Shattered Shower Walls

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  #1  
Old 04-30-04, 09:58 PM
dachrist
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Shattered Shower Walls

Last summer we installed a Neo-Angle shower kit in our cabin. We bought one of the ones that comes in pieces, and you silicone the polysterene walls to the existing drywall in the corner. This cabin is basically used from April until October, then closed up for winter. When we arrived at the cabin last week to open it for the season, both polysterene walls of the shower kit have completely shattered. Its like someone hit them with a sledgehammer. The glass walls and door are perfectly fine. What could have caused the walls to shatter, and how should we go about fixing it so it doesn't happen again?
 
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  #2  
Old 04-30-04, 10:50 PM
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dachrist,

Not knowing what you purchased, I assume a plastic shower kit versus fiberglass, it is possible that a couple of issues might have occured. A good fiberglass unit would sustain any problems which include cold temps and/or shifting issues of the cabin. If I am wrong here, it's not the first time.

First, when this unit was installed, what time of year was it? If during a hot period and then comes the cold temperatures, something decided to contract. It can do this if it was not adhesively applied in generousity behind the panels but may not have stopped the result you describe. This is one theory.

Second, you could have had some shifting of the cabin, any movment of the walls, like some twisting or dropping could have caused the shattering effect. It would not take much shifting for plastic to explode in pieces.

Again, this is just theory not knowing more about the age of cabin and what it is sitting upon for a foundation or what the walls are made of.

Hope this helps!
 
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Old 05-01-04, 10:00 AM
dachrist
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Hi Doug, the shower kit was one made by Maax. According to the installation manual, the wall sheets were "polysterene", not fibreglass. The kit was installed in July, temp was about 18 degrees celsius. The cabin walls/foundation are pretty stable (it has been around for about 20 years). I am wondering about your theory of not enough silicone was used for the glue..we followed the directions to the letter, but perhaps there wasn't enough? Not sure...we do know that the temp in the winter up there can go as low as 20 degrees below zero for extended periods. I wonder if an ABS shower kit would stand up better? The problem we have now is that the base and the glass pieces are in perfect shape, so we don't really want to buy a whole new kit, just new wall sheets.
 
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Old 05-01-04, 10:56 AM
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dachrist,

You're idea sounds feasible but maybe this would be better.

Marble/Onyx wall panels

Wall panels come in any available color or custom colors to match your desire. Thickness is 3/8" and sizes are made to your measurements +/- 1/4". Marble/Onyx wall panels are mold resistant and require very little maintenance. With this type of product, you don't have the mold to fight, grout to fall out, and the only seems are in the corners and around the base itself. Wall panels are installed by using a good water proof adhesive, Henry or Liquid Nails, applied in globs, G.E. Silicone sanitary caulk is recommended for use. Faucet holes are easily drilled on the job by using a hole saw on a drill and drilling from the finished side. Panel should be well supported when drilling. sizes can be adjusted by using a belt sander for small cuts or a masonry blade on a circular saw. Cut from the back side of the panel. Notches may be made by using a saber saw, cutting from the finished side. Use masking tape around the cutting area to avoid damage to panel. Cutting Marble/Onyx is similar to cutting hardwood.

When it comes to "plastic" tub or showers as some call them, there are three primary types of tub and shower units:

1. Gel-coated fiberglass
2. Acrylic reinforced with fiberglass
3. Acrylic backed with a structural composite.

Now side by side, these products look very similar, however there are important differences.

The gel-coat products, when constructed with high quality ingredients, can be very hard and durable. The manufacturing process is critical, as the liquid gel-coat must be applied evenly on the molds at the correct temperature. Gel-coated products if damaged or scratched can be repaired with great success. Repairs performed correctly are permanent and virtually invisible.

Acrylic units are usually constructed using large sheets of solid colored acrylic plastic. These sheets are heated so that they soften. The softened sheets are then stretched over a mold to achieve the desired shape of the shower or tub unit. This stretching process, however, sometimes causes the acrylic to be very thin as it stretches around corners. Those units with the highest percent of acrylic tend to offer higher performance levels. Repairs to these units are not always successful.

Finally, if you do select one of the acrylic or fiberglass, you can keep it looking new by applying once a month, car wax. It just takes a few minutes and you use spray on car wax applied to the surface to the wall surfaces only. Never apply wax to the floor of the unit. Buff this wax out and it will be as shiny as new!

The acrylics have a 5 year warranty. Gelcoats have a 3 year.

Hope this helps and good luck!
 
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Old 05-02-04, 08:22 AM
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Just my $.02 worth here, but if the cabin is shutdown in the winter & the temperature drops to -20 for extended periods, I don't think any type of shower panel is going to hold up to that very well. I think any of the types on the market are going to crack at least & here's why. The materialwill contract when exposed to that extreme cold, if it's glued solidly to a regular framed & sheetrocked wall, the contraction rates between the wall & the panels isn't going to be the same and the panel is going to give. Even the Marble/Onyx wall panels will have this same limitation, although they may hold up better than other cheaper solutions, I'd definitely check with the manufacturer to ensure they've been tested in such extreme cold conditions as where you're thinking of using it. I think tile properly set with modified thinset and modified grout over cbu instead of sheetrock would hold up better in the long term.

Like I said just my $.02 worth, let us know what you decide on & how it fairs over next winter.
 
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Old 05-02-04, 03:40 PM
floorman
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Dell you may be on to something there.You could use a pocelain tile with a moisture absorption rating of .5%(impervious tile) and put that on the walls as dell said using latex additive in the grout as well as the mortar and that would minimze any chance of the tile failing from the freeze /thaw issue

I think any thing made of plastic or even the marble /onyx would not hold up to those extremes in temperature.
 
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Old 05-03-04, 10:08 PM
dachrist
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Could I not attach Acrylic or Fibreglass panels and use adhesive that stays flexible to low temperatures? That way if the gyproc wall contracts more or less than the shower panel, the adhesive would stretch to compensate.
 
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Old 05-03-04, 10:22 PM
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dachrist,

Let's face some facts. The cabin is basically in good shape just not heated during the winter.

Fiberglass would be better than acrylic because it can take on the extreme temp changes - it's used on boats right? Anybody have boats in northern Minnesota with problems? None from where I grew up. I suggested a good fiberglass wall panels since these are anchored primarily at the nailing flange, not adhesively glued on solely, if at all. Thus no problem and these are rugged panels, like those of Lasco or Kohler.

As floorman suggested, ceramic tile is another alternative and we all know that some rest areas that are in the northern climates are closed down at winter time. The tiles stay on just fine, right! Never seen problems there.

By the way, drywall will not stand up well over time so cement board is suggested with tile application. Any moisture that would build up behind your tile will destroy whatever is behind it unless you use cb.

The issue is what alternative way will be the best without total demo of what you have and how much time or money do you want to spend?

The choice is yours to make.

Hope this helps!
 
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Old 05-05-04, 03:03 PM
showerguy
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Shattering Walls

I would like to know if you left any gap in the back corner when you installed your styrene panels. Since you had to screw in your glass frame through the outside edge of the panel, (and you probably didn't drill clearance holes in the styrene - most people don't) the only place the styrene would have to expand would be in the back corner.

Styrene expands and contracts very quickly and stud walls expand and contract very slowly. Even at normal temperatures, styrene is the most brittle plastic that things are commonly made of (ever drop a CD jewel case?). If the room temperature went up quickly due to light coming in windows in the early morning after a hard freeze, while the styrene was frozen and particularly brittle, the panels would expand first by as much a 1/4" - before the wall could expand and keep up.

If you used real 100% silicone for your adhesive, it would still be flexible at the low temperatures and not cause any problems. But, if the panel was trapped at both ends with no gap for expansion, it would have to explode, and this is what I believe happened. Cultured marble and Cultured Onyx won't explode under these "trapped" conditions but Cultured marble could easily crack and Onyx could buckle and come loose from the wall. That is why we always recommend a 1/8" expansion gap at both ends of a trapped wall panel, even for cultured Onyx which is much less reactive to temperature changes than styrene.

If it were mine, I would choose tile over styrene, fiberglass over tile, and cultured onyx over fiberglass. I would buy cultured onyx that is guaranteed forever. I believe it will hold up the best, and if it ever does break, you will have to spend a couple of hours putting the new panels in, but they won't cost you anything because of the forever guarantee.

With your temperature extremes and the fact that one end of each wall panel is screwed pretty tightly in place, I would recommend a 1/4" gap in the back corner for the first panel, and 3/16" gap for the 2nd panel which would normally butt up against the first one. This gap can be sealed with 100% silicone so it can't leak, and covered with a stick of matching onyx inside corner trim so it doesn't show. You can also ease the tension by drilling 3/8" clearance holes in your panels where the shower door screws go through them, so that the screw doesn't actually touch the panel and restrict expansion movement.

Also I agree that cement board should be used behind the panels because sheetrock does not hold up well in an atmosphere with no temperature or humidity controls.

Good luck with your project !
 
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Old 05-05-04, 06:48 PM
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Showerguy,

Well put! Better way of saying what I have said in my previous posts! We seem to agree on every issue mentioned.

There's enough to ponder here but I think dachrist will make the right choice.

Thanks
 
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