How to waterproof my shower cheap?
May 20, 2011 11:47 AM   Subscribe

My tiled shower walls are water permeable, and it is messing up the adjacent drywall. Two tile guys agree - is a design issue, and re-grouting will not fix. Would cost a small fortune to fix right. I am redoing bathroom in five years or so, but for now, I need cheap waterproofness. What can I do to my walls that will keep water out?

Looking for something cheap and durable I can apply directly over tile. Epoxy? Drylock? Polyurethane? Big plastic sheet and some duct tape? Something else?

Needs to stand up to daily showering, and adhere to existing tile and grout. I don't care if it looks a little weird - it will be replaced in a few years.
posted by juliewhite to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Could you get another shower curtain & rod and put it up on the other side of the shower?
posted by carsonb at 11:57 AM on May 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Could you get vinyl shower curtains that go all the way around the shower? It might not make the walls more waterproof, but it would help to keep the water off of the walls. It would also be a rather cheap just-for-now fix until you've got epoxy/drylock/etc thing going.
posted by Elly Vortex at 11:58 AM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Depends where the leak is. Are you certain that it's the tiles and grout themselves that are permeable, and not just a gap somewhere around the edge that hasn't been sealed? Badly sealed edges are the normal culprit, along with cracked tiles or missing grout.

There are paint-on (usually acrylic) sealants that will waterproof tiles and grout. I can't vouch for them because I've always used waterproof grout in the first place. You'd probably also be wise to remove all of the silicone (or acrylic) sealant and re-do it. Buy the best silicone you can afford (the sort that comes with a long guarantee); there are silicones that dry in a couple of hours now, which makes life much easier. Get everything dry, cut out the old sealant, scrape away as much of the residue as you can with a thin blade, then clean everything with alcohol. Use masking tape and a slightly soapy finger to get perfect, smooth lines of sealant.

Of course, if it's just the grout that's letting water through, you could rake it out and regrout it with a waterproof grout - it's time-consuming but not remotely difficult. It's unlikely that the tiles themselves, even if they're something porous like limestone.

Ideally, when the time comes to rip it all out and start again, make sure you don't have drywall under the tiles; it's the worst shortcut you can take. I've replaced drywall with a water-resistant cement board whenever I've put in a new shower or bath.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 12:00 PM on May 20, 2011

Yes, if you want the most basic fix, buy a big sheet of thick polythene, cut to fit the space, and tape it along the top and sides with some duck tape. You'll need to keep the area between the polythene and the tiles dry (wipe it out every couple of days) to stop mildew from forming.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 12:02 PM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Prime and paint, or prime, paint with Redguard, then reprime and repaint with water resistant paint.

Redguard will keep the water out if the surface is properly primed for it to stick to it.
posted by iamabot at 12:27 PM on May 20, 2011

Do you have a wood-framed house? Because if that drywall is getting permeated with water, you have a situation rife for termite infestation, and that's seriously bad news. I understand the cost would be exorbitant to fix this now, but waiting five years seems like it could turn disastrous--any way you get a loan for home improvements? They are tax deductible. Also, any way your homeowner's insurance would cover this?

If you absolutely can't fix this now (and again, I think it will end up costing you much more later), cleaning with bleach and then applying a waterproof sealer is a budget-friendly DIY short-term fix.

Maybe get a shower head on a hose instead of the fixture type, to direct the water away from the walls (so the spray goes more against the shower curtain or glass, whichever you have). We squeegee our tiles down after each shower because mildew and mold are an issue in Florida; this might help you with your moisture issues as well.
posted by misha at 12:36 PM on May 20, 2011

I've addressed the same problem with shower curtains, as carsonb suggests--an easier solution than dealing with primer, paint, polyurethane, sealers, etc.

To visualize this, imagine turning a free-standing bathtub (like a claw-foot tub which has no walls at all) into a shower. You accomplish this by hanging a shower enclosure ring/ rod from the ceiling above. Then you hang shower curtains all the way around. Because the curtain kind of gathers, it doesn't hang right next to the tile--which allows air flow to keep the tile dry and prevent mildew growth. This solution works indefinitely.
posted by ViolaGrinder at 12:54 PM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

You can purchase a plastic shower surround. You will need to caulk it at the bottom I am sure but that will be outlined in the installation guidelines. Not sure if you would have to demo the tile and drywall out but, hey, it's gotta go anyway, right?

I had drywall around my shower, revealed when a shower tile rotted off of the wall in the condo I just purchased. I am an idiot with power tools but I was able to demo, put in cement board, and tile by myself. It wasn't too bad and it didn't cost a ton. Of course, I don't have an expensive place so something simple looked right.
posted by Foam Pants at 1:08 PM on May 20, 2011

I know nothing of the arts of DIY, but in case this is useful - a friend of mine who built his own home created a shower tray by using some kind of thick lino, joining the corner edges with sealant. I guess the same could work for the walls?
posted by penguin pie at 1:17 PM on May 20, 2011

Like Foam Pants, I demoed the bad part of the shower wall, which in my case was plaster behind tile, and put in cement board. I mortared it up and that worked fine. It is not too tricky and not expensive.

What's more, I left it like that, cement board with polymer-reinforced mortar, for over a year until I had an opportunity to tile it. It was a functional shower during this period.
posted by Glomar response at 1:18 PM on May 20, 2011

Best answer: This. Sticks to everything, completely waterproof. Just roll it on. It's what I replaced my flat roof with.
posted by ferdinand.bardamu at 1:18 PM on May 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Seconding Foam Pants. My parents had exactly the same issue in the house I grew up in, and a plastic shower enclosure was my father's quick-n-dirty solution (in that instance, it fit above the bathtub rather than being full-height). It won't look hinky and it will work.
posted by adamrice at 1:26 PM on May 20, 2011

I agree with Elly Vortex. Something like this and 2 shower curtain liners will do the trick.
posted by The Deej at 2:05 PM on May 20, 2011

Home stores sell sheets of 4x8 fiberglass reinforced panels specifically for waterproofing small areas. Look in the area where they sell cheesy woodgrain luan paneling. They frequently turn up in restaurant kitchens, dairies and food factories and are always white. Close by in the store will be the proper adhesive and plastic strips that allow you to make seams and corners watertight. Cost is $12-30 per sheet.
posted by werkzeuger at 8:15 PM on May 25, 2011

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