Forced shower updating ideas
May 18, 2023 7:24 AM   Subscribe

Our shower is leaking and as far as we can tell, the only way to fix it is to rip out the shower tile (at the min) and replace the waterproofing and tile . Some folks have said we basically have to redo the whole shower as ripping out partial tiles is more work. In any case, if you were going to make upgrades to your (fine) shower, what would you do? Where would you get inspiration?
posted by sandmanwv to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What part is leaking? Is it the supply side (plumbing prior to the shower head) or the drain side (pan, trap, etc.)?
posted by slkinsey at 7:38 AM on May 18, 2023

Response by poster: Drain side
posted by sandmanwv at 7:47 AM on May 18, 2023

I did a replacement on my shower. The feature I added was tile shelfs in two corners for shampoo, etc. Also, I added horizontal crossmembers to the frame, so that when the time comes I can add grab bars. Also, consider a low sill so that it is easy go get in and out when you, or someone, gets old.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 7:50 AM on May 18, 2023 [1 favorite]

I just went through a forced upgrade (the shower was leaking behind the wall, on the second floor and into the basement). You never know what the problem actually is until you start ripping walls out, so I went for the shower/tub replacement. I kept it all as simple as possible -- acrylic panels instead of tiles, basic box tub (slightly deeper than what I had before). It's not fancy, and may even look like a motel shower, but it a) works right, b) looks clean, and c) won't cause any problems for a long, long time.

I went for inspiration by looking online at the big box stores, and doing a walk-through in person as well. In the end, I had to make a lot of on-the-spot compromises for my contractor, and I had a list of choices I could work through (and importantly, what was currently in stock at the store that day). I stuck to my guiding principle of keeping it simple. In the end, it all worked out.

Good luck. It's a lousy process to go through.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:51 AM on May 18, 2023

Just did a partial redo of my shower.

I should have bitten the bullet and done the whole thing. The tile that our homebuilder used 15 years ago is discontinued, which meant I had to scour a dozen stores trying to find old stock or a replica that looked close enough. I found something close enough but it still looks different.

When you tear down the pan and liner to rebuild it, that's 80% of the work of redoing the whole thing. But in my circumstance it would have meant rebuilding the whole bathroom since the tile is everywhere.

One thing our contractor did do is use a Schluter liner and Kerdi drain system, which allowed him to do this cool envelope cut and drain on the floor. We like that a lot.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:00 AM on May 18, 2023 [2 favorites]

Definitely add a niche to put all your showering stuff on. That's the biggest innovation in showers in the past 15 years. If you can move your faucets and showerhead to a wall with only drywall behind it (no other shower or no cabinets) now would be the time to do that too.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:16 AM on May 18, 2023 [1 favorite]

Always consider accessibility and add some nice looking grab bars. Otherwise Pinterest and other social media is great for design inspo.
posted by Crystalinne at 8:22 AM on May 18, 2023 [2 favorites]

I did a bottom-half shower repair at my previous house because of water incursion. It worked fine, and the work probably went a lot more quickly than if we redid the whole thing, but it was not cosmetically perfect because we couldn't match the old tile (my wife went to a big tile store with a scrap of the demo'd tile and the old guy working there exclaimed "oh no, not the vanilla!").

That said, if I were starting over and had space, I'd want A) a serpentine entrance so there was no need for a shower door, B) monolithic walls instead of tile (might not be practical). I think some kind of bench is now required by code in the USA, and a nook seems like table stakes.
posted by adamrice at 8:53 AM on May 18, 2023

I was going to say exactly this:
Also, I added horizontal crossmembers to the frame, so that when the time comes I can add grab bars. Also, consider a low sill so that it is easy go get in and out when you, or someone, gets old.
posted by number9dream at 9:19 AM on May 18, 2023

Grab bar and shelving. Go ahead and add the grab bar now - long before you get old enough to reliably need a grab bar, you or someone else is going to do something stupid to your back, or have to shower in a cast and need some extra balance, or whatever, and you'll be really glad you already have a bar there before you needed it.
posted by Stacey at 9:37 AM on May 18, 2023 [3 favorites]

I will say you need to take it completely out for one reason I don't see mentioned here: the possibility of termites. I had a leak in one of two back-to-back bathrooms years ago, and when the plumber went to remove the plate around the shower control part of the wall fell out because termites were eating the studs behind the tile (Termites can climb quite high as long as they have moisture, I learned). We ended up needing to tear both bathrooms down to the studs and re-do them. You need to make sure you don't have that same problem.
posted by TimHare at 9:38 AM on May 18, 2023

Right this very minute I am listening to the workmen on our 2 bathroom renovation (back to back common wet wall, from the original 1970 house construction).

The hall bath we went with a tub so that is irrelevant to your question.

But the en suite bathroom had a pan shower and now will be tile floor with curb and tiled to the ceiling. Our contractor also advised extra framing since hand rails are in our future. He also suggested a really good sliding glass door and both a shower head and hand held spray attachment.

Because the original build had the toilet, sink and shower in a straight line from the door, with the shower controls on the same wall, he advised we move the controls to where you walk in the shower, not the common wet wall. This was relatively easy with the walls down to the studs and tile ripped up. He used Pex (flexible pipe) and passed it through the studs with metal guards to prevent nail damage.

A couple other design things. The shower floor tile will be "fake stone" tiles, better for non-slip. But important to get it properly installed and to get tile that doesn't require constant "sealing". Also, the "niche" in the wall looks better if you "carry" the bathroom or shower floor tile into the niche to maintain the theme of the tiling in that room. Also choose whether you want one or two niches to store your care products.

And if you are wondering, yeah, doing two bathrooms is a lot of money.
posted by forthright at 10:40 AM on May 18, 2023

Absolutely put in a rain shower.

At some point plumbers decided we would all enjoy jets of water slapping the sides of our heads. Escape their tyranny. You won’t regret it.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:05 AM on May 18, 2023

If the floor is leaking it's due to bad waterproofing or tiling or both. It's highly likely that the same issues exist in the walls, the floor-to-wall join, or both. If you can, take the whole shower out and re-do it all in one go. This means you can add nice things like niches and generally update the whole shower. Just replacing the floor (which will also involve at least the bottom run of tiles on the walls) only moves the problem down the road and you'll end up having to re-do your new floor as well as the walls later.

Bathroom fixes often grow to involve the whole bathroom as new problems are found while removing tiles etc, so be prepared for that.

Wall niches are the greatest thing ever and make your shower so much tidier. Get rid of any step into the shower if you can and use a glass door that has a seal to the floor, with the glass screen fixing straight to the floor instead of having a curb. This makes the shower feel bigger and removes a lot of corners where mould and other yucky stuff is hard to clean off. If you have enough room, you can just use a glass divider on one side and have the shower open, saving costs in shower screens (which are expensive) and making cleaning and just using it so much nicer. We've just done this in our main bathroom and it's a much more pleasant room. We also added 12v lights under the vanity that have a motion-sensor switch so nice indirect lights come on when you stumble into the bathroom in the middle of the night.
posted by dg at 4:25 PM on May 18, 2023

If you tile, epoxy grout. You'll want someone experienced with it, because it's harder to work with and more expensive. But you'll never write an Ask Mefi about how you've tried everything and how can you get your grout clean.
posted by kate4914 at 7:33 PM on May 18, 2023 [1 favorite]

We redid out shower as we entered out 70s. Yes to grab bar, or bars. We were surprised that we got little advice on where to put them. There didn't seem to be a recommended standard placement, ans there was no coordination between the guy who did the prep before tile and the guy who did the installation after the tile was done.

We also put in a folding seat which both my wife had myself hace had occasion to use.

The fancier any particular feature is, the less likely the workmen will do a first rate job.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:28 AM on May 19, 2023

Our shower that was compromised was 40 years old, so we used the opportunity to do a full bathroom remodel. When we pulled the shower tile, the area where water had been leaking had black all over the visqueen, but it hadn't gone through to the structure. We replaced the visqueen and completed retiling.
posted by summerstorm at 11:18 AM on May 20, 2023

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