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Grout is Cracking in Fiberglass Shower Pan
Old 01-16-2019, 12:55 PM   #1
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Grout is Cracking in Fiberglass Shower Pan

When we remodeled our bathroom we replaced our tub with a fiberglass shower-pan. We did NOT place any type of cement board under it. We honestly thought it did not need the re-enforcement because of how thick the fiberglass was.

We were wrong! After about two years, we now have cracks in the grout of our shower floor. The cracking, as well as some pieces of grout which are now periodically "popping up and out" of the pan needs to be addressed. Placing your foot in the area of cracked grout, you can "feel the shower pan" flexing (very slight, but, noticeable).

We tried re-grouting with some kind of grout that was advertised as "super flexible" grout. But had the same problems with cracks and popping grout chunks.

My question is..... Has anyone ever found anything that would be similar to "Magic Sand" or "Polymeric Sand"? We know when these sands are used for outdoor pavers, the "grout" using any type of polymer appears to allow for some flexing of the pavers (e.g. frost heave). We are hoping to find someone who has already tried this, and, to ask if they were successful or not?
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Old 01-16-2019, 01:03 PM   #2
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I think you need to bite the bullet and fix the root cause of the problem.

Have you looked into this https://www.homedepot.com/p/DAP-Extr...8715/301531804
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Old 01-16-2019, 01:09 PM   #3
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When I put in a shower pan (full-bath size), the instructions called for putting 'dollops' of mud at ~ 9" intervals, over the entire floor. With the pan in place, those dollops would squish out and fill the gap, supporting the shower pan. If yours is flexing, I suspect you will have problems.

To caulk (not 'grout' - that's the hard cement-like stuff) along the shower pan, I think you will need a 100% silicone product. It is flexible, and holds up to the water. My attempts with other caulks would get mushy after weeks or months.

I was able to get a decent match with the grout by mixing some of the grout powder with the clear silicone. Mix in a freezer bag, and squeeze out through a trimmed corner, or refill a caulking tube with this mix.

To stabilize the pan, I wonder if you might have any luck drilling holes in the pan around the flexing area, and injecting some mud or caulk in there, and sealing the hole with silicone? Last resort, but might work.

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Old 01-16-2019, 01:16 PM   #4
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I think you need to bite the bullet and fix the root cause of the problem.

Have you looked into this https://www.homedepot.com/p/DAP-Extr...8715/301531804
That looks like good stuff!

But I wonder if it will hold up in a shower? It is listed as "Moisture Resistant", while 100% Silicone is listed as "waterproof" (hmm, but then they saw 'resistant' in the specs?). The 'resistant' stuff did not hold up for me.

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Old 01-16-2019, 01:23 PM   #5
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That looks like good stuff!

But I wonder if it will hold up in a shower? It is listed as "Moisture Resistant", while 100% Silicone is listed as "waterproof" (hmm, but then they saw 'resistant' in the specs?). The 'resistant' stuff did not hold up for me.

-ERD50
I think any solution short of replacing the pan is temporary.

I have used silicone with excellent results in a wet environment. It has a high degree of stretch so it might be worth a try.
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Old 01-16-2019, 01:26 PM   #6
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OP - a photo would really help those of us who are not understanding the issue, and those of us who think they understand but are wrong.
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Old 01-16-2019, 01:48 PM   #7
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OP - a photo would really help those of us who are not understanding the issue, and those of us who think they understand but are wrong.

+1 Specifically, I don't understand why/where grout would be used in a fiberglass shower pan. Isn't it one piece?
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Old 01-16-2019, 02:08 PM   #8
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Is the pan itself cracked due to lack of support?

I had this happen to mine and a company came out to fix it. Some kind of special spray foam for support with a coating on top. I would not recommend this method. It cracked again after the repair, it was difficult to clean and keep clean. I ended ripping out the whole shower and doing tile. $300 down the tube.

Bite the bullet and replace the pan.
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Old 01-16-2019, 02:20 PM   #9
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You'll want to rip out that pan and do the job right.
There are many instructions on doing shower pans online and in YouTube.com. There are a number of methods including using PVC sheeting and a sand/cement mixture on top of that. Or, you can use the Schluter Kerdi shower kits that cost around $500 for supplies.

I just use the PVC sheeting over concrete backer board (sides), and paint every corner and the bottom of the shower (prior to putting in tile) with Red Gard elastomeric sealant. It's not even an expensive project.
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Old 01-16-2019, 03:19 PM   #10
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Many of the fiberglass tubs/showers require that they be installed over a bed of mortar to prevent the fiberglass from flexing.
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Old 01-16-2019, 03:25 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by DatumPoint5 View Post

My question is..... Has anyone ever found anything that would be similar to "Magic Sand" or "Polymeric Sand"? We know when these sands are used for outdoor pavers, the "grout" using any type of polymer appears to allow for some flexing of the pavers (e.g. frost heave). We are hoping to find someone who has already tried this, and, to ask if they were successful or not?
They make a sanded caulk. When we grouted our back splash, we grouted with grout but where the tile met up with the counter we used caulk. The caulk we bought was the same color and made to match the grout.

https://www.homedepot.com/p/Custom-B...110S/202520295
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Old 01-16-2019, 03:59 PM   #12
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They make a sanded caulk. When we grouted our back splash, we grouted with grout but where the tile met up with the counter we used caulk. The caulk we bought was the same color and made to match the grout.

https://www.homedepot.com/p/Custom-B...110S/202520295
+1 on the Home Depot Polyblend grout-caulk. I've used this product many times. It has the look and feel of grout, but it's flexible, durable, and applies like caulk. You can match almost any color very closely. And if you used Polyblend grout from Home Depot, they have the grout-caulk to match exactly. Where I've used it, you absolutely cannot tell the difference between the grout and the caulk.
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Old 01-17-2019, 05:53 AM   #13
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I now have a "Plan A"....... And my "Plan B" will be wait until Winter is over and just perform a "rip and replace" of the pan and the "under structure" the way it should have been done.

What is the old saying.......... "Never enough time to do it right, but, there always seems to be enough time to do it again"?!?!?!?

My thanks to everyone for their ideas. Much appreciated!!
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Old 01-17-2019, 08:32 AM   #14
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They make a sanded caulk. When we grouted our back splash, we grouted with grout but where the tile met up with the counter we used caulk. The caulk we bought was the same color and made to match the grout.

https://www.homedepot.com/p/Custom-B...110S/202520295
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+1 on the Home Depot Polyblend grout-caulk. I've used this product many times. It has the look and feel of grout, but it's flexible, durable, and applies like caulk. You can match almost any color very closely. And if you used Polyblend grout from Home Depot, they have the grout-caulk to match exactly. Where I've used it, you absolutely cannot tell the difference between the grout and the caulk.
That's the stuff that failed on me. I bought it and their grout because of the matching. But along the line of the shower pan and wall tiles, it just turned mushy after a few weeks/months. When I redid it, I took extra care to make sure it was bone dry behind (used our other shower, had a fan on it for a week), no good. It was OK higher up the wall along the corner, where I guess the water drips off faster.

When I complained to the manufacturer, this is what they pointed out: "Do not use in areas with constant water exposure"

? Two 10 minute showers a day is "constant"?

That's when I switched to 100% Silicone caulk with some grout mixed in. That has lasted.

For a back splash, with only limited water, it should be fine. But a shower pan was too much water for too long.

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Old 01-17-2019, 07:22 PM   #15
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That's the stuff that failed on me. I bought it and their grout because of the matching. But along the line of the shower pan and wall tiles, it just turned mushy after a few weeks/months. When I redid it, I took extra care to make sure it was bone dry behind (used our other shower, had a fan on it for a week), no good. It was OK higher up the wall along the corner, where I guess the water drips off faster.

When I complained to the manufacturer, this is what they pointed out: "Do not use in areas with constant water exposure"

? Two 10 minute showers a day is "constant"?

That's when I switched to 100% Silicone caulk with some grout mixed in. That has lasted.

For a back splash, with only limited water, it should be fine. But a shower pan was too much water for too long.

-ERD50
I used the Polyblend product between the tub and tile surround in a rental house. Also where the front of the tub meets the tile floor. This house only has one bath and three occupants so it gets used a lot. That was 2-3 years ago and it's held up fine. I've not used it with a shower pan but I would think the tub would get the same or more water exposure compared to a shower pan. The other applications were in kitchens or higher up in a shower, like around the fixtures and where the tile meets the ceiling.

But... I do like your suggestion of mixing actual grout with silicone caulk. I can envision the mixing process getting a bit messy though.
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Old 01-17-2019, 09:10 PM   #16
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I used the Polyblend product between the tub and tile surround in a rental house. Also where the front of the tub meets the tile floor. This house only has one bath and three occupants so it gets used a lot. That was 2-3 years ago and it's held up fine. I've not used it with a shower pan but I would think the tub would get the same or more water exposure compared to a shower pan. The other applications were in kitchens or higher up in a shower, like around the fixtures and where the tile meets the ceiling.

But... I do like your suggestion of mixing actual grout with silicone caulk. I can envision the mixing process getting a bit messy though.
Was your rental bath used as a bath or as a shower? I would think if used as a shower it would be similar, if as a bath, probably not as wet up that high. If the same, hard to explain the difference.

The mixing wasn't messy, just squish it out in a bag, add some of the grout and squeeze/knead through the bag. Either squish into the empty caulk tube, or just cut a hole in the bag corner like a pastry bag.

There's a guy online that sold a kit, but it was just empty tubes and a few mixing tools/bags IIRC.

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Old 01-17-2019, 09:23 PM   #17
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I now have a "Plan A"....... And my "Plan B" will be wait until Winter is over and just perform a "rip and replace" of the pan and the "under structure" the way it should have been done.

What is the old saying.......... "Never enough time to do it right, but, there always seems to be enough time to do it again"?!?!?!?

My thanks to everyone for their ideas. Much appreciated!!
Before you embark on plan B, I would find the installation instructions and see if it required support underneath. Maybe it would be better to have it, but if it doesnít require it, I donít think Iíd rip out the pan. My logic is that I donít think youíre ever going to get grout to stick in that joint. My uneducated belief is that the fiberglass is going to expand and contract no matter what with the temperature changes that taking a typical shower (hot water) would experience. I think the proper material for that joint is a caulk product.
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Old 01-17-2019, 10:32 PM   #18
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The issue is that the fiberglass shower tub is flexing. Same can be said of a stamped steel bathtub. They need to be set into a bed of cement/sand or even concrete to stop the flexing. The pan can be reset or replaced with a different manner.

I always buy many more tiles than are needed on any project--just in case such repairs are required--to match the tile.
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Old 01-18-2019, 06:36 AM   #19
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Was your rental bath used as a bath or as a shower? I would think if used as a shower it would be similar, if as a bath, probably not as wet up that high. If the same, hard to explain the difference.

The mixing wasn't messy, just squish it out in a bag, add some of the grout and squeeze/knead through the bag. Either squish into the empty caulk tube, or just cut a hole in the bag corner like a pastry bag.

There's a guy online that sold a kit, but it was just empty tubes and a few mixing tools/bags IIRC.

-ERD50
Don't know for sure. The tenants are husband/wife and a 3 year-old child. So I can only assume that the parents take showers and give the child a bath. It's their only bathroom, so I know it gets lots of use.

I'll definitely try the mixing next time. The Polyblend product has worked fine for me but it is a bit expensive at around $10 per tube. Plus, Home Depot only stocks a few popular colors, so it takes a week or more to order it online. And I never need a whole tube... usually just 25% or less. But I always have grout leftover and usually have some silicone caulk on hand, which (unlike the colored grout-caulk) has other uses.
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