Fixing the Shower in the Master Bathroom

See the glass block? It’s leaning to the right. The floor is rotting away and the entire shower could collapse into the cellar.

No waterproofing under the glass. They used a waterproofing membrane under the shower but NAILED and STAPLED it in place. What good is that? It leaked and rotted out the wood, too.

The section outlined in RED used to be wood. I’m guessing the tile guy thought a tiny bead of silicone would serve as a permanent fix. It didn’t.

I’m sure this shower started leaking on Day 2.

Nails through the waterproofing

Gee, Wonder why it leaked?

On the shower seat, the water leaked through and rusted away the lath. The tile and plaster lifted off.
No waterproofing so the wood just rotted away. The floor joists underneath are rotten, too.

When have you ever seen metal lath and plaster? I never did. So why are they using outdated methods? Also, they plastered on top of regular drywall. Yeah, most of it turned to mush from the moisture.

Water will penetrate the grout. That is given. You MUST tile over a waterproof backing.

I keep saying this but… Gee, Wonder Why it Leaked?

Tips from the Plumbing Expert Apprentice First-Day-On-The-Job-Guy ???
This is one of my favorites.

The goal is to run hot water from the overhead pipes DOWN to the mixing valve. You can see the Rube Goldberg way it was finally done.

  1. I figured he was all out of “Downward Tees” and had to use an Upward Tee with TWO 90 deg elbows (and you wonder why we had low water pressure?)
  2. Robert Hyduke deduced the Plumber knew that Hot Water rises so he was giving it a Head Start. Plus Upward Tees are cheaper.
  3. Or maybe he was paid by the number of elbows he used?
  4. On my worst day, I can solder better than that.

The Famous Open-Plan Bathroom

Yes, the Open-Plan Bathroom. As in “NO DOORS”.

This was the first house I had ever seen without a door to the bathroom. Our last house in Florida (see foto to the Right) had a separate water closet off the shower room, but at least it DID have a pocket door.

So, I plan to cut a hole in the wall behind the mixing valve (see red rectangle) and insert a 36″ wide pocket door. This will separate the toilet and shower from the rest of the bath (sinks and Jacuzzi tub).

Many people dislike pocket doors, but it’s usually because the hardware is cheap (builder grade) making the door hard to slide. If you pay a few bucks more and buy Commercial Grade, you can get a real nice-quality sliding mechanism. I bought the 200PD from Johnson Hardware.

  • Gutted the shower and opened up non-load bearing interior wall to build pocket door.
  • Existing drywall is painted to seal and protect it. This will be inside the pocket door frame.
  • Heavy steel angle bracket bolted with 3″ lag bolt to opposite wall to secure header.
  • Door slides effortlessly on 8 ball-bearing bogies suspended from extruded I-Beam.
  • Clear glass will fill the transom over the door
For Want of a Nail, a Horse was Lost…

A famous expression… But here, IF they had just run the waterproofing another 6″ over the bare wood, the shower would not have failed. This has been leaking since 1994.

As I removed the last bit of rubber mat, the floor collapsed. Floor joists are rotten along the first 2 inches. The PVC drain is hanging by the pipe, the wood is long gone.
You MUST be the champion of your own house and never permit shoddy workmanship like this. Of course the builder won’t admit it’s crap and most homeowners aren’t there to see what’s done.
… Maybe we need to keep a photo diary of all the work (as I do here). And don’t pay until you know it has been done right.
The Reason for Ripping out the Shower
These are the 2×4’s that were left exposed inside the shower

In the video, you can see how the plywood subfloor is rotted away…. Had I not pulled the entire shower apart, it would have fallen into the cellar one day.

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Old Switch Layout - Clumsy
No, Switches are NOT Boring!

There is an appealing logic to their arrangement and function. Now’s the time to FIX IT.

Sadly, the original switches on the LEFT, were POORLY designed: 2 separate plates, 1 switch moved up-down, other 4 moved left-right, the placement was confusing.

NEW switches on the RIGHT:

  • Added an electronic TIMER for the exhaust fan. Just touch the pad; it remembers the duration last used.
  •  LOGICAL Arrangement. Upper switch is Bright Ceiling light, Lower switch is Night Light in same fixture.
New Timer and Switch Design (cover plate comes later)
Fixing the Damage

For me, the MOST important work is the stuff nobody will see. Un-glamorous, hard drudgery. Here we see the damage to the support joists. The top 25% is rotted away. The subfloor that sat on these joists had the consistency — As Doc Terrell put it — “of Cold Oatmeal”. I can’t just remove them, they connect to adjoining rooms. Even the common repair technique of “Sistering The Wood” runs into pipes, drains, wires and other obstacles. Luckily, a main support beam for the house runs just below this mess. I can sit one end of a new joist on solid wood and the remaining 6′ will add strength and required stiffness where the wood was rotted.

First, I had to treat the wood to remove any mold and kill the awful smell. Two weeks of air-drying helped.

Next, I’ll install blocking headers under the floor. This cross-bracing not only stiffens the floor for tiling, but provides an anchor for the 2×4 wall sole plates that rotted away.

Lastly, the new joists have a 1/4″ per foot slope cut into the top. This makes the entire floor slope to the rear where we’ll install a “tiled drain” along the back way.

HansGrohe Universal Box and Blocking for Grab Bars
Plumbing and Noise

Water pipes don’t have to make noise. .. You can build a quiet house. Not hard. Use 45 deg elbows when possible to reduce turbulence. Also insulate the hot water lines (I did this throughout the house) and also the cold water lines to cut noise. Interior walls between rooms are insulated also. 

On the left, I used a HansGrohe universal mixing box. This lets you add or replace the mixing value at any time. The box itself sits on an insulating sheet to reduce noise.

The wooden blocking between the 2×4’s is to anchor grab bars later. The height of these is part of the International Code council’s ANSII-ICC A117.1 standard and specifies between 33 and 36″ above the finished floor.

Insulating all water lines and interior walls
Starting to put things back

After weeks of tearing things apart, it feels GOOD to build something. Here I’m using 1/2″ Durock cement board over the studs. There are many new options available (Foam board with waterproofing, etc) , but I prefer Durock because:

  1. It’s cement. It’s stable over time.
  2. It’s heavy and its mass damps sound.
  3. It’s inexpensive and easy to work with.
  4. Yes, I’ll tape over the seams and cover the whole lot with Schlüter Kerdi waterproofing fabric.
You can’t see the 2nd ceiling light, but I always install at least two. It reduces shadows. Ask any woman who has tried to shave her legs with a single spotlight over her head.