Can damp wood framework dry out in this situation...

Mia_October 2, 2010

We had work done on the bathroom. The tile guys removed the old tub back-splash and old wall board to do the ceramic tile work, and they found that the wood framework around the window all the way down to the tub was rotted and very damp (there's a full-sized window in the bathtub enclosure). They think the leak was due to the old back-splash not having a watertight seal around the window frame.

The tile guys said that the wall needed to be aired out for 24-48 hours before they'd proceed with putting up cement board to attach the tiles (of course the wood was not going to be dry in that period of time). They removed as much of the rotted wood as they could, but the remaining wood was still damp. I could not see any mold present. They told me that once they put up the cement board, the wood inside the wall would dry on its own. They stated that they've seen this issue plenty of times with damp wood, yet they proceed with the tile-work without letting the wood dry completely. They said that it would take a very LONG time for the wood to dry if I decided to let it air out with the wall open.

I followed their advice and let them proceed with covering the damp wood framework with cement board. A few years later, I noticed the start of hairline cracks in many of the ceramic tiles adjacent to the tub on the wall where the window is located. I have no idea if the hairline cracks have anything to do with the damp framework problem, due to a problem with the tiles, or due to some other issue like settling of the house. I wouldn't expect ceramic tiles to start cracking after just a few years.

So were the tile guys correct in stating that the wood frame can dry out if it's covered with the cement board? I'm not sure if all they were interested in was getting the job done and getting paid, rather than doing what's best for my house.

I now regret choosing ceramic tiles and also regret not taking my time to find out what was the right action to take with regards to the damp framework.

Thank you for any help.

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How did they waterproof?

How can the wall dry out if it has been waterproofed?

Your tile cracked most likely because they did not tape the joints with fiber tape and thinset. Or the rotten wood is not holding the screws well and the backerboard is moving. Did they even replace the rotten wood?

They have seen the issue plenty of times because they caused it with bad installations.

Your tile contractors were dirt cheap and you got what you paid for.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2010 at 10:25AM
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I can't remember specifics of the entire installation of tile, and at the time that they did the job, I was injured and doing my best to keep an eye on them.

The tiles with the hairline cracks are located all in a row where they meet the tub. So a total of 8 out of 13-1/2 tiles in this row have hairline cracks. There are no tiles with cracks above this row or on the other two walls.

The tile contractors didn't replace the rotten wood that they removed...all they did was chip away at the wood to remove small sections of rot, so the amount of wood removed was relatively small. I hope that the wood that was removed hasn't compromised the integrity of the framework, and I'd hate to think that there could be movement of the backerboard (as you mentioned).

These contractors had assured me that the wood would definitely dry out; I had voiced my concerns to them about this, but they said they see water damage in walls all the time and this is how they handle the problem. I should have trusted my gut feeling that what they were telling me was bull. I'm not as trusting of contractors any more.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2010 at 3:49AM
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If you decide to have it redone again, I recommend "Schluter Kerdi" for the vapor barrier. You install it over the top of the backerboard, embedded in a layer of thinset. The tile installs on top of the Kerdi membrane in thinset. It is important to use regular thinset, UN-modified for working with Kerdi.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2010 at 9:43PM
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I would be afraid of sealing any moisture up. I had windows replaced and there was rot underneath them and had to tear out drywall and replace some 2x4's. I left it open for a few months drying it out with space heaters, treating wood, spraying on bleach and a borax solution. (I think you can buy stuff specially made for this) After I was sure it was dry and no wet wood/fungus smell then I closed up wall under the windows.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2010 at 9:07AM
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aidan_m, Thank you for the advice.

izzie, I wish that the damp wood in my bathtub enclosure was handled the way you described in your situation. It's always better to be safe than sorry. I'm really annoyed that those tile contractors were in such a hurry...I should have put a temporary stop to their work and had someone else come in and assess the situation.

The only problem with leaving my bathtub wall open for a few months, or even for a couple of weeks at the very least, is that this was my only shower, and I would need a way to bathe...I don't know what other people do in these situations when they need their shower as soon as possible. What should have been done in my situation is for any of the damp framework to be taken out and replaced.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2010 at 12:15PM
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