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Thread: Lower tiles in shower popping

  1. #1

    Default Lower tiles in shower popping

    Hello Helpful People,

    I have recently had a low level bathroom remodel done (plumbing all stayed in the same place, really more of a redecorating). I am still suprised (I posted before) about how much I need to know about actually how to do the work in order to supervise professionals.

    My ugly shower was replicated with a new fiberglass Jacuzzi brand shower pan, ceramic tile walls on two sides and a shower door and enclosure on two sides.

    Shortly after beginning to use the shower, the lower row of tile started popping out--the grout (essentially a "no grout" app-the tiles were butted together) started chipping off the top, the tile started to flex. I can tell now that there is definitely water behind the tile.

    It would be hard for me to believe that there is a breach in the integrity of the tile after watching the shower put in--it seemed very professional and careful.

    I am now thinking I have a leveling problem on the shower base which was set into a large amount of mortar. It seems that the two sides of the pan slope in opposite ways, creating an area for the water to improperly pool in the weep channel in the back instead of flowing out the weep holes. I would guess that if the water pools then it could wick up into the backer board and pop the tiles out.

    What I'm looking for is advice on my assessment of the problem.

    Also, this was all done professionally by liscenced, bonded people. No corners were cut on my end in paying for pro services. What can I expect these pro's to do to make it right? If the shower pan is the problem (plumber), should they pay to fix the tile and reinstall the shower enclosure?

    Thank you in advance for any assistance. Jgv

  2. #2
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    San Diego


    First, you should not have to supervise professionals you contract with. It is the job of the contractor to supervise any and all work on the job.

    Tiles should not be popping off. SOmething is clearly wrong. Without being there we can't tell if it is a bad tile job, the pan moving, or a water leak causing all this. I would start by calling in the tile contractor and let him look at it.

  3. #3

    Default Tile guy

    The tile guy said he thought it was "grout release" and put some caulk over it.

    My husband is getting involved now and seems to have a better understanding (as you suggest) that it isn't my/our job to figure out how the pros manage their job.

  4. #4
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Cave Creek, Arizona

    Default tile

    I don't think there is anyway to do a "groutless" tile installation, with the tiles merely butting against each other, and not have the water get behind the tile and make it come loose, like yours has.

  5. #5

    Default Not actually "groutless"

    It's not actually groutless. I used a poor choice of words to try to explain that the grout lines are very small. Until I had this problem, I thought the less grout, the better--less room for water to get in.

  6. #6
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    New England


    On the tiles that popped off, is the stuff behind it soft or hard? If it is soft, then they used mastic, not thinset to put up the tile. Mastic should NOT be used in showers, and will result in problems for a long time. Did they use greenboard, drywall, or cement board on the walls? If not cement board (cbu) then any water that gets through will cause the greenboard or drywall to swell, and the tile will come off. Moisture will not hurt cbu or the tile, nor the thinset once it all sets up. The cbu should also have had a moisture barrier installed behind it against the studs. That could either be plastic sheeting or roofing felt. The alternative is to put a waterproofing membrane up on top of the cbu, such as RedGard (paint on waterproofing), or Kerdi (sheet material). There are other brands of those products that work well, too.

    Tile can also have poor adhesion if they let it skin over (take too long to put a tile on) before the set the tile on it.

    www.johnbridge.com is a good place to discuss tile. They have more pros skilled in that area than usually frequent here.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  7. #7

    Default John Bridge


    I made my way over to John Bridge at the above link. Also posted pix. My hubby and I have been trying to learn--seems like the premixed stuff used to set the tile was a poor choice.

    None of the tiles have fully popped off. the damage started shortly (a week or two) after getting back in to that shower. Recently, after the tile dried out a little bit when we were on a vacation, and then we showered, it was very easy to flex a couple of tiles and see the water squeeze out from behind.

    Any recommendations on what i expect the tile guy to do? Should he pay for the new tile? the enclosure reinstall? the hardware reinstall? the tile? Any advice on how to communicate what I expect from him?

    Thanks, Jgv

  8. #8
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Cave Creek, Arizona

    Default tile

    The smaller the grout line the better, possibly up to the point where the joint is so small that the grout cannot be "pushed" all the way into the joint and just seals the surface. If it was a bad installation, then he should do whatever is necessary to make it a good one, even if that entails tearing everything out and starting over with a cement board foudation for the tile.

  9. #9

    Default negotiating with the tile guy

    How would a novice (me) convince the tile guy that a couple tiles pulling away and some grout flaking would require a tear out? I am assuming that because of the amount of work required and the pride involved that he would think/believe/hope that some repair would solve the problem. And possible a repair would work--for a while--which isn't good enough considering the $ involved.

    I so appreciate your assistance, jgv


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