Help! Grout Discoloration on New Shower Floor

twotzusApril 6, 2008

I hope one of you tile and stone experts can help me. We recently remodeled our bathroom. Our shower was completely rebuilt with a hot mopped shower pan and travertine wall tiles and floor. The tiler used Custom grout color Fawn on walls and floor and I sealed it with Miracle 511 Impregnator. After the first couple of showers, we noticed that the grout on the floor darkened starting at the wall and moving toward the drain. Not all areas of this floor grout darkened; it was just in spots concentrated on the side that we used (two person shower) I thought maybe I had not applied the sealer evenly missing some spots. So we stopped using the shower, let it dry out for a few days until the grout lightened up, and then I resealed again. As soon as we started using the shower the grout again started darkening, like it was wet. The spots started spreading until the whole floor of the shower has dark colored grout, although it is not even. At this point we had used the shower daily for about two weeks and the darkening of the grout pretty much spread across the shower floor although unevenly. Our contractor called the tile guy out to have a look at it and of course he said it is normal. But why would we pick a grout color to blend with the travertine tiles only to darken when we use it. I thought it was water seeping under the tiles from the corners which were NOT caulked but grouted. The tiler insisted that it was done properly. From reading this forum, I understand from tile experts that the corners of the floor meeting the walls should be caulked instead of grouted. Is this causing the discoloration? We have not used the shower for two weeks in hopes of letting it dry out so the grout can return to the normal color and then take it from there. But now we are not sure if it will ever completely dry out as it is mottled with dark spots. I hate it since it looks like mold. What do we do now? Can our contractor dig out the grout and apply caulk now? Will it ever return to the original grout color evenly? Where it has lightened up, I have noticed a "chalky" residue on the grout. What is this? Help! I have no idea what is going on and my general contractor isn't sure what to do, although he is more than willing to fix the problem. I have taken some pictures of the floor. Any advice is appreciated. We would like to start using our beautiful new shower but want to resolve this grout issue first.




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Possibly the shower pan is not sloped correctly, allowing water to sit rather than drain properly. If that is the care, and hope not, the only remedy is a redo. Do you have any "in progress" pics?

    Bookmark   April 6, 2008 at 4:00PM
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Your photos clearly suggest that water is under the tile. Most likely leaking from junctures between the walls/floor and the drain/floor. I do not see much of a margin at these areas that would make for adequate grout joints. These joints should be the same width as your field joints. Which was laid first the wall or the floor tile? Also is the floor tile stone or ceramic?
It would be impossible to get caulk to bond since the surfaces have been sealed.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2008 at 6:32PM
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Hello, yes I am thinking that water seeped under the tiles. The pictures don't show it but the grout joints are about the same width floor and walls. It is travertine. I don't think there is a problem with the shower pan slope because when we showered there was no puddling; the water drained properly.

What is the chalky substance? What should we do to fix this?

    Bookmark   April 7, 2008 at 12:32AM
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Your photos clearly suggest that water is under the tile. Most likely leaking from junctures between the walls/floor and the drain/floor.
I don't have time now, but the photos don't suggest anything of the kind.

I do not see much of a margin at these areas that would make for adequate grout joints. These joints should be the same width as your field joints.

Horsehockey. Perimeter joints, atleast on my installations, will never be more than 1/8", regardless of the field.

It would be impossible to get caulk to bond since the surfaces have been sealed.

That's immaterial because of the shower pan. Caulking in thos joints would be for movement, not sealing the joint tight.

I'll expand on this tonight.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2008 at 6:39AM
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OK, let's get some additional information here. It appears your grout joints are 1/8". Is the grout sanded or unsanded? Did the floor tiles come assembled in sheets? Do you have a curb? Most new curbs consist of doubled 2x4s cladded in cement board. They typically all leak prematurely and cause catastrophic damage. What material was used for the mud floor; sand mix or mortar mix? When did you last use the shower and does the grout seem to be drying?

    Bookmark   April 7, 2008 at 8:24AM
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The shower is tiled in Travertine: the walls are 18 inch "Stormy" and the floor is 2 inch tumbled Noce. Yes the floor tiles came in sheets. Yes we have a curb, but that side of the shower was the last to darken. I think we only used that side of the shower once or twice. The side by the shelves was the side we generally used.
We used the shower daily for only about two weeks and then stopped using it. It does look like it is drying out quite a bit. But you can see that there are still dark spots. We have not used it for two weeks now. Interestingly, there is a "rectangle" of dark approximately centered to the drain and toward the shelf wall (the side we used). It is lightening some, but you can still see it in this photo. I don't know if this is significant.
I tried to get a closeup of the juncture of the grout of the wall and the floor. This picture is beneath the plumbing wall and you can see a teeny tiny crack in the grout line. I noticed this from almost day one. When I questioned the tile guy, he said it was normal and when I suggested perhaps it should be caulked, as I have read on this forum, he pooh poohed that. I could see that getting in a fight with him wasn't going to accomplish anything and the gc is very open to finding a solution. The tile guy who is the sub did not do the actual work, one of his guys laid the tile and a different one did the grouting. Here is a picture of the crack.
I can't help but think this has to do with it not being caulked. I remember when we did our kitchen, the contractor (different one) insisted that the granite counter seam be caulked where it joined the travertine backsplash, and even called the tile guy out to remove the grout he had done and put caulk in. I have also read that is the proper way here.

The whitish residue on the grout bothers me. I don't know what this is. Did I use the wrong sealer? Miracle 511 Impregnator? Should I try to remove the sealer and if so, what should I use?

Bill Vincent, thank you for any help or advice you can give. I was hoping you would see this thread as I have followed your comments and advice to others here and in the kitchen forum (when we were doing our kitchen).

    Bookmark   April 7, 2008 at 3:39PM
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They typically all leak prematurely and cause catastrophic damage.

Like hell they do. I can take you back to the very first shower I ever did (my uncle's house) and it hasn't lost a drop yet.

As for the white discoloration, I can't help but think that's minerals in the water. It seems odd that it's only occuring right there in the general vicinity under the showerhead.

As for the caulking, Although it seems like caulking should've been used, it's normally not needed (even though it's supposed to be used at all changes in plane) because the shower floor isn't connected to the structure in any way, so it moves independently and therefore you won't usually get movement at that joint, But in that last closeup pic, it does indeed look like the joint has separated. That STILL shouldn't do anything to the integrity of the shower pan, though, if properly constructed.

About the only thing I agree that keeth asked that's relevant is about the grout drying. Does it seem to stay wet ?

    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 6:31AM
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We have not used the shower for two weeks. It looks like it is starting to dry out as the grout is lightening per the pictures. There are still a couple of deep dark spots. The chalky residue isn't just underneath the shower heads; it is in the grout pretty much all over where it had darkened. Bear in mind that we only used the shower for about 2 weeks before we stopped using it due to this grout issue. The reason I thought it might be due to the floor/wall junctures, is because it first started darkening at these seams and the darkening spread throughout the floor. Eventually the whole floor grout was dark. It reminded me of the look popular in the 80's where people used contrasting colored grout in their tiles. It was that dark. And here it is two weeks without use and there are still spots of dark grout.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 4:20PM
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Okay- with the information you have shared I would with great certainty conclude that your floor has taken in a considerably amount of water. The probably cause given the information on hand is the grout failure along the plumbing wall and floor juncture. A small separation can let a measurable amount of water in during a shower. Any water reaching the mud base is unacceptable. Regarding the chalky residue: it is symptomatic of a floor that has been compromised by water. My guess is that your installer used a mortar mix instead of a lean sand mix (I asked you about this in my last post) and what you are seeing is lime precipitating out via the joints. As for your fix: You can ask for a replacement of the floor and mud base. Carefully specify and monitor the materials being used as this is often your best insurance of quality project. Your contractor has an opportunity to do the right thing by fixing a "fixable" problem. Ignoring the problem is only going to make it worse unless of course you discontinue using the shower altogether.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 6:49PM
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I do think that water has seeped under the tiles. Why and how to fix it, I don't know. I spoke with my gc this evening and he agrees it isn't right and has assured me that it will get fixed. The problem is that he's not sure what is causing the problem and is leaning toward the sealer. Today I put a sopping wet washcloth down on an area that had lightened. Of course the grout turned dark almost immediately. After a few minutes, I lifted the towel and dried the spot with a dry towel and then used my hair dryer and it dried back to the light color right away. So this is telling me that water is under the floor tiles and causing the grout and tiles to darken. Why this is, I don't know. One possiblility is that maybe the weep holes were clogged when the mortar bed was set? Would that cause this?

Keeth, thank you for your information. I do not know what kind of mortar mix was used. That kind of specific information is way beyond my expertise. Heck, I'm a housewife and president of the pta. I don't know a thing about tiling and mortar mixes. Certainly not enough to make sure that the tile subcontractor is using the correct mix. My hope would be that my gc would oversee that kind of technical stuff. And he is willing to make this right once we get to the bottom of it.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 9:24PM
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I'll toss this out only because I came across one last year.

I was called about a shower with a similar problem, but like you shower, superficially there was nothing that technically wrong with the shower to cause moisture to reach the base.

I unscrewed the shower head and capped the shower arm, then turned the valve on. The cap prevented water from coming out of the arm of the shower head but allowed the plumbing to be pressurized.

Left it on for a while.

The floor grout began to discolor, showing signs of wetting. It confirmed my thought that there was a leak in the plumbing.

Demoed the wall through the back side and discovered a leak in the plumbing, whoever sweated one of the joints didn't do a complete job. The plastic between the stud and the cement board was also lapped wrong.

When the valve was turned on, there was a fine spray of water in the stud cavity. It hit the poly and ran down, running between the sheets and pooling between the poly and the cement board.

It would eventually wet the deck mud and discolor the grout.


    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 9:55PM
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ALL conventional shower pans are designed to accept water under the tile and in the mortar base. This is the reason there are weepholes at the base of the drain, and the reason why the Kerdi system is so revolutionary-- it's the first shower system where it IS designed not to let water get past the tile and grout.

Now, twotzus-- you definitely have one thing going here, and probably two-- first, I would imagine your shower pan is flat bottomed, instead of sloped to the drain. I'm sure there's a slope in the tile, but there should also be what's called a "preslope" UNDER the pan membrane, so that water that DOES get through the grout joints will follow gravity to the weepholes at the base of the drain and flow out the waste pipe. For whatever reason, very few tile installers or plumbers know that the preslope's even supposed to be there, and many who HAVE heard of it just don't care to spend the extra time required to install it. The second thing is the weepholes are most likely clogged, which is why the pan is filling up, and the grout joints are staying wet for so long. You're actually lucky that you're not seeing what looks like leakage on the backsides of the walls of your shower, because what happens many times is that water, once it reaches the bottom of the wallboard where it's buried in the mud, will start whicking up the wall board, much like dipping the corner of a paper towel in a small puddle of water. The problem with that is once the water gets over the top of the pan membrane, which at most, only comes up the walls about 10", will spill over into the wall cavity, and once enough of it has spilled in, it'll begin to show as a leak in your shower, and if left unchecked, could do alot of structural damage, as well as causing mold problems. The ONLY correct remedy is to replace the shower pan, although you might be able to get away (for now) with just taking up around the drain, unclogging the weepholes, and patching it back in.

For the benefit of your contractor, here are the codes that state the pan membrane must be presloped:

IRC Preslope code:
2000 IRC:
P2709. 3 Installation. Lining materials shall be pitched one-fourth unit vertical in 12 units horizontal (2-percent slope) to weep holes in the subdrain by means of a smooth, solidly formed subbase, shall be properly recessed and fastened to ap-proved backing so as not to occupy the space required for the wall covering, and shall not be nailed or perforated at any point less than 1 inch (25. 4 mm) above the finished threshold.

Uniform Plumbing Code related to shower pan construction.

"412.8 When the construction of on-site built-up shower receptors is
permitted by the Administrative Authority, one of the following means shall
be employed:
(1) Shower receptors built directly on the ground:
Shower receptors built directly on the ground shall be watertight and shall
be constructed from approved type dense, non-absorbent and non-corrosive
materials. Each such receptor shall be adequately reinforced, shall be
provided with an approved flanged floor drain designed to make a watertight
joint in the floor, and shall have smooth, impervious, and durable surfaces.
(2) Shower receptors built above ground:
When shower receptors are built above ground the sub-floor and rough side of
walls to a height of not less than three (3) inches (76 mm) above the top of
the finished dam or threshold shall be first lined with sheet plastic*,
lead* or copper* or shall be lined with other durable and watertight
All lining materials shall be pitched one-quarter (1/4) inch per foot
(20.9 mm/m) to weep holes in the subdrain of a smooth and solidly formed
sub-base. All such lining materials shall extend upward on the rough jambs
of the shower opening to a point no less
than three (3) inches (76 mm) above the top of the finished dam or threshold
and shall extend outward over the top of the rough threshold and be turned
over and fastened on the outside face of both the rough threshold and the
Non-metallic shower sub-pans or linings may be built-up on the job site
of not less than three (3) layers of standard grade fifteen (15) pound (6.8
kg) asphalt impregnated roofing felt. The bottom layer shall be fitted to
the formed sub-base and each succeeding layer thoroughly hot mopped to that
below. All corners shall be carefully fitted and shall be made strong and
watertight by folding or lapping, and each corner shall be reinforced with
suitable webbing hot-mopped in place. All folds, laps, and reinforcing
webbing shall extend at least four (4) inches (102 mm) in all directions
from the corner and all webbing shall be of approved type and mesh,
producing a tensile strength of not less than fifty (50) psi (344.5 kPa) in
either direction. Non-metallic shower sub-pans or linings may also consist
of multi-layers of other approved equivalent materials suitably reinforced
and carefully fitted in place on the job site as elsewhere required in this
Linings shall be properly recessed and fastened to approved backing so
as not to occupy the space required for the wall covering and shall not be
nailed or perforated at any point which may be less than one (1) inch (25.4
mm) above the finished dam or threshold. An approved type sub-drain shall be
installed with every shower sub-pan or lining. Each such sub-drain shall be
of the type that sets flush with the sub-base and shall be equipped with a
clamping ring or other device to make a tight connection between the lining
and the drain. The sub-drain shall have weep holes into the waste line. The
weep holes located in the subdrain clamping ring shall be protected from

*Lead and copper sub-pans or linings shall be insulated from all conducting
substances other than their connecting drain by fifteen (15) pound (6.8 kg)
asphalt felt or its equivalent and no lead pan or liner shall be constructed
of material weighing less than four (4) pounds per square foot (19.5 kg/m2).
Copper pans or liners shall be at least No. 24 B & S Gauge (0.02 inches)
(0.5 mm). Joints in lead pans or liners shall be burned. Joints in copper
pans or liners shall be soldered or brazed. Plastic pans shall not be coated
with asphalt based materials."

The same language also appears in the Tile Counsil of North America's Handbook, which are the specs WE must follow.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 10:00PM
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Mongo, I had to go tell my husband what you said about a plumbing leak because that was the first thing he suspected because the wet grout started under the plumbing wall. But then it appeared on the opposite wall where there was no plumbing and no dark in between to connect the spots. I pooh poohed that and convinced him to wait on having the plumber until we investigate this further. He After I told him about your input, he was quite mollified that his idea was entirely possible. :)

Bill, I asked my contractor today on the phone if there was a slope built into the shower pan and he said that yes, definitely there is. I remember seeing it after it was hot mopped and it seems to me it was sloped but I wasn't sure. I asked my husband tonight and he said he remembers it being sloped. Thanks for explaining about the "preslope", which now I understand is the slope of the shower pan. I'm pretty comfortable that it was sloped. But if the weep holes are clogged with mortar, would that be enough to cause this problem even if the pan is sloped properly? And I guess the only way to fix it is to tear up the tiles and unclog them? In googling and trying to find some answers I ran across this saga. It sounds exactly like the scenario you painted above. The photos of the wet grout and tiles seem similar to mine. What I can't figure out is why there is a bathtub spigot in the shower. :)

Here is a link that might be useful: Failed Shower Floor

    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 10:49PM
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I just want to emphasize one thing to make sure we're all on the same page. The "preslope" is what your membrane goes on top of, that way your membrane is sloped.

Since your shower is hot mopped, when you saw the hot mop was that sloped?

I have to say that guys I've known that do hot mops never preslope. They hot mop a flat surface, then pack sloped deck mud on that as their tiling base, then tile.

"But if the weep holes are clogged with mortar, would that be enough to cause this problem even if the pan is sloped properly?"

Yes. Your primary drainage comes from water flowing off the tiles down the drain. Grout is porous (as you now know!) and while grout normally sheds water, some does penetrate through. Other water can get through flaws in the grout (cracks, pinholes) or through porous stone or cracked stone or tile.

Water that gets below the tile/grout now soaks into the sloped mud. If it's just a little water that gets through, it can dry back out into the bath through evaporation.

If it builds up enough, over time the mud can get saturated. Water then flows down through to the bottom of the deck mud, hits the sloped membrane (hot mop), and then flows downslope towards the drain. When it hits the drain it flows through the sides of the drain and into the drain via the secondary weep holes that are built into the drain. The water then flows out your drain pipes.

If your membrane is not sloped, then when the water hits the membrane it just sits there...and sits there.

It can eventually wick UP the cement board on the walls, go above the membrane,and rot the framing in the stud bays.

Signs of a saturated pan are dark grout on the floor, sometimes extending up the grout in the walls.

Even with a properly sloped membrane, sometimes the installer screws up and the weepholes get sealed shut. Then the secondary water has no where to go and it builds up until the base is saturated and you get perpetually wet grout lines.

As you know you have a problem. We don't really know what exactly is causing your problem. But the end result is that your builder has to deliver to you a properly functioning shower. If he can't figure out how to fix what's broken, then he replaces what's broken.


    Bookmark   April 8, 2008 at 11:30PM
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Mongo, yes, the hot mop was sloped. The tile guys did not do the hot mops. There is a guy that is all he does, that my contractor subbed. This guy just does hot mop shower pans. He doesn't tile. The tile guy came in a couple of days later.

This whole bathroom redo started because our old shower pan had leaked and well, you know how that goes...have to rip up the tile in the shower, so might as well put in new floor tile to match...well now we need new counters, but then we can't keep these old cabinets... and might as well get nice new sinks and fixtures...before you know it, you've spent $25,000. And it all started with a leaky shower with mold I couldn't seem to get rid of, which I now know is symptomatic of a leaking shower pan.

I think this is going to have to be taken up and redone. Thanks for your input and advice. I appreciate it and you've all been very helpful in helping me understand the process and the potential problems that could be at the root. I'm confident that my contractor will come through for us.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2008 at 12:02AM
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funny thing... i was searching online because i am a general contractor and have a job that i just finished with the SAME PROBLEM. after reading about this, i realized, this is the job that i did.
anyway, i will confirm that the hot mopping was done correctly, sloped prior to the mortar bed being installed. the hot mopping went up the walls 10" and was water tested over night before any tiling occurred. we removed the drain plug and all of the water drained out properly and there were no puddles left. - so i am sure the sloping was done correctly. I am unsure of the mix that was used under the tile, but i will find out. I have been racking my head on this one and called customs (the grout manuf.) today and spend 40 minutes of this guy telling me that it is normal for a natural stone shower with non sanded grout to discolor and stay discolored when the shower is in use. i have a hard time believing this. i have done bunches of bathrooms and have never heard this. when i asked him if they had any literature stating this he said no, and that if they did publish such info that they would be in trouble with all their natural stone suppliers. - anyway the shower heads were capped off and charged and there was no leaking in the plumbing.
I don't know if the weep holes were filled with mortar or not, because i was not there when they did the floating, but how much of a space is needed between the weep holes and the mortar bed?
I don't know if it matters, but the walls were done first and the floor last.
I am leaning toward taking up the tiles around the drain and checking the weep holes, but am trying to do all my homework first to make sure the guy at customs was not right and that it is a situation that is just common to using a porous natural product on the floor of a shower that gets 10 inches of rain a day.
any help would be appreciated.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2008 at 12:25AM
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I am unsure of the mix that was used under the tile, but i will find out.

For the problem you're having, that's completely irrelevant. I know what keeth was driving at-- with a mortar mix instead of dry pack or sand mix, there's more lime in the mix which might be leeching up. Even if that IS the case, that wouldn't be the problem-- only a symptom.

this guy telling me that it is normal for a natural stone shower with non sanded grout to discolor and stay discolored when the shower is in use.

Horsehockey-- that's called CYA. It's the very first thing all Custom reps are taught when they're first employed. The funny thing is in this case, I don't believe the grout has anything to do with the problem, other than showing it up! The moron just showed Custom's wonderful customer service policies for nothing.

I don't know if the weep holes were filled with mortar or not, because i was not there when they did the floating, but how much of a space is needed between the weep holes and the mortar bed?

What's normally done is a handfull of gravel or spacers is put over the weepholes before applying the drypack. Personally I don't se the difference. Water's going to filter thru the mortar whether it's right on top of the weepholes, or a few 16th's away from them, but that's the spec.

I don't know if it matters, but the walls were done first and the floor last.

Doesn't matter.

I am leaning toward taking up the tiles around the drain and checking the weep holes...

Seems to me that would be your best bet.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2008 at 6:38AM
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thanks for the reply.

say i take up the tiles around the drain and find the weep holes open. any other ideas of what to look for?

do you think that the hairline crack around the perimeter is causing more water to enter than can be reasonably weeped out?

again i am committed to solving this, i just don't want to cause the customer more hardship than is absolutely necessary. they have been through enough already.

and i certainly don't want to re do the floor and end up
with the same problem.

thanks again. Josh

    Bookmark   April 11, 2008 at 11:08AM
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do you think that the hairline crack around the perimeter is causing more water to enter than can be reasonably weeped out?

Not at all. You'd be surprised just how much water DOES get through the grout, even in good condition. Either way, even if your supposition were correct, it CERTAINLY wouldn't take 2 WEEKS for the pan to empty out afterward.

I have a feeling when you open up the floor, you're going to spend some time having to drain it, or every time the hammer hits (once you break thru the surface), you're going to get splashed. (been there, done that!) But once you're down to the weepholes, I'm so sure I'm almost willing to bet that they'll be clogged. Once you clear them, run the shower for a while, and see if the "well" you've created around the drain empties. If it does, put a little pea gravel or spacers over them, and remud and tile it, and you should be good.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2008 at 9:26PM
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Josh- if you keep the water out, the weep holes are not a key issue. (See my post on 4/8) Did everyone forget about the grout separation at the plumbing wall? The mix will prove to be the problem here- I feel strongly you will find a rich mortar mix with lime. Too much portland shrinks and pulls away from walls, also being too strong for the application and it does not have adequate permeability. Water will hold in tile/grout and maintain a wet appearance. Okay-so what we have here is a bad mud base that has compromised the finish floor. See my original recommendations. keeth

    Bookmark   April 11, 2008 at 9:51PM
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there was some evidence found yesterday leading us to believe that the weep holes are indeed clogged. so..

ill be out there tomorrow and open it up. thanks for all the info. ill take some photos and respond to what is found. thanks again.


    Bookmark   April 12, 2008 at 12:42AM
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Josh - can you tell me what you did to determine that the weep holes were indeed clogged without removing the tile? Thanks Melissa

    Bookmark   April 12, 2008 at 3:52PM
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This problem is the same one I am having only my shower is 5 years old....can't go back to the contractor. Just had a contractor who is a stone and tile specialist come out and tell me that he will need to dig out the grout along the bottom floor walls and then caulk. We discovered that the corner seat that goes to the floor is wood under the tile. He is going to dig out the grout on the seat and up the adjoining walls where the water hits it and replace the cement grout with epoxy grout in order to prevent further water penetration because sealer would be a poor water barrier. He warned us that the epoxy grout might not match exactly, but ripping out the shower is not an option for us at this time due to another remodel we are about to begin. He told us about the possible problems with the pan installation and they match exactly what was said in this post.
There is an art to creating tile showers and the lesson we have learned is to know the proper steps, find contractors who know these steps, and then monitor to make sure these steps are followed. We learned the hard way.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2008 at 11:54PM
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coachark-- I'm sure you realise that the epoxy grout will only be remediation at best, that this IS going to have to come out sooner or later. Without the proper waterproofing, which would go out onto the surrouonding walls, no matter what you do that seat is susceptable to water damage.

scottmel-- Just the fact that the shower pan fills up with water and stays wet long after the shower's been used (UNDER the tile and in the grout joints) is a pretty clear sign.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2008 at 12:03AM
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Thanks, Bill. We are still discussing this. After reading this post we have some more questions for our contractor before we give the okay. I believe you are correct and I just don't know if we can afford the amount it will take to do the extensive redo at this time as the next bathroom remodel is due to start in regut due to plumbing leak.
This contractor has also suggested using epoxy grout in the new bathroom. Do you have thoughts on the pros and cons of epoxy with new tile installation? We have never used it before.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2008 at 12:39AM
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In my way of thinking, epoxy, although it's all the adds say it is, for my money, it's expensive overkill in residential applications (about 4-5 times the cost of comventional grouts, including the installation upcharge). If you need to rely on it to make sure your shower doesn't leak, then I'd say it's time to switch installers. Where abouts are you?

    Bookmark   April 13, 2008 at 2:15AM
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first of all to inspect the weep holes we simply removed the drain grate and used a dental type mirror. we lowered it into the drain hole and were able to get a pretty good look at them from the back side. they looked like they had mortar in them, but not any hot mop/waterproofing.

so we removed about 1 sq foot from around the drain. nothing looked to bad, but there was no gravel, spacers, etc.. just drypack (sand and lime free cement) right up to the drain.
now keep in mind that the shower has not been used for 19 days at this point, and had only been used for 14 days prior to that.

the drypack was damp, but not saturated, we were hopeful that after a day or so the water would weep through the mortar bed, be visible on the exposed waterproofing, make its way to the drain and dry out the grout etc...

well 30 hours later the edges of the exposed mortar bed are damp to the touch, but there is no visible water, and the grout has not dried out. So I am concerned that the mortar bed does not allow adequate drainage to be used in this application.

i am wondering first of all how long should it take a properly mixed mortar bed to weep the water out of it? secondly if it is more than a few hours, than how can it be expected to allow the floor to dry out and not cause the grout to remain wet looking?
lastly, if the mortar is not expected to dry our very fast, i was considering two different options.
first was to install a drainage mat below the mortar bed that would allow the water to freely trave to the drain.
second was to install a waterproofing -like antifracture membrane to the surface of the mortar bed and just below the thinset to keep the water form getting that deep in the first place.

any advice on if either of these solutions could work?

if i have to remove the whole floor i am not going to put it down the same way again, trusting that the mortar was improperly mixed, because i honestly don't see how the water can drain through it that quickly no mater how much sand you put in it.

i have done dozens of floors, always using the antifracture membrane and then thinsetting directly to that, and have never had this problem. The tiler that i used on this job prefered this method and, not knowing any better i assumed that it would work fine, but there is clearly more water in the pan than is desirable and where this might have been ok for ceramic or porcelain, it does not seem to be adequate for natural travertine.

thanks for all the great advice so far and for any addition input.


here are the links for the antifracture membrane and drainage mat.

Here is a link that might be useful: antifracture membrane

    Bookmark   April 13, 2008 at 9:38PM
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sorry for not having any pics. i forgot my camera, the customer did take some, but i haven't gotten copies of them. i hope they will be posted soon.

here's the drainage mat link


Here is a link that might be useful: Drainage mat

    Bookmark   April 13, 2008 at 9:44PM
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i am wondering first of all how long should it take a properly mixed mortar bed to weep the water out of it? secondly if it is more than a few hours, than how can it be expected to allow the floor to dry out and not cause the grout to remain wet looking?

The entire bed will take probably a few hours to dry out. However, the grout, being that it's on top, and water will follow gravity, should be dry within a matter of 15-20 minutes after using the shower. One thing I haven't seen mentioned is a good high cfm vent fan. That'll actually do more to dry out that shower pan than any drainage mat. As for the surface membrane, I'm familiar with Protectowrap, and it's a good product, as well as another one exactly like it called ECB. The problem, in this case, is there's no way to attach it to the drain. If this is the route you want to go, look into a product from Schluter called Kerdi. part of the system is a PVC drain that has a halo that the membrane attaches to ON TOP of the mud bed, so that the only thing that gets wet is the tile and grout. EVerything else stays perfectly dry, and then there's not even a NEED for weepholes.

As for the mud bed, the only reason it would be holding water is if there was an additive used in mixing, and I can't see that happening.

The tiler that i used on this job prefered this method and, not knowing any better i assumed that it would work fine, but there is clearly more water in the pan than is desirable and where this might have been ok for ceramic or porcelain, it does not seem to be adequate for natural travertine.

What your tile installer is doing is a conventional mud pan, with a twist-- very few who know the membrane has to be presloped, which means you're ahead of the game from most. From everything you've told me so far, I can't find fault with what he's done, other than no gravel or spacers around the weepholes. He used dry pack, so there's not excess lime in the mix, the membrane was presloped-- just about everything was done right, and there should be MORE than enough drainage for travertine or any OTHER kind of tile or stone.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2008 at 10:05PM
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Josh, Sorry, I used my daughter's camera yesterday and she took it with her on a sleepover tonight, so...I dragged out my old clunker Sony, and these are the pictures I took tonight.

Melissa, in this picture you can see a weephole at 7 o'clock. If you take the drain cover off and shine a flashlight down, you might be able to see if they are clogged.
Here's one closer up of the mortar bed. You can see that it is damp and feels somewhat wet to the touch.
And here is an even closer one. You can see the darker grey damp and lighter areas which are drier. I wish this old clunker took better close-ups!

Thanks again for all your help!

    Bookmark   April 13, 2008 at 10:55PM
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Put some water in that drain-what is the resting water depth from the bottom of the pan? If the p-trap is hugging the bottom of the pan you may not have a good potential of clearing the drain. Next try some dynamics. Run a hose with the shower head flow rate (2-3 gpm) in the drain. Hold the hose about 12 inches from the drain (you want volume not velocity). Does the water move effectively throught the drain or does is seek a level above the pan elevation? Ask yourself this question: when the shower is running which way is water moving though the weep holes? Was the mud base hard or soft to breakout? Did it crumble? You are getting closer. keeth

    Bookmark   April 14, 2008 at 9:20AM
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thanks for all the help figuring this out.

the p trap is about 6-8" below the pan. the water level in the drain sits at about 3" below the pan level. you can actually see the water level in the top photo from the demo photos that were posted.

I am sure that the pan was not level and that both the surface of the tile and the surface of the pan were adequately sloped to keep water from puddling or collecting anywhere.

the mud base was pretty hard though. i first tried to dig it out with a hammer and chisel, but it seemed that i had to hit it pretty hard to dig at it, and i was afraid of causing the rest of the floor to crack, so i used my electric chipping hammer to remove it. if you hold a piece of it in your hand and really work at it you can get it to break apart, but i would not say it is crumbly.

does this sound like the right mix?


    Bookmark   April 14, 2008 at 9:51AM
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Bill, thank you for your thoughts on the epoxy. We live in the Pacific Northwest and we have really hard water with lots of mineral build-up issues. I believe the contractor thought the epoxy might be less upkeep due to our desire to stay in our home as long as possible as we age plus the fact that we are now raising a young grandson who will be using this new bathroom. Perhaps I should start another post asking if the cost of epoxy really was worth it in the end for home owners?

Former issue: After continuing to read the posts, we are going to ask the contractor what the cost would be to tear out the bench and pan in the exisiting shower and put in a proper bench. I also believe we may have a similar pan/ drain issue just like the original poster described....could be weeping hole problem or incorrect pan installation. My sleepless nights are increasing:)

    Bookmark   April 14, 2008 at 10:00AM
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Slightly OT - Bill, I hope you never leave this board. It's amazing how much we have all learned from you! Thank you for the enormous amount of time you so generously spend helping people here. It's truly amazing!

That said, I have to confess, until we find some way of cloning Bill V so that there's at least half a dozen of him in every single major city, we copped out and got a solid surface showerpan in our master bath shower ;))

    Bookmark   April 14, 2008 at 11:05AM
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It is difficult to say if the mix is too rich. You can put some breakout in a bucket of water and see how much absorbs. A good mud base will hold nearly it's weight in water. It should drain quickly. You should be able to take a screwdriver and twist through it. A rich mix will hold little water and drains poorly. Did you check the drain with water flow? Does the water maintain a level below the pan? From your photos it appears the top half of the drain assembly was sealed to the membrane- can you confirm? keeth

    Bookmark   April 14, 2008 at 7:37PM
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the top of the drain was installed after the waterproofing was dry, the weep holes are completely open and were not even attached while the hot mopping took place.

i have not been back to check the water flow, but am fairly confident that it is not an issue. the trap was replaced and the drain was kept plugged until the tiling was completed.

i have to say that unless you were to put all of your weight on it and really work it, you could not get a screwdriver through the mortar. i have a small piece of it and will weigh it , soak it and weigh it again, and see how long it takes to get back to the original weight.

thanks again,

    Bookmark   April 15, 2008 at 12:14AM
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Am I in the same boat as Josh, Bill???? My shower floor is the same type as this person's - I don't have that odd white discoloration though and no cracked grout along edges. What I do have though is darkened grout near the middle of the shower - size of a dinner plate. Shower is 6 months old. I am shaking in fear that the weep holes are plugged. HOW can I determine if they are? I took off the drain and used the little dental mirror down there, hard for me to tell. I too am a PTA president and clueless on tile talk!!! :) Is there a sure fire test to run to see if I have this issue? I am in Western Pa - any recommendations you have on anyone out this way that could determine if I have an issue and fix it? The discolored grout has me uneasy. Not A TON of it but enough around the drain area, etc. to have me nervous...thanks melissa

    Bookmark   April 16, 2008 at 3:00PM
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Hi Melissa--. It sounds like it might be a possibility. There's no real way to check without opening up right around the drain. Let me ask you-- do you have another shower you can use for a few days?

    Bookmark   April 16, 2008 at 7:24PM
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Thx for the note back, Bill. Yes I do have another shower. How many days should I let this dry out? Give me my WORST case - calm my fears - IF there is water under there - is this a 1k repair job or am I jumping the gun? ASSUME I have problems - do you know anyone in Western PA to help? I will stop using the shower now and await further instructions!!! Thanks Melissa

    Bookmark   April 16, 2008 at 8:20PM
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Let it go for about a week. In the mean time, shoot me an email with your town. I know you've told me once before, but it's this old age CRS syndrome thing. :-) I think I just might be able to locate someone for you, and then you can have someone right there to check it out.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2008 at 8:50PM
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Thanks Bill! Hope you get this message. I did email you direct with my problem about a week ago but I know you are ONE busy man!!!! So when I didn't hear back I posted here...I will email you again but if for some reason I am ending up in your spam folder my email is SCOTTMEL@ZBZOOM.NET - thanks a million. Your awesome...Melissa

    Bookmark   April 16, 2008 at 9:05PM
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Melissa-- you have mail. :-)

    Bookmark   April 16, 2008 at 9:16PM
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today i met with a forensic tile expert.

he examined everything and deducted that the mortar bed was
incorrectly mixed (probably to wet and without any antihydro?). (see keith's message from 4/11)

to confirm this we removed another tile one of the furthest ones from the drain, chipped out the thinset, and filled the spot with water. (this was maybe 3/8" deep). the water did not soak in for about 5 minutes and was never seen at the drain. i was told that the water should soak right in and be seen at the drain after only a few minutes.

so after confronting my tile setter with this information,
he has agreed to come back, remove the tile and mortar bed,
re water test overnight (to make sure there was no damage from the removal of the tile, and re install the floor with the correct mixture. he swears that he always uses this mixture (30 years experience) and never has any problems.
(maybe not with dense porcelain, but i bet there would be with porous natural stone, especially since his initial reaction was "this always happens, it is normal, and nothing can be done to fix it")

so we will get the recommended mixture from the forensic specialist and have him use that.

ironically, this is the first bathroom that i subbed out the tiling on, because of this exact issue. i have never had a problem in the past, but i don't have the experience to be able to get the floor to drain perfectly. At lest i know alot more now than when i started, and according to an old boss of mine "the only bad day is a day that you don't learn something". i should have known better than to trust anyone who claims they "know everything about their trade, and never makes mistakes".
thanks for all of the help on this, it is greatly appreciated.


and for anyone who is wondering, i got 2 estimates on the forensic work one was $800. and the one i hired was $180.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2008 at 7:17PM
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Good work, perserverence has paid off. This problem got my attention from the very start since I have seen this problem in tear-outs. Many "professionals" use pre-mixed mortar or sand mix as a shortcut instead of using the correct sand and portland ratio. Although my business includes bath remodels, my background is engineering. That, and 21 years experience led me to suspect that the problem revolved around the mix and not the weep holes, sealer, preslope or any of the other possibilities suggested. I'm sure your customer appreciates your work and is justly confident that you've taken care of them well.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2008 at 9:18PM
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Well, this post and the advice from many of you led us to rethink having the epoxy grout fix done. Bill V. warned us that it was a temporary fix and the pictures teotzuz posted looked similar to our grout problem on the floor. Our contractor just gave us an estimate of $3,400. to tear out the bench, floor, and 18" up the walls in order to do a complete replacement. He will put in a new waterproof pan(the correct way), new cement block bench, new cement board, and install the tile. We have been impressed with his knowledge as it has matched the advice on this post.
Bill and Mongo, can you please tell me if the estimate sounds in the ball park? It is a 4.5'x 6.5' shower.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2008 at 11:11PM
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For a shower that size, it's well within reason.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 6:44AM
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Many thanks, Bill. We are going ahead with the complete repair and it is great to have had this kind of support from you as well as others.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 9:51AM
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This has been a fascinating thread. Thanks for sharing, everyone. And I'm glad it had a happy ending. :-)

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 10:01PM
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And thank you all for all of your advice. Especially Bill, Keith and Mongo. Josh has been great through this (I already told you this, Josh) and I know there are alot of contractors out there who would not have spent the time or effort to get to the bottom of this. But we always had complete confidence that it would get resolved. And I hope this topic can be helpful to anybody who thinks they might have the same problem. Thanks again!

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 11:11PM
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Well as I posted earlier in this thread, I was fearing I was holding water in my shower bed. I have not used the shower for 8 days and nothing has really changed. Is this good or bad? When I put that grout sealer all over the floor in July - I really feel I followed those directions well - a metalic haze of sorts made the floor look glossy. If this is just cosmetic I can handle it but I wanted to make sure it was not a bigger problem. Last week - before I halted use of the shower, I used Posforic Acid (spelling?) to address a rust stain I got in the shower due to water sitting in the hose of the handheld. So I called Aquamix today and they told me I should have treated the ENTIRE shower floor with this acid just to keep the floor consistant. THEN I should use the nano product they sell to scrub it really good in case I have some left over grout sealer, etc. on the floor. My question now is this - I have already gone thru 7 days of not using that shower. SHould I continue not using it and keep watch over it or get it wet with the acid and nano treatment? I would prefer for peace of mind for someone to look at the shower to confirm all is ok but am afraid to get ill advice from someone out of the yellow pages....So should I go for the aqua mix experiment or keep letting it dry? THanks! Melissa

    Bookmark   April 24, 2008 at 10:16PM
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If there's no change at all by now, I'd be inclined it's not a problem with the pan, but rather a discoloring problem, especially being that you used the acid on the floor. Go ahead and try Aquamix's trick and see what happens.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2008 at 6:53AM
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I might give it 2 more days Bill to be certain. I just can't tell. Put it to you this way there is not OBVIOUS change that jumps out. It is like watching grass grow...I still see areas of discoloration and I guess it is the same as before. I even took pics before and still can't tell. Nothing jumps out as "oh it looks different"...By your best guess, if it was a pan problem, after how many days would you assume it all to be TOTALLY dry....I get paranoid, you know. Now I look up the sides of the walls and there is slight marking on the grout lines where the shower floor meets the shower walls - but it might have been there from day one and I never noticed it. Now I study this shower...Just let me know at what point you are comfortable saying "shower is dry, all grout should be dried, water is gone and any markings you see on the floor or side walls are discoloring"....THANKS!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2008 at 8:16AM
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And just so I am clear, Bill, the funny hazy looking problem was there from the get go. The rust issue was recent but I still noticed the odd discolored grout joints BEFORE using the rust treatment. But it is like once I used this rust treatment it really lightened the grout in the areas where the rust was making this area of the shower jump out at you. The problem with the discolored grout/shiny tiles was pretty much in the center of the floor. Which this still remains....I just wanted to be clear that the ACID remedy happened even after I noticed the discoloration on the grout - meaning I didnt' do the Acid THEN notice the discoloration...Just made it jump more!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2008 at 8:25AM
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looking for answers to my own problem i stumbled across this posting. i have the same "wet spots" in my shower. i did all the work myself folowing the home depot how to book, but i didnt slope the floor under the shower pan(my brother in law said it wasnt nessesary) it drys up in about a week but of course as soon as we use it it looks like crap. i was told the same "thats just how it is " , but now were noticing a moldy smell. could this just be that i clogged the weep holes or am i gonna have to tear it up and do it over? any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2008 at 8:06PM
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Diyhandyman - I hope you find this thread useful. It hhas helped me quite a bit!There is another site that is great for shower info: It is strictly about ceramic tiling so naturally you will see a lot of stuff on that site you may not see on this site. I frequent both sites (bridge and here..) and both are amazing sources of information!!!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2008 at 9:16PM
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I've tiled my own two bathrooms and my kitchen backsplash, so when my adult daughter's shower sprung a leak at her "new" (circa 1950) home, DH & I came to the rescue. Ripped out the whole tub surround (it gave up without a fight), fixed the plumbing, reinsulated, added backerboard, taped, mudded and commenced to tiling. Got complicated around the tub; being an old steel tub, it has about a 1" flange around the top edges as though it's supposed to bolt to something? We ran the backerboard down to within 1/4th" of that flange, did the tape /mud/dry time thing and then commenced to tiling. When I got to the grout, I must say, the grout was a tad drier than I'd liked for it to be, but I worked quickly and thought I'd done okay. We spaced the bottom row of tile to cover that backerboard/flange gap, which it did okay. Then I left my daughters to finish grouting the normal 1/4th gap around the edge of the tub. I would have used caulk, but since the gap varied some, the girls used the regular grout to finish off that bottom edge and the corners. Are you with me so far? It looked really nice. Now I notice a lot of little tiny cracks in the grout all over and I'm thinking I'll be okay to just smash in another coat of it. (She hasn't used any tile sealer, yet.) EXCEPT.........she called tonite to say the whole bottom row of that grout is soaking wet, coming out in big soggy clumps and some of the tile with it. My thoughts are that she didn't let the tile cure enough before going in and using it, so now we need to pull out all the soggy stuff and redo it from there. So, the questions are: did we handle the backerboard/tile/grout around that flange right? Or is there just enough movement in a steel tub to disallow a grout (vs caulk) to flex. If that makes any sense.......And the second question is: am I on the right track to fix it? How long does it REALLY take for tile to cure enough to take a shower? Please tell me I don't have to take down this whole job.....this is a single mother with a TEENAGE daughter who will just DIE if she doesn't get to shower.
Thanks for reading this far.............

    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 2:26AM
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I find it interesting that all the reasons indicated are that something other than the grout itself is the problem.

There may be no one who reads this but, let me give my feedback anyway.

Three years ago our company did a bath remodel with new stall shower on a hot mopped pan. Travertine tile with Custom sanded Quartz grout and matching sanded calk at the horizontal to vertical joints. We had a licensed tile contractor perform the work and after the grout dried and was sealed the grout all looked consistant until the owner showered in it. The original thought was that the grout wasn't mixed correctly. after the grout was removed, the pan was allowed to dry for one week (summer in Sacramento) and re-grouted. The same thing happened again.

I considered that the pan although sloped properly may not have been mopped smoothly.

Fast forward to today. We just completed a bath remodel with stall shower using a ceramic tile that is the same color as travertine and using Custom sanded Faun grout. This time the pan and wall system are Wedi. the pan is presloped and in plane (no variations in the surface), the tile installer is an employee who does all our tile work, and after the tile was set and a 2 day drying time was allowed. After the tile was grouted and allowed to dry, it was sealed. After drying for one week the grout was a consistant color. The owner took the first shower and the crout was mottled after it dried. There are no plumbing leaks causing this and the pan system works as it was designed.

I think that this is a flaw in the formulation of the Custom light tan colored grouts.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2009 at 6:00PM
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I have a new tiled shower floor and walls and bathroom floors and appears as there was no sealer applied. Now the shower grout,after drying out for a week has darked areas where water gets to while in use. Can the contractor clean grout now and seal? Would no sealant cause discoloration in the grout? When wiping grout there is dusty powder residue and is this because he did not seal the grout? He also did not wipe all grout off tiles so it has hardened. How can this be removed without scratching tile?

    Bookmark   April 29, 2011 at 6:19AM
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Glad to find this forum on bathroom tile. I too am questioning the install of our new shower tile. It seems to discolor in areas, Some parts never dry completely. I thought it was dirt, it isn’t. See the drain photo, yes I am aware a piece chipped out two days after it was done. Would this make water go under tile? Non sanded grout was used, installer claims he sealed it. He floated the tile, the squares were on a sheet. I saw him with a sponge and small cup, 5 minutes later he was done with “sealing it”. I chose light color grout for a reason, I wanted it to look light, clean and new. This doesn’t look right to me. Called my general contractor, who did not do the work. He said he would come look, the first time I asked him about it when on the job he said it just “needs to dry after shower”. I do not know what to do. Should I have them come back and rip it out? Or should I get another company to give me an opinion first? Please advise. I need to post two more photos in next post. Thank you, please help ASAP...

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 5:39PM
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Here is another photo from previous post…
Notice the drain has grout missing.


    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 5:43PM
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