shower leak in condo - who to call and help?

Discussion in 'Shower & bathtub Forum & Blog' started by Poisson Cru, Sep 18, 2008.

  1. Poisson Cru

    Poisson Cru New Member

    Messages:
    9
    I’m in an upper condo of a two unit condo building in Santa Monica, California. The owner below, (which hates me and doesn’t speak to me), notified me by a third party that our shower is leaking and damaging the ceiling of her unit and that “the lack of repairs by a licensed contractor is compromising the integrity of the structure…and that I need to stop use of the shower immediately†A photo was attached showing the drain and plywood subfloor taken from an access door in this neighbors unit as below. I assume the black marks are areas of dampness. Does this photo help?

    The tiled steam shower was constructed in 1994. The neighbor complained 8 months earlier of the same problem. I spent a day cleaning the tiles, and re-caulking all the corners, the curb, and the glass shower door. I didn’t hear anything from the neighbor for 8 months and assumed that all was ok. At the time I noticed that the slope on the curb was backwards, water pooled on the tile floor next to the drain flange, the 5x5 tiles have settled a small amount in regards to the drain flange, and the grout in some areas is worn. I have not yet inspected the weep holes to determine blockage. Here is a photo:

    One of my problems is I don’t have access to the inspection door underneath, and need to have a licensed ?? to make an appointment with the neighbor to inspect and evaluate. I don’t know how bad the problem is and exactly where the problem is: If it is a problem with the curb or with the shower pan, or ??
    The question I have is who do I need to employ? What type of professional should I call?

    Should I first start off with a home inspector who can take photos and document the problem? Or should I start off with a plumber to make a leak test? Or should I contact a tile –grout expert to renew the grout, reset the tile on the curb to slope and seal, or should I start off with a general contractor and tell him to tear and repair?

    Attached Files:

  2. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,051
    Location:
    New England
    First, neither tile nor grout are waterproof, and no amount of caulking will fix a pan that is leaking...it can slow it down, but not stop it. Adding steam further complicates things as it produces MUCH higher vapor pressures, and waterproofing everything is essential. Your pan could be okay, but in a steam shower, EVERYTHING must be done well, or you can get condensation inside the walls, and mess things up. Tile should NEVER sink in a shower. That is a sign there's a big problem. A properly built steam shower would not leak even if it had no tile on the walls if it is built right. An improper slope on the curb is not a sign of quality contruction, either. In fact, that could be the source of all of the leaks (if you are really lucky). The curbtop tile could be redone to put a slope into the shower, and if it has been leaking out onto the bathroom floor, might fix it.

    You're well past the typical installer's one-year warranty. It might be time to tear out and replace.

    You might want to seek help and opinions at www.johnbridge.com. They specialize in tile there and are generally quite helpful. There are a few people that dabble in tile here, but we don't have the depth they do there (at least in my opinion).

    The details on building a steam shower are quite demanding. Latticrete, Schluter, and Noble are manufacturers of products that work well to produce a quality, long-lasting waterproofing system in a steam shower. I'm most familiar with Schluter's stuff. Any shortcut in construction will lead to water damage.
  3. Poisson Cru

    Poisson Cru New Member

    Messages:
    9
    Hello Jadnashua,
    I posted the same as advised on johnbridge.
    If I understand correctly, you advise that I contact a tile specialist rather than seeking a plumber or home inspector.

    If we go the Schluter Kerdi route, how much will I need to demolish? Two feet up from the floor or all the way to the ceiling? How would I find a Kerdi installer in Los Angeles?
    thanks,

    Malcom

    Heres a photo of the shower.

    Attached Files:

  4. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    You are in an unfortunate situation, in that you will need access below to install or repair the drain. A plumber should do the drain work, but a tile contractor will do the membrane and pan work.

    Try to keep a low profile regarding the neighbor. Have your contractor work through that "3rd party". If things get tense, contractors will walk out on you, because they don't want to be in the middle of your neighborhood jihad. Any friction will cause delays , which will cost them money.

    Your insurance will cover repairs to any damage to the neighbors property. You are on your own to fix your property. Try to get all this done and keep the HOA out of it. If the neighbor beefs to them, then out of due diligence responsibility, they can be forced to fix things and send you the bill. SO stay on top of this, and get it fixed.


    There are lots of potential leakers in a shower like yours. But the picture does seem to show water right around the drain. See if you can arrange for a very competent plumber to inspect that drain, from above and below, to see if it is something which can be repaired. If the basic install is incorrect or failed, all the caulk in the world is just a bandaid.

    Find a good plumber, or better yet a general remodel contractor. He could handle the whole job.
  5. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,051
    Location:
    New England
    Shower benches are notorious for leaking if not done right, too.

    Kerdi is a total system...you'd need to gut the shower to do it right. See what the pros say...you're in good hands over there.
  6. Poisson Cru

    Poisson Cru New Member

    Messages:
    9
    general contractor to take control

    Jimbo,
    Very good insight. I think you're right in having a General Contractor to take control of the situation in this neighborhood jihad.
    In our neck of the woods, Los Angeles, all the contractors swear by hot mopping. There are outfits that have 20 fleet trucks that do nothing but hot mopping every day. I think the Schluter sales rep for Southern California has not done a very good job in the market place here.
    One thing that irks me about the install job is the metal flange for the drain is higher up than the tile. Water pools and sits at the drain flange edge for hours or days. Is this poor installation or settling of the tiles on the mortar bed over time? Is this common or is this a worry??
    Thanks
    Malcom
  7. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    Hot mop is very "old school". I can't imaging why they are still doing that.....probably because a car load of illegal aliens can put it in quick and cheap. To meet specs, hot mop jobs have to be three courses....I'll bet they aren't doing that!

    Personally, I would not go there. Vinyl pan liner, or Schluter.

    A proper shower requires PRESLOPE under the liner, so that the final floor slopes to the drain, and the liner also is sloped to the drain. Otherwise, you get stagnating water under the tile....odor problem.

    It sounds like you need to redo the floor.
  8. Poisson Cru

    Poisson Cru New Member

    Messages:
    9
    old school hot mop

    Hello Jimbo,
    I agree with you that Hot Mop is old school. Unfortunately, the contractors in our neck of the wood are completely sold on reputable firms doing hot mops. Most do at least 3 layers as well as an additional top coat.

    What does "redo the floor mean"...given the contractors here are married to the hot mop firms...does it mean: cutting the tile 3 inches above floor, removing tile, thinset, previous hot mop pan to mortar...then reslope mortar, new hot mop pan, new thinset, tile and grout???

    Or does it mean: demo all floors, walls, ceiling, curb, seat down to the studs...replace drain with new...new mortar, new hot mop pan, new barrier on walls, etc.???

    thanks
    Malcom
  9. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    we still don't know yet what the leak is. It may be in the connection of the pipe to the drain fitting, which possibly can be repaired. But if it is related to how the drain fitting is installed into the floor, that probably can't be repaired. You also mentioned a problem with the drain being too high.

    Anyway, that is probably the first step...to get it inspected to figure out what is really wrong.
  10. Poisson Cru

    Poisson Cru New Member

    Messages:
    9
    square drain tile height

    Hello Jimbo,
    the problem with the drain height is not the drain but the square drain tile ring which is above the tiles. The square drain tile ring prevents the water from draining into the drain and the water pools on the floor.

    Here is a photo showing what the square drain tile ring looks like. Do you know anything about these??

    Thanks Malcom

    Attached Files:

  11. Poisson Cru

    Poisson Cru New Member

    Messages:
    9
    shower pan

    Hello Jimbo,
    I agree with the inspection which should be this week. The owner-neighbor below us made her inspection by her contractor that stated that "the shower pan is leaking" so for the present I need to believe that the shower pan needs to be replaced.
    Malcom
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