Leaking ADA compliant shower stall

June K.February 21, 2014

DH and I moved into a new construction apartment and have an ADA compliant shower stall in our master bathroom. We have two issues that may or may not be related:

1. We noticed leaking around the door brackets right after our first shower and have been careful to point the showerhead away from the door and wipe up any puddles right after we shower. Despite these efforts, the marble floor tile right outside the shower darkened and took on a wet look. The dark, wet look spread to about 10 sq ft, about 3 ft in one direction, 5 ft in another, even though any puddles were really small, say 6" diameter tops, and only right by the shower door. I thought given how far the wet look was spreading and that we were wiping up puddles, there must be a leak *under the floor tile.* But the tile contractors swear up and down that the *aboveground* leak around the door brackets is the cause. They claim that this leakage is penetrating the grout in front of the shower door and spreading underneath the marble. Is this possible? Is it possible for a small leak (but continuous up to 15 minutes at a time) to cause marble to get wet 5 feet away over a period of several weeks?? The tile contractors have every incentive to deny an underfloor leak because this would be their responsibility.

2. The shower leaks from under the rubber doorsweep (the flap at the bottom edge of the door) and around the moving hinge. These areas can't be caulked. The shower glass installers have blamed the tile contractors (surprise, surprise) for installing the marble saddle level instead of pitched towards the shower. But it sounds like even with the right pitch, water will be getting out. Ultimately, I would not care if the marble didn't discolor, a puddle here and there in itself wouldn't bother me. But we have the same marble tile in the shower and even after a month of non-use, the marble still has a wet look to it. Based on this, I expect any leak, however small, to cause a permanently discolored area outside the shower, only question being whether it will be small or get big like before.

I've attached a few photos. The one with the towel in it shows the darkened marble floor tile. I know it's kind of hard to see the darkening, there is one really dark patch in front of the vanity cabinet. The tile contractors did replace most of the darkened floor tile and the other photos show what it looks like now. We have not used the shower for a month now because we're afraid of getting this tile dark, too.

We have been dealing with this for 3 months. The different subcontractors blame each other and no one wants to fix the issue. We are not their clients, the developer is, and he is willing to do only so much to fix our problem. I would really, really appreciate some advice on this.

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June K.

I'm sorry I don't know how to upload multiple images at once, here is one of the pictures.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 4:50PM
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Is there waterproofing under the tile that is outside of the shower footprint?

Did they put in a capillary break under the marble saddle?

I'd hope that with a shower like that they'd have used a topical membrane on the floor and tiled right on the membrane.

If the entire area is waterproofed and then they simply thinsetted the tile in the shower, thinsetted the saddle, and thinsetted the tile outside of the shower, water could be wicking out of the shower via the continuous bed of thinset. Or mud bed or cement board if there's mud/board under there.

There should have been a capillary break under the saddle to essentially isolate the shower floor from the bathroom floor.

In your first photo, the floor to the left (in front if the fixed glass panel) looks wetter than the floor to the right (in front of the shower door).

If the shower head is on the left behind the fixed panel, I'd guess that it's more of a capillary break issue than a leaky door issue.

But that's in internet diagnosis. Could be sketchy at best.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 5:12PM
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Unless there are pictures, the tile guys can't prove that there is a capillary.

What needs to be done to correct this? Remove the glass doors, pull up the saddle, and install a capillary?

Keep after the builder. You should not have to be dealing with the individual tradespeople. That is the builder's way to deflect the problem. It's his responsibility.

Take pictures during discovery and repair. Research how to properly build this kind of shower. Are you even sure that the rest of the shower is built correcdtly, such as slope, moisture barrier, etc.

My builder played games with me until I just gave up. My shower sat unused for 10 years until I was ready to remodel. When I tore it out before Xmas, I found multiple problems. Twisted framing, unlevel slab, unlevel cm pan when it was cast, unlevel cm walls when they were cast. The builder had spray painted in red to make the corner plumb and it was not done. The builder kept sending the cm folks out. They kept saying the shower door was installed incorrectly. I wish that I had studied up more on the proper way to install a cm shower when I bought the house so I could realize that everyone was pointing the finger and everyone was at fault. So hang in there.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 6:09PM
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June K.

Mongoct, thanks so much for your insight. I saw your name mentioned on other threads and was hoping you would respond! This is what I know:

-There is some waterproof membrane beneath the tile floor outside the shower to prevent leaking into the apartment below. I saw the tile installers remove and reinstall the tile outside the shower stall. It looks like there is a membrane (the waterproof membrane, I'd assume) as the bottom layer, then a mudbed(? I think that's what it's called), then thinset, then the tile.

-I'm not sure if there is a capillary break under the saddle, but based on my vague recollection of speaking with the head tile installer, I believe there is not one.

You are correct that the showerhead is on the left behind the fixed panel. The left side wasn't any wetter than the right side, the only particularly dark patch was in the center in front of the vanity cabinet as pictured. Having said that, I'm getting a sinking feeling that you are correct about the absence of a capillary break being the problem. We were really focused on the right side because the wet marble seemed to fan out from there. But thinking back and looking at pictures I took, the wet marble fanned out from BOTH sides. Since the left side is mostly covered by the vanity, we were not focused on it.

The tile installers removed most of the affected tile/mud in front of the shower door and the fixed panel. They applied a black waterproofing paint on the vertical surface of the mud underneath the marble saddle that was now exposed once the tile next to it was removed. Would the paint-on waterproofing fix our problem? They did not remove tile / paint the waterproof for the leftmost 10 inches or so of the shower stall (they said the tile here was too difficult to remove with the fixed glass panel in place), but if we expect this will fix the problem, we will hire someone to do this if they are not willing to.

Based on the visit from the shower glass installers today, it sounds like the tile installers may have to remove and reinstall the marble saddle with the proper pitch. Would it be a simple matter to install a capillary break at this point or would they have to remove adjacent floor tile in the shower and if so, how many rows?

THANK YOU so much for your help.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 6:11PM
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It's hard to say if their repairs were correct because I don't know what the real problem was.

Let's say it's a wet room. There is a continuous waterproof membrane on the subfloor, both in the shower and outside the shower. Then a mud bed. Then tile.

That's a case where the thinset and mud bed under the shower tile can wet, and the moisture in the shower mud bed can "plume out" under the shower partition wall and wet the mud and eventually the grout and tile on the bathroom floor.

A "possible solution" without demoing the shower wall would be to remove a several inches of tile on the bathroom floor side of the saddle along the entire length of the glass partition wall. Dig out the mud to expose the membrane. I'd even undermine the saddle along its full length by digging back the mud about 1/2" back along the length of the saddle.

I'd want the exposed membrane to be clean.

If the vertical wall of mud under the saddle was coarse and rough, I'd then patch that vertical wall of mud under the saddle to make it smooth.

I'd want the underside of the marble saddle to be clean.

I'd then use a waterproofing membrane to tie the exposed floor membrane to the underside of the saddle. I don't know what type of membrane you have, but it would have to be compatible with the floor membrane. If you can use a paint-on membrane like Hydroban or RedGard, paint it on the floor membrane, on the smoothed vertical wall of mud under the saddle, and onto the bottom of the saddle.

That will connect your floor membrane to the bottom of the saddle. Any moisture in the shower floor mud will now be contained within the shower footprint.

Now pack new mud in the excavated area outside the shower and re-tile.

It's not a perfect solution, it might not even be the right solution because that may not be how your shower is built. But it's an idea of how I would consider making repairs were I the one doing so.

The problem I have with them patching the area around the door is:

If it was not the door leaking and it is a capillary thing going on down below, depending on how they detailed the added membrane when they made the repair by the door, they might have simply masked the presence of the moisture down below. ie, the moisture is still there. And more moisture is being added every time you shower. But by adding waterproofing on top of the wet area, they might just be sealing moisture into the bed. So the marble by the door may appear drier because it's above the new waterproofing, but the mud below the new waterproofing is still wet.

If the area in front of the door where they made the repairs dries and the area to the left of the door where they made no repairs remains wet, that's an indication that what they did was a band-aid cover-up and not a true repair.

Again, there could be several possible causes and several possible repairs because there are several ways to build a shower.

I'm guessing and supposing.

I'll be gone for a few days, good luck with it all!

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 8:35PM
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I know this thread is almost a year old, but if you were able to fix your curbless shower using the approach described above, I'd like to know how well it worked? Or if you ended up doing something else? I have a similar problem with my shower now and was going to try something similar to fix the leaking.

This post was edited by thingreen on Fri, Jan 30, 15 at 23:09

    Bookmark   January 30, 2015 at 11:08PM
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