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Unread 03-05-2021, 06:15 PM   #1
Susanne ST
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Contractor installation method

Hi,
I had a contractor in process of prepping and starting a bathroom remodel. The contractor did a full tear out of the old structure. It was double tiled, water seeped to the membrane and was sitting collecting mildew. He removed the concrete pan also. He did a lot of prep work, but had been unprofessional in a few ways so I had a bad feeling for a while. By the time he got to back board, I noticed the joints weren't sealed. I knew nothing about shower tile installation but with having a failed shower already, had been clear I needed it water proof, and having joints not sealed seemed wrong. He put a seam of clear silicone after I said something, but still didn't look 100% sealed. Also he used the same on the recessed shelf. I continued to get more suspicious when I inspected the start of the tiling. I finally started researching and he was using mastic and the tiles are bigger than what it's supposed be used with. Plus he said the walls were not level and he was leveling it with mastic. Anyway, after reading some posts here and more research I decided there would be nothing waterproof about it leaving it susceptible to another fail. I had him stop. A lot of tiling is up but I think it needs torn out again and re-started. Does this sound accurate? Also he re-poured a pan, used a membrane between 2 layers of concrete, do you think this can be salvaged? I'd hate to have to get all that removed. I'm going to start the estimate process again, this time asking contractors what materials they use, etc, but just thought it would be nice to get some advice in the meantime. Thanks!
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Unread 03-05-2021, 07:18 PM   #2
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Hi Susanne, welcome. Sorry to hear about this. It's possible the tiles can be removed and the mastic cleaned off the backs. Did he grout them?
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Unread 03-05-2021, 07:23 PM   #3
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Welcome, Susanne.

Some photos would almost certainly be helpful here.

Do you know just what the "back board" material is? Some sort of cementitious backer unit (CBU) perhaps? Each of those has specific installation instructions, including the materials and method of treating the joints between sheets and those instructions must be followed for a proper installation.

Do you know whether he installed a moisture barrier, a polyethylene sheet or roofing felt, behind this wallboard?

You speak of concrete for the receptor, but was the material more like a damp beach sand consistency when it was placed? And it was sloped to a central drain before the waterproof membrane was installed? Then a similar, but thicker layer of the same material placed over the liner?

What size tiles were being installed on the walls?

You're correct that trying to plumb the wall tiles (you can't have level walls or they'd be part of the floor, eh? ) using organic adhesive (mastic), but he shouldn't have been doing that with a thinset mortar, either.

Can you salvage the receptor (the bottom of the shower with the mortar beds and liner)? Maybe, but we'd need more information about how it was constructed and photos would certainly help.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 03-05-2021, 07:44 PM   #4
Susanne ST
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Thank you both for the welcome and quick responses! I only have a few pictures, but maybe not the most beneficial. I tried to get him to correct some things but the way he did the recess shelf for example was already tiled over by the time I realized this is very wrong.

That said, there is no grout yet, so I am hoping to salvage some tiles.

The backboard is hardiboard, I think whatever the mid range/ priced version. There is no moisture barrier behind it.

The first floor layer was "regular"? cement and yes it was sloped. Then the membrane (Which he did put along the sides also up maybe a foot or so), then he said some other hydro type mortar that is more smooth and flexible (that was also sloped using some plastic sloping mechanism called dummy proof or something). Sorry I don't know any technical terms Unfortunately I don't have photos of installation steps just finished product.

Yes, the walls are not plumb ( all contractors I've ever had also uses the term level for walls so maybe a local incorrect lingo). The tiles are 8 x 20 inches. He said he couldn't do anything about the studs (also claimed he did a lot of framing). What do you think?

I appreciate this feedback, I'll try and get some pictures up soon.
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Unread 03-05-2021, 07:52 PM   #5
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Here are some pictures. Granted after I saw this he used mesh tape and thin set at those joints, but the other shelf already tiled looked like this one when tiled.
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Unread 03-05-2021, 08:26 PM   #6
Susanne ST
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Sorry here are a few more for context. One he accidentally hit the nozzle and the shower sprayed for a sec, but later he didn't even notice it had been dripping all day and absorbed into the back board. Another picture is hard to tell, but I found a piece of cardboard under the shelf :/
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Unread 03-06-2021, 07:53 AM   #7
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That's a shame. You are probably looking at a full tearout due to no waterproofing on the walls. You'll have to weigh the cost of carefully removing/cleaning the tiles versus purchasing new tiles.

As to whether the shower pan can be salvaged, you'll need to leave that up to your new installer. It would make me nervous using someone else's pan, especially when corners were cut elsewhere.

The installer should plumb/flatten (make sure the studs are in the same plane) the walls prior to installing the tile backer board. It can be done a variety of ways including planing, shimming or sistering the studs.

Definitely ask how they plan on waterproofing the shower. There are several ways to go about. In your current install, no waterproofing was done on the walls. Taping the seams with mesh tape alone doesn't help. Also, Hardiboard is not waterproof. The installer should have taped the seams and used a liquid waterproofer over the board, seams and screw heads.
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Unread 03-06-2021, 09:45 AM   #8
Susanne ST
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Thanks for the reply Mr. Stop. If nothing else hearing these responses make me feel validated that I made the right decision. The installer had me second guessing myself with his rationale and experience.

I think the price of tile isn't terribly high, so I may just go ahead and order replacements to make sure I have all the materials ready.

I was thinking the same, a new installer may want to make sure everything is done to their specifications before putting their name on the job. It is very loud and invasive tearing out concrete, plus I have 2 flights of steps to deal with so I'd still prefer keeping it.. we'll see.

Yes, after doing my research is when I realized it wasn't water proofed and part of why I started investigating is seeing seems not sealed, or just mesh tape over them. Then looked at the adhesive.. then the board..

I'm actually in Cincinnati- the northern KY side.
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Unread 03-06-2021, 09:47 AM   #9
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Like Cx and Brad said, there needs to be a moisture barrier either behind the wall board or on the surface. He has neither one. The deal breaker in my opinion is the use of mastic in a shower. Not only that but using the mastic to butter out the tiles to get them flat makes it worse. You aren't getting the quality shower you should be.

The sooner you get the tiles off, the easier they will clean up. It probably won't take much effort to remove them, especially the ones he buttered out.
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Unread 03-06-2021, 09:50 AM   #10
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Susanne, if you don't add that geographic location to your User Profile the information will be lost before we leave this page and that information is frequently helpful in answering some types of questions.
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Unread 03-06-2021, 09:51 AM   #11
Susanne ST
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I forgot to add, when I asked him why he didn't use sister studs or somehow straiten the studs first (after reading online about it), he said you can't in an existing structure without tearing out the adjacent drywall? This is someone who said he spent many years a framer. It's really hard to challenge someone who does something for a living, for many years, that I know nothing about other than a few Google searches so I really appreciate everyone helping me out here!
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Unread 03-06-2021, 09:52 AM   #12
Susanne ST
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I will add the location to my profile, thanks! I didn't realize it was an option but saw Mr. Stop is in my area.
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