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Tub/Shower Leaking from...somewhere


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  • Tub/Shower Leaking from...somewhere

    This leak destroyed the ceiling below which alerted me to the problem. It is apparently a recurring problem in this hallway bath, as I noticed the ceiling had been repaired by the previous homeowner who 'knew nothing' when I inquired. I was told that all of the polybutylene piping had been replaced with copper. Steps taken:

    1) Replaced shower curtain with glass doors and re-caulked around tub (silicone) at ceramic tile junction, corners, and inside/outside new glass doors (handyman). Everything else appeared to be in good shape. I have an en suite, which is where I shower, but used this shower a few days after the repair/modifications to test the work. Still leaked.

    2) Called another handyman who re-installed and re-grouted approximately 6 somewhat loose ceramic tiles at long tub wall, re-caulked (silicone) around tub and the shower doors. Tested by showering a few days later. Still leaked. Noticed the tub spout/shower diverter combo was failing; spraying a lot of water at the spout and reducing the spray at the shower head.

    3) Called a large Nationally recognized plumbing company. The plumber inspected the spout/diverter, replaced it and sealed it with silicone. He insisted this was the problem and looked at nothing else, including the ceiling below where I had removed what was left of the remaining sheet rock so that he could inspect the plumbing work and piping from beneath. I paid a small fortune for the service call, the part, and his additional time for labor. Tested by showering the next day. Still leaked.

    4) Pulled a plumber/handyman from a job next door to my home last week. He looked at everything. Suggested replacing the drain seal because it was old and worn. He tested by running the water and shower afterward. No leak. He also suggested a new faucet and spout. I purchased a high-end combo and he installed them and sealed both with silicone a few days ago. I tested everything by pouring and throwing water on the faucet/spout area last night. No leak. Today tested by showering in there. Still leaks.

    5) About 40 minutes after my shower I discovered the leak. I got on a ladder and looked from the ceiling below, but could see nor feel wet piping. I did find that water was still pooled on an 8" piece of 2x4 that is fitted into the ceiling perhaps for the purpose of keeping sheetrock leveled once it is installed. I couldn't feel any water on any pipes above the 2x4. Ductwork runs above the piping. I wonder if heat has caused that piping to fail?

    It seems like when the water or shower runs with no one in the tub, there is no leak. When someone is in the tub showering, there is a leak. Is it possible there a fine crack in my tub or my tub is completely rusted out underneath? It seems like there is a little 'give' when I step onto the tub. Could there be a pipe under the tub? Do I have to remove the entire ceiling below the bathroom a (there is a powder room below, no visible water damage on ceiling) and partial ceiling from below in living room (meets long tub wall) to try to figure out what is under the tub? I can't afford to do so right now, but do I have to gut my bathroom in order to find the source of the water? There are no visible signs of water at the ceramic tile at the toilet or under the sink vanity. Today I noticed that a few of the bottom ceramic trim tiles on the outside of the tub/shower door (located left of the faucet) appear to be loose, there may be a little moisture back there. Also, the grout in the floor tile in the corner is a little dark (damp?). I'm wondering if water isn't pooling there in the corner from whatever is leaking and then leaking into the sheetrock. I tried to do some research and came upon this forum where I saw something about leaking at a drain, at a joint or elbow and also at tub feet. Would my tub have tub feet (I'm not presently home to look)? Could I have a more serious problem than I am aware?

    Any insight or assistance would be appreciated!

  • #2
    The tell tale sign is when you say that it only leaks when someone is in it and that you feel some "give when you step in, this is not that uncommon of an issue.
    The leak is in either the drain assembly or the joint between tub and tile, both of these places are common causes for your issue. Often there is an inspection panel for the drain area in the room behind the tub, if not before you have someone cut out the ceiling below it would be advantageous to cut a hole in the wall (often a closet backs up the shower, Lowe's/Home depot sell "Inspection Covers" that can be installed over the hole for future trouble shooting). By cutting the hole behind the tub you can see exactly where the water issue starts from, if it's the drain you will easily be able to see the water stain where it first drips.
    Cutting the hole and installing an inspection panel is by far the easiest and cheapest option, small reair or like i mentioned just install an inspection cover, they can be removed at will in the future and can be painted, cost around $15 depending on the size.
    Little about a lot and a lot about a little.
    Every day is a learning day.


    • #3

      a cast iron tub can take quite a bit of abuse before it leaks. Rust isn't an issue.
      Older drains are lead and brass or chromed brass.
      Basically the drain system floats beneath the tub, unless the "foot" is resting on a 2x6 or 2x4.
      The drain basket has a layer of plumbing putty between "IT" and the tub. On the bottom of the tub is a rubber gasket followed by a large lock ring or the angled portion of the "foot" - the basket screws down inside of the foot.
      the foot connects to the drain TEE which is the pipe from the overflow beneath the tub spout. Finally your effluent connects to the bathroom drain lines.


      • #4

        I drew this diagram to try to tell you how a cast iron and an acryllic tub is installed in a bathroom.
        The far tub lip rests on the 2X6 stringer, the floor and the outer lip of the tub.
        The drain is usually between two joists, but it may be resting on a piece if framing.
        Click image for larger version

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        • #5

          Thank you for your feedback. The tub faucet backs to a common wall in the hallway at the top of the stairs and a hole was previously cut and patched by the previous homeowner. My handyman/plumber cut a hole again, but didn't take it down to the baseboard; only to the location of the overflow seal and the faucet above. To me, it looks pretty tight in there and hopefully he can get to the drain with that access otherwise, we may be forced to go in through the ceiling in the powder room directly below (the ceiling in the hallway below has been cut out about 3'x3' and to the crown moulding because the damage was pretty extensive there. From that location, the ductwork is in the way of the pvc drain which sits above it). The panel is a great idea, I never considered it but given the ongoing repairs I think that's the way to go so I'll check out Home Depot/Lowe's. I'll let you know how things go after the weekend when repairs resume.


          • #6

            Wow, thanks for the diagram and your insight. I'm happy to hear it's likely not a rust issue as I'm not able to take on the expense of gutting the bathroom at this time. This weekend we'll explore the drain system and move forward with replacing it and hopefully that will alleviate the problem! I really appreciate the diagram---it's very helpful for me in understanding how everything is pieced together.


            • #7
              Leaks - Mystery solved!

              HayZee518 and pushkins, as promised last week I am following up. This weekend we inspected the drain while running water a few minutes (spout, then switching to shower) and could find no leak. In order to target this problem for once and all, I put my bathing suit on and jumped in the shower for 10-15 minutes while the plumber viewed all plumbing from the access in the hallway wall and my daughter viewed the access cut from the foyer ceiling below.

              Findings: From the access wall, the plumber found water on the floor, under the front corner of the tub. He then inspected the bathroom and found the grout in the ceramic tile flooring to be slightly damp in the same location. He noticed that the contractor who installed the shower doors didn't do so correctly. Not only was the caulking that was applied along the tub at the door too thin, the doors were not level (a shim was inserted at the front door, inside at the top to prevent the door from rolling open). Additionally, the doors were installed wrong--the inside door was installed at the outside and the outside door was installed at the inside, allowing water to pool at the track and drip/run over the edge. The water slowly leaked into the subfloor and then onto the foyer ceiling, creating damage there--and then onto the hardwood floors below. To show me what was happening, he angled the shower head toward the doors and we watched this in action. So it looks like (hopefully) the mystery is solved and I can address this problem so no further damage occurs.

              pushkins, per your recommendation, I do not plan to close the wall access permanently--instead I will replace the drywall with an access panel (good tip)! HayZee518, I will file your drawing for future reference...but is there any period of time that I could expect this will become an issue and a necessity so that I can be proactive and prepare accordingly?


              • #8
                shower/tub drain

                Since you found the water leak at OTHER than the tub drain I would assume the plumber's putty was installed properly beneath the basket.
                My mother had a leak in her drain hardware where it was embedded in the concrete. I had to chip away the concrete and install a new foot fitting, overflow tee and a downward facing elbow to the drain that went to the side inlet of the sanitary tee below the toilet flange.
                You shouldn't have any problems at all.


                • #9
                  shower/tub drain

                  Well, I hope that you're right about the putty being installed properly! It sounds like you're mother was lucky that you were able to help her out; I can't imagine the time and work involved at having to chip away at concrete to reach the drain hardware under those circumstances. My plumber/handyman will return on Saturday afternoon to begin the task of removing the doors and frame and then re-installing and sealing. I am hoping this will be the last time we have to address this water leak in this particular bathroom. I am pretty confident in his abilities, as he has helped me with some other more minor projects. I'll post again next week after he makes the repair!

                  P.S. --Being new to this forum, I'm not sure if I'm following the correct process when replying. Of course, I like to click the 'Thanks' button first and then send a reply as I think I replied to an earlier post and then couldn't get back to the 'Thanks' button.


                  • #10

                    this forum was started back in 2002. I happened into it looking or web surfing....
                    Being a former licensed electrician and a guy with an extensive mechanical back ground [multiple industries] I figured I could help out Troy with his forum. Since then I have clocked in over 8300 postings from soup to nuts, not just electrical either!
                    I try not to give up on postings. Sometimes I meet up with an unmovable brick wall, but, taking an overall look results in problem solved.
                    Hang around here, you'll learn lots! Welcome to our forum!