4yrs)

Hello experts!

Our home is less than 4yrs old, and this past January, we experienced the unfortunate -- water from 2nd floor guest bathroom shower, began leaking into the kitchen.

We have not used the shower since the leak started. It's very upsetting since this is an obvious issue of the home builder's (and subcontractors) negligence, incompetence, etc. There are small cracks in the perimeter of the shower floor grout/caulking. It seems that water is seeping down into the mortar bed. Either the drain weep holes are blocked, and causing water to overflow the pvc pan liner, or the pan liner itself has a perforation. We are now facing the possibility that the entire shower has to be reconstructed.

Any suggestions or feedback on these options?

Option A: Tear out shower pan, remove 1-2 rows of the 12x24 wall tile. Install a new shower pan (traditional pre-slope + pvc pan liner + dry pack mud, or schluter system?), replace torn out wallboard with Durock/HardBacker + Red Guard, and re-tile the wall area with any matching leftover tile that I have, new shower floor tile. Probably < $2500 labor + material.

Option B: Reconstruct entire shower area from top to bottom. This would possibly also mean that the frameless glass for door and enclosure would need to be replaced since the new dimensions may not match the old dimensions. This would by far be the most expensive option. Quotes are over $10k

Other clarification points: This is a 5x3 shower, walled on 3 sides, and a half-wall on one side.
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Unread 03-18-2021, 05:33 PM   #2
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It's possible the weep holes are blocked and causing water to saturate the bottom of the shower, causing it to leak. It could be a number of things. Are you seeing any cracked grout joints anywhere? Most leaks seem to start at the curb.

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Unread 03-18-2021, 05:34 PM   #3
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How do you know that it’s the shower pan that’s causing the leak and not, say, the water supply pipes? Do you have any in-process shower build photos? Do you know what waterproofing system used and whether or not a flood test was performed?

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Unread 03-19-2021, 08:30 AM   #4
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Welcome, Chip,

I feel like if the liner was installed correctly cracked grout joints wouldn't matter, the small amount of water getting through those would find it's way to the weep holes and drain. If the weep holes were clogged the water would have to get over the curb (again, if the liner was installed correctly).

Could be leaking at a supply fitting, but my guess is it's leaking at the drain. Time to open up the ceiling
If I recall correctly my memory is excellent, but my ability to access it is intermittent.
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Unread 03-19-2021, 01:49 PM   #5
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Sorry, I should have clarified in my initial post about how I narrowed down the possible causes.
  • I cut an opening in the kitchen ceiling to view the piping between the floors.
  • To eliminate shower valve and shower pipe as a possible sources of leak, I connected a hose from the sink, and ran water directly into the shower drain. Nothing leaked from the drain pipe underneath.
  • A test ball was then used to plug the shower drain. Using the hose, I filled the shower with < 1" water. Shortly after, water began to drip down from the opening.
  • From the opening in the ceiling, I saw that the wood surrounding cutout for the supply line running up to the 2nd floor looked "darker" (ie damp). Note: The supply line runs through the floor and up through the pony wall, where the valve is located.
  • I verified with a FLIR thermal imaging camera that the wood around the supply was a cooler temp (ie damp) than surrounding wood. The wood around the drain line is dry. The wood directly under the shower pan looks visually slightly darker than other surrounding areas but FLIR did not pick it up.
  • The supply line cannot be the source of leak since it is under constant pressure, and I'd have a continuous leak issue, which is not the case. The only time water dripped was shortly after I filled up the pan.
  • I performed the pan test around 11am, and although I had drained the pan shortly after, water continued to drip slowly up until about 7pm
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Unread 03-19-2021, 01:58 PM   #6
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I've added a pictures of the shower during construction, as well as pictures taken from the ceiling opening. For some reason when I upload the pic it's upside down, but you can see that the wood around the supply line has what looks like dark damp spot.

Unfortunately, I don't have pictures that would help verify whether a pre-slope was utilized under the PVC pan liner. I can't tell for sure whether the liner is sloped or not. Not that's it's probably a cause of my current leak issue, but in retrospect, I should have demanded that corner dams be used on the shower curb. However, I'm sure I would have been told "It's not necessary," or "We don't do it that way."
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Unread 03-19-2021, 02:10 PM   #7
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A couple more pictures from during construction. One showing the wall and floor before tile, and the other showing the floor tile before grout.

I've also included some recent close-ups of the grout/caulked area where there is some visible cracking. I'm assuming this is where a water is leaking into the mortar bed.
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Unread 03-19-2021, 11:31 PM   #8
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Without the curb corners, and no preslope, water can and will leak out of the shower. Water will take the path of lease resistance, so it doesn’t always originate where you think it does.

It doesn’t appear that they used the proper screw pattern putting up the cbu, either, and hopefully, taped the seams prior to installing the tile. Industry standards don’t allow grout on the changes of plane (although it is done fairly frequently), but it often cracks, which is why the standard doesn’t allow it. A properly built shower should not leak from cracked grout, or even before the tile is installed, as the tile is a decorative wear surface, not waterproofing.

Plumbing code requires the waterproofing to be sloped to the drain, that must be done prior to installing the liner in a shower build.

There could be a leak after the shower valve either in the riser or the drop ear el that the shower arm attaches. You could buy a cap for the shower arm, take the head off, cap it, turn the water on and see if it leaks. If it does, it may just require taking the arm out, applying some tape and/or pipe dope, and reinserting it.
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Unread 03-20-2021, 10:38 AM   #9
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Based on what I see it is a 50/50 gamble if you go the $2,500 route. It was not done correctly and that curb is going to be a problem in the future if it is not a problem now.
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Unread 03-20-2021, 01:59 PM   #10
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Hi Chip,

From what I see, it's the builder's problem since the shower was not properly done to begin with, in which case the "warranty" never runs out. A warranty is only good and limited to a set time if the work is done correctly.

Builders will tell you otherwise, but if it goes to court you'll win.
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Unread 03-20-2021, 09:58 PM   #11
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Interesting point, John. I did not know that. Thank you.
"They didn't want it good, they wanted it Wednesday."
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Unread 03-21-2021, 12:42 AM   #12
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Our home came with a 10 year warranty and I used it all the way up to that time frame; last one was a bad window seal in bathroom. What is the warranty time frame for your home? If it's still under warranty, then contact the builder.

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Unread 03-21-2021, 01:10 AM   #13
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Shoddy attempted liner install, common sense musta took the day off!

Interesting indeed Laz! I've been misinformed for some time...
Them's some good to known info there Mr. John, appreciate learning that one quite a bit
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Unread 03-22-2021, 09:04 AM   #14
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I appreciate all the feedback.

@jadnashua - It makes sense what you've pointed out about taping seams, though I doubt it was done. I don't have any pics of it, but I've walked through their other homes still under construction, and haven't seen taped seams or any waterproofing of screw heads. The builder's plumbing company told me that they use a pre-fab foam pre-slope (i'm assuming similar to Oatey Perfect Slope) -- though I don't know whether they did for sure, or if the liner was simply laid on top of the subfloor. By leaving the shower valve off and sourcing the water directly from the sink faucet via hose, I've essentially ruled out the valve/shower piping as a leak source right? Since the supply lines are under constant pressure, I'd also have a continuous leak and a large wet spot in the subfloor or ceiling somewhere.

@John Bridge - Thanks for pointing that out! I'd have to run it by a lawyer to see if that holds true in FL, or in this particular situation.

@Methodical - The home came with a "2-10 Home Buyers Warranty", which provides a 1 Year Workmanship Warranty (paint, drywall, floor tile, etc), 2 Year Systems Defect Warranty (electrical, plumbing, etc), and 10 Year Structural Warranty (foundation, load-bearing elements, floor framing, etc). The builder's warranty department indicated that I'd need to submit a structural warranty claim, which I don't think this scenario would apply.
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Unread 03-22-2021, 09:50 AM   #15
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It looks like shower walls have sheetrock rather than cbu? Isn't that a no-no except with Kerdi?
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