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Background

Thanks to a shifting foundation, the tile in one of our showers cracked along a corner and water got in behind it. We know that at the least the wall behind the tile has fails as it caved in when I leaned on it while cleaning.

We have had a few handymen tell us that the job is too large for them, and at the moment licenced contractors are describing this job as "too small" unless we want to do an entire bathroom remodel.

I've had one handyman offer to install a new surround if we do the demolition and mold abatement ourselves. So my question...

Question:

What is the process for safely removing the tile, wall board and potentially compromised framing elements and abating the remaining mold in a residential shower?

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Start out by using a pry bar and snapping the tiles off the drywall. This way you'll avoid cracking and breaking them up. Then remove the drywall by just pulling it off the studs. Then you'll have to go back and pull out all the screws and nails. Hopefully the framing studs will not have to be removed and you can just treat them with some vinegar to kill the mold and mildew. Notice that I said vinegar and not bleach. Bleach kills surface mold but does not sink in to kill the roots whereas vinegar does. If the studs are rotten, best to remove them plate to plate and replace the whole stud. Remember to wear good work gloves because the tile and debris will cut you to shreds. Wear eye protection too along with a dust mask.

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When a tile is broken in this case the wall board is compromised. I would want to remove it and retile. Prior to the 70’s tile over water resistant Sheetrock was quite common less common was tile over standard Sheetrock. When it cracks as yours has yes it can be repaired, mold would not be my first concern but can be treated with 3% hydrogen peroxide. Repairing the backer is the #1 priority if you try to save it. I have been able to reclaim tile in the past and put up new backer board, today I would have to really like the tile to spend the time to clean it, but when I was young saving a couple hundred was worth my time.

You really need to repair the backer a bit wider than the damage and I try to have the seam in the middle of larger tile not on the grout line. It is almost impossible to match grout but if a strong cleaner or etch is used when you re grout with a close match rub the grout on all the old areas this helps to make a uniform color.

A tile repair is one of the hardest things to do even if a small area and some guys won’t try because it is hard to make an invisible repair.

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  • To be clear we will not save the plane white tile from the 1980's. We want to replace the tile with a vinyl surround which is less likely to develop cracks. I've removed enough tile to know there is mold in the wall. – John F. Miller Feb 7 at 5:04
  • If you remove the drywall the mold is removed, all wood products contain mold spores, infact a biocide is sprayed on fresh cut lumber to slow the growth but this only lasts a few weeks, after that time the wood needs to be in a dry location or the black mold will grow, don’t freak out there are hundreds of mold types and only a few are hazardous. If you want to kill mold use 3% hydrogen peroxide and water, no smell and very effective at killing organics (mold and fungus). I learned about hydrogen peroxide when working in a hospital decades back, it not only sanitizes surfaces it kills organics – Ed Beal Feb 7 at 16:17

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