soggy shower and insurance dispute

Old 06-06-01, 09:09 PM
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My insurance company is refusing to pay for what I would call the self-destruction of a shower resulting from a series of shortcuts taken by the builder -- years before we bought this pre-owned home.

For backer-board they used greenrock, which may have been a code violation, even in 1995 when the shower was built. Anyone know for sure?

There was no subfloor or subpan under the pan liner, nor was the bottom half of the clamping drain recessed into the foundation. Thus, there was no slope to the pan liner, and water in the pan liner accumulated to about 1/4" to 3/8" in depth before reaching the weep holes.

There was no pea gravel or other material used to prevent the weep holes from clogging with pan mud when the pan was laid, and the builder obviously did not even try to stop the mud from clogging the holes. Mud was jammed through the weepholes down into the drain. If the weepholes drained at all, they drained only very slowly, slow enough that what I believe to be a lower than normal amount of seepage through very well-sealed grout still resulted in water backing up inside the liner. (After months of not using the shower, the pan was ripped out and found to be quite wet. There were lots of ants and centipedes living in it. Tons of mold.)

Before ripping the shower out and finding all these problems, I dried it out a couple of times. I stopped using it and cut an access panel in an adjacent wall, from which I could put my hand into the liner and feel several inches of standing water. I syphoned that off, stopped using the shower for weeks, and resealed the grout.

The pan took a few weeks to fill up again with water -- my grout was very well sealed -- but when it did, the greenrock, which extended to the floor on all sides of the pan, was sitting in 3 or 4 inches of water.

The pan liner always held water perfectly except at the dam/threshold. In forming the pan liner around the dam/threshold, the liner was slit down below the top of the pan, and screws or nails were driven through the pan liner below the top of the pan. As if that were not bad enough, no patches were made. No preformed corners were used, no "welding" with a solvent. Instead, swatches of liner material were simply laid over the cuts before the backerboard was put up.

Eventually, the tile walls buckled and caved in, revealing some termite damage in exterior walls, which I know insurance won't cover, but also an astounding amount of rot in one interior pony wall.

I don't know whether homeowners insurance will cover "self-destruction caused by shoddy workmanship", but my guess is that the installation of the liner around the dam/threshold is my best argument, since they might cover a leaky pan liner.

Unfortunately, my insurance company (USAA) is balking. The "expert" plumber they are relying on doesn't know that the pan and the pan liner are different things, does not install a sloped subfloor/subpan below the liner or recess the drain, claims clogged weepholes don't matter because the pan mud is permeable (and admits that he does not protect the weepholes when building a shower), claims no water will get into the pan unless there's bad grout because grout is not water permeable. It's a nightmare. I know more about shower construction than my insurance company's expert.

Any suggestions would be appreciated, especially on dealing with the insurance company.
Old 06-09-01, 12:17 AM
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I've been with USAA since 1967, and they are one of the best insurance companies on the planet.
Like most every insurance company, they will pay for water damage from a leak (broken pipe, etc.) or storm, but I don't know about an insurance company paying for long-term damage caused by shoddy workmanship.
You may have some legal recourse from the people who sold you the home, if you can prove that they knew of this before selling you the home and failed to disclose it.
You might try posting this question in the free-legal-advice forum here on
(I doubt that greenboard is a code violation, but you can check with your local Building Inspector.)
Good Luck!

Old 06-10-01, 01:58 PM
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Hi Lloyd, Hi Mike,

Mike is right about insurance companies not accepting liability for faulty/improper installation techniques. They don't. That's all there is to that, so don't approach this thing on that basis.

The companies I've dealt with, however, usually cover the damage caused by the "failure" of a plumbing "fixture," which a shower is. It's a fixture just like a toilet or a sink.

I advise my customers to approach it in that light. Don't question why the thing failed. Just state that it failed. This advice may be a little late in your case.

I am not surprised by the fact that your "expert" doesn't understand the function of a shower pan/liner (they ARE one and the same). If everyone was up on it, we wouldn't have the problem . . . well, not as much of it, anyway.

If you want some real experts to commiserate with you, come on down to our board. Maybe someone there knows something I don't.


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