Old Tile Sticking Out - Shower

ChristyMcKMarch 22, 2014

Hi. We are first time home owners and have lived in our 1939 home for the last two years with no problems (the previous owners did a lot of work after the first owners of 65 years left).

I think we may have our first issue. There is a column of two tiles about 4 or 5 rows high that are sticking out of the shower wall just slightly. When two tiles are pressed with my hand, others above or below move and stick out. It seems to me there may be some water that's gotten behind it. The tile and bathroom is vintage and we like it. The tile is all over the shower (ceiling too!) and floor of the bathroom.

Is this repairable or will it require tearing out the whole wall or whole shower full of tiles and replacing everything (ugh)? Any diagnosis of the situation would be welcome. Is this a job for a tiler, contractor, plumber or some or all of these? Not sure who to call first. I presume leaving it alone until we get someone to look at it is best since if we look behind we would let more water seep in?

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I wouldn't use the shower until it is fixed but I think you will need to redo the entire shower because of it's age. You should be able to get similar tile color to keep your vintage look. You probably need to remove the tile first (either yourself or a tiler) then get the plumber in to see what needs to be done. After it is fixed I would redo the entire shower. Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 4:05PM
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It's a total rip-out. It might last 6 months or so, but ultimately it will fail and leak. Sorry to be the bringer of bad news....

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 5:22PM
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Ugh...say it isn't so! (okay, well, I'm not surprised). Fortunately, we have two showers so we can leave it alone until it gets fixed. I appreciate the rapid input. It's a slippery slope since there is tile everywhere in the bathroom, including around the tub, floor, ceiling.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 6:55PM
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It is possible, but unlikely, that could be carefully removed, salvaged, and repaired. Older homes deserve a little more consideration than newer ones.

Gently remove as many tile as you can without forcing or breaking any; it'll help dry it out faster.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 9:08PM
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Trebuchet: We are definitely going to explore this when we talk to a tiler/contractor. The tile is actually in pretty good shape. I saw an article about this in This Old House but sometimes things in magazines look easier said than done.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2014 at 10:07PM
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I have the same sort of problem with my tub/shower surround, although it is definitely not as bad as in your case. Basically, my bottom row and some of the second row tiles sound hollow when you tap on them. I've found a grout cleaning/repair company which also does tile removal, repair of the wall and then replaces the tile. They will also remove all grout in the entire surround and regrout with epoxy grout. I'm trying to restore my 50's bath because I like the tile color and retro look.

I'd suggest that you definitely stop using the shower until it's been repaired. Also, carefully pry off any very loose and bulging tiles and put them in a safe place. If they fall off the wall and break, you'll be in a pickle unless you've got some spares laying around. While there is a NOS tile store and even a company that will make custom tile, both options are very expensive. Another possibility besides restore is to just remove the tile in the shower up to a clean/secure line and replace it with other tile or a neutral solid surface material (e.g. Corian) that goes along with the color of the remaining tile. I considered that option but decided to try restoration instead.

Looks like you have pink tile. Take a look at the following website.

Here is a link that might be useful: Save the pink bathrooms

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 6:42AM
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Tape a sheet of plastic over the wall and you can still use the shower.

But water intrusion is one of those things where, especially with older construction or DIY installations of old, once a symptom of water intrusion rears its head a gut rebuild is usually more cost effective than a spot repair.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 1:49PM
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Dreaming: loved the link to the pink bathroom site - I never knew! It makes me wonder if the bathroom is actually from the 1950s (the kitchen was remodeled in 1956 - we found a tag in a drawer with that info).

mongoct: fortunately we have another shower we can use. we are hoping for the best (restoration) but will prepare for the worst (new shower tiles).

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 3:04PM
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Just FYI, we took off several tiles and it is cement behind. Must have been the standard in 1939, when the house was built.

We've had two contractors look at it and they both say that it is fixable with the current tiles for a reasonable price. I think we were lucky that behind the tiles it was cement and so the tiles have come off pretty easily in whole pieces.

I really do like the retro (50s?) bathroom (and our 50s kitchen). Being able to restore it feels like such a win!

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 3:01PM
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I love a happy ending! :)

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 7:00PM
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