Leaking Shower in a 1940s Home
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading over to John in Iowa who’s dealing with a leaky shower. Tell us what’s going on.
JOHN: Went and got a shower on my main floor, where it basically leaks onto the floor in the basement. And when I removed the 2-inch trap – this is a home that was built in ’41 but it’s been remodeled recently, probably within the last 10 years or at least the shower has – I noticed there wasn’t a whole lot of room between the tile and the flooring or the main wood behind it, as well as they sealed up the drain. It was basically just a 2-inch PVC sealed with some sort of cement and then a drain popped on top of it.
And I’m curious – I mean how can I remedy this issue? Obviously, it needs a proper drain. But I couldn’t find anything to fit the hole that they had.
TOM: Alright. Well, first of all, it’s still leaking and you’re in the middle of this project? Is that correct, John?
JOHN: Well, I just bought this home and I basically said, “OK. We’re not using this shower. We have an upstairs shower that we can use during the remediation process.”
TOM: Is this a tile shower?
TOM: So, with a 1940 tile shower, the first thing I would expect to leak is the lead pan. And the way those showers are built is there’s a lead pan put in against the drain, then the tile is put on top of the lead. And so, over the years, those pans would crack. And the way you test a lead pan is simply by blocking the shower drain and then filling up the bottom of the shower with as much water as you can get in there – usually 4 or 5 inches of water – and then wait and see what happens.
So if it’s possible for you to test the pan, I would do that before I start assuming that the leak was at the drain. Because it might very well be that the drain is not leaking; the pan is leaking. And if that’s the case, then you have to tear out the shower base and rebuild it.
JOHN: Ah, I see. Alright.
TOM: It’s the lead pan. Because a pan that’s 60, 70 years old, they just don’t last that long.
TOM: OK? So seal it off, test it off. You know what works well? One of those – you know those rubber jar openers that are about 6 inches in diameter?
TOM: Put that across the drain, fill it up with water and then watch for a leak.
JOHN: Alright. I’ll try that.
TOM: OK, John. Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.