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Question DetailsAsked on 4/12/2016

New construction, steam shower leaking water through tile into the basement. (not plumbing issue)

I have a beautiful travertine steam shower that was built new end of 2015. Since construction, it has been leaking. I reported it and the tile guy used 'power grout' where we thought it was leaking. The general reported that a small hole must have poked through the coated shower pan floor during installation.
Several week later, we found that it was not leaking bad, but it was still leaking. I brought in a hose from outside to eliminate the idea of a plumbing issue. The leak is coming from the east wall, not the center drain. This shower is 6'x5', so the drain is far from the leak. The leak is coming out of a basement drilled hole for electric outlet in the closet on the east wall.
I found another leak today about 1.5' off the floor about 3' from the where the bench leg integrates into the east wall. I suppose the thing to do is to power grout that.
My question: isn't a steam shower supposed to be water proof regardless of the tile? What should I expect them to do?

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1 Answer


Yes, a steam shower should be as watertight as any other shower.

Sounds, if I visualize this right, like this shower is over a basement. I would have them us a fiber optic scope or open up the basement ceiling and/or adjacent walls to see exactly where the leak is coming from and running to - may be leaking one place through the grout or pan and migrating laterally under the pan or along floor joists or drain piping to where it is appearing - commonly several to 10 feet from the source point with small leaks.

Ruling out a piping leak would be my first step - easiest. I would start by putting water down the shower drain in volume (using a funnel to avoid wetting the shower floor) to see if the drain pipes are leaking.

They should then do a pan test - rubber expanding plug the drain at the shower outlet, then fill the shower with water to just below the dam/curb for 24 hours (or till leaks) to see if the leak is through the floor stone or grout or not.

Then if so move plug down into drain pipe below the pan (metal or plastic or fiberglass water barrier embedded in or under the mortar bed under the tile - see link below) to see if the leak is passing through the pan / liner or not or maybe through the piping in the upper part of the drain. If leaking through shower pan/liner, floor and pan should be torn out down to the subfloor and redone from scratch - which also means tearing off at least the bottom row of tiles on the walls too.

If not, then after determining how long it takes the leakage to appear downstairs, wetting individual shower walls one at a time for over that amount of time with a hose to see which is leaking - should be able to visually determine where the leak point is from there.

"Power Grouting" - if you mean pressure grouting - could work for wall leaks, but should not be done on the floor because if the leak is from there then it can clog the drain and pan liner drainage. If you mean TEK Power Grout, that is just a grout brand and OK as a repair grout.

On the travertine - there are lots of dealers out there pushing it for bathrooms and kitchen countertops - and an equal number of installers and contractors who say NO, not suitable ! As a "stone" lime travertine is one of the poorest choices for home use (except as a dry wall accent finish) with respect to wear, permeability and staining/cleaning as it is naturally porous and soft. So in any environment exposed to water or staining it should be factory "void filled" and then penetration silicone sealed before creating the final surface by grinding or polishing. It should be identified as suitable for wet locations only if that has been done - and even then I recommend a look-alike ceramic or porcelain tile instead, especially for showers and tub enclosures.

If it was installed in your shower unsealed, if a matte or honed finish (as opposed to gloss polish) which has not been sealed, you could try a penetrating sealer like DuPont Stonetech Professional BulletProof Stone Sealer flooded onto the floor then wiped clean after a couple of minutes or so of penetration. HOWEVER - if the water is coming through the shower floor (through stone or grout) and then leaking out, that means either the liner/pan is perforated or the connection at the drsin pipe is leaking, so just sealing it might solve the leak for now but any future stone or grout joint leak will again leak to the same place rather than get trapped by the liner/pan and go down the drain as it should - so the liner/pan problem should be fixed meaning tearing out the shower floor and redoing it.

Honestly, though, if water is running out several places quite a few feet from the shower, either you likely have a major leakage point, improperly installed pan (leaking wall covering and water barrier not emptying into shower as they should), or a drain pipe leak - which is commonly at the pan/liner if it was not installed right. Just leakage through porous travertine, unless a variety with lots of open passages and voids (which some do have) I would not expect to cause a significant "leak", as opposed to a drip.

Here is a graphic from Oatey showing what the pan/liner is and how it works as a backup to leaking shower floor stone or grout - in reality, the liner/pan is put in with the expectation that at some point the floor will leak, so the liner/pan is a built-in backup to catch that (hopefully minor) leakage and get rid of it. Some contractors do as I prefer and put another plastic sheet water barrier under the pan leading to a low point where a drip would be readily visible (like in a ceiling) and cause the least damage possible below it -

Certainly don't let this slip unfixed past the warranty coverage period - and be sure the leak and your complaint about it not being fixed yet is documented - at least in eMails back and forth, and if not in a good working relationship with the GC (whose ultimate responsibility it is to get fixed) then by certified return receipt mail.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD

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