Need help - leaking shower stall with no clear cause

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Justin in NJ

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Hi everyone,
I have found this forum to be a great resource for tackling DIY problems, but I think I am a bit out of my league here.

I live in an 8 year old home and approximately one month ago, noticed a crack on the ceiling below where the master bath lays along with a yellow spot. I tracked the source to our shower, but it isn't clear where the leak is coming from.

There is a wet spot on the wall next to the shower stall that seems to accumulate moisture.

I had our handyman recaulk the entire shower, but this doesn't seem to make a difference. He tried caulking the weep holes at the lip of the shower pan, but the problem still presented itself. Talking to various people, some of recommended closing the weep holes and others say they must remain open. Everything I have read online says to keep these holes open, however the problem did first occur with the holes open.

I have filled the pan and detected no leaks. I have also read about weep holes in the drain in some types of shower that the moisture that builds up behind the walls. I had the homebuilder over the inspect the issue and he told me that this type of prefabricated shower pan has no weep holes in the drain, so didn't think that was the issue.

He seems to think the shower door is the issue and needs replacing. I'm not sure why this is though because there is never any visible water outside the shower during or after a shower.

The wall behind the shower was removed from the adjacent room to check the plumbing for leaks and there didn't appear to be any. One of the pictures I posted is the wet spot behind the wall next to the lip of the shower pan.

I am wondering if it is somehow condensation that doesn't drain properly behind the grout and tile, because
the wet spot on the outside wall seems to appear around 30-60 minutes after taking a decent length hot shower.

Otherwise, I am planning on replacing the shower door as recommended by the home builder, but I am terrified that the problem will just represent itself after all the dry wall is fixed and repainted.

I'm in Central Jersey if anyone can recommend someone knowledgeable to come fix the issue! Thanks!

Appreciate everyone's thoughts on where to go next.
 

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Reach4

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1. Run water directly down the drain with a garden hose for a good while. Do any leaks appear (a few hours or a day) later?

2. If no, plug the hole (test plug, rubber stopper etc). Fill the pan just enough to cover the drain. Does the water leak out?

3. With the hose, play water on the left side. Do any leaks appear? Then the right. Then the back. Then the shower door.

4. If no leak symptoms appear, you could test higher.

5. People often get water on the floor during a shower, without realizing that. If you cannot find another leak, consider that. Maybe park a water alarm, such as Basement Watchdog, outside of the shower.

I am not a pro. What I propose could take days, since the leak does not appear right away.
 

Justin in NJ

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When I pour water directly into the weep hole it comes out on the exact spot that's wet. Could it be that there is a lot of caulk accumulation preventing the natural condensation from draining out?
 

Justin in NJ

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The only way I've been able to emulate the problem is to put water directly into the weep hole


1. Run water directly down the drain with a garden hose for a good while. Do any leaks appear (a few hours or a day) later?

2. If no, plug the hole (test plug, rubber stopper etc). Fill the pan just enough to cover the drain. Does the water leak out?

3. With the hose, play water on the left side. Do any leaks appear? Then the right. Then the back. Then the shower door.

4. If no leak symptoms appear, you could test higher.

5. People often get water on the floor during a shower, without realizing that. If you cannot find another leak, consider that. Maybe park a water alarm, such as Basement Watchdog, outside of the shower.

I am not a pro. What I propose could take days, since the leak does not appear right away.
 

Justin in NJ

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Just to follow up, the builder thinks there is an issue with a crack where the shower door meets the tile letting water drain through. Does anyone think this is possibly the cause? Thanks
 

Justin in NJ

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Just as an update, running a cold shower causes no issues with wet drywall besides the shower but a hot steamy shower does.

Could it be an issue with condensation that makes its way behind the tile not draining properly? Thank you.
 

MTy

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Not a pro but learned a lot about building showers from the folks at johnbridge.com when I was building mine. The guys here are great plumbers but this sounds like more a tile shower issue.

One thing I learned was tile and grout are not waterproof and in a properly constructed shower you should have no leaks even without tile, grout, and caulk.

Try pulling off the shower handle trim. See if you can see what material your tile is attached to. If you can't see that way if you have a closet backing the shower you could cut a small hole and see. I suspect that you have plain drywall or cement board with no waterproofing. Both no nos and likely your issue.
 

Tuttles Revenge

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1. Run water directly down the drain with a garden hose for a good while. Do any leaks appear (a few hours or a day) later?

2. If no, plug the hole (test plug, rubber stopper etc). Fill the pan just enough to cover the drain. Does the water leak out?

3. With the hose, play water on the left side. Do any leaks appear? Then the right. Then the back. Then the shower door.

4. If no leak symptoms appear, you could test higher.

5. People often get water on the floor during a shower, without realizing that. If you cannot find another leak, consider that. Maybe park a water alarm, such as Basement Watchdog, outside of the shower.

2.1. Plug drain and fill shower base to its flood level. This checks for cracks in the entire base before tile and threshold.

All the above is an excellent process of elimination
 

wwhitney

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Just as an update, running a cold shower causes no issues with wet drywall besides the shower but a hot steamy shower does.
Then run the hot water through the shower head into a bucket and capture it all, disposing of it in the toilet. That will show or rule out a hot water supply leak.

(Although I'm unclear what mechanism would show a supply side leak on only running hot water, not running cold water or when running.)

Cheers, Wayne
 

Reach4

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Just as an update, running a cold shower causes no issues with wet drywall besides the shower but a hot steamy shower does.
Could it be that the cold shower does not have a person splashing around, but the steamy shower does?

If both empty, how about condensation running down the glass only for the hot shower.
 

Justin in NJ

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I have run a hot shower and a cold shower with nobody in it but only the hot shower seems to cause that moisture seen on the drywall to the left of the shower at the base. The moisture doesn't appear till around 45 to 60 minutes after the water is shut off so it seems to me like it's condensation and sweating on the shower walls from the hot shower that somehow leaking behind the tile.

The house was built 8 years ago so if there truly is no proper waterproof thing, could it have taken that long for the problem to present itself?

I have tried all the other suggestions including taping the drain and leaving water in the base and this does not replicate the problem.
 

Tuttles Revenge

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The moisture doesn't appear till around 45 to 60 minutes after the water is shut off so it seems to me like it's condensation and sweating on the shower walls from the hot shower that somehow leaking behind the tile.

Hence the reason Wayne suggested to run that water via a hose from the shower arm outlet to the drain directly so it can't condensate. The only way that could be a leak in the wall is if there were a crack in the valve casting that only opens up when hot.. and a long shot of circumstance.. Opening the valve trim plate would expose that as the wall would be wet and probably water staining.
 

MTy

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Did you try the hot shower right after the cold or on separate days? I just can't imagine how condensation could build to that level.

From personal experience I can tell you it is possible to go 4 years (prev owner had the original shower torn out and replaced for sale purposes) with an improperly waterproofed shower and have no leaks or sign of water damage. The shower tub combo (used daily) I tore out had cement board with no waterproofing. Studs were perfect and no leaks. My impression from the tile pros is you never know when you will have an issue and my situation appears to have been the exception, not the rule.
 

Justin in NJ

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Did you try the hot shower right after the cold or on separate days? I just can't imagine how condensation could build to that level.

From personal experience I can tell you it is possible to go 4 years (prev owner had the original shower torn out and replaced for sale purposes) with an improperly waterproofed shower and have no leaks or sign of water damage. The shower tub combo (used daily) I tore out had cement board with no waterproofing. Studs were perfect and no leaks. My impression from the tile pros is you never know when you will have an issue and my situation appears to have been the exception, not the rule.


Separate days. After running the hot water, all the tile is moist on the front wall, which is the side where the wet spot is forming.

Wall doesn't get moist with a cold water running.

The builder opened up the wall behind the shower faucet to look at the plumbing and there was no active leak after running the shower for 30 minutes
 

Justin in NJ

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Also, could this simply all be due to a clogged weep hole? I can also replicate that wet spot by pouring water into the weep hole adjacent to that wetspot
 

Justin in NJ

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Should also mention there is a very musty smell in the bathroom.

Gut the whole shower and remodel?
 
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