Help! Shower drain is leaking like a sieve

Discussion in 'Shower & bathtub Forum & Blog' started by dprocket, Feb 25, 2009.

  1. dprocket

    dprocket New Member

    Messages:
    19
    Ok, I'm in the middle of a remodel of my basement and am just getting ready to install a shower in this new space downstairs. Unfortunately for me, I discovered two nights ago that I have a MAJOR problem upstairs that is going to keep me from finishing the basement for a few days.

    I walked out into the garage in the morning and discovered the ceiling of the garage looking like this:

    [​IMG]

    As you can see, there is a massive water leak, and it is spreading all over the dry wall ceiling and leaking out at the seams. It's uncertain when this started...I would guess that it may have been a few days before the drywall was saturated enough to soak through. I called a plumber who lives close to my house and he came over to look at it. He told me "I'll find the leak, but I'll need to cut some holes. I'll probably start at the biggest water spot".

    Not having great confidence in him, for some reason, I decided to jump in myself. I figured I could cut holes in drywall as well as anyone and since he said he was just going to guess where to start, I did the same. As you can see, I cut one hole in the ceiling. It was large enough for me to stick my head up there and see the drain and supply lines. I was also able to have the water turned on to see where the leak was. At this point, i was not sure which of the two bathrooms had the leak (also, whether it was shower, bath, faucet, drain, etc.) as the morning we discovered the water spots all had been used.

    When the shower was turned on, i could see water spraying like crazy. I was then able to cut another hole in the ceiling directly under the trap for the shower with the leak (the one we use all the time of course!).

    Here's a couple of pictures I took of the trap from underneath.
    [​IMG]

    After looking at the drain up close, I discovered that it looked like the drain trap had become detached from the shower drain itself. Bear in mind, I've lived in this house for nearly 5 years and we use this shower daily! I have no idea why this would break now and how it have happened. To my knowledge, drains like this don't just "break".

    Upon further examination, I went up and looked at the drain from the top. Here are a few top views... One of them is the drain itself. Another shows a small screwdriver pushing the trap away from the drain. This where the leak is. Dorry for the poor quality of some of these pics. My camera kept wanting to use the flash and it makes the picture look a little weird.

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    I have several other pictures that may provide a better view, but the site only allows 4 pictures in a post. Here's a link if you'd like to look further...
    http://picasaweb.google.com/dprocket/ShowerGarage?feat=directlink

    So, here's my questions....
    #1 - any ideas why this would break?
    #2 - is this straightforward enough to fix?
    #3 - I assume I will need to tear out all my wet dry wall as it will likely grow moldy. Is that an accurate assesment?

    Thanks for looking and thanks in advance for the feedback!!
  2. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,641
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    drain

    The drain being black on black, it is very difficult to see how it is, or was, connected, but something does not look correct.
  3. dprocket

    dprocket New Member

    Messages:
    19
    that's right....

    I can put my finger into the drain and feel movement and a gap between the trap and the drain itself. It looks like it was glued together. I wonder if the glue just came off. Is that possible? Never heard of such a think happening.
  4. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,349
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    The problem with your theory about the "glue just coming off" is that it isn't glue as we normally thing of glue. Both PVC and ABS are solvent welded together. Because they are different chemically, the two types of pipe use different solvents, but the basic idea is the same. The solvent melts the surfaces of the pipe and fitting. When the pieces slip together the two surfaces combine. A few seconds later, the solvent drys and the pieces are joined. It could be that the surfaces that were joined did not have a good coating of solvent when they were assembled and what was there held the pieces together for 5 years then broke apart:confused:
  5. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,015
    Location:
    New England
    Using the wrong glue, or glue that was old at the time (most of the solvents gone - i.e., thick) would produce a joint that was not strong. Repeated expansion and contraction from the heat of the drain water and if the run was long, pushing as the run moved with heat/cold could cause this.

    Can't tell, is the drain ABS also? Connecting ABS to PVC is a tough, sometimes unreliable endeavor.
  6. dprocket

    dprocket New Member

    Messages:
    19
    Update

    I thought I'd post an update on this problem and get more feedback. I have a physical issue that has kept me from digging into this issue for a while, but I'm going to work on it again soon.

    I took another look at this drain, and upon closer inspection, it's pretty clear that the pipe simple broke. You can see the separation from the trap pipe to the drain fixture. Looks like I'll need a new drain and trap. It also looks like the drain nut is glued in (which is common, the threads are glued when the nut is attached). Is there any chance that I can remove this drain without ruining my shower base?

    Here's a picture for reference.

    Attached Files:

  7. kingsotall

    kingsotall Plunger/TurdPuncher

    That's weird. I don't think that same problem could happen in a million years. It must have been under considerable stress.
  8. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,015
    Location:
    New England
    Does the base of the shower flex when you are in it? Over the years, the weakest point would be the point that breaks...
  9. dprocket

    dprocket New Member

    Messages:
    19
    i haven't noticed it flexing but will have to look at it closely. I believe there was some sort of drain-cleaner that put down there a few months ago (something like a Drain-O, one of those bad chemicals that people on here do NOT recommend).

    Could that contribute to the problem?
  10. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,015
    Location:
    New England
    It shouldn't hurt the plastic pipe...
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