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  1. #1
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    Default Is there moisture behind tiles?

    Hi guys,

    I believe most of us use Surveymaster to check the latent moisture in bathroom. Sometimes I really doubt the accuracy. This bath wall & floor look in good condition. The grouts & joint look well. The toilet is secured properly. But the detector gave me an alarm. I suspected this is due to some magnet stuff in the slate tile causing the wrong reading. If in this case, the reading should be uniform everywhere but actually not.
    How can I explain this? Thank you.

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Is there moisture behind tiles?

    Bad aim.

    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Is there moisture behind tiles?

    When you use a non invasive meter or a dual use meter in the non invasive mode the reading may not be accurate due to the unknown below the surface. The meter only “knows” what you see as the material that it is measuring…but it may be measuring different materials below the surface and as you suggested in the case of natural products there are inherent impurities. However, all that being stated the meter should generally give a consistent reading all over the surface and if it does not and the readings jump in areas that could be related to moisture you need to look further.

    Jeff Zehnder - Home Inspector, Raleigh, NC
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  4. #4
    Tom Mcdonald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is there moisture behind tiles?

    Whats under the tile. It may be picking up nails,screws, straps etc in the floor framing.


  5. #5
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    Default Re: Is there moisture behind tiles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mcdonald View Post
    Whats under the tile. It may be picking up nails,screws, straps etc in the floor framing.
    Thank you guys.

    This is a typical bath room floor on the 2nd story of a detached home. I do not think any metal straps or or mesh beneath the tile around bath tub and toilet. Otherwise, a uniform result will be detected.

    Possibly still moisture there even if the grouts look good.

    Please correct me if I am wrong.

    Last edited by Peter Louis; 04-30-2011 at 12:03 AM.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Is there moisture behind tiles?

    Peter
    If you are picking up a reading around the base of the toilet, there definitely could be moisture under the tile caused by seepage from an ill-fitting wax ring or improperly placed toilet over it. I have encountered this many times, especially if the tilework is an 'upgrade' to the original flooring. Most of the time when the toilet is removed to install the tile and then re-installed, in my experience tilers rarely install a new wax ring. Moisture then seeps into the subfloor everytime the toilet is flushed. The tiler may /should have installed a damp-proof membrane under the tile. The moisture is not able to rise to the surface through the membrane so the grout and tile may show no evidence of leakage. However the only way to confirm is toilet removal. If the tile floor is non-original, because the toilet now sits on tile, the space between the horn of the bowl and the toilet flange is greater by the thickness of the tile and mortar (and membrane and possibly underlayment). Consequently an over-sized (Jumbo) ring (or even two rings) may be called for during toilet re-installation to make up the gap.

    I would write it up as "Moisture - possible from deteriorated wax ring or ill-fitting toilet - detected around base of toilet, consider removal of toilet for further examination and replacement of wax ring. Leaking in this area may result extensive damage to subfloor over time and should be remedied as soon as possible."

    ip


  7. #7
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    Default Re: Is there moisture behind tiles?

    "The grouts & joint look well. The toilet is secured properly".

    You were only seeing the caulking around the outer edge. That does not constitute a well-sealed toilet, just a toilet that has been caulked to the tiles.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

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    Default Re: Is there moisture behind tiles?

    great information, Many thanks.


  9. #9
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    Default Re: Is there moisture behind tiles?

    When installing (re-installing) a toilet it's usually not a good idea to caulk around the base. Though sometimes manufacturers call for it in their installation instructions. Cosmetically it looks better but the caulk can also trap moisture under the toilet if the wax seal goes awry, resulting in serious degradation of the sub-floor. Without caulking the tolet base, moisture may be more readily visible, thus exposing the leaky ring. When I inspect a sealed toilet, which otherwise looks in decent condition (no visible leak), I'll pop the caps off the closet bolts (if installed) to see if the nuts and bolts are rusted. Sometimes water is actually visible around the nut and bolt, but insufficient to leak onto the floor.


  10. #10
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    Default Re: Is there moisture behind tiles?

    I don't mean to be critical of anybody, but, You guys are over thinking this.

    Lets see,
    "The toilet is secured properly."
    " bath wall & floor look in good condition."
    "The grouts & joint look well."
    But, " the detector gave me an alarm."

    I EXPECT to see moisture at the base of the toilet and at the tub/ shower. What is unusual about that?
    As I said " Bad aim.", and likely, getting water on the floor when getting out of the tub.

    As for caulking around the toilet being "not a good idea". What?
    It's required to caulk the toilet.

    If the toilet is secured, it would be very rare if the wax ring were leaking.

    If you find rusted bolts, that means that the bolts are rusted, nothing else. It is not an indication that the wax ring is leaking. It is most likely
    (to repeat myself) "Bad aim". But could also be rusted because of cleaning the outside of the toilet.

    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Is there moisture behind tiles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Cantrell View Post
    I don't mean to be critical of anybody, but, You guys are over thinking this.

    But, " the detector gave me an alarm."

    I EXPECT to see moisture at the base of the toilet and at the tub/ shower. What is unusual about that?
    As I said " Bad aim.", and likely, getting water on the floor when getting out of the tub.

    As for caulking around the toilet being "not a good idea". What?
    It's required to caulk the toilet.

    If the toilet is secured, it would be very rare if the wax ring were leaking.

    If you find rusted bolts, that means that the bolts are rusted, nothing else. It is not an indication that the wax ring is leaking. It is most likely
    (to repeat myself) "Bad aim". But could also be rusted because of cleaning the outside of the toilet.
    I think you are missing the bullseye, Rick.
    The 'moisture' might not be all water, true, but it is under the tiles, not on top.


    Caulk around the base is not required every where, maybe it is in your area. I don't care either way. Caulking keeps the yellow water out, but it keeps it in as well.

    What Ian said, new tiles raise the toilet, now it needs a new wax ring or a shim and a ring, but that detail gets overlooked. The MM reads moisture (or metal) below the surface.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Is there moisture behind tiles?

    Use your mosture meter like a drawing tool, and then try to recongnize what (and where) you have drawn. If it is shaped like a stud, every 16", it's a stud. If its shaped like a puddle, and runs along the joint next to tub, it's water. And, so on...

    Don't just look for wet; look for dry... then wet. Test the whole floor. Use an area that is most likely dry as a base line, then look for changes.

    Finally, try experimenting. Wet a tile, dry it off test before and after. Put some tiles on plywood (etc), wet areas below, wet and wait for the water to soak in... see what what the different moisture levels could mean.

    Steven Turetsky, UID #16000002314
    homeinspectionsnewyork.com
    eifsinspectionsnewyork.com

  13. #13
    Mike agnello's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is there moisture behind tiles?

    [QUOTE=Ian Page;166996]Peter
    I would write it up as "Moisture - possible from deteriorated wax ring or ill-fitting toilet - detected around base of toilet, consider removal of toilet for further examination and replacement of wax ring. Leaking in this area may result extensive damage to subfloor over time and should be remedied as soon as possible."

    Can't say it any better than Ian.
    As a tile installer in previous life, there is no way to tell wo further investigation I have done dozens of jobs where the floor looked fine but after removing toilet or vanity I have discovered leaks that are rotting out subfloor and framing.
    On a positive not the installer would have used screws/to secure backer or even wire mesh. Maybe to support or repair certain areas. If accessible, the ceiling under bathroom could be checked for moisture.
    In our area toilets req'd to be caulked. I've had plumbers install toilets and caulk them to floors knowing that I would be coming in to tile after them if they want their final.
    If house being flipped many corners can get cut and I make a note of that in report whenever I see new repairs throughout house no telling what they covered up.


  14. #14
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    Default Re: Is there moisture behind tiles?

    "I think you are missing the bullseye, Rick. "

    Yeah, so my wife tells me.

    My point is.
    Little boys and sometimes Men do miss the "Bullseye".
    Water gets on the floor when the tub is used.
    Water gets on the floor when cleaning.
    Water will soak into the grout and tile.
    (The tile shown does not look like a glazed tile. If it is not glazed then it is porous.)
    Yes, the MM will show moisture,
    That is what I would expect to find, even when there are no toilet leaks.
    Conclusion:
    Just because you have moisture at the tub and around the toilet does not mean that the wax seal is leaking.

    To recommend replacing the wax seal (or more) based only on those MM indications is overreacting.

    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Is there moisture behind tiles?

    Steven made some very good points. You have to establish a base line in an area that you know will be dry (if you can find such a location).

    With a toilet you need to check an area away from the toilet, this area should be as far away from the toilet or tub. You are looking for an area that is dry, then move slowly over toward the toilet. If the readings increase as you get to the toilet then chances are that the toilet is leaking. The same method can and should be used with anything that you are testing.

    Scott Patterson, ACI
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  16. #16
    Mike agnello's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is there moisture behind tiles?

    I think missing the point is saying you would expect to fund moisture around the base of a toilet and tub bc of use.
    You can also argue that same evidence and it leads you to think it MAY be leaking.
    There is no way to know for sure and dismissing it as use related is disservice. Depending on size of area affected and whether toilet had been used recently I would have hard time believing with evaporation (even unglazed) it would create enough moisture for meter in any significant area.

    Tell them what you find. Give them thoughts on possible causes and let them make decision.
    Possible solution would be to tape plastic to floor and see if condensation forms between it and floor. Then decide whether pulling toilet makes sense.


  17. #17
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    Default Re: Is there moisture behind tiles?

    Sorry for the delay in my response, spent the day with my Bride.

    "Caulk around the base is not required every where, maybe it is in your area"

    Maybe more than my area.

    2006 IRC

    CHAPTER 27
    PLUMBING FIXTURES
    SECTION P2705
    INSTALLATION
    P2705.1 General.
    The installation of fixtures shall conform to the following:


    3. Where fixtures come in contact with walls and floors, the contact area shall be water tight.

    That sounds like caulking to me.

    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Is there moisture behind tiles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian Page View Post
    When installing (re-installing) a toilet it's usually not a good idea to caulk around the base. Though sometimes manufacturers call for it in their installation instructions. Cosmetically it looks better but the caulk can also trap moisture under the toilet if the wax seal goes awry, resulting in serious degradation of the sub-floor. Without caulking the tolet base, moisture may be more readily visible, thus exposing the leaky ring.

    All plumbing fixtures, including toilets, are required to be sealed to the wall or floor ... that needs to be caulked/sealed around.

    Not caulking/sealing around the toilet can result in serious degradation of the sub-floor.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Is there moisture behind tiles?

    Jerry
    Please explain how not caulking around the base of a toilet can result in serious degradation of the sub-floor.

    Speaking from experience of having removed and installed dozens of toilets, I have found more damage to the sub-floor and flange to those which have been caulked than those which have not. The only way to tell if a wax ring is leaking is by water seeping out around the base, odor, possible rusted bolts (which are otherwise protected from moisture from above), or staining in the ceiling of the room below. Often if the toilet sits on a hardwood floor, the wood will stain from the inside out, but by that time the subfloor damage may be significant. A moisture meter can be useful but has may also provide false information. Caulking just seals in the possible evidence or at least delays its discovery.

    I recently took out one caulked toilet (which was not flushing well) and found a mass of roots which had worked there way along outside of the sewer line, creating a thick 'nest' . A tile floor had been installed previously and the wax ring (insufficient) was only compressed slightly on one side, allowing the roots, seeking moisture, to partially cover the flange. The flange was rusted out and had to be replaced all because of the length of time the faulty wax ring installation had gone undetected due to caulking.

    Perhaps the "...caulking/sealing around..." in your post could refer to the 'seal' of the wax ring and not any caulking around the base.


  20. #20
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    Default Re: Is there moisture behind tiles?

    Please explain how not caulking around the base of a toilet can result in serious degradation of the sub-floor.

    Bad aim, mopping, spills, cleaners, getting under the toilet, and wetting the sub floor.


    Speaking from experience of having removed and installed dozens of toilets, I have found more damage to the sub-floor and flange to those which have been caulked than those which have not.

    Homeowners will often caulk a leaking toilet thinking that will fix the leak,
    and delay the repair even longer.


    Caulking just seals in the possible evidence or at least delays its discovery.

    The wax ring should not be leaking to begin with.


    I recently took out one caulked toilet (which was not flushing well) and found a mass of roots which had worked there way along outside of the sewer line, creating a thick 'nest' . A tile floor had been installed previously and the wax ring (insufficient) was only compressed slightly on one side, allowing the roots, seeking moisture, to partially cover the flange. The flange was rusted out and had to be replaced all because of the length of time the faulty wax ring installation had gone undetected due to caulking.

    Damage was not due to the caulking, but was caused by roots and the improperly installed wax ring.


    Perhaps the "...caulking/sealing around..." in your post could refer to the 'seal' of the wax ring and not any caulking around the base.

    The wax ring does not to seal the toilet to the floor, but seals the toilet to the drain (flange).

    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Is there moisture behind tiles?

    Rick
    I certainly agree that a properly installed and adequate wax ring should not leak. However, not understanding the dynamics of the need for the wax ring and some difficulty in ensuring the toilet's proper placement over it by inexperienced installers, will frequently result in leakage. As you quite corretly stated, sealing the base of the toilet, by homeowners (or anyone else for that matter) will/can exacerbate a leakage problem, leaving any leak to go undetected. Exactly my point.

    My 'root' scenario only goes to explain that though the wax ring placement was faulty, caulking actually prevented the roots from exposing themselves which could have lead to an earlier detection of a problem, thus preventing a more expensive repair.

    I certainly dont 'buy' the bad aim, moppage, spills etc. as being a primary cause for a long term degradation of a sub floor around the flange. In my experience that kind of damage requires constant moisture/leakage over time and not the kind of occasional mis-use in your explanation.


  22. #22

    Default Re: Is there moisture behind tiles?

    Peter: You can't see under the toilet where it most likley is leaking, Explain to the client what your findings are and show them if you can! also write in your report what your findings were and how you checked it and your recommendations.


  23. #23
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    Default Re: Is there moisture behind tiles?

    "I certainly dont 'buy' the bad aim, moppage, spills etc. as being a primary cause for a long term degradation of a sub floor around the flange."

    You should be with me when I clean one of my rentals after a move out, you would understand the " Bad aim" theory much better.

    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Is there moisture behind tiles?

    Rick
    I too own rental properties and have in the past owned (and managed) multiple rental units so I feel your pain. Still not buying the 'baid aim' thing or spillage, though it does happen - and 'mopping' - from a tenant????? - Yeah, right!


  25. #25
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    Default Re: Is there moisture behind tiles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian Page View Post
    Jerry
    Please explain how not caulking around the base of a toilet can result in serious degradation of the sub-floor.
    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Cantrell View Post
    Please explain how not caulking around the base of a toilet can result in serious degradation of the sub-floor.

    Bad aim, mopping, spills, cleaners, getting under the toilet, and wetting the sub floor.
    To add to what Rick said: overflowing water from a stopped up toilet is a biggie - *especially* for rental units.

    Water on the floor *of any kind for any reason* will get in under the unsealed toilet and collect inside, there there likely will be a path down to the wood subfloor ... and there is your answer.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Is there moisture behind tiles?

    Yes, but you would surely be aware that the tank leak/spillage or toilet overflow had occurred and make appropriate reparations. The subfloor is very unlikely to degrade with a one-time event. Of course if it occurred repeatedly and over time that's a different story. Never-the-less, the hidden long term leak /water intrusion - anywhere within the structure - can be far more devastating than an occasional and visible overflow, as I'm sure you would agree.

    If the tank or toilet overflow/spill was that bad there will likely be other prominent issues to address, but a rotted/rusted out sewer flange isn't necessarily one of them. Such a spill may involve removing the toilet in any event if the flooring, walls or baseboard were adversely affected. Thereby allowing examination of the subfloor beneath and adequate drying out.

    Last edited by Ian Page; 05-03-2011 at 12:37 AM. Reason: momentum

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Is there moisture behind tiles?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Cantrell View Post
    Sorry for the delay in my response, spent the day with my Bride.

    "Caulk around the base is not required every where, maybe it is in your area"

    Maybe more than my area.

    2006 IRC

    CHAPTER 27
    PLUMBING FIXTURES
    SECTION P2705
    INSTALLATION
    P2705.1 General.
    The installation of fixtures shall conform to the following:


    3. Where fixtures come in contact with walls and floors, the contact area shall be water tight.

    That sounds like caulking to me.
    Caulking around toilet: It is my opinion that an overflowing toilet IS going to occur. When it overflows and the toilet isn't caulked, where is at least some of that water going? Yep, into the subfloor and if it is in an upstairs bathroom, the ceiling below.

    The above statements are expressed solely as my opinion and in all probability will conflict with someone else's.
    Stu, Fredericksburg VA

  28. #28
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    Default Re: Is there moisture behind tiles?

    Stuart
    A toilet overflow or tank/plumbing leak in an upstairs bathroom will have other places to leak into the room below - the water will not just gravitate to the toilet base. Gaps beneath the baseboard and bottom plate, unsealed joints between the floor covering, tub and shower, even directly through carpeting into the subfloor etc. That's not to say that every effort shouldn't be made to avoid such a catastrophe but caulking the toilet base for that reason alone is a little fruitless. IMO, and in many cases, the benefit of being able to (possibly) determine a leaky wax-ring by not caulking the toilet base outweighs the alternative - from a purely practical aspect.

    As previously stated, if the toilet/tank overflow was significant, toilet removal may be called for, in any event.


  29. #29
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    Default Re: Is there moisture behind tiles?

    Required (as Jerry stated) but routinely not enforced by AHJ.

    90 percent don't have them caulked here...

    I add to all of these in report...

    "Recommend caulking the toilets at the front and side but leave un caulked a portion around the rear of the toilets (no hidden or 'contained beneath the toilet' leaks if the wax ring should begin to fail) especially on the floor above crawls or any upper floors."

    ymmv....

    We know why you fly: because the bus is too expensive and the railroad has a dress code...
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  30. #30
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    Default Re: Is there moisture behind tiles?

    You can argue from now until the cows come home (I'm not sure what time that is), about why you should caulk a toilet to the floor.

    Actually, I rarely caulk a toilet, but I do seat the bowl with plaster of paris. Not so much because I want to water proof the joint (That is another discussion) I do recommend floor drains in bathrooms (new construction), and membranes. I also recommend treating the cove base joint (and pedestal bases) the same as the floor/tub joint, and horizontal and vertical corner joints in the tub/shower area; that is to seal with silicone, not grout.

    I have seen occaision where the bowl was caulked to the floor, maybe not to waterproof it as much as to seat it.

    If the bowl is not seated properly, and there is movement, you will lose the wax ring.

    Other than a bowl not being seated properly (movement), what else causes a wax ring to fail? Do they wear out? Hmmmmm.

    I have seen wax rings fail when the wrong type was installed too close to radiant heat.

    Last edited by Steven Turetsky; 05-05-2011 at 04:03 PM.
    Steven Turetsky, UID #16000002314
    homeinspectionsnewyork.com
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