Advice on dealing with apparent leak from shower area
February 23, 2020 12:03 PM   Subscribe

A week ago, I noticed discolored drywall around a light switch in a room directly below my shower. There's no consistent leak that I can detect, but I've been keeping an eye on it and now today I could tell the drywall was damp again. I should call a plumber to inspect for a leak, right? Also, because the leak does not seem to be major, is it ok to use the shower until we get it looked at, hopefully early this week?

There's no visible water anywhere around the light switch. I also removed the face plate and saw no evidence of water inside the switch. The discolored drywall that feels slightly damp is the only evidence of a leak. When I inspect the shower, I can see that the tile grout has worn away in the area around both inside and outside of the glass door (this is a stall shower, not a tub). So my working hypothesis is that water is getting between the tiles there. I guess it could also be a leaky pipe, but then I wouldn't have expected a week to pass before I saw new water damage. Still, I'm not handy at all, so maybe I'm wrong and this is a huge problem.

Is a plumber the right professional to call to deal with this? Also, is it a bad idea to keep taking one or two brief showers a day--trying to avoid getting water near the worn grout--until we can get someone to look at this?

I've seen this previously. Thanks!
posted by crLLC to Home & Garden (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
around a light switch

You should probably flip the circuit breaker for that circuit so that you don't get electrocuted.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:46 PM on February 23, 2020

Best answer: Tiled showers are often incorrectly installed, even in expensive houses, by sticking tile onto regular drywall with no waterproof sealing products behind the tiles and grout. If so, you will probably need a general contractor, not just a plumber, to rebuild the whole shower area correctly.

If you have water running down the inside of the wall to a lower level, you have a serious problem hidden behind your tiles and it's probably going to take significant demolition to repair it. Sorry!
posted by fritley at 12:46 PM on February 23, 2020 [5 favorites]

It could be a pipe leaking rather than the grout. On the outside chance that it is that, I would call a plumber yesterday and avoid showering. Gym or sponge baths. My experience of this situation is from apartment dwelling. I was in the upstairs apartment and my downstairs neighbor complained and complained to the cheap as hell landlord because my pipes dripped. Eventually one failed completely and flooded the apartment downstairs. My monster landlord finally called the Worst Plumbers In Town, who proceeded to sledgehammer the shower wall of my beautiful 1940s pinktile bathroom with the irreplaceable creamcolored wheat-sheaf decorative border so that they could get at the pipes. When they were done replacing the pipes, they glommed up truckstopshower white square tiles where the beautiful tiles had been and threw grout all over the wall in the process and for good measure replaced the lovely period fixtures with Lowe's dreck and took great pleasure in telling me when I asked that they'd landfilled the original fixtures. I moved ages ago and it's been like 12 years and I still hate them. But they did stop the disintegration of the building and the downstairs neighbor stayed in the apartment.
posted by Don Pepino at 12:47 PM on February 23, 2020

Response by poster: Yep, this is a serious problem. I had a plumber come by and tell me it's probably not a plumbing issue and you need to talk with someone who specializes in tile. Then I had a tile setter come by and tell me that I need to gut the shower and start over. And since I'm going that far, I might as well do a full bathroom remodel. So now I'm getting bids from contractors. Yay!
posted by crLLC at 1:25 PM on March 1, 2020

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