Why is my shower enclosure leaking?

By
Home Inspector with Charles Buell Inspections Inc.
http://actvra.in/n4f

All the caulk in the world may not prevent your shower and glass door enclosure from leaking.  In fact caulking can make it worse.

I have done posts in the past about not caulking the connection where tile shower and/or tub enclosure meets the tub or the one-piece shower base.

In the following picture one can see a typical tile shower and its one-piece plastic base.  
Shower enclosure
These types of shower assemblies are very common in modern construction and perform very well when installed properly.  

While I don't want to get too technical, suffice it to say that if the connection is caulked, any moisture that eventually finds its way through the grout lines (and some will over time) will not have a route of escape.  The moisture is then trapped behind the tile.  

This results in unsightly mold growth behind the caulk around the base of the shower (or tub) and in many cases will result in the water being directed "outside" the shower where it can find its way into the wall and floor outside the shower.  

Damage to the baseboard visible in the picture below is very common with this caulking mistake.
Damage outside of showerHighlighted area of moisture
It is best practice to only grout the wall/shower base connection.  It is also important to make sure the weep holes built into the shower base is left open---as an escape route for trapped moisture.  

caulked weep hole

Tubs do not have these weep hole details so not caulking over the grout on a tub/tile wall connection is even more important.

It takes considerable attention to detail to get these connections sealed properly. 

This improper caulking detail is not the only cause of damage like this to the walls and floor outside of the shower---but those other reasons will be the topic of future posts.



Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector

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Re-Blogged 3 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Vickie Nagy 11/14/2011 11:15 AM
  2. Chris Smith 11/14/2011 03:12 PM
  3. Barbara-Jo Roberts Berberi & Corinna Birgit Cromartie 11/21/2011 01:04 PM
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shower enclosures
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Show All Comments
Rainmaker
967,956
Edward & Celia Maddox
Solutions Real Estate - Queen Creek, AZ
We Take The High Road

Thanks for sharing your blog.  Gives some good insight on how to prevent leakage.

November 14, 2011 10:53 AM #1
Rainmaker
561,119
Lindsey Hasford
Coldwell Banker Vision - Elk River, MN

That is very insightful. What a great teacher you are!

November 14, 2011 11:06 AM #2
Rainmaker
1,325,764
Vickie Nagy
Vickie Nagy, Broker Associate Realty ONE Group BMC Associates | BRE#01363932 - San Ramon, CA
Broker for San Ramon, Danville, Dublin, Pleasanton

Charles I have never heard this important tale about where (or where not) to caulk in the tub and shower. This is very informative and worthy of a re-blog.

November 14, 2011 11:11 AM #3
Rainer
41,522
Sara Garden
Rocky Mountain Home Staging - Boulder, CO
MBA, HSE, HSR, APSD, Home Stager

Very interesting. I didn't know about this either. I always thought the more caulk the better!

November 14, 2011 11:22 AM #4
Ambassador
1,143,654
Paul Henderson
RE/MAX Professionals. - Tacoma, WA
I always put my clients first in any transaction!

Now you tell me, thanks Charles! 

November 14, 2011 11:39 AM #5
Rainmaker
563,924
Chris Smith
Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage - New Tecumseth, ON
South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta

Charles, these are issues very common to this type of shower enclosure, thanks for your tips

November 14, 2011 03:08 PM #6
Ambassador
1,069,795
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Edward & Celia, thanks

Lindsey, thanks, glad you found the information useful

Vickie, these enclosures are a lot more complicated that most people are aware---especially when tile is involved.  Thanks for the reblog as well (hopefully you have left the comments enabled so that the conversation can continue at your blog as well).

Sara, caulk is like duct tape---it has to be used properly and where necessary---but very easy to use it for things it isn't supposed to be used for

Paul, how many days too late am I? :)

Chris, you are welcome---and thanks for the reblog (I hope you left the comments enabled so that the conversation can continue at your blog as well).

November 14, 2011 03:29 PM #7
Rainer
232,378
Mike Yeo
3:16 team REALTY - Frisco, TX

Charles - Chaulking the weep holes is very common mistake. Most people think that it was an incomplete job but there is a reason for it.

November 14, 2011 03:48 PM #8
Rainmaker
627,428
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

No weeping in the shower can cause leaking in the house :)

November 14, 2011 05:53 PM #9
Rainmaker
359,303
Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC - Wenatchee, WA
NCW Home Inspections, LLC

Charlie, Boy you know how to make a guy with a caulk gun feel bad  ; ) Caulk and duct tape with a little bailing wire will fix everything!

November 14, 2011 07:39 PM #10
Rainmaker
1,218,959
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

At first I was hoping this would be a good duct tape blog.  But I was very sadly disappointed.

Instead, I am weeping over the fact that you call mold "unsightly."  Molds are very beautiful, and colorful at times.

And taste like chicken.

November 15, 2011 06:50 AM #11
Rainmaker
1,218,959
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

This would be a good post for Best Practices, Charlie.

November 15, 2011 06:54 AM #12
Ambassador
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Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Mike, yes---there is for sure a reason for the weep hole

Don, I know---I am such a spoil sport

Jay, sorry----I forgot :)

I thought about sending it to the Best Practices group but figured this was more about how "not" to do it than an example of its having been done well.

November 15, 2011 10:21 AM #13
Ambassador
1,724,038
Barbara-Jo Roberts Berberi & Corinna Birgit Cromartie
Charles Rutenberg Realty - Palm Harbor, FL
Palm Harbor & Dunedin FL Residential Real Estate

Caulking can make it worse??? Who knew?!

November 21, 2011 01:02 PM #14
Rainmaker
229,481
Reuben Saltzman
Structure Tech Home Inspections - Minneapolis, MN
Minneapolis Home Inspections

Good stuff.  I still link to your  blog about not caulking at the base of tiled walls all the time.

November 21, 2011 09:55 PM #15
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1,069,795
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Barbara, it is all in knowing "where" to caulk and where not to caulk

Reuben, thanks

November 22, 2011 01:26 PM #16
Anonymous
Anonymous
Erin

I'm weeping about my weep holes. Thank you! Now I need to go scrape the bottom bead off my tile/tub connection and open some weep holes.  Good bye mold.

October 22, 2012 05:11 AM #17
Anonymous
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Charles Buell

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