Armchair Builder

Prevent Shower Leaks in Your New Tiled Bath

Prevent Shower Leaks

Waterproofing to Prevent Shower Leaks

You can easily prevent shower leaks in your new bathroom.  Unfortunately, many contractors take shortcuts when installing tile.  There are so many things that can go wrong if you don’t follow certain quality practices and when they do, the damage from shower leaks can be costly.  Let’s take a look at some best practices so you can incorporate them into your new tiled shower.  And if you would like to see these items described in more detail, check out our newly published video…Creating a Leak Free Tile Shower.

Cement Backer board

We’ve recently posted a video on what not to use behind tile in a shower.  We’ll give you a hint…it starts with “green” and ends with “board”.  Instead, use a cement backer board as it’s the best material to use as a wall substrate for tile in wet locations.  It won’t swell, delaminate, warp, or crumble so it makes a great base to support your new tile.  A solid base will keep the tiles in place and help prevent shower leaks.  We’ve also recently published a video with tile backer board installation tips.  Anyone can install it, so you might want to seriously consider doing it yourself even if you decide to hire a tile setter.  This can save you a few bucks on the installation.

Waterproofing to Prevent Shower Leaks

Some people will tell you that this is overkill.  You’ve heard the old cliche…”an once of prevention is worth…”.  Why take a chance when you know you can prevent shower leaks by using waterproofing under your wall tiles?  The product we used to adhere our tiles to the wall (see picture above) also acts as a water tight barrier.  Grout and caulk will let water through at some point so you might as well have waterpoofing below.  And don’t you dare say sealing your grout will help!  You can also get waterproofing in liquid form that is rolled on.

Slope Horizontal Surfaces

You know what eventually happens to puddles of water that are standing in your yard after a rain?  Eventually they seep down into the ground.  The same principle happens with tile.  If you put tile on a horizontal surface and let water stand on it, eventually it will make its way down through.  So in order prevent this these types of shower leaks,we slope the horizontal surfaces to let the water run off.

Solid Horizontal Surfaces

Some people reading this will think we are way overdoing this.  However, we have witnessed the demolition of way too many showers to miss an opportunity to save you the hassle.  A second defense against water getting down through grout lines on horizontal surfaces is to use solid materials on them.  So for our shower ledge, we used a Caesarstone quartz slab.  You can also use marble, granite, solid surface…etc.  It’s easy to slope a ledge like ours to get the water to run off quickly.  But what if you have a horizontal surface that will have a shower door or glass panel on it?  It’s harder to slope these and get the glass panel straight so a solid surface works best to keep water out.

You will also want to install horizontal solid material up underneath wall tiles.  Think of your roof and how you install the wall flashing up the wall and then bring your siding down over top of it.  This way, any rain that hits the siding runs down and out onto the roof shingles instead of down the gap between them.  This same principle applies to the horizontal surfaces in your shower and why we install the horizontal slabs first so they go up underneath the wall tile.  We don’t want to depend entirely on caulk to keep the water out.

Silicone Caulk

Once your tiles are all installed and the grout is in, you can use a silicone caulk to seal up the corners and gaps.  Be sure to use the best quality product they offer at your favorite store and be sure it is 100 percent silicone and mold resistant.  Why use the best quality you say?  Have you ever re-caulked a shower or tub?  It’s not a lot of fun.  If you can spend a couple extra bucks to get the best, it’s totally worth it.  And because your shower will be wet much of the time, you want the silicone to resist mildew and be 100% waterproof to prevent shower leaks.

What areas do you caulk?  Be sure to hit any corners or angles that could leak.  If you have an overhang on your horizontals, be sure to silicone caulk the gap underneath where it meets the tile.  Also seal up where the shower valve beauty ring and tub spout meet the tile.  And last, be sure to put a good bead between the tub surface and the bottom edge of tile.  When you fill up the tub, the weight will cause the tub to move slightly down.  The flexible silicone caulk will move with the tub and keep a seal…whereas grout will crack and leave gaps.

Shower without Tubs

If you have a stand-up shower without a tub, you will want to take extra precautions to prevent leaks through the floor.  You have two options to prevent leaks.  First, you can use a solid pan made out of marble or fiberglass that is manufactured with a slope to the drain.  Your second option, if you want a tiled floor,  is to use a rubber liner with a sloped mud base for the floor to prevent leaks.

If you follow these tips, you should be able to prevent shower leaks in your new bath project.  Be sure to check out our new video, Creating a Leak Free Shower, for more great tips for your new bath remodel.

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1 Comment for Prevent Shower Leaks in Your New Tiled Bath

Author comment by advanceshower | September 23, 2012 at 6:54 pm

I think waterproofing is a must with shower repairs… everything behind the bathroom tiles will just rot without it.