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Water Leak...Upstairs Shower?
Old 01-23-2014, 10:45 AM   #1
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Water Leak...Upstairs Shower?

Hoping for some guidance before I get plumber involved. With the cold I dripped all faucets, shower heads, etc. I noticed a small water bubble in downstairs ceiling and immediately cut off all drips in bathroom above it. THe next morning did some investigation. I individually ran sink faucets, soaking tub faucets and shower for 20 minutes each hoping to recreate the leak. The leak did not appear until I got to the shower. The leak was not a running leak, it was more bubble formation and wet sheet rock..about 6 inches square.

The shower is a 20 year old fiberglass shower, one of those small triangular shaped ones in my daughters bathroom. The fiberglass is on 3 sides and goes 3/4ths the way up the wall. No water on floors, no mildew whatsoever, etc. Looking at the drain, water is standing in the pipe. This morning took drain off, used a snake and plunger. Water went down about 4 inches but is still there.

Talked with brother in law who suggested I take out the entire drain assembly, replace and make sure pan is not moving up and down the pipe and all is re-caulked and resealed. Haven't found anyone to do that yet.

Is there something else that could be a problem ...other than the drain assembly and if so, what other diagnostic measures can I take to ensure the problem does not become bigger than it may be?

Drain assembly problem?
Pipe clog down the line?
Shower pan crack?

If it is just the drain assembly, then why would I still have standing water?

I'm a novice when it comes to showers and my husband is not very good with this stuff!
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Old 01-23-2014, 10:56 AM   #2
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Cut out the drywall, and you will see exactly what is going on. You are probably going to replace a section in any event.

If lucky, the drip is right there, and you'll be able to catch it in a bucket.
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Old 01-23-2014, 11:09 AM   #3
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Thanks target2019...may have to resort to that. But I still have to get the clog out ..right?
will go thru a series of things...like hot water, vinegar...bleach...to see if I can move the clog....IF it is a clog!
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Old 01-23-2014, 12:47 PM   #4
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There is a U-trap in your shower drain to prevent sewer gasses coming into the room, so it's very likely that you did clear the clog and will always see water when you look in. When you put a wire or snake down the drain when does it hit something hard? That's probably the bottom of the U-trap and will be about 3" or so below the top of the water you see - and normal.

BIL may well be correct and there is an imperfect seal at the ridged rubber donut around the 2" drain pipe entering the pan, but it could be a poor seal at the drain assembly itself. Troubleshoot to determine drain or supply leak: seal drain (duct tape plastic onto shower pan covering drain) and run shower. Leak? supply issue. Common areas are the gooseneck or failed valve stem seal. No leak? drain issue.
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Old 01-23-2014, 02:06 PM   #5
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Thanks Calmloki.....brother came over and said the same thing. Here I thought I had a clog but now realize it was simply the water balancing itself in the system.

Will definitely preform your test ...as soon as I finish this post as a matter of fact! Thank you!

Plumbers putty was basically all dried out and gone. There also was/is a crack in the flange thingy that screws down. Spent an hour going to 3 places to get a replacement. No luck.

Am using a plastic/steel apoxy to "fix" the plastic flange piece that cracked (broke off later) (24 hour set up). Before trying to use it, will take it to a plumbers wholesale place tomorrow (40 minutes away) to see if they have a one that will fit. This drain assembly is 20 years old.

Will use 100% silicone to seal when putting it back on. Test again!

BTW...plumber still has not bothered to call me back. Placed three phones to him since yesterday morning. With any luck I may not need him, again thanks to your help!
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Old 01-23-2014, 02:18 PM   #6
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I had the same kind of issue with an upstairs toilet a few years back. Had a circle about 12 inches across in the ceiling that was wet. I cut the dry wall out of the ceiling with a keyhole saw ($6.00 at Home Depot) and found a leak in the wax ring. Replaced the wax ring and the dry wall and all was good. As target2019 said, take the dry wall out and you can probably see if BIL is right. You will also have access to replace whatever the problem might be. If you have a bubble in the ceiling it will have to be replaced anyway. Good luck!
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Old 01-23-2014, 02:25 PM   #7
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There's a plumbing balloon (check a plumbing supply house) that you can use to stick down the drain to test for leaks (I've read that some will use a reg balloon). This is normally used when you install a new shower connection. This will allow you to check if your leak is at the pan/drain connection, the pan or or the pan/wall connection. If you find no leaks using this, then your leak is further down the trap to waste line connection.
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Old 01-23-2014, 02:32 PM   #8
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Cut out the drywall, and you will see exactly what is going on. You are probably going to replace a section in any event.
Had the same problem, years ago.

The builder's folks didn't add cement/concrete under the shower floorpan and it started to flex over time (even though it seemed solid).

The plumber shoved a bit of premix from below after he cut a hole in the family room ceiling to add some stability to the base in addition to fixing the drain.

Sometimes it all depends on the weight of the person using the shower (has your daughter gained weight ? You can have some fun with that one).

Anyway, the cost of the fix was not too bad; however the cost of the painter (to fix the drywall and repaint the ajoining kitchen and family room ceiling) was where the expense really turned out to be...
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Old 01-23-2014, 02:35 PM   #9
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Calmloki...definitely not a supply problem. Definitely drain. Thanks again for "the troubleshooting" test.
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Old 01-23-2014, 02:53 PM   #10
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Sometimes it all depends on the weight of the person using the shower (has your daughter gained weight ? You can have some fun with that one).

Anyway, the cost of the fix was not too bad; however the cost of the painter (to fix the drywall and repaint the ajoining kitchen and family room ceiling) was where the expense really turned out to be...
LOL ...nope. My daughter has actually lost weight. Besides she doesn't live here anymore. Shower rarely used. The only reason it happened this time was I was dripping faucets and shower heads due to the minus zero degree temps. Don't normally see those temps in southern Va!

Right now, the sheet rock below is not in too bad a shape and I would certainly like to keep it to a minimum. The bubble was no larger than the end of a large finger. I could actually repair myself the way it is now with a little spackle (since my husband poked his finger thru it and breached it), some alkyd oil base stainkill and paint the ceiling myself. Provided the scope of the issue is what I think it is.
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Old 01-23-2014, 03:01 PM   #11
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I had the same kind of issue with an upstairs toilet a few years back. Had a circle about 12 inches across in the ceiling that was wet. I cut the dry wall out of the ceiling with a keyhole saw ($6.00 at Home Depot) and found a leak in the wax ring. Replaced the wax ring and the dry wall and all was good. As target2019 said, take the dry wall out and you can probably see if BIL is right. You will also have access to replace whatever the problem might be. If you have a bubble in the ceiling it will have to be replaced anyway. Good luck!
Thanks Hermit. Bubble was small. Turned showerhead off as soon as I saw it form. End of finger size. The water stain around it however is a bit larger.

Won't be able to tell until I can either replace the flange thing or get a new one, reseal and test.

Camloki...during the supply or drain test today, I forgot to put a pan down below when I took duct tape off. Keeping in mind, I had removed the strainer in the shower floor and the flange thing, when the water drained out, the leak was in a different spot from before (actually came thru a recessed light close to the original bubble instead of sheet rock). So I am thinking since I took those things out and since the black seal was not up tight to the shower floor from below, the water got above it and traveled differently. Right?
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Old 01-23-2014, 03:02 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Dimsumkid View Post
There's a plumbing balloon (check a plumbing supply house) that you can use to stick down the drain to test for leaks (I've read that some will use a reg balloon). This is normally used when you install a new shower connection. This will allow you to check if your leak is at the pan/drain connection, the pan or or the pan/wall connection. If you find no leaks using this, then your leak is further down the trap to waste line connection.
May need this info Dimsumkid....thank you!
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Old 01-23-2014, 03:13 PM   #13
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I've had water stains on ceilings with the popcorn stuff and sprayed them with Sherwin Williams flat white primer in a spray can and you could not tell it at all. (Cover anything in the vicinity below where you are spraying.)
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Old 01-23-2014, 03:41 PM   #14
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I had a shower pan leak and I accessed it by cutting selective 6" holes in the ceiling drywall below with a cheap hole saw*. Once the leak was fixed, I just laid a couple of short 1x2 boards over the top side of the drywall and screwed the pieces I had cut out to the boards. That meant I only had to patch the hole perimeters - not a bad job. I love the super low density spackling. The can feels half empty when you heft it.


* 18 Piece Carbon Steel Hole Saw Set
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Old 01-23-2014, 03:45 PM   #15
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We had a similar issue in one of our rental units. Took the plumber a bit of effort to find the problem. Turned out it was a crack in the floor of the fiberglass shower. Leak source was only obvious when someone was standing in the shower, flexing the floor. We had only recently purchased, but suspect it was a combination of age and defective fiberglass setup.
If it is not your drain, check out your floor when it is occupied ;-)
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Old 01-23-2014, 04:06 PM   #16
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I had a shower pan leak and I accessed it by cutting selective 6" holes in the ceiling drywall below with a cheap hole saw*. Once the leak was fixed, I just laid a couple of short 1x2 boards over the top side of the drywall and screwed the pieces I had cut out to the boards. That meant I only had to patch the hole perimeters - not a bad job. I love the super low density spackling. The can feels half empty when you heft it.


* 18 Piece Carbon Steel Hole Saw Set
Very creative!

I like that low density spackling too. Feels like almost nothing in there!
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Old 01-23-2014, 04:12 PM   #17
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We had a similar issue in one of our rental units. Took the plumber a bit of effort to find the problem. Turned out it was a crack in the floor of the fiberglass shower. Leak source was only obvious when someone was standing in the shower, flexing the floor. We had only recently purchased, but suspect it was a combination of age and defective fiberglass setup.
If it is not your drain, check out your floor when it is occupied ;-)
Nwsteve
Will do Nwsteve.

I really dislike this shower but am not ready for a total bath redo. I investigated that 2 or 3 years ago for a price tag of $15K. Instead of going that route, I simply did a face lift with new lighting, new paint, new and different mirror, regrouting, new rugs...etc. Looked 100% better and didn't cost me the $15K (new tile shower and relocated, eliminate garden tub,, tile floors, new granite double sink vanity, etc. ). Besides...as of now...it is just for our "guest" children when they visit.

But I still hate this shower!
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Old 01-23-2014, 04:24 PM   #18
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When you replace drywall, find the floor joists. Cut out a piece that bridges two joists. I go from centerline to centerline. Then use firring strips on top of drywall to stabilize. I used liquid nail in addition to screws to make the joint even more secure. Hard to describe, but you can find illustrations online.
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Old 01-23-2014, 05:49 PM   #19
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.... Keeping in mind, I had removed the strainer in the shower floor and the flange thing, when the water drained out, the leak was in a different spot from before (actually came thru a recessed light close to the original bubble instead of sheet rock). So I am thinking since I took those things out and since the black seal was not up tight to the shower floor from below, the water got above it and traveled differently. Right?
Yes! I did this exact thing many years ago trying to loosen a drain to get a better shot at clearing a clog. I know better now!

So tighten that up before doing more checking.

-ERD50
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Old 01-24-2014, 05:02 PM   #20
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LOL ...nope. My daughter has actually lost weight. Besides she doesn't live here anymore. Shower rarely used. The only reason it happened this time was I was dripping faucets and shower heads due to the minus zero degree temps. Don't normally see those temps in southern Va!

Right now, the sheet rock below is not in too bad a shape and I would certainly like to keep it to a minimum. The bubble was no larger than the end of a large finger. I could actually repair myself the way it is now with a little spackle (since my husband poked his finger thru it and breached it), some alkyd oil base stainkill and paint the ceiling myself. Provided the scope of the issue is what I think it is.
I understand you are not "handy" so might be scared. But as mentioned
in other posts,

1. Cut a large opening in the Drywall. Water leak source should be easy
to locate.

2. Check out You Tube, how to repair drywall holes. Very easy process.

3. Long shot, once I had a shower leak. Turned out it was where the
pipe that screws into the wall, (up high, where the shower is), and
meets the fitting behind the wall. sorry for the poor description.

After years of use, the pipe threads, started to rust, and developed
a leak. Water dripped down, behind the drywall. So you could not
see the leak.

Easy fix, but I had to take out the drywall from a back wall to identify
the location of the leak.

4. Again, replacing drywall is easy. BE BOlD
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