• leaking shower stalls

    Leaking Shower Stalls – Moisture on Internal Walls – Issues for Home Buyers and New Home Builders with Masonry Walls in WA

    29 Jun, 2017 | 1,561 views

    Leaking shower stalls and the impacts on adjacent masonry walls in WA is an extremely common issue in new homes, existing homes and especially homes older than 15- 20 years of age. Action must be taken!

    1.         The Problem?

    Essentially the problem relates to water escaping the shower stall and leaching into the walls and appearing on the external outer wall surface adjacent to the shower stall.

    The symptoms are clear. The paint on the wall is lifting, flaking or simply peeling off, the wall and or plaster can be damp or at worst wet, soft or flaky to touch. In extreme cases, mould is forming on the wall!

    Even clean, freshly painted walls can have high levels of moisture, as measured by a moisture metre, often indicating that there is a fundamental issue with a leaking shower. In fact, this can be a dead giveaway in a house circa 15 – 20 years old that is being sold and the only freshly painted wall is the wall on the outer side of a shower stall.

    2.         Why is this Happening?

    In homes built pre 2004 the issue comes down to a breakdown of the water proofing provided by the tiles and the grout. In essence it can be caused by:

    • The grout breaking down and allowing water ingress
    • Expansion and contraction in the wall/floor tiles has allowed water to escape
    • The adjoining walls have some settlement and or structural cracking which has allowed water to ingress past the tiles
    • Pinholes in grout
    • Poorly grouted tiles
    • Leaking pipework behind the wall
    • No puddle flange installed under the floor grate
    • No fluid aprons installed around tapware in wall penetrations
    • Internal corners and bottom row of tiles not grouted with silicone
    • Cut edges of tiles exposed in shower
    • Structural movement of the building
    • Waterproofing membrane not included in installation
    • Tiles not correctly bedded into adhesive
    • Silicone in corner joints has broken down
    • Lack of plumbing maintenance

    3.         Do You have to do Anything?

    Yes! It will not improve on its own. You need to intervene. Do not simply paint the wall – this will only adversely impact the issue by trapping the moisture under the paint. You need to find the source of the leak and attack the problem at its core.

    4.         What Do You have to Do?

    4.1        Make Sure it is Not a Plumbing Issue

    The first issue is to make sure that the issue with leaking shower stalls is not a plumbing issue. That is to ensure that the pipes, taps, spouts are not leaking or facilitating water ingress. A good WA Licenced Plumber will be able to test and service these items, including a pressure test if required to ensure that the core issue is not related to the plumbing.

    4.2      OK so you have determined the water is not leaking through the plumbing so the probable alternative is water leaking through the tiles/grout/water proofing membrane

    Once you have determined it is not a plumbing issue, the problem more than likely relates to tiles/grout/water proofing membrane.  There are three main solutions:

    1. Re tile
    2. Re grout and reseal
    3. Approach your Builder – if your home is under 6 years of age

    1. Re-tiling

    The back to basic and most effective approach is to lift the tiles, clear/clean the area, apply the waterproofing membrane and re-tile. Problem being, re-tiling may be a significant issue as you may not be able to match the tiles across the entire bathroom. The question then is do you want to re-tile the entire bathroom, which could run the costs to several thousands of dollars. Also, you will be without the bathroom for an extended period of time.

    1. Re-grout and Re-seal

    Given the significant costs associated with re-tiling, the most popular choice is to simply re-grout and re-seal. This approach tends to generate excellent results and will address the issue in most cases.

    Simply type Leaking Showers Perth into Google and you will find a large selection of companies in WA who are able to undertake this work for you.  In general, costs will be well under $1,000 and a quality firm will be able to given a long term guarantee on the outcome of their work.

    Generally re-grout and re-seal can be completed within 3-4 days (allowing for drying pre and post repair).

    1. Approach Your Builder

    For homes which are under 6 years of age (from date of practical completion) there should not be a problem with leaking shower stalls, unless the tiles or grout have been damaged.

    From 2004, Australian Standards required waterproofing membranes to be applied to shower stalls and indeed across bathrooms. The net result of this is that the shower stalls should simply not be leaking, especially in the first 6 years (unless damaged).

    If your shower stalk is leaking then you should approach your builder and make a claim under the defect liability period afforded by the WA Legislation.

    Very Important Note

    Whatever method is used to fix the underlying water ingress issue, the  walls must be given 6 – 12 months to dry out before they are resealed and painted otherwise the moisture will be trapped in the walls.

    If you buy a home in WA and you rely on the often used REIWA Building Inspection structural defect clause (or deviations of this) in your offer to purchase contract, then it is highly unlikely that you will not be covered for leaking shower stalls and or high levels of moisture in the walls.  Except in the most extreme of cases, leaking shower stalls and moisture in walls will not be classed as a structural defect and hence will not be captured by the above clause. Repair costs will generally fall back to the buyer to resolve.

    6.         Impacts of Leaking Shower Stalls for People Building a New Home

    As indicated above, shower stalls in new homes, especially those homes less than 6 years old should simply not occur. Where it does, contact your builder.

    Prevention can be Better than the Cure! – A Suggestion

    The Building Code of Australia and Australian Standards 3740 2010 require that shower stalls with a hob:

    • The entire floor of the enclosed shower area including the hob must be waterproofed.
    • The walls must be waterproof to not less than 150 mm above the shower floor substrate or not less than 25 mm above the maximum retained water level whichever is the greater with the remainder being water resistant (masonry/tiled walls are considered water resistant) to a height of not less than 1800 mm above the finished floor level.
    • Internal and external corners and horizontal joints must be waterproof within a height of 1800 mm above the floor level with not less than 40 mm width either side of the junction.

    Important to Note

    In Perth’s predominantly masonry (brick shower stalls) the water proofing requirement is basically limited to the floor, 150 mm around the base of the walls near the floor, and the corners up to 1.8 metres but only 40 mm either side of the corner. Potentially this leaves large areas where water, which escapes under the tile/grout can escape into the underlying walls.

    The simple solution is to ask your builder to ensure that the entire shower stall is fully waterproofed (most quality builders are already doing this and exceeding the BCA/AS requirements.)

    7.         Summary

    1. Shower stalls leak – they shouldn’t but they do
    2. When shower stalls leak ignoring the issue will only make it worse. You must act!
    3. Three options to fix leaking shower stalls:
      1. Re-tile
      2. Re-grout and re-seal
      3. Talk to your builder for new homes
    4. If you are buying an existing home – note you will probably be left with the bill, if you are relying on a structural defect clause in the offer to purchase contract.
    5. If you are building a new home get your builder to exceed the BCA/AS requirements by applying a waterproofing membrane to the entire shower stall walls.

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