Failing Shower Pan/construction?

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Joshua P Reddick

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Background: I have lived in this house for 2 years. The house is 12 years old. This shower is in the kids bathroom which I don't pay attention to much. Anyway, one day they pointed out mildew on the wall above the beadboard. I ended up tearing the wall out where I replaced a leaking cpvc pipe.
Now for the reason I'm here: now that I'm inside the wall, I see no vapor barrier behind the concrete board, and with the shower already tiled, I have no idea if a paint on membrane was used. The whole pan liner job looks pretty sloppy. There is water sitting in the crease where the concrete board and oatey liner meet, and the concrete board is wet for a couple of inches. This is NOT left over from the leak. It's had a few months to dry out. Is this a problem? Basically, I don't know whether to tear the shower out or just throw up a piece of green board and start getting things back together.
 

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WorthFlorida

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How about pictures from the shower side. Between the tile and the backer board there should be at least a RedGard coating. Most water penetrates from the grout which is extremely porous. It looks like it is on the first floor floor concrete slab. The floor membrane that runs under the floor tile should come up the wall about six to eight inches. The backer board then overlaps the membrane. That silicone stuff shows poor workmanship. Just like any other water leak fix, it needs to be sealed on the water side.

Depending on your budget to go a full redo or just a fix, you can remove the wall tile from about a foot down to the floor and all floor tile. Then do it all with a contrasting tile.

This site has a very large tiling forum and tons of information.
https://www.johnbridge.com/

This is my bathroom remodel performed by a licensed plumber and it past county inspection. This is a step down with no curb. The original had a curb and about three inches if concrete on top of the recessed slab. It all came out easy and only a membrane was used. The wall was dura-rocked and coated with RedGard.

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jadnashua

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The wood plate appears to be wet. That means problems. I do not understand the overlapping liner material. FWIW, there should be some blocking between the joists to allow the liner to be anchored and help hold it in place.

It is normal for a shower pan to be damp, but liquid water implies it is improperly built. Plumbing code requires that the waterproofing (and no, that is not the tile!) must be sloped to the drain. If it is, and the weep holes in the drain are kept clear during the build, any moisture that does get beneath the tile should flow out down that sloped liner into the drain...IOW, after a short while, there should be no liquid water there, but things can remain damp.

It's not unusual for the cement board (cbu in the industry) to get damp which is why you are supposed to either put a moisture barrier behind it against the studs, or use waterproofing on top of it under the tile (not both!). It's tricky to get a liquid waterproofing on the walls over a mud bed, so the conventional shower construction calls for it to be against the studs. On the vertical, most of the water is directed down the wall by gravity, so not much seeps into the wall. Depending on the construction method, if the pan is constructed properly, there's no accumulation of water in the pan, so there should not be much wicking from the bottom up into the cbu, and again, with both the liner behind there, and a moisture barrier on the studs, it doesn't matter. CBU is not waterproof, but should not be damaged by moisture IF it is installed properly. There should not be any holes in the liner beneath 3" above the top of the curb...a common failure point is to nail CBU onto the curb. Even if the cbu is then covered with some waterproofing, it breaks that rule unless you use a full shower waterproofing method (different build method entirely), making the entire shower waterproof rather than just moisture proof.
 

Joshua P Reddick

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How about pictures from the shower side. Between the tile and the backer board there should be at least a RedGard coating. Most water penetrates from the grout which is extremely porous. It looks like it is on the first floor floor concrete slab. The floor membrane that runs under the floor tile should come up the wall about six to eight inches. The backer board then overlaps the membrane. That silicone stuff shows poor workmanship. Just like any other water leak fix, it needs to be sealed on the water side.

Depending on your budget to go a full redo or just a fix, you can remove the wall tile from about a foot down to the floor and all floor tile. Then do it all with a contrasting tile.

This site has a very large tiling forum and tons of information.
https://www.johnbridge.com/

This is my bathroom remodel performed by a licensed plumber and it past county inspection. This is a step down with no curb. The original had a curb and about three inches if concrete on top of the recessed slab. It all came out easy and only a membrane was used. The wall was dura-rocked and coated with RedGard.

xNK6fT_XYTFx9tffKBUZXEVs41hjz7N9qBlJ-Kmf-rt0qNmiZv06OLPJVROiJCMAHVSry3h6pFbElI8RnoZOA9TFqSebflDrA6lndQ-wtH9WPC8AI87U6eVf8DP3HUT8_aWVQ3A2oUMrUchTOCy02FoqLVtR6Fx2_ZMU2HdyD1wBFZ7H1tfIMvL0imQ5QG0myabdQPIN6t2tA_jxO_SEoN39-KfUG34OSjhAElP4G56Ej9YxLi3ieWqvIvQdp6ykw6zN8nWmz99Ee-NENy6vQmahQG3vWOccrs7Mxcn-NZJprcZ1Tk8GLrrXoMYVFZKybW4I3WiigBG8rUJaWHNwD57RMdHOJsS-sbB7pIQhiAbD9fFx8UI8dk7m_wnlRCUuP7vjYlIc1rHRtG8JO5_lw5ykaaeq4zRTIwMTbpQTaQQLPmXeFso3EoofsbDL1bi17zPbZEO8PA0GJawNkLUI8ZcKHn9dK1arpNkC7ORn__uWypzZGh78n-UEzAGCQG_CFHQif0fGrhVBPUqJfdIHY0Q9NXLGmnGao_P8urW4upVtHAYX1TtbYGJj0rvoWa2YyxmrtfSOqBkledEuJH7bEP6ksr58Z8Q2eGs6SDLk7UONg-yc4Yp6r28_Sh2FkLKDyPl5RVPHs4Sh32t5OR1KM3sC4i91BvodSPJU2znmWuWNYSs1BGelXtQ5muKq=w1116-h1486-no
 

Joshua P Reddick

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I tore the tile off today and found my answer, no vapor barrier period. Everything is wet. I'll be redoing a shower this week. I mean, whoever did this, didn't even tape the seams. On the plus side, most of the concrete board is still good. I'll be tearing out whatever shower pan they did next and I'll start from scratch
 

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jadnashua

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You're going to have to take the lower section of cbu off the wall to install the new liner properly unless you decide to go with a sheet membrane like Kerdi...but, then, you'd also need to replace the drain to one compatible with that method. If you take something like an ice pick or awl and poke at the wood, if any of it is punky (the point digs in easily), that should be replaced as well. Wet by itself, isn't a reason to replace it although, when it dries out, it might warp. Once you have the lower section out you'll want to do two things:
- install blocking between them to support the liner, and notch in the corners and lower down so you don't get a bulge in the cbu when you reinstall it.

There are numerous methods of building a reliable shower shown in the industry bible the TCNA handbook (updated annually). Pick one, follow it, and with good workmanship, you'll have a quality shower that should last without problems. For help in building it, check out the site mentioned...www.johnbridge.com where they specialize in tiling things. I'm not a big fan of cpvc piping, but it works. It's not as robust as some other materials, but quick and easy to install, so it has a lot of fans. It can get brittle as it ages, but if it's protected, not a big deal. And, the ID is smaller than copper, which can affect the volume and pressure, but okay if sized properly.
 

Joshua P Reddick

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Thanks for the tips. I will, tear out the pan, remove the lower cbu, tear out the bench, add blocking, pour a new pan, new liner, tape seams, paint on membrane, then new tile. Fun.
 

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Thanks for the tips. I will, tear out the pan, remove the lower cbu, tear out the bench, add blocking, pour a new pan, new liner, tape seams, paint on membrane, then new tile. Fun.
The plumbing is CPVC out of the concrete subfloor, but I will convert to PEX from floor up.
 

WorthFlorida

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At least a good backer board was used. I had a home for 26 years in Palm Beach County (suburban Lake Worth) built in 1989 and only green board was used. It turned to mush with water seeping through the grout. I redid it with DensShield and years later I found a leak at the valve body. From the garage side I was able to repair it with no mold or water absorption.

The corner bench, if you rebuilt it, put down about a two inch base of concrete for it so the floor tile will edge up to the concrete and not a 2x4 with a backer board and the membrane.
 

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I'm going to use a corner shelf when I redo it. I've only done one other shower before, but the made these metal form shelves that screw into the studs that you fill with mud and then tile over, I really like them on that shower.
 

jadnashua

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I really prefer a surface applied sheet membrane versus a conventional shower build. Either can work fine if you do it right.

The Better Bench can actually be installed on top of the finished, tiled wall. Or onto the cbu, then the tile up to it. Installing it directly onto the studs is the hardest to waterproof properly. Keep in mind that cement isn't waterproof, but is not damaged by being wet once it cures. An exception is if it is steel reinforced, like say a bridge that gets saturated with salt water that causes the steel to rust, expanding, and cracking the concrete.

Or, if you decide to build a bench rather than a shelf, there are numerous ways to do that. You really don't want to build it out of wood unless you're using a sheet membrane as keeping it waterproof and the wood dry is tough. You could build something that is called a monument bench, where the thing is made out of cement bricks or block inside of the liner...then, it doesn't matter if it gets damp. Or, there are formed foam benches that can be installed that won't absorb any moisture.

FWIW, if you build your pan out of the proper material, it's more of a wet beach sand...it doesn't really pour. You pack it and shape it. Check out www.johnbridge.com

Wedi, Kerdiboard, and a few others are quicker to put together, and make a totally waterproof pan AND wall system, which is one reason why I like them. To get an idea of how one of those go together, check out www.schluter.com . Wedi has some videos, but I think Schluter's are more extensive, and there are subtle differences in how they go together.
 

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Well, as you'll see from the pics, I tore out the whole shower. No vapor barrier period. No preslope, just liner on slab, there was a sloped top bed, but it didn't do any good, because the pan liner to the drain was wrong, whole curb rotted due all the screws in the liner, the drain was all glued together so I had cut it out.
Anyway, I have a question....I'm getting ready to install a new drain and start redoing this, but do I assume there is a p-trap beneath the dirt somewhere? Or do I need to keep digging?
 

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jadnashua

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Typically, the p-trap is straight down so if you pour some water into the line, and maybe use a flashlight, you should see standing water. While not ideal, the trap, if it exists, could be offset from the riser, but that has the potential of all that extra pipe getting crud (soap scum, etc.) building up and smelling since it's above the trap.

Are you going to go with the same, conventional shower build method? My personal preference is to use a surface applied sheet membrane, then the entire shower becomes waterproof rather than just the pan, immediately beneath the tile. Costs a bit more, but cheaper than rebuilding it if something goes wrong!
 
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