How do we determine what caused our Tile Shower to Fail?


Our first newly built home (closed end of May 2020) in Belmont NC has our master tiled shower bench raising up and grout is coming out in other floor spaces. Our immediate neighbors on both sides have had their master tile shower redone for the same reason. Installer admitted he used a "new" product. We will be meeting with the installer and the warranty person soon. What questions do we need to ask and how do we make sure the redo is done correctly to avoid problems after the warranty expires in a year? Also should we be concerned about the upstairs showers as well? one upstairs shower has a tub with tiled walls and the other a shower pan with tile walls. What product should be used to insure a moisture barrier in addition to the correct sloping(1/4" per foot towards the drain per your online info)? We are very appreciative of your help. Mike and Lisa Hylton


ANSWER - You are asking a lot that can't be answered without performing a forensic inspection to determine what is causing the failures.  I can make some general statements that may or may not apply to your situation:

  • It is not often that an installation product fails to the product itself, although you can never rule it out without investigating it.

  • More often than not, failures are due to either a poor design of the tile assembly for the intended application and/or due to installer error.

  • More often it is due to installer error because they did not follow the manufacturer's directions and/or industry standards.

  • Often the installer will say "I have been installing this way for 30 years and never had a problem..."  When in fact, he did not install the tile per industry standards and the material manufacturer's directions.  Most installers tend to not have had formal installation training and do not know the industry standards.

  • If they installed the master bathroom shower in correctly then I would scrutinize the other showers.   But you can't assume it wasn't done correctly without have the evidence.

  • There are a lot of different products for waterproofing showers whether it is the shower floor versus the shower walls.  Best bet is to go with a single source manufacturer of the installation products and go with their recommendation.  That doesn't guarantee a successful installation, so you have to be the quality control inspector on the job to make sure they are following industry standards and the manufacturer's directions.

  • To help you learn what you need to know about proper tile installations there is a free download on the website.  Click her for it: 

2 thoughts on “How do we determine what caused our Tile Shower to Fail?

  1. Deanna Ford says:

    Apparently my shower membrane leaked to the condo directly below my unit under the shower. I now have to replace the membrane. The ceiling below was fixed as well. I’ve had this condo for 10 years and the building is about 15 years old. How can a shower membrane just all of a sudden break? There are no other cases in the building that I know of . The plumber tested the drains and pipes and rules that out. When he opened up the ceiling below he saw wet concrete and so he said the membrane is leaking. The contractor from insurance can’t see the water damage in my unit because it’s all behind the walls and beneath the tiles…but there must be water damage if it’s leaking. Mold can grow and drywall can be affected. Do membranes just break? Will insurance cover this faulty membrane?

    • Donato Pompo says:

      Properly installed waterproof membranes normally do not fail after 15 years.

      To figure out why it failed you need to determine what kind of membrane was it and how was it installed. You need to see if there is a breach in the membrane where water passed through or is there an adjacent transition area where maybe the sealant failed that is allowing water to enter.

      It is also possible that you have a plumbing leak in the wall that is the source of the water.

      Since it is covered with tile you have to forensically remove tiles initially at transition areas where failures tend to occur to find the evidence of the point of failure.

      Water in the floor or wall cavity can lead to microbial growth if the leak isn’t repaired right away. Mold only grows if it has moisture and organic food and a mild to warm temperature.

      The way insurance policies are written today they normally only provide coverage for weather events that result in damages. If it is a plumbing leak they should cover the overall cost of repair, but if it is the membrane then not likely.

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