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  1. #1
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    Jul 2011
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    Exclamation 1950s Bathroom moisture = tile, caulk, ceiling issues

    We're 1st time homeowners & bought our home a few months ago, when the bathroom physically appeared to be fine & passed the home inspection.

    Within a month or 2, the tub wouldn't drain and after buying a $60 auger and pulling out a tonka truck tire with axle, the problem actually seemed to get worse. We ended up shelling out a couple hundred bucks to replace the 60yr old galvanized steel pipes that were rusted shut.

    It took us a month to save up & replace the pipes (we had another bathroom to use in the meantime), so during that timeframe -- our tub was full of water that wouldn't go anywhere. Now that we've fixed the stoppage/pipes, we've got a new prob: leaks/moisture.

    The first sign was the bathroom ceiling (might be plaster) began flaking off like you see on walls with layers of paint, only I can count 2 (layers) and then I can see what appears to be cement color..? At first this appeared mainly almost above the toilet area -- next to the exhaust vent, but now it looks like the paint's flaking/peeling off around the edge closest to the toilet, and there are cracks around the edge as well as throughout the ceiling that almost look like someone used a cheap paintbrush that left strands in the paint... only they're not strands, they're hairline cracks. What's odd is that the most flaking can be seen on the ceiling nearest the toilet, whereas the ceiling in the tub/shower area has only now begun to show some of the hairline cracks. (The tub area should be more humid/wet than the toilet area so you'd think it would have more damage than over the toilet).

    The other sign is the surrounding tilework in the tub area. Parts of the grout has cracked, and the soapdish is partially falling off or leaning away from the wall to where I can see the substrate behind it.

    The tub fixture's caulk is partially gone and needs replaced, and the tiles under/around it appear to have cracked as well. The tilework under the tub fixture isn't flat/flush against the wall, but it looks like it's been this way from the get-go (newbie tile job) & with the grout coming off, the uneven tiles are becoming more noticeable.

    We often keep the bathroom door closed due to pets and their gross practice of drinking out of toilets or shredding toilet paper. ;-) There is an exhaust fan in the bathroom and I recently took the vent off and cleaned the fan; it appears to be working fine. I replaced the vent and held a 2-ply piece of toilet paper to it and it did get sucked against the vent, verifying that the fan is exhausting the air. The fan also happens to be connected to a timer switch so that it can automatically shut off after a certain amount of time specified.

    There's an incoming central AC/forced-air-heat vent on the opposite end of the room, blowing into the bathroom, and even with the vent closed -- the tiny bathroom still gets a lot of air/heat from this vent. (I wanted to mention the fan & vent because it seems like the bathroom should then be getting enough air circulation/ventilation.)

    We're getting leaks in the basement, right below the bathroom. The guys who replaced the pipes checked for leaks when they were here (via running the tub, filling it, then draining it) and had no leakage, and I checked the work as well and see no probs, so I don't think this is where the leak is coming from.

    It appears that the leaking occurs when the shower's in use, not the tub. I can't find any water marks around pipes, nor can I pinpoint a specific joint or what-not for the leak to be coming from. I believe that the leaks may be coming from the bad grout/caulk but I don't know how to test my theory in order to verify the source of the leak. Do you think it's possible that the leak is caused by the missing/cracked grout/caulk?

    I've linked to pics of the problem to give you a better look at what I've tried to describe, since I'm having a problem uploading the pics here. They can be seen at this link (remove the spaces):

    http ://wp.me /p1dt1X-ne

    Here are the things I'd like to do -- which is basically to repair the probs without having to pay for a full remodel of the small bathroom, as I'm still recovering from the pipe expenses we had recently.

    • What type of grout to use for tile
    • What type of sealer to use on grout
    • What tools are needed to repair cracked/missing grout
    • What type of caulk to use around tub fixture & materials or tools needed
    • What to use (cement?) behind the soap dish to stick it back onto the wall, as well as what tools will be needed
    • What materials and tools to use to repair ceiling's paint flaking/cracks (just paint? Or patch first - is it plaster or drywall?)


    If moisture is the cause of all this, how do I keep it from getting worse and/or happening again in the future? I don't want to have to redo this job again in a few months.

    As I said, I'm a noob so please be thorough in your responses/inputs; let me know steps to take, what kinds of materials & equipment you feel I need in order to get this done, or if you think I'm better off getting a pro to do this work.

    I have never tiled/grouted before and although some of the videos I've found appeared to make the regrouting an easy and inexpensive task (not sure about the ceiling work) -- I'd rather not underestimate this job and be prepared for the worst. Thanks for your help!
    Last edited by domesticrecluse; 07-25-2011 at 10:12 PM. Reason: Can't post pics or link

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
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    Houston Texas
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    Default Re: 1950s Bathroom moisture = tile, caulk, ceiling issues

    Recluse,

    Tile + grout + sealant is NOT waterproof. In fact none of those elements are waterproof. The tiled area should be waterproof (not just water resistant) without any tile on the walls.

    How was your tile substrate constructed?

    You'll fare better with far speedier responses on the John Bridge Tile forum which you may have found by now. There is an extensive library to peruse.

  3. #3
    Join Date
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    SoCal
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    Default Re: 1950s Bathroom moisture = tile, caulk, ceiling issues

    First solve your leak problem before you start any repairs.

  4. #4
    Join Date
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    Default Re: 1950s Bathroom moisture = tile, caulk, ceiling issues

    Quote Originally Posted by dj1 View Post
    First solve your leak problem before you start any repairs.
    I'm 95% sure that the leak is caused by the shower water running down the bath walls. I had my son downstairs watch for leaks, while I was upstairs running the shower with a plastic collar around it so it wouldn't splash onto the walls. He saw no leaks, verifying that it isn't the incoming water pipes causing the leak.

    Soon after I removed the collar off the shower and let it sprinkle in its normal fashion, we started having a leak in the basement. To me, this signifies that the leak occurs when the water hits/splashes/collects on the tiled walls. It also does not leak when the tub is in use, so I concluded that it's not the incoming water pipes nor the outgoing drain/fittings.



    Quote Originally Posted by HoustonRemodeler View Post
    Recluse,

    Tile + grout + sealant is NOT waterproof. In fact none of those elements are waterproof. The tiled area should be waterproof (not just water resistant) without any tile on the walls.

    How was your tile substrate constructed?
    I honestly couldn't tell you how or what the previous homeowner did; we haven't remodeled the house and it's from the 50s, so for all I know -- the tile/grout could be that old. Not sure if it was sealed; is it possible to tell by its appearance? I assume that sealed grout looks a little slicker/smoother than the chalky/rough/porous stuff I've got.

    Looking behind the soap dish that's falling off, I can see what appears to be plywood, not some vapor barrier, plastic, drywall or otherwise. It also looks like they used a ton of white stuff (grout maybe?) to stick the soap dish onto the wall.

    We don't use the soap dish so I'd have no problem removing it if I knew how to put up 2 tiles in its place; we've found a few matching tiles in the basement that we could install.

    Right now, we need to keep the bathroom moisture/leak from getting worse. We eventually plan on remodeling the bathroom & perhaps enlarging it within a year or two, so I'm not too keen on ripping out all the tile and starting over right now... but we'll definitely do a vapor barrier and "the works" when we remodel/enlarge the bathroom.

  5. #5
    Join Date
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    Houston Texas
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    Default Re: 1950s Bathroom moisture = tile, caulk, ceiling issues

    If money is stopping you from a complete remodel, then cover the walls with sheet plastic taped down to stop the leaks. The plywood is a sure sign this is a re-do. No question about that. The sheet plastic allows you to stop the leaks, save money and motivate you to start planning that re-do.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
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    Northern Virginia
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    Default Re: 1950s Bathroom moisture = tile, caulk, ceiling issues

    Since you said the ceiling above the toilet is peeling the worst, I would check the flashing at the vent stack (DWV, not fan), if any, in the vicinity of the commode. In old houses (you didn't state any age) there may be a main stack in close proximity to the pot. If the "boot" around the main stack leaks, you'd get water damage, which in an old plastered house is very slow to manifest as collapse and failure.
    Casey
    Remove not the ancient landmark, which your fathers have set.

  7. #7
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    Jul 2011
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    Default Re: 1950s Bathroom moisture = tile, caulk, ceiling issues

    Quote Originally Posted by Sombreuil_mongrel View Post
    Since you said the ceiling above the toilet is peeling the worst, I would check the flashing at the vent stack (DWV, not fan), if any, in the vicinity of the commode. In old houses (you didn't state any age) there may be a main stack in close proximity to the pot. If the "boot" around the main stack leaks, you'd get water damage, which in an old plastered house is very slow to manifest as collapse and failure.
    Casey
    Is flashing the black (plastic/rubber?) thing that goes around the bottom of the stack and can be seen outside (on the rooftop)? I know we have a stack coming out of the brick chimney (we don't have a fireplace) so I assume that's the main stack, but not sure how close it is to the bathroom; I believe it is close but will verify after I take a look this weekend. (BTW, it's a 1950s home.)

  8. #8
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    Jun 2011
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    Default Re: 1950s Bathroom moisture = tile, caulk, ceiling issues

    Recluse:

    I took a look at the pictures on the web page your link took me to.

    The plaster damage on the ceiling is, in my opinion, almost certainly due to the 3 inch vent coming off that fan not being insulated. If you take the fan grille off (by unscrewing the central knob) and then unplug the fan motor and loosen the three screws holding the fan motor in place, you'll be able to remove the fan motor. Simply loosen the screws so that you can rotate the fan motor and drop it down over the screw heads.

    Now, shine a flashlight into the fan housing. The $64 question is this: Does the air exit the fan housing directly above that plaster damage?

    If so, the probable cause is that the aluminum or galvanized duct coming off that fan isn't insulated. So, when you turn on the fan during cold weather, warm moist air gets blown into that uninsulated duct, and as that air quickly cools down, condensation precipitates out of it on the inside of the duct walls. That condensation then runs down the duct until it gets to the fan housing outlet where it drips out of the duct taped joint onto your bathroom ceiling plaster. What you're seeing there is water damage, and I fully expect the source of the water is condensation occuring inside the fan exhaust duct.

    You need to insulate the duct on that fan.

    So far as the soapdish goes, all soap dishes that requires a hole be cut in the tiling to mount the soap dish are notorious for leaking. I own a small apartment block with 21 tiled bathrooms, and in every case I tiled the long wall completely, and then stuck a surface mount soap dish to that wall with silicone caulk and caulked around it with silicone. There are no holes in the walls behind my soap dishes, and in my opinion, they should ALL be done that way.

    The tiling around your tub spout is typical of tiling that's at the end of it's life and really needs to be redone. If your house inspector didn't see that the tiling needed to be redone, he's blind.

    If I were you, I would pull that soap dish off and simply install a cheap TUB-SURROUND over that bathroom tiling until you can afford to have this bathroom redone, or you acquire the tools, skill and confidence to tackle a bathroom tiling job yourself.

    Here's what a tub surround would kinda look like:



    Installing a tub surround over existing ceramic tiling is a rank amateur newbie project. Basically, a tub surround consists of either three panels, or three panels and two corner panels:



    And you simply stick the panels up with silicone caulk or construction adhesive over the existing tiling. You have to cut holes for the tub spout and faucet handles, but that's most easily done by using a large piece of cardboard or particle board as your "stand-in" panel to determine exactly where the hole needs to be cut, and transferring the dimensions to the plastic panel in the kit. And, if push comes to shove, you can always use a hole saw and crash scizzors to cut some decorative pieces in plastic laminate and use those to cover up any errors in your tub surround.

    Tub surrounds cost any where from $200 to $500 depending on how elaborate they are (how many shelves for soap, shampoo, creme rinse, razors, etc. they have on their panels.

    But, this is an effective fix for your ceramic tiling which simply needs to be redone. If you don't have much experience at wall tiling, then my advice is to simply install a cheap tub surround over the tiling to prevent any further deterioration of the tiling, wall plaster and wooden underlayment before the tub until you can implement a more permanent fix.

    I installed two tub surrounds in my father's building before I even learned to solder. (but, then, by the time I was 4 months old, I had already killed 10 men) Tub surrounds are a "made for newbies" project. But, they're water proof, they're easy to install, they work well at preventing water from getting into the wall, and they're inexpensive.

    It's been over 20 years since I installed a tub surround, but the prices on this web site still seem awfully high to me. But this site does offer some installation instructions. However, in most cases, tub surrounds are installed directly over old ceramic tile.

    http://www.bath-shower-wall-surround.com/

    Also, search the internet for "Manhattan Showering Solutions" and search their web site for "fitting instructions" which describe the procedure for measuring, cutting and installing a tub surround.
    Last edited by Nestor; 07-28-2011 at 09:17 PM.

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