Water issue in bathroom at base of the tub and shower plumbing wall

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Old 10-23-12, 08:51 PM
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Water issue in bathroom at base of the tub and shower plumbing wall

I am troubleshooting a water issue and I am looking for ideas on how to identify the source of a water leak.

I remodeled my basement bathroom February 2009. I had a room mate living in the basement and he used the shower on a regular basis. I however did not use that bathroom. Water issues started to appear mid 2011. The first signs I noticed were bubbling paint. I noticed small gaps in the caulk between the tub and the tile and assumed that to be the cause. I removed the caulk, setup a fan and dehumidifier. The bathroom dried out for a full week before I replaced the caulk. I waited another week before allowing use of the bathroom.

The bubbling paint returned within a few weeks and seemed to worsen more rapidly this time. I suspected the user of the shower might be getting water outside of the shower but after checking the bathroom after multiple showers there didn't seem to be any excess moisture outside of the shower/tub area.

Now I suspected there was a leak inside the wall. I had a outdoor spigot that leaked when in use that was located in the block wall behind the shower wall. I had long since stopped using the spigot but I suspected that was the source. I opened up the wall to view the plumbing for the shower. It appeared that the water was not coming from that spigot. What I saw confused me even more. There seemed to be water coming from the floor near the tub flange and soaking up the wall from the floor.

Just to be sure I fixed the spigot behind the shower wall by capping it off completely. My room mate has since moved out and the paint still appears to be bubbled out. I now suspect a small leak that is accumulating between the durock and tile and running down the front of the tub and soaking into the base of the wall. I have tried running the shower for ten minutes straight and I don't see any leaks anywhere. There is no immediate moisture build up. The shower has not been in use for a few months now and the bathroom still smells musty.

As for further troubleshooting I am stumped. Can anyone suggest some troubleshooting steps to take next?

I have attached various pictures to help show what is going on.

I noticed moistrue at the base of the shower wall inside the wall. After setting up a fan and dehumidifier the moisture has not returned but the paint is still bubbled out.

I noticed that some of the plumbing connections seem to have more oxidation than others, is this normal? Is this a sign that could be the source of the moisture?

In one of the pictures there is visible moisture between the durock and the vapor barrier. Is that normal?

I have many more pictures but I tried to narrow it down to the most useful ones. The 2nd to last picture is the tub spout feed line. That line appears to have heavy oxidation the closer it gets to the spout connection.

Any ideas or advice would be appreciated!
 
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Old 10-23-12, 09:31 PM
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When I see wall damage like that its usually from the shower curtain not being closed. Water leaking over the apron of the tub.

Wait for others to chime in.


You pics do not show major wet areas. Try filling the tub to the overflow. See if there is water from there?

The green on the pipes may be left over flux is all.
 
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Old 10-24-12, 06:10 AM
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The peeling paint is due to a loose corner bead when finishing the sheetrock on the wall. Peel the paint and drywall mud back, add a couple of nails and re-mud the corner.

Put a level on the tub to see if it has settled or something that may cause water to travel outside the tub area.

Oxidation is from excess flux that was not wiped away after soldering copper joints.

Did you use grout or flexible caulk to seal between the tub/tile and the inside corners of the tile going up the walls. You should use flexible caulk in these areas. They make colored caulk to match the grout color if other than white.

Check the o-ring on the tub spout to see if it is allowing some water past when running the tub or shower.

Lastly, check the shower arm to see if it is leaking when using the shower, this also could put water between the vapor barrier and the durock.
 
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Old 10-24-12, 06:29 AM
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Put strips of paper under all areas where pipes are located and around the drain area then check for ANY signs of water drops, etc. You mentioned water seems to be coming up from floor... check the drain flange carefully. If drain flange is loose, and the tub is not supported with foam or mud, it may require weight inside the tub flexing the area. Just running the shower may not cause flexing of the flange hence no sign of leakage. Also see that the drain is not plugged in anyway so water drains away quickly.
 
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Old 10-24-12, 01:13 PM
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Thanks for the replies so far!!

RE: czizzi
I used flexible caulk for the corners and between the tub and tile. It was a sanded caulk that matched the color of the grout.

The caulk was dark with black spots after about 6 months of use. That seems rather quick doesn't it? There is a fan in the bathroom and it's used whenever the shower is in use. Might this indicate water build up behind the caulk? Or is this caused by surface moisture?

I will check the other locations you mentioned.

RE: lawrosa
I will try filling the tub as you mentioned.

Also I checked the shower area after each shower use for about a week and there never was evidence of moisture outside the shower area. I also suspected that the water was leaking outside the apron, but I didn't see any evidence of this.

RE: AlexJent
That is a great idea! The tub is supported by mud but maybe it didn't spread out far enough to fully support the drain area. I will check for flexing near the drain area. I will try having someone step around in tub and near the drain area while there is water running and inspect the drain under the tub.


I am thinking that I will redo the narrow side of the wall (the side with the bubbling paint near the floor) by removing the sheet rock and tiling it instead. I think that will look nicer in the long run and avoid the sheet rock and or trim from wicking any moisture from the floor.
 
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Old 10-24-12, 10:16 PM
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I threw a level on the tub and it's level. I walked around in the tub and near the drain and didn't see or hear any flexing. I won't be able to do much more testing with the water running until I have chance to vacuum all the crap out of the tub and replace the tile on the back wall.

More pictures and some followup questions.

When I installed the durock I installed it so that it hangs over the tub flange. I read somewhere that was the way to do it so that when moisture soaks into it will drain into the tub, as opposed to draining behind the tub. Should the durock meet the flange or hang over?


Today I opened up the wall more and when I vacuumed up the mess the whole bathroom began to stink. My wife said it smelled like a dead animal. It didn't exactly smell like sewer, but it was bad. I noticed that there is large gaping hole that leads under my house. Should I close this hole up somehow?

If it were the connection to the sewer line that was leaking gas is there an easy way to check for a leak?

Also I noticed some droppings or dead bugs or something. There are two pictures with brown spots. Any idea what that could be?

I popped off one of the tiles that covers the tub flange and all the screws underneath it are rusted over big time. Is this normal or just more evidence of a water problem? Also the caulk in this area on the inside of the wall is all black, like it was covered in mold.
 
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Old 10-25-12, 06:24 AM
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The only evidence of water was the note that there is moisture under the vapor barrier.

Did you run a bead of clear sealent/caulk around the tub spout and around the trim kit for the supply handle. While no picture gives me a definitive view, it looks like a grout line goes right through the center of each of these. It would indicate a point of entry for water on the wet wall.

Looks like those tiles popped off pretty easily, did you use mastic or thinset to put up the tile? Thinset from a bucket or from a bag/dry where you mixed your own?
 
 

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