View Full Version : shower leak

11-15-2004, 01:10 PM
I recently had a shower leak behind the tile and the sheetrock. I can see the tub from the basement and can rule out the drain. I have replaced the seats and washers. I also have sealed the tub with caulking although I have not sealed the spout or handles. The leak occurs after about 15-20 minutes of use and is very minor only about 5-6 drops are visible. Any ideas what it could be. I don't think it is the pipes because I don't have leak when the shower is off. Could it be a diverter valve or the hot and cold stems. It occurs both when the downspout and the shower are used.

any advice would be helpful

11-17-2004, 06:17 AM
Worn tub spout lips allow water to run back under the spout to the wall and down. One possibility. The slowness of your leak indicates that it must need to soak through the wall before it drips. You need to caulk around your spout. Run your shower without anyone in it to splash water on the walls. That will help you decide if it's plumbing or not.

11-17-2004, 09:35 AM
I have run the shower with no one in it for a half an hour and no drip, I was able to look at the pipes while the shower was running and they were dry. Thanks for the advice

11-17-2004, 10:11 AM
That would indicate that the leak is not plumbing. That the leak occurs when someone is in the shower and the water is bouncing off their bodies onto the walls and around the spout and valve. Caulk them.

11-17-2004, 09:09 PM
Hey Lonny the Plumber, I was reading the following threads and was wondering what you mean when you talk about the spout and valve, where is that in the tub exactly?

11-18-2004, 03:44 AM
The spout is where the water comes out to fill the tub. The valve has the handle that turns the water off and on.

11-20-2004, 02:18 PM
I have exactly the same problem. When someone is in the shower, for a long time, water leaks into the basement. I have been trying to fix this problem for several years. I first had various seals replaced. Then I had the entire thing retiled. Since that didn't work and the guy who did the tiling job came back many times with various tubes of sealants, I then had completely new plumbing installed. It still leaks. My current idea is that the person who did the tiling didn't put something I just read about on an older LOVE forum, a tile flange. Perhaps someone could give me advice on this. Thanks very much, Ruth

11-20-2004, 04:23 PM
Not all tubs have a tile flange. There are ways to waterproof a tub/shower without one. When the tile work was done they may not have put in a vapor barrier or handled the walls properly to prevent water from getting behind the walls and causing a leak. The junction of wall to wall and wall to tub should be caulked, not grouted. Lots of things can be done wrong, and most can be right - all it takes is one thing wrong and you can have a leak. Are there any cracks in the grout?

11-21-2004, 01:09 PM
OK, that is good for me to understand. I know that behind the tile is a kind of green board. I know that lots of caulk has been applied, for example at the bottom where the tile meets the tub, around spout, escutcheons, along the shower door. I do not know whether grout or caulk was applied at the base of the green board, where I was thinking there should perhaps be a tile flange. I read in an older Terry Love forum that if this joint isn't done properly, water can wick to the back, back behind the wall, which is where the water begins to accumulate in my case. My understanding from that forum was that the green board is a hard surface, the tub is a hard surface, and there has to be something with a bit of flexibility between the two. Otherwise, if anything moves, a crack would appear in a joint with no flexibility.

I cannot see any obvious cracks in the grout, but I will look again. Other things have also made me wonder about the grout. I am wondering whether the grout could just be poor quality such that small amounts of water can seep through. One plumber mentioned to me that there is some type of grout sealant.

So two possible courses of action at the moment are 1. grout sealant or 2. Take legal action against the tiling guy to have the tub to green board joint redone. It would probably mean essentially redoing the tiling job.

To review the symptoms: When someone takes a long shower (it is a tub with a shower), if you open up from the back behind the shower head wall, you can see water accumulating in a small channel that is in the tub on the other side of the tiled wall. This small channel is just a part of the tub, when the tub goes back of the shower head wall. I believe that the green board sits either in this channel or in front of it. Anyway, the channel fills and then starts overflowing into the basement.

At the moment, I have two shower curtains, one on either side (that is one that runs against the side tiled wall and another that runs along the door). When someone takes a shower, we pull these two shower curtains together at the front and clip them together. We still get leaking. It is very difficult to figure out how. But it seems to me either the front tiled wall itself or perhaps some water is getting around the curtains to the base of the front tiled wall and then getting wicked back.

It is also very hard to "make" the leak happen by splashing water directly on either the wall, eschucheons, wall to tub joint etc, usually you can pour lots of water on and no water leaks over. Then sometimes you pour lots of water and eventually will see a bit of leaking but it is hard to figure out what you did to make that happen. Thanks again for your help. Ruth

11-21-2004, 02:23 PM
Before addressing your channel identification, I don't think it's lack of tile flange. We usually don't have them on cast iron tubs. Does the shower leak when no one is in the shower? This is an important distinction. Also Does it leak when only the tub is used. When you say the plumbing has been replaced do you mean a new faucet and a new drain? I doubt that your problem is poor grout or lack of sealing. Many jobs don't get sealed. I don't think legal action will get you anywhere. You haven't identified problem in order to identify a duty from which negligence can be asserted.
The channel. Am I understanding that water is accumulating on the tub between the studs and the tile caulking? That the caulking is not allowing the water to get out? And that the problem is identifyng how the water is getting into the channel? It would be important to confirm that the water does not accumulate when no one is in the shower and the shower is running.

11-22-2004, 08:06 AM
Yes, correct, it only leaks when someone is taking a shower, not even when the shower is running when no one is in there. It is a regular white tub with tiled walls on three sides (walls retiled to attempt to fix leaking problem). There is a sliding shower door on the side where you go in. You can open up a panel on the back side of the shower head wall. When you do this, what you see is that the tub extends back behind the shower head wall for may an inch or a little more. This extension is not flat, but contains a dip in it which I call a small channel. So there is a small channel or divet that runs along the front of the tub, and it is behind the tiled wall. You can only see it from the back and then only a small portion because of wood supports and things. My impression is that the green board that the tile is on sits in this channel or divet, or perhaps in front of it (hard to see).
New plumbing means all the pipes back there for the faucets and shower and new, shower head is new faucets are new. I can't see any leaking from the plumbing itself, nor can the plumber. Thanks so much for your help on this, it is really very difficult to figure out how the water is getting back of the wall into this divet. The problem is that the channel or divet is only maybe an inch front to back and 3/4 inch or so deep. So it fills up and spills over. R

11-22-2004, 08:26 AM
I should perhaps clarify one other thing, which is that it really wouldn't matter whether this channel is there or not, the problem is that water ends up behind the tiled wall, no matter who or how many times everything is caulked. All the channel does is accumulate water for a little while before it starts to drip into the basement. If the channel weren't there, I guess it would just start dripping down sooner. Thanks again! :confused:

11-23-2004, 05:19 PM
Do I understand correctly that when someone is in the shower for a long time you accumulate water on top of the tub lip that leaks into the basement. That you have had this problem for several years. That it does not leak when you run the shower without anyone in it. That you have had a plumber replace the faucet and you have had your walls retiled. That the tile installer has been back several times and has recaulked. That you have two shower curtains now that you clip together and you still get water in the channel that leaks into the basement :o ?
Perhaps you should post your circumstance on Terry Love's friend johnbridge.com site. John Bridge runs a top tile site and the tile setters may have some insight. Tell them the plumbers sent you. That LonnythePlumber's getting a headache :( . They have a sense of humor :rolleyes: or something.

11-23-2004, 06:22 PM
You said that you have green board behind the tile. While this is not the CAUSE of your leaking problem, it is going to be THE problem by the time you find the leak. Green board is not adequate as a sustrate for tile. It is moisture "resistant" but definitely NOT water proof. Depending on how much damage has already been done, you may have to redo this entire shower.

11-24-2004, 09:07 AM
Thanks so much for the good ideas. Yes Lonny the Plumber, you have the exact picture, and I do believe it is some kind of tiling problem. Another useful thing is that now I understand that what I have been calling a "channel" or "divet" is the tub lip, if I understand your message correctly. By the way, do most regular tubs have this lip, back there behind the wall?

About what I have been calling the "green board", the tiling guy told me that it was the best stuff to get. If the board is the problem, well that is the surface all the way up and down and around. So, yes, this would mean a large amount of work. In other words, the $800 I spend to retile everything is wasted and basically, we would have to start over again. I forget the exact name of this green board, I am just calling it green board because it is green. It isn't exactly wall board, it did have a very tough feel to it. Might I ask you what would have been the better surface for mounting tiles on? Thanks again to both of you for your kind help. Ruth

11-24-2004, 04:21 PM
I don't know that you have a tile problem. I'm not reading any of the warning signs we usually get on tile work. We're dealing with a 1% to 2% kind of occurence. You had this situation before retiling and replacing the faucet.
The green gypsum (sheetrock) is moisture resistant (MR). However it is smooth. You post that yours is rough. You may well have the preferred concrete backing boards (CBU).
Jim's caution is that grout is porous and water can get through to eventually wash out the rock. He is in a larger market and they have a higher standard than some others. In setting tile on rock you put a solid layer of mastic pressed into the paper to form a barrier before you set the tiles. In my area most of the showers have been done in MR and mastic until this past decade. There are still many 40 and 50 year old rock and mastic jobs that are holding up. It is unlikely that that is your problem in this instance.
$800.00 for a bathtub shower retile is a good price in my area of Wichita, KS. I don't know what part of the country you are in but I think you got a good price. If this is a tile problem then the price is not so good. I don't anticipate that the cure is going to be expensive but that is projection until we know.
Yes all tubs have a lip. The steel and fiberglass tubs have more of a lip than the cast iron tubs. I have been presuming yours is a cast iron.
Do you have a window or soap dish? I recommended you post on johnbridge.com because they have a sharp group of thinking professionals that might be able to offer some additional insight. I think you need to reverify all of your information. That it only leaks with someone in the shower. Take a careful shower and see if water appears.

11-25-2004, 08:36 AM
Ok, good information. The stuff behind the tile is definitely not like sheetrock, it is not smooth. It is hard and could be the good cemented stuff. A guy at John B's suggested the possibility of a small leak as water is coming in, something about blow-by such that a small amount of water seeps out and back. Will have plumber come back to check out this possibility. I am still worried about the tub:showerhead wall joint. My husband forgot to clip the curtains last night, and it just really flows down into the basement. It is not as bad if you clip the curtains. I suspect that what happens is that some can still get back behind the curtains and that is why you still get some leakage.

I know the tub spout pipe was a problem at one time. When everything was put back together after the tiling job, then I had to buy a new piece of pipe, like a little extension pipe to screw the tub spout in to. The reason was, well it is hard to explain, it was like the pipes come in 2.5 inch or 3 inch long, one was a bit too short and the other was a bit too long. The one that had been in there for 30 years was 2.5 inches, so it was a bit too short, and yes this I think had been part of the original leaking problem. Another thing was that the new tiling may have been a bit thicker so that whereas the 2.5 inch connector pipe had been ok for 20 years, it was really too short with the new tiling. So I bought the 3 inch long connector thing, and they could screw the tub spout all the way down (pipe tape and all sorts of goo in there). the only thing was, the back of the spout was now no longer flush with the newly tiled wall because of the longer connector. So, what happened was that the tiling guy pulled back from the back to pull the faucets etc a bit further back, and put in a block of wood to keep it back, then sealed up the whole thing.
THe only thing is that this whole thing has now been replaced, new tub spout, I suppose the block of wood must have fallen off when they put in the new plumbing, and I doubt that 3 inch connector I bought is still there. Anyway, I am bringing this up here because you are a plumber. Hoping to get tiling advice from the other forum, but it is hard to understand those guys. Mastic and rock and CBwhatever board. Ciao for now and enjoy your Thanksgiving. Ruth :confused:

11-25-2004, 08:47 AM
PS. Yes, this situation was present before the wall and tiling was replacee and all new plumbing put in. One hypothesis I had was that perhaps there was a tile flange 30 years ago that was completely gone. Then the new tiling guy didn't put one it, problem recurs. I know you don't have to have a tile flange but is it possible that one (or a reasonable facsimile) is useful for this particular tub. It is a regular old white tub. Soap dish at back, well the tile guy switched to inset shelves at the back, but where the soap dish was is gone and covered by the curtains. no window, tiled on 3 sides, sliding glass door on fourth (all sealed up).

What is meant by the tub lip? Is this just the top of the wall of the tub or is it this indentation in the top of the wall of the tub? Thanks, R