Author Topic: How to handle shower tile issues  (Read 8765 times)

risheeee

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How to handle shower tile issues
« on: June 14, 2013, 09:39:39 PM »
Hi all,

I bought a house last year and the master shower had a couple of cracked tiles on the floor.  I noticed over time that a bit of mold would occasionally grow in the corner of the shower with the cracked tile, which made me concerned that there was water leaking into the space underneath the tile.  I was wary of replacing the tiles because the previous owner didn't leave any extra matching tiles, so I decided to just seal the cracks instead.

Well, I finally decided to go ahead and pry up the broken tiles today, and found that there was some water trapped between the tiles and the shower pan liner underneath.  There was some sort of black substance under there too, but I'm unsure if it was mold or not.  FWIW, I haven't had any health/breathing issues since moving into the house, so it doesn't seem like it's a big issue even if it was mold.

I'm trying to decide now if I should continue to pry up more of the tiles in the shower to make sure there isn't more water/mold underneath.  Is having water between the tile and the shower pan liner a big deal, even if it doesn't seem to be getting through the liner at all?  I'm wary of prying up more tiles and possibly breaking them, since I don't have any of the same style of tiles to replace them with.

Also, I've always had an issue with drainage in the shower.  Is this something I can fix with re-tiling, or is the drainage all dependent upon the slope of the floor underneath the shower pan liner?

Thanks.


Greg

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Re: How to handle shower tile issues
« Reply #1 on: June 15, 2013, 11:08:27 AM »
Water will always get behind the tile, so it's important that the liner be in good condition.  That's why it's there.  The liner is probably installed over a sloped grout bed, or should be.  It could simply be that the tiles weren't well bonded originally or came loose, and simply reinstalling them will fix it. 

If the slope is insufficient to drain well, you have two choices to fix it.  One is to remove the liner, recreate a better grout bed, and reinstall the liner or replacement.  This is obviously not for the faint of heart or those without lots of gumption.

The second solution would be to create a better sloped bed over the liner and retile that.  But, the water will still collect inside the layer above the poorly sloped bed.

Another option is to install a fiberglass or acrylic pan and retile up to it as needed.  This is the solution I used in my home's Milestone plaster shower.

If you can access the underside of where the shower is, as in a crawlspace, I would look carefully for water damage, rot or settling that could change the level of the pan, causing poor drainage.  If the framing, subfloor or other structural support under the pan area is compromised your fix will be temporary.  If the substrate is not strong enough and flexes, then the tiles will come loose again.

risheeee

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Re: How to handle shower tile issues
« Reply #2 on: June 15, 2013, 11:54:29 AM »
Thanks for your help, Greg.

The house is on a concrete slab, so I think the only way the shower pan level could shift is if there was damage to the foundation underneath.  There's no foundation damage as far as we know, but there's no crawlspace or any access for us to check.

If we were to create a better sloped bed over the liner, would that just be a thin layer of concrete?  My inclination at this point is to rip out the tiles on the floor, lay a thin bed with better sloping over the shower pan liner, and then re-tile the floor of the shower with new tiles.  This way the floor will be uniform, even if the tiles don't quite match the walls.

The only issue I can foresee is that the new bed will have to be extremely thin, so that there's still enough room for the floor tiles to sit between the bed and the bottom edge of the wall tiles.

Greg

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Re: How to handle shower tile issues
« Reply #3 on: June 15, 2013, 12:52:01 PM »
A slab floor is about as solid and inflexible as you can get, so that's great.  My floors are concrete and I love not having a crawlspace.

I would remove all the shower stall floor tiles, and carefully inspect the liner (although water won't damage the concrete underneath), and then use mortar to create a better sloped bed right over the liner.  You'll have to maintain a 1/2" or so thickness at the drain though, or it will crack. Make sure to let this cure completely, wetting as it cures for maximum strength.

Try for 1/4" per foot of slope.  If your slope is close to that already, then I wouldn't increase it, but instead just concentrate on a really careful floor tile job.

Then tile right over that using polymer-modified thin set mortar, being sure to let the tile set for a couple of days.  It's ok that the new bed and tile cover the bottom edge of the wall tile if needed, since it's above the waterproof liner.  I would use 1" or 2" tile, or mosaic, it feels great underfoot.  Something purposely smaller than the wall tile.  Make sure to use the correct grout for the size of the joint you use.

If there's any doubts about the integrity of the wall tile, then it would be best to remove them as needed, and the liner, and do the reslope under a new liner.  Then you can reinstall the wall tile as well.  The problem with this is that new tile may not match perfectly.

risheeee

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Re: How to handle shower tile issues
« Reply #4 on: June 19, 2013, 10:53:57 AM »
Hi Greg,

Quick question.  Do you have any suggestions for the mortar to use to build up the slope?  Last night I gave this stuff (http://www.homedepot.com/p/Rapid-Set-55-lb-Mortar-Mix-04010055/202188453#.UcHgaEDVDQg) a try, but I found that it dried after only ten minutes or so, which wasn't nearly enough time for me to cover the shower floor and smooth it all out.  I ended up having to toss out the whole bag that I had mixed up.

The bag says that it cures faster at higher temperatures.  My next plan was to crank down the temperature in the house before mixing it up (we're very Mustachian about our AC usage) and mix it with ice-cold water instead of cool water from the tap. I'm worried that this still won't give me enough working time to cover the shower floor and smooth it out properly before it dries.  Is there any mortar mix out there which is designed to not set as quickly and give you more working time?

Thanks.

risheeee

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Re: How to handle shower tile issues
« Reply #5 on: June 19, 2013, 12:28:04 PM »
Oh, also found this: http://www.homedepot.com/p/Rapid-Set-0-88-oz-Concrete-Pharmacy-Set-Control-80100000/202188468#.UcHjKkDVDQg.  I'll probably try adding a couple packets of it to the mix as well.

Greg

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Re: How to handle shower tile issues
« Reply #6 on: June 19, 2013, 07:40:56 PM »
Just plain mortar, not quick set or extra strength should work.  Sanded.