Mysterious Shower leak

Discussion in 'Shower & Bathtub Forum & Blog' started by Prkno, Feb 9, 2012.

  1. Prkno

    Prkno New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    California
    I noticed when I turned my shower on, after about 30 seconds, a tiny stream of water starts running out of the area where the drywall and fiberglass tub enclosure meets into the tub area. (see picture attached) I removed the escutcheon plate where the shower arm screws into the elbow and couldn’t see where it was leaking. It looks like more invasive methods need to be used. To get to the plumbing, the exterior stucco needs to be broken out (new stucco, a month old!) or if I am lucky, I can saw out some of the drywall and hope the leak is above the fiberglass. I think the piping is copper. Has anyone had this issue before? What I am looking for is a logical method of tracking down and fixing the leak without causing a lot of damage. This bathroom was added in 1987 as a spare and in the past twenty-five years the shower was used an equivalent of six months. Any advice is appreciated. Thanks.

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  2. cacher_chick

    cacher_chick Test, Don't Guess!

    Messages:
    3,281
    Location:
    Land of Cheese
    Unless it is a one-piece unit, the fiberglass surrounds all come apart.
    Each make and model has it's own trick to getting it apart without breaking it.

    If needed, I would rather replace a surround that the stucco.
  3. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    15,422
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    If it's high, it's normally the shower arm.

    Lower and I would be looking at the tub spout.

    But anything is possible, even a nail through the drywall and into the pipes that has rusted through and left a hole.
  4. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,332
    Location:
    New England
    Or, when they did the stucco, maybe they nailed through the pipe when attaching the lath? The other thing that can happen (among many) is the elbow the shower arm attaches to cracked.
  5. ahosh

    ahosh New Member

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    Westchester, NY
    Drywall is easy to repair, I would cut a hole, run the shower head and see.
  6. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

    Messages:
    4,843
    Location:
    North Vancouver, BC
    You mention a tiny leak.

    I think what you have hear is a massive leak and only a tiny amount is coming out.

    When you remove the shower head can you see the shower arm going into the wall? Any chance you have a friend with an inspection camera?

    My wife and I had a rental property and the lady who rented the place from us caused a huge flood. Turned out to be like mentioned above a cracked shower arm.

    Some are chrome plated brass - most are chrome plated plastic. If the room is a guest bath perhaps the last guest moved the shower head and the shower arm cracked inside the wall. This is why I think you have a huge leak and only some of the water is making its way outside of the finished wall.

    JW
  7. Prkno

    Prkno New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    California
    Mysterious Leak

    Wow, a lot of good info received! Some additional info: the stucco is a re-stucco so they just sandblasted and applied new texture so thankfully it rules out damage from that. I crawled under the house to the tub area and gave it a good look. Nothing wet and the subfloor seems sound. A little rot at the foundation vent but that might be from the elements. Looked up the hole where the copper is running up and no signs of water and the insulation is not wet. I'll follow the advice you guys have left and hopefully it is as simple as the shower arm or a cracked elbow. Cutting the drywall for exploratory seems the least path of resistance. Unfortunately, this is a one piece enclosure. If there are any other ideas or how I should proceed if it is not an easy fix at the elbow, I would appreciate them. Thanks to all for the quick responses! Dan
  8. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

    Messages:
    4,843
    Location:
    North Vancouver, BC
    If it was easy anyone would do it.

    Rule out the shower arm first. If you need to open the hole around the shower arm location you can use a hole saw to do this.

    It's easier to first drill through a block of wood and then hold the wood in the position it needs to be. This will keep the hole saw from wandering.

    I would want to see in through the cracks after the new shower arm is installed to make sure there are no new leaks.

    If you have to open a larger hole later for what ever reason you could always turn it into a shampoo niche!

    :)

    JW
  9. Runs with bison

    Runs with bison Member

    Messages:
    897
    Location:
    Midwest
    Many of the aftermarket shower arms supplied in recent years were improperly threaded and could not/cannot be properly seated to prevent a leak (all of the Danco ones that seemed to be the only type carried by the big box and other stores for a year or more.) On inspection I found that they had wide shallow square threads rather than V shaped. I don't know how long this went on, but I discovered it when I changed to brushed nickel fixtures and shower head. I finally just put the orginal shower arm back in. I checked every hardware store I visited for about a year and they all had this problem. I notified a few managers that their stock needed to be returned as defective but that rarely accomplishes anything. I forgot about it and when I checked again perhaps two years later I found that the old stock was gone and the new ones appeared to have proper threads.
  10. Prkno

    Prkno New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    California
    Mysterious Leak-Fixed!

    Well, it turned out to be the shower arm. I took it out, inspected it, cleaned the threads and applied a hefty layer of teflon tape and no more leak. Thanks again to all of you for your helpful advice!
  11. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

    Messages:
    4,843
    Location:
    North Vancouver, BC

    That was too easy. :)

    Nice work fixing the leak.
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