Failed Shower Pan Leak Test - could anything else be the problem?

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Old 12-10-12, 01:45 PM
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Failed Shower Pan Leak Test - could anything else be the problem?

We had water leaking from the second floor into the kitchen multiple times in very small amounts over time. Most of the time we thought it related to the guest shower, but one time it happened when the master toilet overflowed. We did the shower pan leak test (duct tape over drain, 1.5" of standing water for 24 hours) on the guest shower and nothing happened. We did it on the master shower and had about 3 gallons of water flow directly through to the kitchen in 8 hours!

My question is that could this be anything other than the master shower pan? I'm concerned that the leak seemed to happen with the toilet overflow and guest showers, so I'm confused as to why it was the master shower that failed the test! Any thoughts?
 
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Old 12-10-12, 02:20 PM
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Welcome to the forums! If the water leaked from the master shower, then that's where it came from. Sort of difficult to understand your question. If the master failed the test, then that's where the water came from. Water travels to the source of least resistance, so it can travel along joists, studs, etc. and end up in peculiar areas.
 
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Old 12-10-12, 02:25 PM
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i was just concerned that it seemed the water was leaking when someone took a shower in the other bathroom, and also when the toilet overflowed, so I was thinking there could be something besides the shower pan leaking... perhaps a pipe or an overflow if there is such a thing! I'm just scared of redoing the shower and still having something leak.
 
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Old 12-10-12, 02:38 PM
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It sounds like 2 separate incidents to me. If you fix the shower pan & the toilet overflows again, you will see water, in the kitchen again. The shower pan has to be water tight but not the floor.
 
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Old 12-10-12, 02:51 PM
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The toilet overflow may have seeped under the toilet and down through the flange. You might want to caulk or re-caulk the bowl base.
 
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Old 12-10-12, 02:54 PM
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Not sure duct tape is a good water testing substrate. If it is the shower pan, then it will leak whether you have the drain blocked or not. My gut points to a pipe.

What type of shower floor do you have, tiled? Acrylic?

The toilet overflow seepage was from the corners of the floor, either wall behind the toilet, area in front of the tub/shower of thru a floor register vent.
 
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Old 12-10-12, 03:09 PM
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Keep in mind, too, it may be a shower stand pipe as well. With the shower operating some may leak out and fall to the floor. When the shower is through, no more drip. Do you have access behind the wall(s) of the showers?
 
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Old 12-10-12, 04:58 PM
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A few more details... The duct tape method worked fine in the guest bath. We put pennies in to see if the water level went down and it didn't at all over 24 hours. In the master bath, all of the water that leaked ended up in the kitchen downstairs within a few hours (we took out a piece of the ceiling), then we let the rest run down the pipe and that did not leak. Seems like there has to be a crack in the shower pan in the master shower - but also some grout cracks for 3 gallons to leak through the tile to the pan that fast. It is a tile shower, and unfortunately I don't know what type of pan is under it so I'll probably have to take up the tile to find/fix the crack or just replace the whole thing.

The original thought that the leak was coming from the guest shower was due to the fact that that's when we usually saw water - when someone took a shower over there. I guess that could be a second problem. I just don't know plumbing at all, so I thought I'd ask if there was some way they could be related.
 
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Old 12-10-12, 05:57 PM
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If the shower pan was constructed properly water can't get past the PVC liner, and it would point to a plumbing leak as everyone else has alluded to. Even if the pan was cracked you shouldn't have water below. Replacing the pan will entail removing the first and possibly second row of vertical wall tiles as well, just so you will be informed before you start. Hopefully it won't come to that.
 
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Old 12-10-12, 06:02 PM
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can you help me understand where a pipe or plumbing leak might be in this scenario?
 
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Old 12-10-12, 06:33 PM
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It can be anywhere from the pan connection, ptrap, to where it ties into the main drain. About the only way you can find out for sure is to remove ceiling from joist to joist under it and observe it in action. I know that is drastic, but if left to leak it will take the ceiling down for you.......during dinner.
 
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Old 12-10-12, 06:39 PM
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czizzi is right about one thing. The duct tape is not the best method. There are some rubber discs you can try instead. If the pan is leaking, it should leak no matter if the drain is blocked or not. I had one that wouldn't leak unless I ran the hot water. The cold water didn't bother it. That was new to me.

Since you already opened the ceiling, open in a little more & run the water again. In other words, a second test.
 
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Old 12-10-12, 07:30 PM
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How high up the curb/walls did you let the water rise when you tested the master bath? For 8 to 9 gallons of static water to overflow and still have some left in the pan means you really flooded that baby. Where was the water level when you finally pulled the duct tape and let the last bit of water run down the pipes? Was is below the level where it touched the wall?
 
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Old 12-11-12, 11:49 AM
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The water level was about 1.5" high along the shower wall when filled it. I think we used about 6 gallons in total to fill it that high. about 8 hours later when we walked in it was pouring through the ceiling in a small but steady stream and it had dropped down to about 1/8" up the wall of the shower. We immediately pulled the tape and the remaining water went down the drain and the leak stopped within a couple of minutes.
 
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Old 12-11-12, 02:03 PM
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Inspect something for me if you could. Inspect all the inside corners, where the tile on the wall meets the tile on the shower floor and where one wall meets another wall to make an inside corner, and look for cracks or splits in the seams. Do the inside corners have a hard grout in them or is it softer where you can indent your fingernail if you pressed on it. Reason I ask....All inside corners as described should be sealed with flexible caulk (Usually in a color that matches the grout). More often than not, these areas will be filled with grout that crack out over time.

For some reason, many tile layers simply fill these gaps with grout because it is easy to do when you are grouting. To seal with caulk means a secondary trip out on a subsequent day (i.e. costs more money). As I am diverse in my offerings, I am usually there on subsequent days anyway, so I don't think of it as out of the ordinary to caulk the job as a follow up. Too many, dare I say the word, "contractors" out there don't give a hoot other than getting paid.

These gaps may have placed the water level above whatever pan is behind the tile and allowed water to seep out. Look closely, even getting down on your hands and knees. We will wait for you to report back.
 
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Old 12-11-12, 02:35 PM
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Czizzi, I still don't see how it is getting past the liner. That is if it was properly built. That has been my contention all along. No liner, cracks in the grout, the pan will eventually leak. But it does point to the pan leaking moreso than the plumbing at this point with the testing done.
 
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Old 12-11-12, 03:17 PM
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I've repaired showers that were put in by homeowners who never ran the pan up the walls, just into the corners. Also there are a lot of installs that just threw the liner on the floor without a pre-slope so water will pool on the liner and not drain. Or, as in a previous thread of the last 30 days, a homeowner was going to repair but did not want to tear out the wall tile as he could not find a match to existing. He was going to, if I remember, run the pan up approx. 1" up the wall to the underside of the wall tile.

I have also chased leaks that were from grout going up the vertical inside corners that breached the pan by the time it got to the lower level. It's a much easier repair if this it the solution than replacing the entire drain, pan and several rows of wall tile.
 
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Old 12-15-12, 07:16 AM
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Ok, here's my follow up. I looked at the corners and it looks like grout - and yes, it looks a bit cracked. We ran the test again yesterday and looked closer at the leak. It started leaking within 15 minutes. We have taken a piece of the kitchen ceiling out, and we can see pipes and wood within the ceiling. The water is obviously pooling above the wood that we can see, because it's finding it's way through two holes in the wood and that's where we see the leak. It's difficult to diagnose because the water is coming through the wood about 3 feet away from the shower pipe - so it's traveling from the actual source of the leak.

I think our plan (unless someone tells me different!) is that we're going to try to grind out the grout and regrout between the tiles and use a better sealant around the outside edge as well. Then we'll seal the grout and run the water test again after the specified amount of time.
 
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Old 12-15-12, 07:42 AM
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I wouldn't try to re-grout. I would remove what's lose, as you said & use bath caulking instead. GE caulking is good. Do not use e Phenoseal.
 
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Old 12-15-12, 08:19 AM
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Take a piece of loose grout down to the tile store and ask that they match it up to the actual color. Then get a tube of the same companies matching unsanded colored caulk. Go to your tub and seal all four sides where tile on the wall meets tile on the floor. Then run a bead up all 4 inside corners of the walls. Let dry per recommendations on the caulking and then run your test. If it stops the leak, you can go back and address the grout however you would like. Lets make sure we have the solution before we go to all the effort of re-grouting the whole shower.
 
 

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