Shower leaking- who you gonna call?
August 27, 2014 7:47 AM   Subscribe

We live in a house that was built in 1927. One of our bathrooms has a tub with a shower head. If we don't close the shower curtain properly, water somehow gets through the floor into the foyer below.

This doesn't happen if you use the tub as a tub, only if you use the shower. It also helps to drape a towel over the edge of the tub near the end of the tub where the faucet and shower head are.

Couple of questions:

1. Any theories on how the water is getting from the shower down to the foyer? I don't see water pooling anywhere in the bathroom.

2. What kind of repair person might be able to fix this? Plumber? General contractor? We're some of the least handy people in North America, plus our house has lead paint, so do-it-yourself is not really an option.

3. What kind of repair might be done to fix this? For instance, would replacing the tub probably do the job? Would we need to replace the tile on the bathroom floor?

4. Is there likely to be water damage somewhere from this happening over the years? We know it's been happening off and on since we moved in in 2007, probably before that as well. How would we know if there is such damage? There's no apparent damage on the ceiling in the foyer.
posted by Anne Neville to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Do you mean when the shower is being used, or when it is not in use? And does the shower curtain hang inside or outside of the tub?
posted by kinddieserzeit at 7:50 AM on August 27, 2014

Sounds to me like it is running down the outside of the tub, getting into a crack between the tub and the tile floor, and then running under the tile floor to the foyer.

I am guessing that you have continuous tile floors from the edge of the tub all the way to the foyer. Is that correct.

When guys install tile, the cement is put down in thin lines, so there is space for the water to run under the tiles.

If I am correct, then you can solve this easily by sealing the point where the tub meets the tile.
posted by Flood at 7:51 AM on August 27, 2014

If we don't close the shower curtain properly

That presents a fairly simple solution - just close the shower curtain properly.

But, seriously, folks...

It sounds like the water is running down through a crack in the floor near the faucet side. Get a bathroom contractor to seal around the tub, where it meets the tile. (or is this a claw foot style tub?) This can be done with caulk (if you don't care about appearance) or grout (if you do).
posted by tckma at 7:55 AM on August 27, 2014

Response by poster: This only happens when the shower is being used. The shower curtain hangs inside the tub.

We've mostly been using this bathroom as a guest bathroom, so it hasn't happened too often. But it has become our daughter's bathroom now. Right now she takes baths, because she is 2, but she might want to use the shower when she is older. Knowing what I do about kids, I don't think telling her to keep the shower curtain closed and keep a towel on the edge of the tub is likely to be an effective solution.
posted by Anne Neville at 7:57 AM on August 27, 2014

Is this a built-in tub? Or a standalone, like a clawfoot? If it's a built-in and you are amendable, sliding shower doors might fix the problem. Or a partial door, something like this. Or how about a splash guard like this that covers the open space between the tub and the shower curtain?

And as far as water damage, I think I'd be inclined to have a contractor come and check it out, especially since the route of the water from the bathroom to the foyer isn't obvious and it's been going on for years. And since you say there isn't apparent water damage on the foyer ceiling, who knows where else the water has traveled. And mold could be an issue, especially with a kid in the house.

And certainly if you end up replacing the tub and the tile, make sure they inspect for water damage. You should be able to find a contractor (not just a plumber) who can handle all aspects of the bathroom repair.

Good luck!
posted by Beti at 8:12 AM on August 27, 2014

Are you sure the improperly closed shower curtain is to blame? This was happening in my house and it turned out that one of the seals in the pipes that led to the shower was dripping. We had to cut a hole in the wall and seal it back up.
posted by something something at 8:15 AM on August 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

In the past I have had plastic fins attached to the walls on each side of the tub, at a previous apartment. The shower curtain sits inside these. The purpose is to direct spray, that would otherwise escape around the ends of the curtain, down into the tub.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 8:20 AM on August 27, 2014

If it only happens when the shower curtain isn't closed right, then it's water leaking down the outside of the tub. My suggestion would be to change the shower head to one with a much more focused stream and is adjustable, and make sure it is aimed in a way that doesn't hit the back wall. Here's the one I just got, it's quite focused.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:21 AM on August 27, 2014

Seconding something something. The curtain thing could be a red herring.

Is there some way you can run the shower head but wrap it in a plastic sheet or something so water goes from the shower head directly to the drain? If the showerhead supply pipe is leaking behind the wall, you'll know it for sure this way.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:31 AM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Water is hitting the wall running down and running off teh edge of the tub corner. You can buy triangle shapped things that you attach (with caulk) to the corner of the wall and tub edge to deflect the water back into the tub.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:43 AM on August 27, 2014

Our tub leaked because it is improperly leveled. The idea of those surfaces in the 4 corners (you know, the little triangular spots) is that they're barely level enough for shampoo bottles, but water that puddles there is directed down into the tub. Because our floor slants, water flows along the edge of the tub under the faucet from the left (wall side) to the right (downhill into the room), cascades over the edge of the tub, and makes a puddle on the floor. We have a good seal between the tub and the floor tile, so it results in a soaking-wet bathmat rather than dripping through into the downstairs ceiling.

Our 2-tier solution was (a) conscientiously stick the vertical edge of the shower curtain to the tile wall to make a good seal and prevent water collecting on the final triangular section (b) set a folded washcloth on the triangular section to absorb the puddle before it hits the floor. This wasn't entirely guest-proof, so we've replaced that with a splash guard in that corner. No problems since.
posted by aimedwander at 8:54 AM on August 27, 2014

We thought for years that water getting on the floor was to blame for our leaks (same deal: 1913 house, old cast iron tub built in with a retrofit, leaks through the ceiling during showers but not baths), but recently learned that we needed to recaulk the area around the tub spigot and water control handles and that has solved it.
posted by anastasiav at 9:20 AM on August 27, 2014

I also think something something has your answer.

You may have water damage (mold) or structural damage (rot) or you may not.

No matter who comes in to look at it, integrity and ability is a big big factor.


In your shoes, I'd start with a very experienced and trusted Plummer, and work from there. You might need a handy man or some kind of contractor or tile guy to fix things once the leak is repaired.

The plummer might have to open up a small hole in the wall behind the the pipes to take a look at things. They should not go through the tile, but through drywall. Tell anyone who wants to open up the tile without a really really logical reason "NO."

There's such a wide range of possibilities here, but this is where I would start.

Don't ever live this long with leaking water again. It only ends in an expensive (and sometimes dangerous) world of hurt when you ignore leaks, no matter the source of it.

You may be getting off lucky this time (I hope!) but don't play fast and loose like this with leaks ever ever again.
posted by jbenben at 9:23 AM on August 27, 2014

Shower curtain is a red herring here. Somewhere you have a crack or leak. Might be caulk, might be grout, might be a pipe, might be tapware.

Do you have a handyman? I have a handyman who's licensed general contractor, but he's mostly retired from big jobs. I schedule him to come by every few months and deal with stuff - move an outlet, replace a light fixture, hang stuff that needs wall anchors. If you own a 1920's home and you aren't handy, then you need one of these guys. He can probably do a quick visual inspection of the fixtures and recaulk. If there's an accessible crawl space around the bathroom, then what he will likely do is shine a bright light in the shower and look for where the light is coming through. Bam! Problem located.

What jbenben said about not letting water leak continue is absolutely true. Tubs are heavy. Original tubs from the 1920s are exceptionally heavy. Tubs filled with water are even heavier than that. You don't want let water weaken the structural support under the tub. (Yes, I did own a 1920's house with a tile/leak problem in the tub. Why do you ask?)

Ask around for the name of a small jobs GC or handyman.
posted by 26.2 at 11:24 AM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm assuming that you are correct when you say that the leak only happens if the shower curtain is not shut properly, and that the leak does not happen if the shower curtain is carefully and thoroughly closed.

1. It's splashing around the edge of the curtain and running down something outside of the curtain.

2. What I'm going to suggest can be installed by just about anyone you'd hire to work on your house. Plumber, handyman, general contractor, whatever. Or maybe you have a handy friend you'd like to buy dinner for or something.

3. Install a splash guard.

It comes with adhesive (which you'd have to be very unhandy to not be able to install yourself, but you know you own capabilities better than I do), but will work better if someone seals edge of splash guard with caulk rated for bathroom use. You might not be able to use the tub for anywhere from 3 to 24 hours afterward.

4. Haven't seen your house, but it's likely that water running around inside your walls would have left some water damage. Have someone out to take a look at it.
posted by yohko at 1:36 PM on August 27, 2014

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