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We just had our bathroom redone (including built-in tiled shower). The shower tiles are now leaking through the wall into our living area.

Our contractor suggested to just apply a waterproofing solution to the grout lines (especially floor/wall join where we suspect the leak to be), but I am worried this is only a temporary solution.

So, will a waterproofing solution (such as UFIXX No Leak) work permenantly, or do I need to get the tiles re-installed with the waterproofing re-done?

The bathroom is only about a month old.

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Click for larger view

The white marks are where the contractor drilled/dug to investigate.

We noticed the water marks above the skirting, and when we removed it, it was soaking wet and the plaster was soft and you could dig it with your fingernail.

The contractor assures me it is not the pipes, as they are higher off the floor so we would see damage higher up. The damage is the worst at floor level, pretty much opposite where the shower cubicle is (and where water pools during showering, soon drains and leaves just a thin film that will evaporate)

Edit: Questions from comments

Do you have a basement? What is under the shower?

It's a low-rise apartment (2nd floor) so it's another unit below.

Is that sheetrock or cement board? Is there any waterproof membrane (rubber, plastic or paint-on?) under the tile or board? Have you determined which side the water is coming from?

The floor (under the tiles) seems to be concrete, the wall between living and bathroom is solid but I am not sure of the material (he had drill/chisel the holes to investigate, brick or concrete or something similar). The water is coming from the bathroom, we have not used the shower in 2 days and the wall has dried up considerably.

Also: water pooling when you shower = sign of really bad contractor. At this point, I'd start over. Gut and rebuild

I maybe was unclear, it doesn't pool for long, drains in 30-60 secs until there is just a thin film of water that will evaporate.

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Do you have a basement? What is under the shower? –  DMoore Aug 13 '13 at 15:05
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Is that sheetrock or cement board? Is there any waterproof membrane (rubber, plastic or paint-on?) under the tile or board? Have you determined which side the water is coming from? –  DA01 Aug 13 '13 at 15:35
    
Also: water pooling when you shower = sign of really bad contractor. At this point, I'd start over. Gut and rebuild. –  DA01 Aug 13 '13 at 15:36
    
From everything you are saying it could be the wall but it is most likely the pan. First water should never pool in a shower for more than a few seconds. Then the areas of your wall could have gotten the water from the pan (lack of waterproof membrane) then it pools on your concrete flooring and your floor is sloped to the wall in question... –  DMoore Aug 14 '13 at 6:35
    
Thanks! I think I can eliminate the main piping now, as it is dry 2 days later without having used the shower. Still possible to be the pipe after the mixer, but this feels unlikely. Spoke to building management and there is nothing else in that wall. Trying to find someone to give a second opinion on site, hard to do in Malaysia the rules/law is pretty relaxed here! –  Adam Heath Aug 14 '13 at 6:47

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I honestly don't even see how a poorly done tile job can leak this quickly. I can tile and grout a wall pretty sloppy and it will be good for at least 4-6 month and possibly a lot lot longer.

The short-term fixes you can do now are exactly that at best - short-term. It is possible that you will spend money trying to waterproof after - which in no way is ever the answer - and it could possibly have no impact.

You need to get your money back from this contractor. Even a bad contractor puts up some sort of water barrier in a shower. A bad contractor would put up the tile with a bad grout job or wrong grout and maybe the drywall gets wet and eventually moldy. Your contractor either has no clue or is insanely lazy. You cannot let him back in your house.

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Wow this is scary! He was recommended by my sister-in-law who used him for their previous houses. So I need to get it all taken down and re-waterproofed and then the get the tiles put back (or replaced)? Thanks –  Adam Heath Aug 13 '13 at 7:40
    
I am really really sorry Adam. BMitch has good reasons on why it could fail. The fact is any of these (other than the pipes inside the wall) constitute a total redo. That is the cheapest way to fix it for longer than a couple weeks. You do not want the leaking to start damaging other areas. Also open up the wall there and triple check that it isn't the pipes. If it is the pipes maybe you shower can be salvaged. It looks like a really bad job but I like the tile you picked out. –  DMoore Aug 13 '13 at 14:54
    
If it isn't the pipes then the two big problems are the lack of water barrier and the lack water resistant materials to make the tile housing. I drywall (1/4") then plastic then HB (1/4 inch) and cover seams with thinset. Without tiling this would not leak for a long time... –  DMoore Aug 13 '13 at 16:30
    
Thank you very much for your help, thankfully we have not paid the contractor the final payment yet, will get another contractor to take a look first and see where else he may have gone wrong! Marking you as accepted :) –  Adam Heath Aug 14 '13 at 0:27
    
Yea it sucks. There is nothing other than putting up trashy looking fiberglass to fix something like this. Why showers are a PITA. –  DMoore Aug 14 '13 at 0:38

Since the plaster wall (hopefully drywall) has gone soft, I'd open it up. Cut out a section from the floor 2' up (I pick 2' since you can see a lot but still use a half sheet of drywall to repair it, leaving the other half to repair your repair). You don't want to leave drywall that's gotten that wet installed anyway.

For it to get this wet this fast, I can come up with the following guesses:

  • You've been using your shower as a bathtub, blocking the drain, and getting significant water pressure against the tiles.
  • The floor is improperly slopped and water is staying against the wall instead of draining.
  • You have a leaking pipe before the valve. The wall would remain wet or get worse when the shower is unused.
  • You have a leaking pipe after the valve. If you replace the shower head with a water tight cap and open the valve, you'll notice water without the shower tiles getting wet.
  • You have a bad seal around some opening in the tile (e.g. the plate that covers the valve) and water is spraying against it. These should be sealed around the top and sides, but open on the bottom to drain out any water that does happen to get behind them.

That said, without a water barrier behind the tiles in a shower, you've got a time bomb. Even if you fix the current problem, the tiles and grout are porous and will slowly leak water into the structure of your home, causing it to rot and mold. They shouldn't leak so fast that you'd see the current problem, but they will leak. A surface water proofing will help, but it won't prevent it.

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I agree. I would add my recommendation for a second opinion from a contractor who is NOT trying to come up with reasons why he couldn't have done something wrong. I vote for: A) Leaking after the mixing valve, B) Slow leak before the mixing valve, of C) Significant lack of proper water barrier or completely inappropriate materials. Your quote from the contractor that "it is not the pipes, as they are higher off the floor so we would see damage higher up" says it all (and is complete bunkum). Water will always prefer to run downward, along things like pipes, until it reaches a >90 degree angle. –  Jacob S Aug 13 '13 at 13:43
    
Thank you very much, very useful points. Shame I can't accept both DMoore's and your answer. @JacobS Thanks, I will look for a contractor for a second opinion –  Adam Heath Aug 14 '13 at 0:28

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