Leaking shower pan replacement and fixes

Leaking Shower Pan: Causes and How to Fix It

A leaking shower pan can be due to various issues among them normal wear and tear and unfavorable movement.

To fix this issue, there are some DIY solutions such as sealing cracks, replacing the grout among others. However, for the complex fixes such  as replacing the shower pan or tampering with the floor beneath it, you need to the services of an expert on the matter.

A shower pan may fail to collect and direct water into the drainage system due to a leakage problem.

The main reasons for a leaking shower pan are movement of the shower pan to an unfavorable position, deflection, and normal wear and tear. If not fixed on time, these leakages pose a danger to the foundation of your house.

The shower pan is the large part covering the floor of your shower room. It is mostly made of ceramic, plastic, rubber, tiles or other suitable material. Its purpose is to collect the water from the shower and channel it to the drain.

Causes of a Leaking Shower Pan

anatomy of a shower pan

There are several reasons behind your leaking shower pan. These causes are discussed below:

1. Normal Wear and Tear

The shower pan is meant to last for a long time especially when installed properly. It is one single piece of material which has no moving parts and will also last long if used properly.

However, coming into contact with water and other normal use scenarios will eventually wear it out. One area to always check for is the rim around the shower pan. This area is fixed with a sealant called caulking which can break away and let the water into the foundation of your house.

The shower pan itself can also develop cracks due to bearing the weight of the members of the household. Even when not used frequently, this part of your shower can still develop splinters and start breaking apart.

2. Movement

installation of shower pan

If fixed properly, the shower pan should not be moving in any direction when in use. The caulking and base upon which it is placed should offer enough support that it does not move. Often, it is affixed to the floor using bolts and sealants.

If there is movement, the shower pan will likely start cracking and letting in water into the basement. This is the case when the pan is made of materials such as plastic. For this reason, go for heavy materials such as ceramic or concrete to avoid movement.

Shower pans also move during heavy earthquakes or the vibrations from heavy machinery such as earth movers.

Even without cracking, a moving shower pan will allow water into the foundation as it will leave openings around it for the water to escape to the foundation. These openings can be due to loose tiles, missing grout, and the lack of a pre-slope during construction.

3. Deflection

Deflection is the degree to which a structural element is displaced under a load. When installed, your shower pan has a specific gradient meant to direct the water to the drain.

However, if you step into your shower stall and notice that the shower pan moves to accommodate your weight, that is a red flag. You should have it checked to ensure that your floor is not already compromised by the leaking water.

4. Poor drainage

shower drain under pan

At the location of the shower drain, poor drainage can cause water to seep in between the drain and the shower pan to the surrounding floor. This can be due to excessive debris in the drain or a poorly constructed drainage.

How to Check Your Shower Pan for Leaks

If you have seen an actual leak from your shower plan (such as water on the floor besides the pan), or have seen any of the causes of leaks discussed above, you can carry out a simple test to ascertain whether it’s an actual leak or the water is from somewhere else.

The procedure is a simple three-step routine as follows:

  • Seal the shower drain

You can use anything from duct tape to a rubber plug. As long as what you use provides a water-tight seal around the shower drain, you’re good to go.

  • Pour water in the shower pan
water level test for leaks

It is advisable to pour in a specific amount of water. You can pour in one or two buckets of water then use a marker to take note of the level of the water.

  • Note the changes in water level

Come back after 8 hours and look at the water level. If it has gone down from the marker and you’re sure that the drain was sealed properly, it’s a sign that your shower pan has a leak in it.

Besides this method, you can make observations around your shower pan for leaks. The areas to check include:

  • The area around the shower pan for dampness and water.
  • Below the shower pan if the pan is on an upper floor. The ceiling board or floor may show some stains.
  • Loose floor tiles close to the shower.
  • Soggy carpets around the shower stall.

Stains, dampness or any other signs will reveal to you that not all the water is going down the drain and a fix is needed.

How to Fix a Leaking Shower Pan

If the test above proved that your shower pan has a leak in it, there are several ways you can fix it depending on the cause of the leak.

If your situation does not apply to the following solutions, it is advisable to seek the input of a local expert.

The solutions are as follows:

1. Use of epoxy or masonry sealer

Using epoxy is a temporary solution but will hold your shower pan together until you can figure out a permanent solution. Epoxy is a sealant that can be applied to the cracks or loose areas to hold them together and prevent water from leaking to the surrounding areas.

A masonry sealer will be used in the same way to seal the leaking areas to keep the water within the pan.

2. Use of pre-fabricated pans

fabricated shower pan

If your pan is leaking and a typical repair may not work due to the extent of the damage, going for a pre-fabricated shower pan is a solution you should highly consider.

The problem with approach is that you need some expertise in installing the pan. You will likely require the input of a certified plumber for this one.

3. Pan liner replacement

You can use a pan liner to fix cracks and the contact area between the shower pan and the surrounding area to keep the water within the pan and into the drain.

4. Doing a grout replacement

The grout may wear out with use. If this is the case for your shower pan, apply new grout coupled with the appropriate sealant for your type of pan.

At all times, always remember that you should only attempt fixing a leaking shower pan if the problem does not involve messing with the foundation or floor of your house. Otherwise, always call for a plumber to do the fixing.

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