Fixing a Leaky Shower

by Al Carrell

If you have a tile shower that leaks, the diagnosis is often that “the shower pan leaks”. Those four little words can cost you from $200 to $500 EACH if you let someone rip out the tile and install a new shower pan. Before you spring for that kind of loot, here’s my super non-guaranteed but usually effective way to remedy the problem for about $25. It only works in about 99 out of 100 times, but even if you’re the unlucky one, you haven’t invested much.

The shower pan is either a sheet of lead or plastic formed into a pan that is under the tile floor of the shower. The grout between tiles will allow some water to seep thru and the pan develops a leak, water will seep thru to the surface below. In a 2nd story, this can mean a ruined ceiling below. In a lower floor, it can rot wooden joists or damage flooring or both.

After you have made sure the leak is not from a plumbing supply pipe or from missing grout or from holes around the faucet stems, then you may be ready to try the super $25 cure. It involves coating the shower floor and at least one row of tiles up with a masonry sealer available at any paint department. Here are the easy steps:

1. Clean the surface to be coated with 4 to 5 parts water and one part muriatic acid. Your home center, hardware or paint dealer will have it or check a swimming pool supplier. Read all caution notices, use a plastic bucket, wear rubber gloves and have plenty of ventilation.

2. Rinse acid away.

3. Replace any missing grout.

4. Allow surfaces to dry by not using the shower for about a week. Speed it up with a fan or hand-held hair dryer if you wish but don’t take a chance if it’s not quite dry.

5. Apply 2 coats of any clear masonry sealer, leaving ample drying time between coats. DO NOT apply when the humidity is high. Read and flow all the manufacturer’s directions. (Clear epoxy paint can also be used. It is a little more difficult to use and usually has a slight amber tint. It’s also harder to find.)

That’s all there is and hopefully you’ll have saved hundreds of dollars. It takes a little time and patience and following all the directions here and on the labels of the products involved but it’s well worth it.


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