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Difficult To Find Shower Leak

 
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Old 07-07-2015, 07:50 PM   #1
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Difficult To Find Shower Leak


Iíve posted some pictures of this shower here - http://public.fotki.com/Magers-Const...project-10023/

We completed this bathroom renovation in January of 2011. Within the first year the owner contacted us concerned about a wet spot on the wall just outside of the shower curb. This is on the same wall as the shower plumbing. Iíve repaired this wall four times, the latest repair being three months ago. The owner contacted me a week ago letting me know the wall is wet again.

The first time we removed the shower door and resealed the bottom and side channels. The second time we sealed the wall tile at the curb threshold and down to the shower floor with silicone. The last time I removed the grout between the curb threshold and the wall tile and caulked as deep in the joint as I could. I also cut a 12" X 12" opening in the drywall and checked behind the wall. There are no plumbing pipes near the wet area. Iím at my witís end with this leak and Iíve run out of ideas. Look at the picture labeled "shower mold" to see where the wet area is in relationship to the shower.

We continue to address this problem with the owner because it developed within the warranty period and weíve not been able to correct it properly. I would sincerely appreciate any input you guys might have.

Thanks,
Charlie
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Old 07-07-2015, 08:08 PM   #2
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Re: Difficult To Find Shower Leak


Hire someone that knows what they're doing with a thermal camera.

Tom

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Old 07-07-2015, 08:21 PM   #3
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Re: Difficult To Find Shower Leak


That's an interesting idea. How would that work in this situation? Would it be able to track the migration of the water?
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Old 07-07-2015, 09:11 PM   #4
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Re: Difficult To Find Shower Leak


Any pics of what's under the tile? Details of your method would be most helpful.

If it's bare cement board and regular grout, that looks like a lot of joints to permit water to get through the grout and get into the cement board like a sponge. It's got to go somewhere, not just straight down over the flange. Just a thought. I'll bet if you could look at the backside of that area, the cement board is probably soaked (if that's what's there).
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Old 07-07-2015, 09:15 PM   #5
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Re: Difficult To Find Shower Leak


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Originally Posted by CharlieM View Post
That's an interesting idea. How would that work in this situation? Would it be able to track the migration of the water?
Yes.

Tom
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Old 07-07-2015, 09:19 PM   #6
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Re: Difficult To Find Shower Leak


We definitely need more info on shower construction.
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Old 07-08-2015, 05:12 AM   #7
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Re: Difficult To Find Shower Leak


The shower floor was sloped with cement mix, the walls and curb was covered with cement board. The floor and walls were then waterproofed with a commercial liquid membrane (can't remember the brand) typically used for outside fountains. All inside corners were reinforced with a mesh tape recommended by the waterproofing manufacturer. The tile contractor has used this waterproofing method on several showers for us and we've never had a problem.

Is it possible that the problem is the way the curb threshold was installed? The threshold was set before the wall tile and the wall tile sets on top of the threshold which creates a path for water to run between the threshold and wall tile and then is wicked into the drywall. The dampness is always just above the threshold, never lower.
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Old 07-08-2015, 06:52 AM   #8
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Re: Difficult To Find Shower Leak


Threshold under the wall tile is fine.

It looks to me like the moisture is higher than the threshold and migrating behind the tile. Is that the case? I have a feeling somebody forgot to bring the waterproofing to the job.

Don't rule out other things, either. What's above this bathroom, either directly or sharing that wall above? Maybe there's a leaky toilet, loose supply line or something above. Worth a look. And if it's an attic, check the vent pipes, esp. any horizontal ones. Could be a joint didn't get glued and rain water is coming down and out.

Last edited by MarkJames; 07-08-2015 at 07:13 AM.
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Old 07-08-2015, 08:55 AM   #9
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Re: Difficult To Find Shower Leak


liquid membranes if done right are great, however the chances of errors are also greater. Was it installed using the thickness gauge, was enough coats put on? Did installer damage membrane?
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Old 07-08-2015, 02:51 PM   #10
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Re: Difficult To Find Shower Leak


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Originally Posted by MarkJames View Post
Any pics of what's under the tile? Details of your method would be most helpful.

If it's bare cement board and regular grout, that looks like a lot of joints to permit water to get through the grout and get into the cement board like a sponge. It's got to go somewhere, not just straight down over the flange. Just a thought. I'll bet if you could look at the backside of that area, the cement board is probably soaked (if that's what's there).
Pretty much word for word what I was thinking. I bet the backer isn't waterproofed/sealed correctly.
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Old 07-08-2015, 05:29 PM   #11
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Re: Difficult To Find Shower Leak


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Originally Posted by country_huck View Post
liquid membranes if done right are great, however the chances of errors are also greater. Was it installed using the thickness gauge, was enough coats put on? Did installer damage membrane?
Greater how?
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Old 07-08-2015, 05:30 PM   #12
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Re: Difficult To Find Shower Leak


Charlie,

Do you have any during pics?

Rob
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Old 07-08-2015, 06:22 PM   #13
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Re: Difficult To Find Shower Leak


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Originally Posted by TNTSERVICES View Post
Greater how?

Not getting proper thickness would be one, improperly cleaning substrate and not getting a good bond list could go on.
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Old 07-08-2015, 06:23 PM   #14
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Re: Difficult To Find Shower Leak


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Greater how?
Correct thickness. With a fabric that's not an issue and provided you have correct overlap and/or sealant use, it's pretty fool proof. Liquids are also easier to damage prior to covering them with tile as well. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of liquids and use them more than fabric. Liquids are more experience required IMHO though.
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Old 07-08-2015, 07:38 PM   #15
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Re: Difficult To Find Shower Leak


MarkJames,
It’s been a little over four years ago but I do remember the membrane applied to approximately 3’ above the shower floor. This bathroom is on the second floor with attic space above. The vent pipe is something I’ll look at but keeping in mind this wasn’t an issue prior to our renovation and we didn't alter the vent pipe.

TNTSERVICES,
I do not have any pictures during the tile work installation.

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Old 07-08-2015, 08:06 PM   #16
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Re: Difficult To Find Shower Leak


Did you grout or caulk the vertical/horizontal joints? From the below pic, it looks like you grouted and that could be causing your issue... when I zoom in, it looks like grout, or (no offense) not a very good caulk application...


Obviously tile won't show water issue, so the first materials that can wick will, hence the molding, and sheetrock...

I doubt they are leaving the door open while showering and even if they did, the damage would go beyond where it looks like it is wicking...

If you waterproofed as you say (which should be the whole wall and base BTW), then it comes down to the caulking IMHO... is it caulk or grout?




EDIT:
BTW, you did waterproof the curb right?...

.

Last edited by KAP; 07-08-2015 at 09:52 PM.
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Old 07-08-2015, 08:08 PM   #17
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Re: Difficult To Find Shower Leak


Quote:
Originally Posted by country_huck View Post
Not getting proper thickness would be one, improperly cleaning substrate and not getting a good bond list could go on.
The same could be said for fabric.

Not properly cleaning the substrate.
Not getting the proper over lap.
Not using the proper thinset.
Not using the proper trowel.
Not smoothing the surface properly.
Not handling corners properly.
Not rapping curbs properly.
Thin set allowed to skim.
Improperly mixing thin set.

I've seen fabric pull right off the thinset. I've seen tile pull off the fabric.

I guess I don't see it as greater, just different.
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Old 07-09-2015, 06:17 AM   #18
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Re: Difficult To Find Shower Leak


Any missing grout or cracks between grout and tile? ( 3rd tile up and over, maybe.) You'd be surprised how much water could enter the wall through a 1/4" gap.

how was cement board attached to threshold? Nailed then liquid membrane? How many coats of membrane? Did you tape between the drywall and cement board? spot membrane the nails before regular coats? I thinset over nails then membrane coats.

Any water pipe that could have had a trim nail in it at that spot?
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Old 07-09-2015, 06:21 AM   #19
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Re: Difficult To Find Shower Leak


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Any missing grout or cracks between grout and tile? ( 3rd tile up and over, maybe.) You'd be surprised how much water could enter the wall through a 1/4" gap.

how was cement board attached to threshold? Nailed then liquid membrane? How many coats of membrane? Did you tape between the drywall and cement board? spot membrane the nails before regular coats? I thinset over nails then membrane coats.

Any water pipe that could have had a trim nail in it at that spot?
I thought it looked like some grout was missing, but the pic was too grainy to tell for sure.
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Old 07-09-2015, 08:48 AM   #20
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Re: Difficult To Find Shower Leak


From my experience it always seems to be curb failure. The shower head always seems to blast water directly into the back corners of the shower.

And you mentioned ''tile contractor''. I've caught tile guys red handed cutting and putting screws into the pan. I've witnessed major hackery of shower pans at curbs.

Can you cut a hole in the ceiling below to see if there is any damage to the floor?

You sound like a stand up guy. Good Luck.

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