The shower is the quintessential bathroom fixture – besides the tub, one can't take a bath in a bathroom without a shower. Because of its simplicity and how well we have been able to refine and optimise its design, most people nowadays take the shower for granted. However, the shower is not indestructible, and it is no stranger to wear and tear. A typical home shower installation is made up of dozens of components, from larger ones like the plumbing and faucets to the smaller rubber O-rings, nuts, and screws that hold everything together. And with the home shower in use at least once a day, every day, it probably isn't too far fetched to assume that some part of the shower – as faithful and reliable as it is – will inevitably break after a few years.
Any responsible homeowner should be aware of the condition of their shower and know when to phone in for repairs. In this article, we will be discussing some of the common ways that a shower can break down, as well as the measures you can take to seal a shower.
Thanks to standardised parts and construction, fixing and repairing the visible parts of the shower assembly has become quite simple, despite the many parts that make up the shower assembly. It is simple enough that one can effectively do the job themselves with regular plumbing tools and a set of replacement parts on hand. For example, fixing a leaking shower head does not involve much more than removing and dismantling the shower head assembly, cleaning and replacing worn out parts, then using Teflon tape to screw the head back in for a tighter, waterproof seal. Fixing a shower faucet takes a bit more time, but is similarly simple – dismantle the faucet, clean the faucet pipes, replace plastic washers and rubber O-rings, remove and replace the faucet cartridge, then reassemble.
As we've mentioned, these problems have relatively simple processes to fix them, but they are only for problems with the visible parts of the shower assembly. What if the problem is coming from somewhere that isn't immediately visible?
If repairing the shower assembly does not solve the leaking problem, the leak is likely to be coming from behind the wall. Like the more visible leaks, a leak from behind the wall can have multiple different causes – a leaking shower pipe, improper or damaged grouting, or a damaged waterproofing membrane (or even not having one at all). Unlike leaks from the shower assembly, however, water leaking from behind the wall has the potential to do much more damage, as it can seep through and damage the cement under the tiles, the floors, the subfloors, and worse, the very structure of the house.
This type of damage is called water damage, and comes in multiple forms. It typically starts with simple things – mould in corners of the bathroom, stains on the walls or ceilings (if the leak is occurring from a bathroom on an upper floor), as well as cold or even moist walls and floors. Worse, homes with wooden structures will find wood rotting from the water leak, while homes with concrete and metal structures will find the concrete starting to crumble and its reinforcing metal bars rusting. Of course, these latter examples only occur in severe cases of water damage, but it can very much be the case if the homeowner neglects to have the problem fixed.
Unfortunately, this does happen to be the case with many homeowners. As one can likely expect, repairing a shower seal that has caused water damage will neither be easy nor cheap, and many homeowners decide to forego calling their plumber in for repairs because of this.
The typical way a plumber would go about fixing a shower leak behind the walls would be to go directly into the damaged area, removing all of the grout, tiles, and cement in the way, siphoning out the leaked water, fix the source of the leak, install a waterproofing membrane around the entire shower area to prevent any possible future leaks from going beyond the shower area, then putting everything back together. Not only will this process cost a lot, but it will also take a very long time, which is a problem if the homeowner only has that one bathroom in the entire house.
Nowadays, however, things are different, as fixing behind-the-wall shower leaks have been made much simpler and quicker thanks to products called epoxy grout and epoxy sealant. These two products are now widely used for shower repairs in Perth and the rest of Australia because of their effectiveness and easy application.
The way they work is simple – epoxy grout, as the name implies, is an epoxy-based grout that is poured into the gaps between your bathroom tiles and seeps through the pores in your existing grout and the cement under the tiles to create a strong, waterproof seal. Epoxy sealant, meanwhile, is a colourless liquid that is painted over your bathroom tiles and surface grout to plug the pores in the tiles and grout, creating another waterproof seal on the surface. This two-layer waterproofing effectively eliminates the need for the installation of a waterproofing membrane to prevent further leaks from occurring, and it can be done in as little as 4 to 5 hours to allow the grout and sealant to cure completely and create a proper seal.