Shower Leak ?
by Dan Koen Feb 2007
There is no problem in a bathroom quite as mystifying as a shower
leak! Is it the shower pan, the pipes or what? What can cause a
I hear these questions almost everyday. Among the many ways a
shower can leak are :
1) shower pan--shower pan test
2) shower faucet system
3) shower glass door system
4) grout cracks higher than the shower curb mainly in corners
5) shower curb sloped outwards instead of inwards
6) pony wall(or half wall) not properly waterproofed
7) shower seat built improperly
8) sheetrock behind tile swelling causing grout cracks allowing water
behind the wall
Brief history of shower pans in DFW area
Depending on how old the shower in your bathroom is, your pan
could be made out of many different materials. In Dallas, most older
showers were constructed using lead pans. Then for a while during
the 60's and 70's thousands of showers were constructed using
pans made of tar paper and thin layers of tar known in the trade as a
composition pan. You just can't get worse than a composition pan.
In the late 70's and early 80's shower pans made a huge leap in
longevity when pvc shower pans started to be installed in showers
here in North Texas. They were uneffected by water. They didn't
deteriorate by electrolysis like the old lead pans did. These new
pans were tough, flexible, cheap and lasted a very long time if they
were installed correctly.
Then why do so many homeowners still need their shower
pans replaced if most showers have pvc type pans?
That's a very good question! The reason why some new generation
shower pans need replacing is poor installation and inadequate
plumbing codes for shower pans.
A poorly installed shower pan may have a nail puncturing the pan at
too low a level, or the pan may not be sealed at the drain properly,
or protective pan curb corners weren't glued at the ends of the
threshold(curb) where the curb meets the door jambs at both ends.
Shower curb failure doesn't show up on a shower pan test!
The main plumbing code inadequacy lies at the curb and how it's
constructed before the shower pan covers it. Plumbing code now
allows for the core of the curb to be constructed of 2"x4" studs,
where the top stud lies flat. When the shower pan is placed over this
flat stud any water soaking through the top of the curb can drip to
the outside of the curb eventually dripping on the slab and begin to
be soaked up by the wood that makes up the core of the curb. When
this happens, and it often does, the shower curb swells and the
grout cracks, letting even more water to enter the shower curb until it
starts to fall apart.
This rotting curb attracts termites and other insects to invade
We have found a permanent solution to shower curb failure. We cut
out the 3 studs that make up the curb core and install two rows of
brick and mortar in its place. On top of the brick we spread a layer of
concrete that slopes inwards towards the shower drain. When the
shower pan is laid over the top of the shower curb now, any water
that soaks through to the top of the curb has to go inside the shower.
Even if water somehow ever got to the core of your curb it would
never swell and would remain uneffected. I have never seen a
shower curb fail when constructed like this!
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Leaking Shower Pan