Help - Shower floor is not draining properly

piscesgirlOctober 6, 2013

So we finally got to use our new shower for the first time and realized that water is puddling on the shower floor. The entire floor isn't draining fast, but I don't know if that is due to the marble tile shape, but the floor is definatley pooling in two spots and one spot is a real bird bath. I am so upset and would like some advise on what problems they may create and how involved a repair it could be.

I personally think the issue should be fixed but my husband just wants to "live with it". His thought is after we squeege the shower walls we can just squeege the floor. To me this is unexceptable. This bathroom remodel has been a 4 month undertaking and we have had one issue after another (mostly with the marble countertop company) and my husband just wants to be done with it. His concern is creating more damage to the marble floor, counters, etc. in the process of trying to fix this.

Our shower's interior dimensions are approximately 32 x 42. We had our contractor use Laticrete Hydroban and the Laticrete bonding flange drain. Tile is marble and the grout is Laticrete Spectalock Pro epoxy grout.

During the construction process I mentioned to our contractor after he laid the tiles that it didn't look like it was pitched enough but he insured me he took the proper measurements and that it is a slight slope.

He stated that he followed Laticrete instructions exactly as he had never worked with these products. He showed me the instructions and stated that the drain needed to be installed 1 1/4" above the sloped substate. He then said that based on the instructions the tile should be 1/16" higher than the top of the drain, and that he needed to build up the mortar floor and slope to get the tile to that height as our tile must be thinner (didn't think it was is standard marble depth as far as I am aware). I think this is where the issue came as he was trying to reslope with mortar as he laid the small tile and you can tell some tile sit lower than others creating a "bird bath".

So what are the issues or concerns if we leave as is....other than I need to squeege and dry off my floor after showering?

How difficult would it be to fix? Can it be a spot repair or does the entire floor need to be redone? I am just concerned that since our slope is so slight that in the process of trying to get rid of a low part he will make it too high and thus create pooling in another area? We are going to talk to the contractor to see what he suggests but wanted to get some thoughts from the forums since you all have been so helpful in our remodel questions. Thanks!

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What kind of pre-slope did he do? From your description, it sounds as though he created the slope while tiling with thinset? The slope comes before the installation of the tile, not during the tile install.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 9:35PM
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He did install the pre-slope prior to the tile. It is just that instead of a thin layer of thinset when setting the tile he mentioned that he had to build it up more than he typically does to get the tile at the correct height relative to the drain. Just wondering if during the process of building up an inch or so of thinset is it in fact "wavy" and therefore creating areas where water puddles.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 10:00PM
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Babka NorCal 9b

Do not accept puddling like that. We did a kitchen a few years back and finally just "accepted" some crap just to get the strangers out of our house and our lives back to normal. I swear at the floor contractor every time I cannot fit my vaccuum under the toe kick on cabinets because he didn't allow 4", that we specified. (wrong padding under the floating floor). Your shower floor needs to come up and be re-laid. or you will be muttering bad words EVERY TIME you shower. No, puddles are not up to "industry standards".


    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 12:46AM
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So how involved of a repair is this?

Based on the measurements I took last night it appears he followed the minimum slope requirement of 1/4" per foot, which for our shower on the longest part is less than a half inch rise (~0.44) from the drain.

So he built the sloped mudpan, coated it with Hydroban and installed the bonded flange drain with specified 1 1/4" height from the substrate and then when he went to install the tile he said that in order to get the tile height to what Laticrete specifies it should be (1/16" higher than the top of the drain) he had to build up the mortar and basically try and follow the slope with 1-2" of mortar. I think what happened is the mortar may be thicker in some spots than others creating dips or "puddle" spots.

My concern is we only have Hydroban and reinforcing fabric in the corners as our waterproofing. So is a spot repair even possible or does he have to do the entire shower floor over again? Should he reconstruct the entire pan (mudpan, Hydroban and all) or just pop the tiles off and correct the mortar/tile floor?

My husband is just really concerned now that everything is installed (shower glass, marble sills, marble floor)...he thinks we are asking for more damage to try and fix the issue and with the way things have been going, I don't blame him for feeling that way.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 3:32PM
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It's a do-over.

It will be messy, expensive, and difficult, but the alternative is worse. You cannot have a floor that does not evacuate.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 1:58AM
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You just spent a lot of money for a "before" bathroom problem, not an "after" bathroom.

Rip out and redo. On his dime. You might get by with ripping out just the pan and the bottom couple of rows of wall tile, but it needs to be addressed properly. And the only way to do it properly doesn't involve you squeegeeing the shower every time you use it or any other bandaid solutions. It's a silly solution really, and you know it!

I know you're tired of having contractors in your home and you want your bath back and them out, but if you don't address this, you will regret it forever. And you'll get madder and madder every time someone forgets to squeegee that shower floor.

It would be like buying a new car and one of the windows didn't roll up all the way, so you couldn't keep it properly climate controlled, or keep the rain out. Sure, duct tape and plastic can "fix" the problem, but that's what you do to a 30 year old beater that you bought out of the junkyard, not a brand new ride.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 9:41AM
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"So he built the sloped mudpan, coated it with Hydroban and installed the bonded flange drain with specified 1 1/4" height from the substrate and then when he went to install the tile he said that in order to get the tile height to what Laticrete specifies it should be (1/16" higher than the top of the drain) he had to build up the mortar and basically try and follow the slope with 1-2" of mortar. "

If that's how he installed it, he completely misunderstood the installation instructions of the drain.

The drain flange gets installed so the rim of the flange is 1-1/4" above your FLAT PLYWOOD SUBFLOOR. Not 1-1/4" above the sloped mud bed. If that's what he did, it's completely wrong.

Again, the drain flange should have been installed so the rim of the flange is 1-1/4" above the subfloor. That 1-1/4" gap between the flange and the subfloor then gets filled with deck mud, and the deck mud then slopes upwards as it runs from the drain to the walls so that it's 1-1/4" thick at the drain and, let's say, 1-3/4" thick at the walls. An increase of thickness of 1/4" per foot over the 2' distance to the wall.

When the sloped mud bed is complete, the drain flange should be set perfectly flush in the deck mud.

Then the mud and the walls get hit with two coats of HB.

You then tile the floor but leave a few tiles out around the drain.

The actual drain cover (the metal grid) is attached to a threaded plastic piece that gets threaded (or screwed) into the drain flange. You thread it down so the top of the drain will be at the approximate height of the top of the tile on the floor. In your case, for standard tile, about 1/4" above the flange. So the drain height is set in relation to the tiles already set on the floor. Then you complete the floor tile by filling in the remaining tiles around the drain.

If the deck mud was properly sloped, all you'd need is the standard 1/8" thickness of thinset to bond the standard 3/16" to 1/4" thick tile to the sloped and Hydrobaned shower floor.

The beauty of a topical membrane like Hydroban is that with the Hydroban membrane being right below the tile, there can be no deep wetting of the shower floor like with a traditional deck mud bed where the membrane is beneath a 1" to 2" thick layer of deck mud.

Your guy put 1-2" of mortar or mud on top of your hydroban membrane. You have a porous tile (marble) on top of that mortar bed. That 1-2" setting bed will likely saturate over time. If the bed does saturate, the moisture can bring minerals from the setting bed with it through the marble and grout as the moisture evaporates, you can end up with efflorescence on your marble and/or grout. And with the bed holding moisture, it can end up being a mold/mildew mess. Those are not certainties, but they are possibilities.

Also, if he used thinset to make up that 1-2" thick bed, that could also be the reason the floor has birdbaths. Thinset is designed for "THIN" tile setting applications. Roughly 1/2" thickness max of thinset. The reason is because as thinset cures, it can shrink. That shrinking could pull the tiles this way and that, causing birdbaths here and there.

I don't mean to be an alarmist. But if I'm reading your post correctly, your installer screwed the pooch on your shower.

If you haven't seen it before, watch this Laticrete video. There's a bit of an intro, but do pay attention to the installation of the drain flange at about 2:30 into the video, and the installation of the threaded drain at about 4:30 into the video.

The Laticrete system is an excellent shower system. Sorry for you troubles.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 2:02AM
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mongoct - I am sorry, I am misstated what he did. The drain is installed as per the Laticrete video so it is 1 1/4" is from the subfloor.

He did state he had to install a thicker layer of thinset than he typically would to get the tile to the desired height that Laticrete states is required (1/16" above drain) so I think this is where the ever so slight slope got "messed-up" since for our tiny shower we are only talking under a 1/2" slope at the longest point.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 2:26PM
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That's a bit of a relief.

But still, the Laticrete drain is designed to work with standard thickness tile. So if he installed the drain flange correctly and still had to add a thick bed of mortar to set the tile at the appropriate height, all I can think is that he simply didn't thread the drain grate down deep enough into the threaded top plate.

With the flange set flush into the mud bed, there's really no easy way to mess the installation up.

You set the flange into the sloped mud bed. Then you Hydroban and tile the floor, leaving out a few tile around the drain. Then you thread the drain grate into the threaded ring, dry set it in place on the drain flange, and "screw" the drain grate down until it's at the proper elevation to meet the extended slope of the already set tile. Then you remove the grate and threaded ring, thinset it, and set it in place. Then you fill in around it with the last few pieces of tile.

You don't tile the entire shower floor to meet the elevation of the floor grate. You tile the floor, then thread the drain grate as needed to meet the elevation of the already tiled floor.

So yeah, I'm confused as to how it got messed up.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 3:23PM
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I know...I am a bit confused myself. And I am concerned with him redoing it if he couldn't get it right the first time.

So is this a code issue or an inspection issue if we ever were to sell our house and not have this fixed? I wouldn't think so considering that the horrible 1970's shower we had looked like it was falling apart and our home inspector never said anything. FYI - we are in PA.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 5:24PM
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The membrane is properly sloped so that meets code.

Overall from wall to drain the tile is pitched within limits, but not consistently.

Would anyone ever notice? Maybe, maybe not. If your marble floor looked spic and span new, people might just "oooh" and "ahhh" over it. But if your grout or floor tile was discolored, it might lead an inspector or prospective buyer to turn on the shower to see how well the floor sheds water.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 8:03PM
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Well we have been squeeging the floor and the floor is grouted with Laticrete epoxy grout so hopefully it doesn't discolor. To be honest I am starting to lean with my husband and not tear out and redo.

We lived through a nightmare with our marble countertop. Fabricator marked the back of the marble with black marker "X's" where the finished edge should be and it bled through the white marble backsplash as a purple marker color. Then they agreed to take out backsplash and treat it with a poultice and in the process broke the marble. Then we finally got them to replace it but it isn't as nice as the first piece. I guess we just don't want to live through any more damage occuring during the course of trying to do a repair. I didn't want to live with seeing a purple marker stain on my new can call me crazy but squeegeing the floor isn't really that much more extra work since I am squeeging everything down anyway.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2013 at 10:01AM
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You do have my sympathies. I sometimes see slopes getting out of whack in a large shower, but your shower slope is pretty straight-forward.

It's just not that difficult.

The good news? You chose a topical membrane and you have an epoxy grout. Those two things will minimize water absorption into the floor.

I do remember one poster that had a birdbath shower floor, instead of them having it redone they toweled off after showering and then tossed the towel on the shower floor and dried the floor with the towel.

But you are right. You pay good money, you expect worry-free results.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2013 at 12:24PM
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