Leaking showers can be the bane of any homeowner. They can create a great deal of damage and, if left unchecked, and can even cause structural issues. You need to stay vigilant and take action as soon as you notice the problem.
If you have tiles in your bathroom, as most of us do, it can be difficult to know where to start. Even if you’re experienced with bathroom DIY, you don’t want to have to remove all of your tiles to fix a leak.
You are in luck, with our guide on how to fix a leaking shower without removing tiles, you'll be able to identify the problem, fix it and then prevent it from reoccurring.
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Why Is My Shower Leaking?
To solve a leaking shower, you first need to understand what the problem is. Even if you have the best bathroom equipment, your shower can still leak. There’s a lot of different reasons why this happens, but here’s a breakdown of the most common issues:
A common misconception is that bathroom materials are all waterproof. Tiles, grout and your backing board all offer a level of protection from the water, but none of them are truly waterproof. In fact, only a single membrane underneath these layers is truly waterproof, and if this isn’t fitted correctly or becomes damaged, then the waterproofing can fail and lead to leaks.
Harsh Cleaning Products
Most shower materials are coated in a water-resistant material. If you’re using tough cleaning products, this protective layer can be stripped off over time, causing shower leaks.
Over time all buildings move ever so slightly. Over a number of years, this can lead to cracking in the infrastructure, which can damage waterproof seals leading to leaks.
Materials can become warped over time and change with the temperature and humidity. This can lead to gaps between different elements, causing leaks.
Low Quality Materials
If your shower was poorly constructed, or you used inferior quality materials, then you might not have the level of water protection you should have. Poor components make it more likely that your shower will leak.
It goes without saying that bad plumbing can cause leaks. Your pipes run behind the walls, and just a single poorly fitted joint can cause issues. Poor plumbing might be fine for a while but will become gradually worse over time.
Tiling with sealant can be effective but isn't entirely waterproof. If the tiling is poorly done, then it can easily lead to leaks behind the wall. It’s always worth reading up and getting professional advice if you’re planning to do this yourself.
How To Tell If Your Shower Is Leaking
If you want to limit the damage from a leaking shower, then you need to find it quickly. Here are some tell-tale signs that show your shower is leaking:
Smell of Rot
Moisture builds up over time and can cause materials to weaken and degrade. Moisture will seep into the wood behind your walls, and if you can smell rot, then you’ve likely got a leak.
Moisture from a leak will gather behind your walls and impact your paint. Visible bubbles will start to form in the paint as it starts to detach itself from the wall. This is a sign that you have a leak.
A leak in your shower will cause your walls to physically change shape and be visibly damaged. Warping and discoloration are clear signs that you have a leak.
When you have a leak, it’s common for your grout to become displaced. This is caused by the degradation of the wall around your shower.
Moisture can impact the adhesive properties of your tiles. This can mean they’re noticeably looser, or they might even start to slip off your walls.
How To Fix A Leaking Shower Without Removing Tiles
Follow these steps to fix your leaking shower without removing the tiles:
1. Remove old grout
Old grout might not be doing its job correctly and needs to be removed. To do this, you'll need a rotary tool, a tough blade, a flathead screwdriver, and safety glasses.
First, you should turn the rotary tool on and run it up and down the old grout to scrape it off. Use the flathead screwdriver for any stubborn bits. Be careful not to damage the tile and keep going until all the black, damaged bits have been removed.
2. Clean between the tiles
You now need to remove all the dirt and waste from between the tiles. This will require a vacuum cleaner and a dustpan. Use a dustpan and brush over the area to gather up all the larger pieces. Then, use the vacuum cleaner to get rid of the finer dirt.
Now you’ve removed all the old grout, you can replace it with a new layer. Make sure you wait until the bathroom has completely dried (usually 1 or 2 days) and then get to work. You’ll need safety gloves, a grout mix, a grout spreader, and a sponge.
Use the grout spreader to apply the grout mix in between the tiles. Try to apply this evenly and avoid getting it on the tiles, but use the sponge to wipe off any excess that does go on there. As it dries and hardens, look for any gaps in the grout and apply another layer. Repeat this until all your tiles are done.
Remember to look for any loose tiles as you can and take this opportunity to replace them.
4. Clean the surface
Wait for everything to dry and clean the surface. Do this by taking a sponge with some warm water and running it over the tiles in a circular motion to remove any debris.
5. Seal with silicone
Use a silicone sealer around each of the tiles to make them much more water-resistant. Apply this very carefully and in straight lines, using masking tape to cover the tiles if needed. Make sure to apply two coats so that it’s all sealed.
6. Apply waterproofing
Finally, you need to apply a layer of clear waterproofing to your tiles. This should be done with a clear sealant and a paintbrush to apply it all over the tiles gently. Two coats should be done to ensure even coverage. This will help prevent any shower leaks and will help protect your bathroom for up to 10 years.
Tips To Prevent A Shower From Leaking
People Also Ask (FAQs)
Can you waterproof over old existing tiles?
Yes, you can apply a layer of waterproofing solution over the existing tiles without replacing them.
Can a shower leak through grout?
Yes, if your grout is old and damaged, then moisture can leak through and cause damage.
How often should you seal grout in a shower? Does grout sealer stop water?
Grout should be sealed every 6 months to have the desired effect. Grout sealer isn’t entirely waterproof, but it is exceptionally water-resistant and will stop the majority of the moisture.
How much does it cost to fix a leaking shower without removing tiles?
Fixing a leaking shower without removing tiles is not very expensive if you do it yourself. Typically everything you need can be bought for under $100, but if you need to engage a professional, then the cost will go up.
Leaking showers can be annoying, but they don't need to be a big issue in your bathroom, and you can fix them without removing any tiles. Hopefully, this guide has given you a greater understanding of what causes leaks, how you can prevent leaks, and most importantly, how you can fix a leaking shower without removing tiles.
Caitlin Shaffer has been traveling & working as a content writer & SCUBA dive instructor since 2014. Having lived in Central & South America, Southeast Asia, India, & Australia, Caitlin has had many years of experience with a variety of kitchen, bathroom, plumbing systems & common household products. Other than writing about her plumbing experiences & knowledge, her main passions are yoga, ocean conservation, & sustainable development.