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Question DetailsAsked on 1/20/2014

Should shower pan retain water? How much? How long? If not, what needs to be done?

Shower was redone 2 years ago. Noticed water seeping through grouting where wall and floor meet inside the shower. No other signs of leakage (wet carpet, etc). Plumber said it was the pan holding water. Inside the closet wall we used yard stick to measure water level (carefully placed it between wall and gray vinyl liner). It measured about 1" deep.(Pan has not overflowed) We have not used the shower for about 4-5 days. No water seeping through the grouting. However, water level in the pan is still 3/4-7/8". Is this normal? Are there any health hazards from this standing water? If not what should we be doing? Who would diagnose and fix this issue if it needs fixing? Other considerations?

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6 Answers

Voted Best Answer

If this is a custom built shower pan the vinyl liner should extend more than 1 inch above the pan and there should be no standing water in that location. I am curious if you are getting a foul smell from the drain but since the pan is only 2 years old it may have not started yet. A custom dry pack concrete pan is water resistant and not water proof and that is why a liner is used. I sounds to me like the drain assembly was prepped improperly. It may have been installed correctly by the plumber and that is why no leaks are showing up under the shower in the room below yet. It sounds like whoever put the cement in went right up to the drain assembly without using gravel around the drain holes in the drain assembly. On the drain there is a ring clamp system to seal the liner and just above that is a series of holes that are to be protected before the concrete is placed. Some installers use pea gravel and some even use broken tile bits. This system is to let any water that gets through the tile and concrete drain out and this is a common mistake novices make along with not shaping the floor under the rubber membrane to direct this water to the drain. The proper order is to trowel a layer of cement over tar paper pitched to the drain, install the membrane and make the connection to house drain, encircle the drain with pea gravel to just below the finished point of the mud base and then install the mud with finish tile following that.

It will be hard to tell if the sub base was pitched at this point but if any sort of repair instead of complete replacement would help it would be to demo the area around the drain and place the gravel around the drain. You must however make sure the weep holes are not plugged and clean them out if they are. This would limit the water retainage to just where the subfoor is not perfectly level.

Like I said before this is a common problem and why I insist on doing the pan and liner. They now even have products such as Redi-pan and other systems to solve it.


Answered 6 years ago by ContractorDon


Here is a couple of sketches and pictures of what Don is talking about if it was not clear to you -

The gravel is not shown in the diagram, but goes in the area that is open in the pictures between the rubber sleeve and the downturned membrane edge, outside the inner liner that is the actual drain you see which goes down in maybe 4-6 inches (and has perforations in it), and inside the outer drain liner. The idea is the tile sheds the water, and any seepage through grout cracks etc weeps through the mortar bed (which is mixed to be porous) and gets caught by the membrane and sloped down to the drain, where it enters the holes in the inner tube and from there down into the drain pipe.

As Don said - sometimes they forget or don't know about the filter materials around the weep holes, or sometimes they don't realie the mortar bed is supposed to be porous and they put in regular mortar which is almost watertight, so the water accumulates right under the tile.

You could have one of two things happening - leaks into the pan through grout cracks, which should drain away unless the weep holes were pretty much totally blocked OR the mortar bed was made non-porous; or backup from the drain into the pan area if the drainpipe is not free-flowing. If you have water pooling in the floor drain due to slow draining when showering, then you DO have water backing up into the pan through the weep holes and your drain needs cleaning out. This means backup due to water dropping slowly through the downpipe, not slow draining through the screen - remove screen to check which it is, because slow screen draining due to hair accumulation on it does NOT cause water backup under the tile.

In your case, look down into the drain (pull out screen if removeable) with flashlight - if the water is coming out through the grout joints for more than maybe 30 seconds after shower has drained out but there is not water standing in the drain pipe, then your weep holes are probably blocked - either from construction or from grundge; or mortar bed is too watertight.

From your measurements, sounds like the weep holes are not draining at all, or mortarbed is too tight, because that water in the pan should have drained out in certainly less than an hour at most.

As Don says, you need a plumber who is experienced in rebuilding shower drains, and probably a tilelayer after that to repair the tile around the drain if the plumber has to install a drain bed around the drain. If you are lucky, you have one of the types with a built-in weep screen, so the inner tube can be unscrewed from above, the weep screen cleaned (if not grout filled buring construction), then the drain reassembled and sealed with plumbers clay without damaging any tile.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


Thank you for your reponses and links to images.

There is no foul smell.

We think the water may have gotten there because of cracks in the caulking which we did nor repair as quickly as we normally do and should have.

I was under the impression that weep holes are the size of a pin and really more for condensation. They are hard to locate and clean. Now it appears that they are actually intended for drainage. Are they larger than pin holes? Should I be cleaning them on a regular basis? (We are on well water)

Today when cleaning all of the gunk out of the drain ito make it was not blocking peepholes, on the underside of the plastic lip of the drain(in the gray area between the shower channel and rubber sleeve in the diagram you provided.,

on one side there were two "pointed" pieces of something. It felt like possibly corners of vinyl liner. They protruded maybe about a 1/2-1". They were small enough, far down enough, and hidden by the plastic ring of the shower so I could not visually see them, just feel them. They were both on one side of the drain with no matching protrusions on the other side. Is that normal or an indication of aomething else?

After 5 days of not using the shower, the water appears to ever so slowingly be recedeing (or evaporating). One thought was to wait about another week and see if the water has receced to the point that we can no longer measure it. Then recaulk, and keep a watch on it. If there is no further buildup just call it good and make sure the joints stay caulked and the drain stays clean. If there is water buidup then get with a plumber well versed in bathroom drains. The opposite approach would be to have a plumber out now. (We did have one out, but it was obvious after a few minutes that they were not versed in shower drains.)

Thanks for all your help with this perplexing dilemma.

Answered 6 years ago by AMP


Your plan of attack seems reasonable, if you think the caulk was so far gone that you actually had water flowing down under the tile. Just be sure to check for leaks below the shower, or overflowing of the pan.

I did not look close enough at the diagram since I was just using it as an example - for the particular drawing shown, the weep holes would be right ABOVE the rubber sleeve, to intercept water coming across on top of the liner.

What you felt down in the pipe was probably cut ends of liner - in the drawing, they would be longer than shown, and sticking down below the bottom of the upper tube. As long as not blocking the flow I see no problem with that - might just catch hair a little easier is all.

Weep holes - I have seen maybe 1/8 inch and up to about 1/4 inch diameter - not pin size in my experience, but maybe so with some brands. With hard water I suppose it is possible they could plug up with lime and such - you could wrap and tape a rag around a stick or coatchanger (be sure to fasten securely so does not go down drain, or leave an end sticking out the top to kneel on), and tuck it down just so thetop portion of the "ball" of the rag is at the weep holes, saturate with white vinegar (keep off tile as will dissolve grout and maybe sealer as well) and let sit for 15 minutes or so, then flush - that should help loosen and dissolve any deposits in the holes. Don't get too carried away - you don't want to dissolve the mortar bed, though that would take quite a bit to damage.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


One thing I spaced on - with the vinegar, if you have a copper drain tube, do not do this or only for a very short time - a minute or so and flush with water afterward, to avoid damaging the copper tube with the vinegar, which is a mild acid so slowly dissolves copper.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


A couple of installation and maintenance notes I thought pertinent:


1. Mesh (even chicken wire or rabbit fencing) to reinforce the morter bed is important. Without it I've seen plenty of custom shower pans crack that otherwise wouldn't have. Of course, you can't really tell once it is done if there is any in there.

2. Never grout corners in showers,always caulk them. No matter how good the tile contractor is those joints will move and grout will crack.


1.Check your grout to see if it needs to be resealed yearly. Depending on how often the shower is used, and more-so how often and vigorously it is cleaned, the sealer in/on the grout may need to be replaced as often as every 6 months. I've had customers who insist on very harsh chemicals and always keeping it looking like new with an obsessive cleaning schedule. Most people should only have to check once a year and may only have to reseal every 2 years. To test, simply flick some water droplets in several places. If it soaks in, the grout (an tile in some cases) needs to be resealed. If the water just beads up then you are good to go.

2. Caulking needs to be checked periodically. Many showers with frequent cleaners as mentioned above or those who don't clean enough and let mildew build up will need to recaulk the shower more frequently. With our hard water I find once every year in the Master shower and once every couple of years in the Hall Bath seem to be the average. Again, useage, cleaning habits and mineral deposits play a role.

At least the guy that installed your shower used a liner and didn't cheat like so many do. However, standing water can cause mildew and/or mold problems so you need to do some more investigating to see why the water is getting to the liner, which is generally a secondary catch, and also find out why it isn't draining. A properly tiled shower pan should shed the water to the drain and should be sealed to that drain while still allowing any water that gets under the tile to be caught by the liner and then drained through the wheepholes the others mentioned. A small amount of seeping at the intersection of the tile and drain flange is understandable and not a huge concern as long as the liner and weep holes work properly. If recaulking and sealing stops the water from collecting in the liner you've solved the first problem. The second problem of the weep holes being clogged may be a bit tougher. Some flanges don't offer the ability to see the holes once installed with all other components so they require some demolition to investigate. I'd suggest removing the entire top layer of the pan from the liner up and redoing it completely so there are no cracks or joints where there shouldn't be. Also, you will get a clear view of everything to make sure it is all proper. Make sure you do a water test on the liner before pouring in the new morter layer. The way I do my pans takes at least 3 days. It costs more in labor but I know there are never any leaks. First is the base morter layer, followed by a day to dry. Then the liner gets laid in, followed by a water test overnight. If the water level drops at all I know there is a pinhole in the liner or the flange is not sealed tight (the drain pipe is plugged for this). Finally, I install the top morter layer which sets up a couple of days before I lay tile.

Answered 6 years ago by Todd's Home Services


Thanks to everyone for your continuing responses on this dilemma. I am definitely more informed.

In the last response Todd's stated " I'd suggest removing the entire top layer of the pan from the liner up and redoing it completely so there are no cracks or joints where there shouldn't be."

To make sure I understand, you are suggesting we might want to redo the pan (we are on a slab) which require removing the floor tiles, at least the first row of the 13" wall tiles, the threshold and accompanying tiles, and the shower doors.(we do not have enough spare tiles to replace all of this)

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate your help and informed suggestions. If it has to be done, it has to be done... but I want to make absolutely sure it is needed since it could be quite pricey (but not fixing it correctly could end up being even more expensive!!)

Who do we start with in this process? Someone who remodels showers? A plumber who is well versed in shower remodels including drains? To be quite honest, I am a bit of a loss. The contractors who redid the shower are highly recommended on Angie's list (and we thought he did a great job). The plumber who installed the drain during remodel is not on Angie's (he was the plumber normally used by the contractor). The most recent plumber (also highly recommended on Angie's) admitted he was not familar the square type of shower drain only the round ones with screws. He did not say definitively that the water was coming in through the grouting/caulking. He was at quite a loss trying to determine what was happening.

What questions should I ask to make sure the person is right plumber, tile person, etc. for this job?

Again, thanks for everyone's help.

Answered 6 years ago by AMP

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