New install 3-piece tub shower creaks only after warmed up

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Old 02-07-17, 09:13 AM
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New install 3-piece tub shower creaks only after warmed up

Hi all, my first time posting here so please bear with me.

I decided to install myself, with help from my father in-law, a Mirolin Empire 3-piece tub shower unit. While I next to no carpentry skills, my father in law is pretty darn good, but he is not a professional contractor. EDIT: we took our time, we did not rush. I spent a few hours tweaking my shimming just to get the leveling as best as I possibly could given the issue I had (read below).

We have the unit installed, and to my disappointment the tub creaks a fair bit, but only after a few minutes of having warm/hot water in it. So far me and my family have only been showering in it. I am the heaviest in my family at about 175lbs and the tub only creaks for me. Last night I got in the tub and walked around for 5 minutes with no water running and the tub does not creak. Turn on the shower, and within a few minutes it start creaking a fair bit. I did a fair bit of reading on this forum first, before posting.

Now, for some installation notes:
  • Tub was not foamed or mortered in. I spoke with Mirolin support in Ontario and they told me firmly do not use any filler. The tub/shower unit is designed to sit on the front apron and back legs.
  • The unit has a '5th leg'; located underneath in the center. From the factory this was about 1/4" off the floor. The book does not mention what to do with it. Mirolin support from Ontario told me that this must be shimmed to touch the floor. While other units should be shimmed to be 1/8" off the floor, for the Empire unit that I have it must be shimmed to touch the floor. So I did that. The back two legs were shimmed as well. I gotta say again this tub feels pretty solid when standing in it.
  • My floor is almost perfectly level. And by that I mean the bubble is almost dead centered, and does not touch the sight lines in the level. The floor itself is solid. There were no creaking sounds with the old tub, and no creaking when someone else significantly heavier than me walked over it.
  • I struggled to get the tub level. From the factory it was not level, and was tippy. The pre-shimming from the factory was less than spot on. Also no where in the install guide does it say where to place your level to ensure you get a 'true' reading. Since the tub has lots of curves and rounded edges, with little flat surfaces its hard to get a confident feeling reading. That just said the install guide says to install the tub in the enclave and plumb vertical, and that is what we did. My level on both sides has the bubble almost exactly dead centered for vertical plumb.
  • I did add a little shiming to the front apron side because I did have some gaps.

The install guide is found here:
http://mirolin.com/wn-content/docume...e-manual-1.pdf

So I guess I am trying to understand why I have creaking. It does seem to be coming from various places in the bottom (tub) section, and underneath. it does not sound like it is coming from the middle or top section. I really don't want to add any foam, even if its "low expansion" because the manufacture support said firmly "no, do not do that".

This document on page PDF page 265 mentions that "Bathtubs and showers may flex and creak when installed in accordance with manufacturer’s specifications.", which I got to say is disappointing to read. This document here: http://mirolin.com/wn-content/docume...-pricebook.pdf says "Pooling up to 10 cm diameter is deemed within manufacturer’s standard tolerance." and we are good there. No pooling.

Should I be concerned or should I be relax and believe that all is normal? If I should try to fix something what would that be? I am wondering if I shimmed the center leg a tad to much and that is making the tub 'tippy'. But again there is no creaking when the tub is cold. I could try and remove 1/8 of an inch using a handsaw, but if I leave a gap I will not have done what the support line told me; to "shim so that center leg is touching floor".

Would love to hear your thoughts. My wife is anxious for me to finish the project but I don't want to see cracks someday.

This video seems to suggest that Mirolin units are pretty darn flexabile and tough. What do you think?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJZC3A8SVAk

Thanks in advance everyone,
Bob Plumb (nick name)
 

Last edited by Bob_Plumb; 02-07-17 at 09:54 AM. Reason: Typo, and little extra info.
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Old 02-07-17, 12:29 PM
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How thick is your subfloor? Possible that the center support foot falls in the center of a joist cavity and the 1/8" flex gap recommended by the manf. is actually flexing more do to a thin subfloor. Do you have access to below to install blocking to stiffen up that area?
 
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Old 02-07-17, 02:37 PM
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My floor is 5/8" thick it looks like, and the centre support leg interestingly enough is almost dead centred over a beam/joist; purely by luck. The manufacture does not recommend 1/8" gap. They told me no gap, that unlike other units that require a gap, my unit requires contact with the floor and to shim accordingly which I did.

But all that aside, wouldn't I hear creaking even when the tub is cold?
 
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Old 02-07-17, 03:57 PM
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Over the years we've had shower bases and tubs with and without a mortar bed and I dont care what the instructions say I would never install one without.

It's a flimsy piece of fiberglass/acrylic and without a solid base it's going to flex. It may not crack but it just feels cheap!

Honestly it's a marketing tool, if one said to use mortar and another brand did not, most would buy the one without, at least the first time!
 
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Old 02-07-17, 04:36 PM
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In my part of Canada, mortar beds are very uncommon, and in fact I myself have never seen one in use. This seems to be popular in the USA. I'd have to check but its certainly not a code requirement to use it. If the manufacture said "up to you its optional" I would consider it (or low expansion foam), but they firmly told me "no, the unit is designed to have its weight on its legs and apron". Why would I go against them and risk voiding my warranty? Attached underneath the tub bowl is a 3/4" board supported by 3 legs, and the front apron. I don't know if that board is fibreglass coated wood, or pure fibreglass, but again the tub seems very solid when you walk around in it.

I'm gonna try and determine if my centre support leg is shimmed a bit too high, and I just might email the company and ask them if a tiny gap would indeed be okay, say 1/16". I might even test with a few extra 4x4" blocks as extra legs inserted between floor and that 3/4" board I mentioned above.

I just don't get why the tub needs to be warm to get the creaking. Must make the fibreglass and/or acrylic a little more stretchy I suppose.

Thanks for all the responses so far. Keep em coming.
 
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Old 02-09-17, 02:06 AM
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I wrote Mirolin and they advised that I can add wood blocks as extra legs. I'm gonna try that. I measured 8cm between floor and the tub board.
 
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Old 02-10-17, 09:23 AM
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Well I added three extra legs and that made no difference. I'm really thinking its the tub board and legs that are creaking. I remove the legs. I'm not impressed.

So I am gonna either live with the creaking, or foam it. Just gonna think this through some more before I turn the key.
 
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Old 02-11-17, 04:00 AM
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I just don't get why the tub needs to be warm to get the creaking.
Hot water heats up the material, it expands and something is not fitting as it did when cold

they advised that I can add wood blocks as extra legs
That is the purpose of the mortar bed, support

foam it
like the can spray foam?

that will be useless, it has no structural strength
 
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Old 02-11-17, 05:54 AM
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Low expansion foam is popular in this part of Canada, although its not clear to me that people are doing it because it's based on fact/evidence and makes a difference, or they do it because 'everyone is doing it'. I'm inclined to agree with you, I can't see how foam will make that much difference.

I tried some legs in other spots - no difference.

I got to thinking about heat, so I turned on the water pretty darn hot, and filled the tub with about an inch and let it sit for a few minutes. Then I got in and walked around, and it creaked the worse I've seen it. I then drained it and waited 15 minutes to ensure it was cooled down. I get back in and walk all over it - not a sound.

I really don't believe this is a tub-to-floor contact issue, or a flooring issue. Instead I am really believe now it as to do with acrylic/fibreglass and how/where it comes into contact with the structural tub board that is underneath. This is the board that has the factory legs on it; the same board I tried adding legs to it.

Mortar is not an option for me. There is little expertise here, a mortar bed just does not get used around here. So I think I will finished the walling and cosmetic stuff and then send a letter of dissapointment to the supplier and manufacture.
 
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Old 02-11-17, 06:07 AM
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You say the floor is 5/8" thick. Is it plywood or particle board? Here in the US, we usually see 3/4" Advantech or other plywood products, and quite often, if tile floor is to be the finish, another 1/2" is added to that. Do you know the unsupported span across this area of the bathroom? It could be the subflooring flexing, or the joists flexing.
 
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Old 02-11-17, 06:21 AM
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Looks like plywood to me. But again; the old tub shower enclosure unit had no noise. My floor beams (joists) are 2x12 solid wood, not engineered/manufactured I-beam stuff that is getting popular now.

I just did another test. I put about an inch of cold water in there, and holy mackerel its cold. I let it sit for a few minutes and I walked around in the tub - not a sound.

So the question remains: why does it happen only when the tub has hot water in it?? And thus based on this and the above point I really don't believe this to be a flooring issue but a tub issue. Maybe I am wrong, but I don't believe so. Those extra legs would have made a positive difference in my humble opinion. It might not have cleared the issue completely, but it would have made a difference.

I'm gonna try another test soon. Put an inch of water in the tub and wait like 20 minutes; this would help warm up the rest of the tub structure; and see what this does.
 

Last edited by Bob_Plumb; 02-11-17 at 06:26 AM. Reason: added more text
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Old 02-11-17, 06:41 AM
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It must be as Marq1 stated that the warmer water causes the pieces to expand and contract at different rates, and since they are at opposing planes, it could be accentuated. Most likely NOT the flooring if it only does it with hot water. I do not think it has anything to do with the pan, but where the pan meets the sides. It could be friction between the two that sounds as if it is in the pan.
 
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Old 02-11-17, 07:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Bob_Plumb
". . . So I think I will finished the walling and cosmetic stuff and then send a letter of dissapointment to the supplier and manufacture . . ."
I guess, if you followed their instructions to a tee, you have a basis for complaining.

I've only installed three shower stalls (all for myself), and always mixed up a couple shovelfuls of mortar to put under the base for support as it goes into the final position. After hearing this, I'd make sure I continue to do so.

Hopefully, the addition of sheetrock (and maybe wall insulation) will muffle the creaking; but I suppose you'll always be sensitive to hearing it, even if no one else does.
 
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Old 02-11-17, 07:34 AM
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I can't seem to be able to do quoting.

Yes I do believe I have installed it correctly. As mention I struggled finding places on the tub to get a true reading of levelling. The book mentions plumbing vertical, and the plumb on this unit is darn close. If it matters that much that should be in the book. As I said before its disappointing to read that the book says creaking may occur if installed according to specifications.

The sounds seem to be coming from the bottom of the tub pan, not the side.

I just did another test using an inch of hot water. With the water fresh hot I felt the underneath of the tub pan; nice and toasty warm. The supporting tub board underneath; pretty cool in comparism. I then let the water sit for 10 minutes; the tub pan support board had warmed up some; you could feel warmth in it. I got in and walked around - creaking.

I wonder if over time, assuming a tub 'breaks-in', if this creaking will fade. Annoying as it is, and I'm not sure if I will be buying product from this company again, I might be inclined to live with it if I knew I had no risk of unit damage eventually. Please remember in my first post a document from the manufacture web site say creaking may occur. I should ask the retail supplier if their main contractors have had similiar expereinces. I'm gonna write the manufacture and tell this about this and see what they say

And I really wonder if that center leg should be shimmed down ever so slightly; say just barely touching the floor. If I stay in the back of the tub the creaking seems to go away. If I move to the front of the tub the creaking occurrs and then seems to go away. There seems to be a pattern with weight shifting over that center leg. I'll test some more.

I've probably posted way too much here so I apologize for that. I just thought this conversation might trigger some knowledge someone might have. And if nothing else, someone else someday might read about this and I will somehow helped them.

I've got some thinking and maybe some emailing to do. Stay tuned, and thanks again everyone.
 
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Old 02-11-17, 02:18 PM
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Have you tied shimming the skid pad under the tub and not just the feet? Having watched your video link, it appears that it is the glass in the fiberglass that is cause of the cracking. Heat expands it and makes it worse. Try shimming the common areas and see if that helps.
 
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Old 02-12-17, 05:33 AM
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I am/was not hearing those cracking sounds you see in the video. I listened carefully and compared them. It's definitely more of a creaking sound, and I'm pretty sure it comes from underneath the arcylic tub, where the tub pan joins into the structural support plyboard underneath. It looks like plyboard coated with a layer of fiberglass.

Anyway note I used the word "was" above!! My creaking is gone!!

After careful testing and consideration, including how I walked around in the tub, I came to the conclusion that the tub was shimmed a little too high in the centre. My hand-saw measures 1/16" thick at the cutting edge. So using that saw, reaching underneath, and scratching up my arm pretty good, I sawed out (thus removing) 1/16" from the bottom of the piece of plyboard that I used to shim underneath that center leg. I repeated the test; walking around in the tub with hot water in it, and no creaking. And just to be clear, there are no additional legs added like I mentioned earlier I was trying. The tub shower unit is resting only on its factory support; the front apron, the center leg, and the rear two legs. With the tub empty I can forcefully slide the saw underneath the center leg so that tells me that there is a gap of 1/16" or less.

I might touch it up with some softwood shims, or a little silicon, but I'm not sure there is a problem to fix any more. With or without water the tub feels solid, no flexing, sagging, stretching, spongy kind of feelings. And no noises!! I compared through the installation guides of all of Mirolins tub shower units, and interestingly enough only one (Belaire sectional) mentions that the unit will rest on this center leg. From the factory mine was 1/4" off the floor, and when I walked in the tub it felt a bit spongy, flexing, etc. For their drop-in tubs their documentation mentions "The middle leg does not required any shims. it is free floating 3 mm ( 1/8”) off the floor. When the tub is filled with water the middle leg bottoms out. This applies to drop-in tubs only." My center leg is 1/16" or less off the floor so I am not sure I still have an issue anymore. If their products are as strong as they show in that Youtube video I shouldn't. I think I will check with Mirolin, and hopefully I'll get their blessing and after a few days to let the family use it I will finish through the job.

Thanks everyone for you thoughts. I hope to chat with you again in the not so distant future with other projects, and I hope this discussion will be helpful for someone else. I'll chime back in when/if I get some feedback from Mirolin.
 

Last edited by Bob_Plumb; 02-12-17 at 07:33 AM. Reason: typo, removed animated icons
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Old 02-16-17, 08:26 AM
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Mirolin, has advised that they are okay with 1/16" air-gap between center leg and floor of the Empire tub shower unit.
 
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Old 04-13-17, 02:08 AM
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I'm not trying to bump this older discussion to the top, but I did want people to read this latest update if they find it through searching. I'm not looking for a response from anyone, but you can if you want, but I think all points have already been covered

After enjoying the tub-shower unit for over a month, the creaking has returned; and with the same pattern; it creeks only when it is heated with warm water. But its a different kind. This sounds more like its flexing a lot, not a strain creak like before, and I swear I can feel the bottom move a little in spots. It seems like it has loosed up a lot in the past few weeks. At first when it returned it would creak even if you didn't move; my guess is its expansion creaking, and then after its all nice and hot its then flexing creaks.

So I have two regrets: (1) buying this product, and (2) not using a mortar bed to support the tub like you fellows told me to do. Note: in my defence, as previously mentioned mortar beds are just not used around here, there is little to no expertise on deploying them. I wish I had taken the time to learn how to do that, and find a good mortar product to use.

In the meantime I have to think through my options. I might file a warranty claim with the manufacture, but their install guide says "flexing and creaking can be normal" so that will probably be futile. Too bad their showroom sticker didn't say that. I might even consider ripping the whole thing out someday and doing it again a second time. I might even rip it out, throw their product to the curbside garbage pickup, and buy something from another manufacture, but I'm, guessing their is a lot of other products that have similar characteristics.

Thanks again guys for your advice. I just wanted this significant update posted here so other DIYers don't end up with my result. There was one other discussion thread where I said I had no regrets in not using a mortar bed. I'd like to update that one too, and reference this discussion in it, but can't find it. If someone can please let me know.
 
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