Water is a part of our life. We drink it, we cook with it, we bathe with it. We expect it to come out of the tap when we need it. We expect it to collect and flow down the drain when we are done. Water seems innocuous since it flows away silently. Unfortunately, water is not as innocuous as it seems. In fact, water can cause a lot of damage if it is not properly managed. A silent leak can cause structural damage to your home.
What happens if you don’t catch a leak? Let’s look at what can happen if you don’t fix a shower leak quickly.
Behind the Walls and Floor of a Shower Leak
Take a look at the tile surrounding your shower. If you look between the tiles, you will see grout and other sealant materials that help keep the water inside the enclosure and moving towards the drain. What happens if the grout begins to crack?
When the tiles were first installed, the tile setter pushed grout into the cracks between the tiles. This grout settled down and hardened, providing a protective barrier against water penetration. Grout can last for several years, without problems. However, in time, microscopic cracks can begin to form in the grout. This can happen as the house begins to settle or as other activities cause the structure to shift.
These fine cracks can let water start to work down into the surfaces below the shower. Ideally, there is a waterproof barrier below the tile and grout. This barrier helps direct the water to the drain. However, this barrier may not be enough. If the sealant around the drain fails, the water can start dripping down the outside of the pipe and into the structural timbers. That is when the real problems begin.
The Damage Caused by Silent Leaks
What kind of damage can a water leak cause?
- Loose tile – If water penetrates behind the tile in your shower, it will undermine grout and adhesive which keeps those tiles it place. In time, you may find the tile loosening. Wall tiles may come completely loose and fall down into the shower floor. Floor tiles can start to move around underfoot.
- Mould – As water moves beyond the shower, it may start to penetrate wood or surrounding plasterboard. This can lead to the growth of mould on the surface and in the crevices of these materials. Mould can cause unpleasant odours and can be a health hazard. It can be a real problem for older adults, young children, people with asthma and those with compromised immune systems.
- Paint damage – When the surface under a layer of paint becomes saturated with water, you will start to see bubbles forming in the painted surface. It will start to pull away and peel. You will need to repaint the surface after you stop the leak and dry the underlying surface. It is important to treat the surface for mould growth before repainting.
- Damaged plasterboard – Plasterboard is filled with dry materials that absorb moisture quickly. If plasterboard becomes saturated with water, it will start warping and will need to be replaced.
- Damaged timbers – When water leaks from the bottom of the shower, it can start to saturate the timbers supporting the base of the enclosure. Over time, moisture can lead to the timbers deteriorating from wood rot. If the leak is not fixed, the timbers can deteriorate to the point of failure.
- Stained ceilings and walls – If the shower is on an upper floor, the water will drip into the floors below. This can cause staining on the ceiling and walls of the rooms below the leak. If fixed quickly, the plasterboard can dry out and be repainted.
- Metal failure – A persistent water leak on metal can lead to development of rust, which eats away at the material around it. Over time, if the leak is not fixed, the metal will deteriorate due to the rust. In the case of nails, screws, and other metal structural fasteners, it can lead to a failure and put the structure at risk.
Early Signs of a Shower Leak
The problem with a silent shower leak is that damage can occur inside the walls and under the shower, where no one can see. By the time, the damage becomes visible, it is already widespread. Finding the leak quickly is paramount. Here are a few signs that you may have a shower leak:
- Unexplained moisture on the floor – If you find standing water on the floor next to the shower, or on the floor of the room below, and there is no explanation, you may have a shower leak.
- Musty smell – Mould gives off a distinctive odour. It leaves a lingering musty smell. The smell will appear before the damage becomes visibly apparent.
- Cracks in the grout – If you find cracks in the grout of your tiled shower, you have water penetrating behind your tiles. You need to have it fixed as soon as possible.
Getting the Leak Fixed
Whenever you suspect you have a leaking shower, you need to get it fixed as soon as possible. There are a number of ways to fix a shower leak, some of which are better than others.
You can have the grout removed and replaced. You can also have all the tile replaced at the same time. However, this method is extremely expensive. You can seal the leaks with a sealant like silicone. The problem with this method is that the silicone will begin to peel in time, allowing the water to start doing damage again.
Using a special epoxy to seal the entire shower is a solution that solves these problems. It costs less than replacing the tile and it offers a strong seal that will remain in place for years to come. It is not always the best solution, but it can be used in many specific instances.
If you need your shower leak fixed, call on the experts at SealRITE Solutions.