Impossible to find source of shower stall leak

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Old 05-16-13, 07:53 PM
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Impossible to find source of shower stall leak

Hi! I have a shower stall on the 2nd floor which leaks water to the kitchen ceiling below. This has continued over a period of time to the extent that the ceiling sheetrock under the drip is destroyed. I have been trying to find the leak for months, without success. I have caulked everything in sight - joints between tiles, joints between tiles and shower base, joints between translucent glass frame and tiles, but this has helped only partially and the leak continues.

One diagnostic technique I'm using is to replace the shower head with an adapter so that I can connect it to the garden hose, allowing me full control over where I'm directing the water. Then I run down into the kitchen to see whether there is a leak or not. I've narrowed it down to 2 places. One is a corner section where the glass frame meets the tiles. The second is another section close to the base of the shower stall. I'm attaching pictures of these 2 sections as well as the shower stall from the outside to give you a better idea of the big picture. No matter what portion of the shower stall the water leaks from, it collects to just one spot below.

There are certain things I've ruled out. The leak is not between the valve and the shower head. It is not at the drain.

It did call a handyman to take a look. He told me he'd replace all the tiles and the shower door. He was not interested in diagnosing the issue. He gave me a price of around $1500 in labor + materials. This didn't sound like a good solution, so I bid him goodbye. Any suggestions will be appreciated.
 
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Old 05-16-13, 09:15 PM
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There are certain things I've ruled out. The leak is not between the valve and the shower head. It is not at the drain.
I'm curious..... how did you rule those out ? A leak from the shower valve to the shower head is pretty common.

I wouldn't spend a lot of time guessing. I would remove a piece of sheetrock in the ceiling below. It's already water damaged so it'll need to be replaced anyway.
 
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Old 05-17-13, 02:55 AM
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Why do you have sloppy silicone in the corners and in every grout line? You have a leak. The ceiling is trash. Do as PJ says and pull it down, locate the leak and proceed from there. I can see you possibly have a leak where the door meets the tile. You can see a wet grout line outside, indicating water intrusion at that point. Water is probably leaking down the crack between your floor tile and the tile base.
 
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Old 05-17-13, 03:18 AM
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I'm leaning toward a leak at the shower door. You have an outswing door with the hinge on the supply side of the shower. The seal on the handle side is also on the splash side of the shower. Any breach in the seal of the door will let water through. There also does not seam to be any sealant where the bottom door metal frame meets the vertical metal frame on the horizontal plane.

Dap made their quarterly numbers on this shower.......
 
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Old 05-17-13, 05:23 AM
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I think a leak around the enclosure or door would likely be visible on the outside. And, unless you've removed the ceiling downstairs the water from a leak could take a very long time to get from the shower and down through the sheetrock to become visible. Since the ceiling downstairs is toast, I'd cut out the damaged section so you could better see the bottom of the shower area to help guide you in the right direction. My money is on a leak in the drain where it meets the shower pan.
 
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Old 05-18-13, 04:11 PM
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Continuation of Impossible to find shower leak

Thanks for your replies. Let me try to answer all the questions. Yes, the ceiling downstairs is toast, it is even the color of toast. I did cut away part of the ceiling. I forgot to mention it in my original post, because there were so many other details. This time I'm also attaching ceiling cut-away pictures that show a blob of water in each pic. In the 2nd pic the flash illuminated the water, so it looks white and may be hard to make out. Only part of the ceiling has the water damage, and it is directly below the seam between the vertical door jamb and the inside tiles. The strange part is that even when I direct water flow to the vertical section between the glass and the tiles (which is not close to the door), the water still leaks down below at the same point. I also stuck my head inside the ceiling hole. No water damage is visible anywhere else, and certainly not near the drain.

As I'd mentioned previously, I have a garden hose attached to the shower head for diagnostic purposes. Depending upon the type of splash effect I'd like to achieve, I've left the other end of the garden hose as is, and at other times I've connected a spray head with its own shut-off. With the spray head shut off and the shower valve turned on, there is no water leakage below. This tells me there is no leak between the shower valve and the shower head. In another experiment, I directed the water towards the drain. Again, no water appeared below. Therefore, I'm concluding that there is no leak at the drain either.

Yes, the silicone is sloppy because I had very little previous experience with the caulk gun. Also, in the first attempt with the caulk, since the leak continued. I ripped it out and laid it again real thick. Yes, 3M made their quarterly numbers on this shower alone.

Now let me talk about the "wet" grout line outside. The bottom of the shower door has a "splash guard", for lack of a better name. This guard has a horizontal "valley" built in. When I shower, water collects in this valley. Upon opening the door, the centrifugal force due to opening the door, causes this collected water to run to the outside. Since water has repeatedly run out, you see the wet-look grout line. I don't think it represents a leak. In my experimentation with the garden hose with water running, I've left the door open most of the time, the water is not running to the outside and I'm still seeing the leak downstairs.

Lastly, let me talk about the door seal. The vertical edge of the door has a magnetic strip running vertically. It mates with another vertical strip alongside the door jamb. The splash guard screwed to the bottom edge of the door, protects the bottom. In addition, under the door is the horizontal door frame. I've caulked the joint between the door frame and the shower stall base, see picture. There are two small openings on either end of the splash guard. This is how the door was designed and manufactured. These have always been present since the beginning. I bought the house 10 years ago, and no leaks existed at that time. I saw the first appearance of the leak downstairs last Fall. I'm also attaching pics of the splash guard area. The last 2 pics are taken from the outside.
 
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Old 05-18-13, 04:40 PM
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Instead of running the shower to look for the leak, connect a hose to the bathroom faucet or from the outside hose bib, if it reaches. Start from the bottom of the shower. Spray around the bottom & WAIT. Work your way up until you get to the ceiling. I had one where I had to actually point the shower head upwards, to find the leak.
 
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Old 05-18-13, 04:44 PM
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Sorry, I'm having a real hard time trying to get my orientation on the picture of the hole in the subfloor shot from underneath. Is that the hinge side of the door or the handle side? Also, put a level on the curb of the shower base next to the metal and tell us which way the curb is sloped - toward the tub or wall? Also give me a slope on the half wall between the tub and shower - sloped toward the room or wall? One last level check, what is the slope on the bottom of the door where the extension diverter is?
 
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Old 05-18-13, 05:37 PM
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You don't have a "ceiling"!!! What you are cutting is your subflooring. Exactly what is above where you cut the subflooring? It looks like a return piece of tile. In addition, I see a plethora of "wrong" in there is nothing under your tile, if that is the floor we are looking at. No concrete backer underlayment....just tile adhered to plywood. My bet is still on that corner at the shower door. Just enough centrifugal force to run water outside of the cubicle and onto the poorly applied/sealed tile and to that corner where it runs down and causes the problems.

The others have good ideas, too, so let's explore all of them.
 
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Old 05-18-13, 08:06 PM
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Continuation of Impossible to find shower leak

Pulpo, if you read below, I indicated that I have removed the showerhead and replaced it with a garden hose. So I'm not relying on the showerhead.

Chandler, I do have a ceiling and a subfloor. See new pic I just attached that shows the ceiling cut out. I cut very little of the subfloor. Most of it around the leak area had already disintegrated. When I am taking a shower, water is not escaping outside. After the shower, when I open the door, does the small amount of water sitting in the valley of the splash guard (diverter?) run outside. A few minutes ago, I purposely spilled some water on the "wet-look" portion of the grout. It is still standing there. I also took a pic of the drain portion between the subfloor and the ceiling.

czizzi, the hole is at the handle side of the door. I took pics of the level in different positions. The bubble sits in the middle for all of them, except for the last pic, which I'll explain in a minute. The pics with the level show the level on the diverter, then on the curb of the shower base next to the door metal frame, then on the half wall, and next on the curb at the bottom of the wall directly across from the door, respectively. As I said, all of these don't show any slope. I also took level readings you didn't ask for. I put the level on each diagonal on the base towards the drain. Consistently, the corners are higher than the drain opening, which is what I'd expect. This reading is shown in the last pic.
 
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Old 05-18-13, 08:53 PM
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I would like you to pour some water on the following and pay attention to the area that looks like it has some rust on it. Don't pour a drop, give it a good test and see if water is seeping into the area where the base metal and the top metal meet.
 
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Old 05-19-13, 08:29 AM
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Leak localized

Czizzi, you're a genius! I used the garden hose without the sprayer to direct water to the corner where the vertical jamb meets the bottom horizontal metal, both with the door open and closed. In both cases, water made its way into the kitchen closet. There was more leakage with the door open. What should be my next step? Should I caulk any gaps I see? I've attached a couple of close-up pics.
 
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Old 05-19-13, 09:18 AM
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What I think happened, and it is common, is that the shower door was installed before the shower was caulk. Or, more likely, where the tile meets the shower base grout was used to fill the gap instead of flexible caulking. Therefore, even though you caulked everything visible, the area behind the door metal is still just grout that has cracked. The water gets behind the metal, gravitates to the corner under the metal and gets behind the vertical tile that is on the outside of the tub. All happens behind everything so all you see is the damage caused as a result. And, yes, as others have pointed as well, the wet grout outside the shower was also caused by this same leak and not the drips from the door when you open it after a shower.

For starters, clean the area I have highlighted in red on the attached with CLR or other cleaner that removes the rust and lime build up visible. Then get some "CLEAR" caulk that is labeled as a kitchen and bath adhesive caulk. Dap® Kwick-Seal Plus® Kitchen & Bath Adhesive Caulk (18546) - Tub & Tile Caulk - Ace Hardware . Apply a a bead of caulk to the areas highlighted in the photo and let cure for the recommended time listed on the tube. The caulk will go on white, and dry to a clear when complete. Once dry, perform your flood test and make sure all is secure. - Next project will be removal of all the caulk you spread on in the shower. Grout, not caulk goes between the tiles. I think we can get if back to a more pristine look now that the panic of a leak is finalized.
 
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Old 05-19-13, 10:01 AM
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The bottom of the shower door has a "splash guard", for lack of a better name. This guard has a horizontal "valley" built in. When I shower, water collects in this valley. Upon opening the door, the centrifugal force due to opening the door, causes this collected water to run to the outside.

Read more: http://www.doityourself.com/forum/to...#ixzz2Tl5ZwQPg
Small suggestion regarding this part of your situation: I have the same "splash guard, with the same problem when opening. My "cure"keep a small sponge in the shower, and before opening the door, wipe the valley dry. I also wipe the opening (non-hinge) side of the door, squeeze out the sponge, and then leave it in that valley as I open the door. This may sound like a PITA to do every time you shower, but it takes less time than it did to type this paragraph!
Good luck with finally correcting that leak.
 
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Old 05-19-13, 11:35 AM
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Or put a bath mat there to catch the water and wipe your feet on.....
 
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Old 05-19-13, 07:55 PM
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Czissi and Mikedel, thank you for your suggestions. I'll start off with the CLR cleaner.
 
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Old 06-01-13, 01:25 PM
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Czissi, I'm working on this in spurts. I bought the CLR cleaner and the Silicone clear caulk. I think the CLR cleaner is best for this type of situation, because I have some combination of calcium, lime and rust. I poured about 2 oz of it in the area you had indicated in the picture. Just for the heck of it, I went downstairs to check. Sure enough, even a small amount of CLR leaked right onto the floor below. Then I poured about 2 cupfuls of water to rinse out the CLR. Again, I noticed this water had made its way down below. So this is the exact spot where the leak is. I'll let it dry for a couple of days before applying the clear caulk.
 
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Old 06-06-13, 06:18 AM
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Czizzi, I did apply the clear caulk to the area you indicated and let it cure. I poured a cupful of water at that area with the door open. To my surprise, the water did make its way down to the kitchen floor (with the ceiling cut away, the water drops directly on the kitchen floor). I did try another experiment. With the door closed, I directed water to the bottom edge where the door, the tiled wall next to it, and the base meet. I did not see any water drips below. So there is some improvement. What should I do next?
 
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Old 06-06-13, 02:20 PM
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Well we know we are close.

Did you extend the caulk over the lip to the inside of the shower until it meets the shower base.

Did you extend the caulk to the outside of the shower base both along the tile wall and across the entire front of the floor?

Send an updated pic of the inside and outside so I can see where you caulked.
 
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Old 06-08-13, 01:52 PM
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Close to the source of the leak

Czizzi, I have attached new pics. Also, let me answer your questions.

Did you extend the caulk over the lip to the inside of the shower until it meets the shower base.
[Answer] I extended it till it met the existing opaque caulk.

Did you extend the caulk to the outside of the shower base both along the tile wall and across the entire front of the floor?
[Answer] I extended it till it met the existing caulk along the tile wall.

Just as an experiment, I poured a cup of water on the floor. It leaked below. However, the existing caulk on the outside, along the tile wall looks good to me, and so does the grout between the base and the outside floor, as well as the grout between the floor tiles that sit outside. Actually, I can't say for sure about the grout because the "wet look" is really water damage, and the grout is brown.
 
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Old 06-09-13, 05:47 AM
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If all the following areas are caulked, it should not leak.

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Old 06-10-13, 07:47 PM
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Czizzi, I performed another controlled experiment. I poured water at the seam between the outside vertical tile and the floor tile. This water leaked to down below. I also poured water at the seam between the outside short "wall" (just below the door) and the floor tile. Again the water made its way downstairs. My plan is to remove the grout at these two seams and fill them with white caulk. It seems that the mere act of my walking into the shower stall sets up vibrations causing hairline cracks in the grout between the vertical and horizontal surfaces. Water poured on the wet-look grout line between the two adjacent floor tiles, did NOT leak below.
 
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Old 06-11-13, 06:01 AM
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Grout should never be used at the junction of the horizontal and vertical planes where tile is used. Same goes for inside corners where tiles meet. It should always be flexible caulk. They make a caulk that matches the grout color that is there. Before you spread white caulk (we know how good you are at that ) I would take a sample of grout to a tile store and ask for the matching colored caulk. Every bathroom that has grout up against tile has a crack in it, yours is no exception.
 
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Old 06-11-13, 07:10 PM
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Czizzi, I think my best bet here is to apply the clear caulk right over the grout. This way I won't have to put time and effort into removing the old grout, I won't have to find a matching color for the caulk, and the clear caulk application imperfections won't be very noticeable.
 
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Old 06-16-13, 05:40 PM
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Czizzi, it turned out that what I thought was grout was really caulk. It seems to me that the previous homeowner had already removed the grout and replaced it with caulk. I cleaned out the old grout and replaced it with the clear grout. I tried a quick water test and there were no leaks below. This is good news. However, I'd like to try a few more tests before declaring success. In the meantime, since the showerhead is off the shower, I soaked it in a CLR solution for several hours. I was experiencing reduced volume. I will keep folks posted on the final results.
 
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Old 06-23-13, 08:59 AM
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In the last post I wrote, "I cleaned out the old grout and replaced it with the clear grout". I should have said, I cleaned out the old caulk and replaced it with the clear caulk. In any case, I have now been using the shower on a regular basis for a week now. So far, no leaks. This is great news because I've finally been able to reclaim my shower after several months (I had been using the other shower in the meantime). Thanks to everybody, especially Czizzi for all the help.
 
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