What Causes a Shower Leak
Overlooking a shower leak for a significant time can cause damage to the substrate of your home. So what causes a shower to leak & is there any way to stop it from occurring. There can be several reasons why your shower has sprung a leak. Although one thing is certain water leaks can be damaging to your home. Left untreated the water leak will make it’s way to the structural parts of your home. As your biggest investment, it’s worth the effort to maintain it regularly just as you would your car. But have you ever thought about what caused that shower leak in the first place?
Common causes for a Leaking Shower
Listed below are some common causes for a Leaking Shower. One of them being building movement. Which weakens the grout & silicone within your shower. In turn creating pathways for water to penetrate the very barriers that are in place to protect your home. In particular at the wall to floor junctions within your shower recess.
All homes are built to allow for some building movement. Your home will be settling years after it has been built. In time minor changes will become obvious from the natural expansion and contraction. Caused simply from temperature and moisture changes in the environment. Doors will shift, making them hard to open and close. Hairline cracks appear on walls. Skirting boards may detach from the wall. One of the most common areas to be affected by the building movement is your shower. Tiles and cement grout aren’t flexible they are rigid materials. Building movement will cause separation between the floor and wall. This will affect the sealant and causing the grout to crack and fall out. The gaps then allow water to seep under the tiles. Once there the water gets trapped between the tile and waterproof membrane.
Waterproof Membrane Fails
A waterproof membrane is applied to all wet areas in your home including balconies. The membrane is designed to stop water penetrating to the surrounding areas. Australia has regulations in place which the application of waterproofing must comply with. This is set out in the Building Code of Australia and Australian Standards (AS3740 -1994). Bathroom specifications, state that the entire shower floor and walls up to 1800mm in height must be waterproofed. Even with regulations in place, there are limitations to the waterproof membrane. Case being, use of inferior products and the application is not to standard. Particularly the joins where the floor meets the walls. If you have ever watched the television series The Block. They have a catchphrase “Waterproof Wednesday”. Why because the membrane needs enough time to cure before tiling. Any combination of these items can easily put extra pressure on your membrane. For instance, missing or cracked grout in the shower. This allows water to seep & penetrate the membrane. The more water trapped under the tiles the quicker the deterioration. Once breached water will travel to nearby structural parts of your home.
Silicone Sealing Fails
No presence of silicone seal within the inner junctions of your shower walls. This is an issue for potential leaks within your shower. Silicone doesn’t last a lifetime. Constant pressure of water from your shower, cleaning products and building movement. All contribute to the deterioration and integrity of your silicone. Once the silicone starts pulling away from the wall or has mould, it has past it’s use by date.
Crumbling & Missing Grout
Cement-based grout is the favored grout for bathrooms and shower floors. Mainly because it’s easy to apply and cheaper. The downside is it’s tendency to chip, stain and susceptible to mould. As cement grout is not flexible any type of building movement will cause it to crack under the pressure. The small hairline cracks will in time grow larger and cause the grout to crumble. Regular visual inspections of the walls and floor will alert you to potential issues. Grout which is missing and cracked will allow water to penetrate behind the shower tiles. Presence of mould in the great lines is an indicator of water trapped behind the tiles. Leaking shower bases are a common problem, in particular in apartment buildings.
As this is such a broad category I will split it into two categories. Visible leaks and hidden leaks which are behind walls and under floors.
Visible Water Leaks
The visible leaks are easier to identify and fix. A leaking shower head may only need something as simple as replacing a worn-out washer or a thorough clean. The showerhead can become clogged from built-up mineral deposits. Don’t want to replace your shower head. Try some home remedies to clean the showerhead to see if that helps with the drip. There are countless remedies on the internet. But I use the white vinegar method to clean all the calcium buildup. Partly fill a plastic bag with white vinegar. Submerge the showerhead in the vinegar. Attach the bag with a string around the neck of the showerhead. Let soak for a couple of hours, untie the bag and let hot water run through to flush out any of the built-up calcium. You can also use an old toothbrush to get rid of any excess calcium around the holes. Then let the hot water run again to flush away any remaining calcium. Always check your materials when using vinegar as it can destroy gold fixtures if left for too long.
Hidden Water behind the shower wall
Unfortunately, water leaks behind the shower wall are more difficult to diagnose. In cases like this, it is always best left to professionals. Plumbers have both the knowledge and tools to diagnose and fix the water leak correctly.
Warning Signs of a Leak
- Shower Smells– Nasty smells coming from your bathroom. They can be a case of blocked drains or extreme mould.
- Loose or cracked tiles – Movement of tiles within the shower is a signal of water trapped under tiles. Cracked or broken tiles allow for higher water penetration to your membrane.
- Paint problems – Bubbling or peeling paint are common in bathrooms with leak issues. Poor ventilation or water damage near the shower will aid in the paint deterioration. Resist the urge for a quick fix by painting over the problem area. Identifying the root of the problem will be more cost-effective in the long run.
- Damp damaged wall – If the wall is starting to warp and stain it’s a sure sign that there is water damage behind there.
- Discoloured or missing grout – Loose or missing grout within your shower. This should always be sealed as soon as possible to stop water penetration under the tile. Discoloured grout is not only an eyesore but a sure sign you have a leaking shower. The condition and colour of the grout in the shower is an indicator of a shower needing repairs.
- Bathroom or shower doom jamming – Sometimes it can be a simple fix, such as a loose hinge on the bathroom door. In other cases, it is an indicator that there is too much moisture behind a wall. Hence making the surrounding wood to swell and door to jam.
How to Fix the Leak
Need help to fix your Shower Leak
We can find the source of the Leak & provide a waterproof sealing service. In most cases without removing tiles. Don’t hesitate with free assessments & quotes what do you have to lose. Except the nasty leak.