Are cracks in shower base a problem?

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Old 08-03-15, 11:15 AM
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Are cracks in shower base a problem?

When re-caulking our shower, hubby noticed some cracks in the shower base, which seems to be made of plastic.

"Hairline" is the best way I could describe the cracks, but there are a couple that you can fit the very tip of a fingernail in, so there's some depth to them. I've attached a picture of one of them (circled in red). You can see a couple of the smaller cracks around the bigger circled one if you look close. Sorry it's hard to see - again, they're small.

All of the cracks we've found are along the edges of the base, where it comes up to meet the shower walls - they're don't seem to be any on the bottom/near the drain.

Hubby and I disagree as to whether this is a problem that needs to be addressed, which I can supply further info on. First, however, I wanted to get general feedback on how worrisome these hairline cracks should be.

Thanks,
Rebecca
 
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Old 08-03-15, 04:39 PM
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Yes, the cracks can be a problem but I would not freak out. Cracking is all too common. They might not leak now but eventually they might so you at least need to keep an eye on it. You don't want a slow leak keeping the subfloor and framing underneath wet.

Unfortunately plastic showers can be cheap... and that's their only good quality. The repeated flexing of someone showering can cause the plastic to crack. There is really no repair other than replacement.

A step up in quality is fiberglas which can look like plastic but it can be repaired. Having it repaired probably starts around $75 just for the service call and the price may go up from there depending on how big a job it is. If you know someone that works in a boatyard and truly knows how to repair fiberglass they may do it for the cost of materials and a case of cold beverage.
 
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Old 08-03-15, 04:57 PM
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99% of the time the cracks are caused from improper install.
Cheap, thin pans required mortar under them to support them.
There is no cheap easy DIY fix other the replacement.
It can cause a whole lot of expencive repairs in the future.
 
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Old 08-03-15, 06:30 PM
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Okay, so eventually we'll replace and do so with something better than plastic, and hire a reputable guy to make sure that everything is installed properly.

For now, are these hairline cracks, not near where water accumulates, likely a problem? We haven't seen water damage/leaks from this (though the caulk is constantly making my hubby crazy), but it's a crawl space below, so it could certainly go unnoticed - especially if it's tiny amounts.
 
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Old 08-04-15, 05:37 AM
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That's the danger. Water can seep through hairline cracks even if they are not in the very bottom of the pan where water accumulates. The water can seep through in small amounts and dampen the subfloor and framing which leads to rot. At the minimum I would go into the crawl space and inspect the area from below. It will take a decent size leak to show but if the wood is soft or there is mold growing in that one area and nowhere else it's a good sign that water is leaking.

Honestly with a shower like that I would not bother with the expense of a professional. Almost anyone is going to charge a minimum of $75 to show up and they are likely to say it needs replacing. So, I'd just save the money for eventual replacement.

If the cracks remain minor I would not do much more than go under the house every few months and inspect for leaks. Better would be to drill a hole in the subfloor underneath the shower pan so you can shine a light up and see the bottom of the pan to tell if it's leaking. If it is you can try JB Weld for Plastic. It's a bit nasty to work with but if you do it correctly it can stick quite well. It is a very light baby blue color when mixed so it will not match your white but it will be sorta close especially if you don't look down when showering.
 
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Old 08-04-15, 06:36 AM
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We'll definitely do this: "If the cracks remain minor I would not do much more than go under the house every few months and inspect for leaks."

The problem is, there's insulation under the floor, so if it is a tiny leak, I suspect it will be tough to spot. But, for now that may have to be good enough, as we save the money to replace the shower - which hubby has been itching to do b/c he says he wants to replace our 3 piece walls for a single piece shower to avoid the need to recaulk.

As for looking to see if the pan is leaking - is the "pan" the same as the plastic floor we have the cracks in, or is the pan something else that's under the plastic floor, between the plastic and the wood "sub-floor"?
 
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Old 08-04-15, 02:00 PM
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The "pan" is the plastic floor. Usually it's just set on the subfloor.

Caulk is always a problem. I have had good luck with really thoroughly cleaning and drying the area to be caulked. Wipe it down with rubbing alcohol to remove any soap residue then caulk with DUO-Sil caulk/adhesive. It's not sold in the big chain home centers but many building and siding suppliers carry it or you can order it online.



Is your shower a rectangle or neo-angle corner unit?
 
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Old 08-04-15, 06:27 PM
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It's a rectangle shower: 3 wall pieces + a sliding door.

Thanks for the terminology lesson!

Hubby uses some pretty heavy duty stuff - 3M Marine Sealant

This stuff: http://images.jamestowndistributors....rge/3m5200.jpg

But, it never seems to stick like he wants it to - at least not for long.
 
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Old 08-05-15, 05:15 AM
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If something doesn't stick it's usually the surface preparation that's the problem. Most people wipe something down and think it's clean. For the seams in a pre-fab shower I get some music, a bright light and put a cushy blanket on the floor because I'm going to be there a while.

I start by removing absolutely all the old sealant visible on the surface. Then I use a thin blade putty knife to scrape inside the joint and sometimes drape a rag over the knife for better scrubbing inside the crevice. Then finally it's white rag time. I drape an old white T shirt rag over the putty knife and scrape it inside the seam and then press hard and scrub back and forth on the surface near the joint. If anything shows up on the rag there is more cleaning to be done. Then I thoroughly clean the surface and inside the crack with 70% rubbing alcohol several times to remove any invisible soap residue. For a 36" shower it can take up to half an hour to clean just the horizontal seams at the bottom. Then it only takes a minute to do the actual caulking.
 
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Old 08-05-15, 05:21 AM
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It's also important to make sure there is no moisture trapped behind the caulking. That pretty much takes time with no shower use although a hair dryer can speed up the drying process.
 
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Old 08-05-15, 06:44 AM
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Thanks for the caulk tips, guys.

Yeah, to make sure everything is dry we usually wait quite a few days between when the old caulk is removed and hubby does the cleaning and re-caulking.

I've passed along the tips on how to make sure the cleaning is thorough to him.
 
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