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  1. #1
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    Default Testing shower pans

    Would like to get some opinions on testing shower pans. I know many standards do not require them to be thoroughly tested, but how many of you fill the pan and then check for leaks with a moisture meter, sight, etc.

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Testing shower pans

    This has been kicked around a number of times, it's one of those volatile inspection issues that no one agrees on.

    Here's a recent thread on the subject.

    Dom.


  3. #3
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    Default Re: Testing shower pans

    I do a visual and check for flex... if it isn't supported well it's not a matter of if but when it will leak.

    Of course I also look very closely beneath them on ceilings and in crawl spaces. The majority of the leaks come from the drain where it meets the pan.

    I think these get talked about a lot in our industry because it's common for a new owner to use something differently and have different results - example - 300 lb guy moves in and breaks the pan, then it leaks and he calls his inspector and wants to know why he didn't see the problem coming. Sometimes you just can't win.


  4. #4
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    Default Re: Testing shower pans

    At a minimum I run water in the shower for a few minutes. I will often use a donut to fill the shower pan with about 3" of water and let that sit while I inspect other areas of the house. I work from top to bottom and I look for evidence of leaks below all showers.

    I recently inspected a 105-year-old house that was a foreclosed flip (or rather a partial flip). The main level shower did not drain (or at least it did not drain via the shower drain). I ran the shower until there was 3" to 4" of water in the pan. The shower valve would not shut off so I went down to the cellar to shut off the main water valve. I noticed a waterfall in the crawlspace near the cellar directly below the shower. When I went back up to the bathroom all the water had drained out of the shower pan (and into the crawlspace). I noticed large gaps in the mortar joints but I suspect there was not even a pan under the shower.

    That was only one of MANY major defects I found on that house. The largest one (and the one that probably killed the deal) was evidence of a fire in the attic.

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  5. #5
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Testing shower pans

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Breedlove View Post
    At a minimum I run water in the shower for a few minutes. I will often use a donut to fill the shower pan with about 3" of water and let that sit while I inspect other areas of the house. I work from top to bottom and I look for evidence of leaks below all showers.

    I recently inspected a 105-year-old house that was a foreclosed flip (or rather a partial flip). The main level shower did not drain (or at least it did not drain via the shower drain). I ran the shower until there was 3" to 4" of water in the pan. The shower valve would not shut off so I went down to the cellar to shut off the main water valve. I noticed a waterfall in the crawlspace near the cellar directly below the shower. When I went back up to the bathroom all the water had drained out of the shower pan (and into the crawlspace). I noticed large gaps in the mortar joints but I suspect there was not even a pan under the shower.

    That was only one of MANY major defects I found on that house. The largest one (and the one that probably killed the deal) was evidence of a fire in the attic.

    When you say gaps in the mortar I assume you are talking of gaps in the grout.

    If so I was wondering why you filled the shower pan at all. If I see signs that grout work is needed in the slightest I write it up and add that the shower pan should be tested for leaks when the tile work and grout are repaired.

    I have a man right now that wants me to fix a couple of shower faucets that leak only when the water is turned on. The water will come out the other faucet. These baths were not used in years and I explained to him that seals dry out when not used for some time and they may not leak the first time but the seals break up from turning them off and on a few times. He is adamant that I fix them because did not do my job. When I explained to him that not only did I turn all the faucets on but I had an assistant with me in al those bathrooms and in every single room in the home and then went thru every single room with him (3 hours after the inspection) including every bathroom, including turning on all faucets and they did not leak. I found several items that I pointed out to him at the time by doing so. and also had those items in the report. This was a large home and that is why I had an assistant. Also the home had been inspected several times before me and not a one found a leak. No home owner disclosure either.

    I told the man "You are welcome for the 15,000 I saved you for all the concerns the home seller repaired including re-plastering the pool. His answer. "I will report you unless you pay for this". My answer "report away"

    Water leaks, as far as I am concerned are the most complained about concern in a home after the inspection. This is quite common in homes left idle for a while. Shower pans leak but are only discovered after a period of time. A leak might not show while you are there. Dishwasher seals dry out and leak in the older dishwashers. etc etc etc


  6. #6
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    Default Re: Testing shower pans

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Menelly View Post
    When you say gaps in the mortar I assume you are talking of gaps in the grout.

    If so I was wondering why you filled the shower pan at all. If I see signs that grout work is needed in the slightest I write it up and add that the shower pan should be tested for leaks when the tile work and grout are repaired.

    I have a man right now that wants me to fix a couple of shower faucets that leak only when the water is turned on. The water will come out the other faucet. These baths were not used in years and I explained to him that seals dry out when not used for some time and they may not leak the first time but the seals break up from turning them off and on a few times. He is adamant that I fix them because did not do my job. When I explained to him that not only did I turn all the faucets on but I had an assistant with me in al those bathrooms and in every single room in the home and then went thru every single room with him (3 hours after the inspection) including every bathroom, including turning on all faucets and they did not leak. I found several items that I pointed out to him at the time by doing so. and also had those items in the report. This was a large home and that is why I had an assistant. Also the home had been inspected several times before me and not a one found a leak. No home owner disclosure either.

    I told the man "You are welcome for the 15,000 I saved you for all the concerns the home seller repaired including re-plastering the pool. His answer. "I will report you unless you pay for this". My answer "report away"

    Water leaks, as far as I am concerned are the most complained about concern in a home after the inspection. This is quite common in homes left idle for a while. Shower pans leak but are only discovered after a period of time. A leak might not show while you are there. Dishwasher seals dry out and leak in the older dishwashers. etc etc etc
    Here is a little blurb I will be including in my report on vacant houses in the future.
    The house was vacant at the time of the inspection and it is very common for leaks to develop when the seals dry out at plumbing fixtures, faucets, and the like. These leaks and drips may or may not be present at the time of the inspection but should be expected for the first few weeks once the house is occupied.


    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Plano, Texas

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Testing shower pans

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Menelly View Post
    When you say gaps in the mortar I assume you are talking of gaps in the grout.
    You're right. Grout, not mortar. It was late.

    "Baseball is like church. Many attend but few understand." Leo Durocher
    Bruce Breedlove
    www.avaloninspection.com

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Testing shower pans

    Finally got around to my shower pan leak investigation FAQ:

    Tiled Shower Pan Leak Detection, Investigation and Repair FAQ Paragon Inspections Chicago

    Comments and suggestions are welcome.

    Michael Thomas
    Paragon Property Services Inc., Chicago IL
    http://paragoninspects.com

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Testing shower pans

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Thomas View Post
    Finally got around to my shower pan leak investigation FAQ:

    Tiled Shower Pan Leak Detection, Investigation and Repair FAQ Paragon Inspections Chicago

    Comments and suggestions are welcome.
    Haven't read fully yet, but looks good.

    First typo:
    A. Properly constructed conventionally tiles showers can last a lifetime


    The beatings will continue until morale has improved. mgt.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Testing shower pans

    Fixed. Thanks!

    Michael Thomas
    Paragon Property Services Inc., Chicago IL
    http://paragoninspects.com

  11. #11
    James Duffin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Testing shower pans

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Breedlove View Post
    You're right. Grout, not mortar. It was late.
    It is my understanding that the grout is not a part of the waterproofing in a shower installation. The grout is porous (even when sealed properly) so water can and will get to the surface below. The waterproofing is in the pan liner and mud bed. So cracked grout is a cosmetic issue IMO. If grout is the only thing between you and a leak then you have a problem.


  12. #12
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    Default Re: Testing shower pans

    Quote Originally Posted by James Duffin View Post
    It is my understanding that the grout is not a part of the waterproofing in a shower installation. The grout is porous (even when sealed properly) so water can and will get to the surface below. The waterproofing is in the pan liner and mud bed. So cracked grout is a cosmetic issue IMO. If grout is the only thing between you and a leak then you have a problem.

    The FAQ stated that

    "The tile surface of a conventional site-built shower pan is not intended or expected to be water-tight, the primary water-seal should be provided by the liner."

    I've changed that to:

    "The tile floor and walls of a conventional site-built shower pan are not intended or expected to be water-tight - the grout (the mortar between the tiles) and even some types of tiles themselves are at least somewhat permeable to water. The primary water-seal should be provided by the shower pan's liner."

    Does that seen sufficiently clear?

    Michael Thomas
    Paragon Property Services Inc., Chicago IL
    http://paragoninspects.com

  13. #13
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
    Ted Menelly Guest

    Default Re: Testing shower pans

    Quote Originally Posted by James Duffin View Post
    It is my understanding that the grout is not a part of the waterproofing in a shower installation. The grout is porous (even when sealed properly) so water can and will get to the surface below. The waterproofing is in the pan liner and mud bed. So cracked grout is a cosmetic issue IMO. If grout is the only thing between you and a leak then you have a problem.
    That is true but a properly grouted shower will have little to no water getting into the pan or usually not enough o go anywhere. Of course the liner is the end all if installed properly. Then of course you have the drain seal. More often than not it is that seal that is the culprit


  14. #14
    James Duffin's Avatar
    James Duffin Guest

    Default Re: Testing shower pans

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Thomas View Post
    The FAQ stated that

    "The tile surface of a conventional site-built shower pan is not intended or expected to be water-tight, the primary water-seal should be provided by the liner."

    I've changed that to:

    "The tile floor and walls of a conventional site-built shower pan are not intended or expected to be water-tight - the grout (the mortar between the tiles) and even some types of tiles themselves are at least somewhat permeable to water. The primary water-seal should be provided by the shower pan's liner."

    Does that seen sufficiently clear?
    I'm sorry...I did not read your faq. I was just quoting from what I know first hand. When I install a shower I always test the pan liner before the mudbed (or other method) is installed. I have learned that you fold the corners of a PVC liner and do not cut and glue the corners.


  15. #15
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    Default Re: Testing shower pans

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Menelly View Post
    ... a properly grouted shower will have little to no water getting into the pan or usually not enough to go anywhere. Of course the liner is the end all if installed properly. Then of course you have the drain seal. More often than not it is that seal that is the culprit
    Don't know how they build them down there, but around here I've see many tiled showers with apparently correct and intact tile and grout that leak like sieves - saw one just last week, no pre-slope, and failed at the clamp ring.

    Michael Thomas
    Paragon Property Services Inc., Chicago IL
    http://paragoninspects.com

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Testing shower pans

    All it takes for a leak is a hairline crack through the grout. Crack could be between the grout and tile and nearly invisible, and leak quite a bit. Mortar beds are not at all waterproof either. The pan liner must be waterproof.
    Back in the day, pre-70's, tile showers were pre sloped, then sealed with hot tar, then covered with dry-pack cement with wire in it, then tiled. They typically last over 100 years when done right.
    In the 70s and 80s, the tile institue O.K.ed greenboard (green drywall!) and mastic under tile in showers and tub surrounds, even though both are only water resistant. Some builders used it right down to the pan, and over wood framing for the seat in a fancy shower. Hopefully, all of these have rotted out and been replaced by now, but possibly not in a guest bath that hasn't been used for years. Keep and ear out for hollow sounding tile in walls and seats.
    Schluter membranes are considered the best current technology, but they have not been around as long as tar and cement, so we'll have to see.

    I was a pro tile setter in an earlier life, I've re-done enough of these to know.


  17. #17
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Testing shower pans

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Thomas View Post
    Don't know how they build them down there, but around here I've see many tiled showers with apparently correct and intact tile and grout that leak like sieves - saw one just last week, no pre-slope, and failed at the clamp ring.

    I don't think I said they don't leak. I believe I said if grouted properly and I am not sure I said no cracks but that is the obvious. With a solid base and proper grout lines and grout sealed with no invisible cracks you will get slight at best moisture behind the tiles and grout. The post below yours added the ifs ands and buts. I have pulled shower stalls apart that were maintained extremely well over time that had about zero show of water penetration. I have pulled apart shower stalls with just green board behind them and found little to no signs of water penetration.

    It is all in the installation and maintenance. You know and I know that the installation and maintenance in the vast amount of shower stalls, no matter what the material used, is pretty poor and is prone to leaking either in a day or some short term down the road.

    The largest part of my previous business while inspecting part time for over a couple decades and then going full time inspecting for the past 10 to 12 years was remodeling. In particular the largest part of that remodeling was baths and kitchens.

    I have seen the best installs (by the outer and inner looks of them) leak for one reason or another due to the tiniest flaw and then I have also see what appeared to be the most God awful installs (ugly, sloppy) not leak and never have a problem.


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