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How To Tell If Your Shower Is Leaking?

Is My Shower Leaking?

If you've ever wondered if your shower might be leaking or causing damage to your home but haven't known how to tell, then this article is for you! There are 3 main tell-tale signs that your shower is leaking or causing water damage to your home.

What Causes A Leaking Shower?

We call a shower 'leaky' if the water from the shower is getting outside of the shower area because of a failed shower system or poor design. A 'leaking' shower can look different depending on the type of leak you might have. The first and most obvious kind of leak in a shower would be if your shower base has a crack in it or the drain/drain pipe has a crack or bad connection. This kind of leak becomes pretty noticeable and rather quickly. The second kind of leak in a shower would be one that is caused by a failed plumbing connection or bad joint. These can be very abrupt or it can be a slow leak that will cause damage over time. The last kind of leak is a sneaky one but a very common one. This type of leak in a shower is caused by a shower system that allows water to wick outside of the shower area and soak into neighboring drywall, cabinets, flooring etc. This kind of leak is the most common, as modern building code hasn't caught up to the new trends and lifestyles surrounding shower usage today.

How To Tell If Your Shower Is Leaking?

This can be a bit of a mystery if you have never had to diagnose a leaking shower before, but I promise it's easier than you think.

The best place to start when testing your shower for leaks is to inspect the drywall that surrounds the shower area. You can inspect it visually by checking for any drywall or paint that has bubbled out. If everything looks good, it's always good to double check the drywall by poking it lightly with either a butter knife or something similar, I like to use my awl. Drywall that is in tact should feel firm and the knife shouldn't go through the drywall. If the drywall has absorbed water, it will start to deteriorate and the knife will easily penetrate the drywall. This kind of test will let us know if the water in the shower area is wicking outside of the shower.

Another way you can inspect your shower area for leaks would be to locate the area of the ceiling on the level below the shower where the shower drain is. Once you locate the part of the ceiling that is underneath the shower drain, you can do the same kind of visual check and poke the drywall to make sure that it isn't soft. Any signs of discolored paint or staining would be a sign that the shower is leaking or had leaked at one point. This would give you a better idea about if the drain is leaking or if there is a crack in the shower pan that you might not see.

The last way to check for a leak in your shower is to check the back of the wall that the shower valve is in. This only applies if you have access to it (if you're shower valve is on an outside wall or you don't have access to the backside of the wall this won't apply). You can inspect the area around the shower valve for signs of water or damaged drywall. This is another common place for a leak to occur.

How Shower Waterproofing Affects Leaking Showers?

The most common cause of water damage that we see is caused by a poorly installed shower. Most showers today see consistent daily usage with the average length of a shower being much longer that that of 30 years ago. Showers need to be designed and waterproofed with this in mind. Installing tile over drywall or cement board won't cut it anymore. Those systems were intended to have time to dry out as they can hold water for a while. Using a concrete board with no further waterproofing will lead to water damage down the road as the whole system will hold water and if you are having daily showers, it will never have enough time to dry out completely. This is why having a system like Schluter or Wedi becomes necessary in a modern shower. These systems are designed to stand up to the demand that a modern shower will see, and will protect the rest of your home from damage. These systems cost more upfront but will save you money in the long run. 'But once, cry once' as the saying goes!

Bonus Tip: If you want to be extra sure that your shower is working properly and isn't leaking, then you can perform a flood test on it. A flood test would involve you plugging the drain with a test plug and then filling the shower pan up until it almost reaches the top of the curb and mark the top of the waterline. Leave the water sitting there for 24hrs and then come back and check to see if the waterline has dropped. If so, then the water is getting out somewhere! One thing to keep in mind is that with a tile shower, the waterline may drop slightly since the grout and mortar behind the tile can absorb water.


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