Bath and Shower Enclosures
by Building Inspector and Indoor Air Specialist, Dan Schilling
© Copyright 2002 Residential Inspections LLC, All Rights Reserved
One area where home inspectors often uncover hidden damage is around bathtubs and shower enclosures. Water can sometimes escape the enclosure around shower curtains and doors, through failed caulking (the sealant at the joints), and grout (the mortar between ceramic tiles). Leaking water can do extensive damage to surrounding walls and flooring materials, often going undetected. This water damage may necessitate major repairs or reconstruction of areas around the bath enclosure. You can protect your enclosures with an occasional inspection. Do you see black or discolored caulking or grout? Do you see water stains or disintegration on the walls or floor adjacent to the tub or shower? If so, you likely have water leakage and may be approaching a repair job if maintenance is not performed soon.
If you are still at the stage where maintenance will solve the problem, you need to ask if you consider yourself as a good “do-it-yourselfer”. If so, you can find tile grouts and a variety of caulks available at local hardware and building supply stores. Like most home repair projects, it is important to do the job right the first time. This means following all of the instructions and precautions for applying the materials you will be using. There is also a finesse involved in caulking and grout application that is necessary to achieve professional looking results. Some amateurs get very frustrated while attempting this work, getting more of the product on themselves and the surrounding area than where it belongs. If you are one of these types, you probably should consider calling a professional. Making the enclosure watertight can prevent serious damage to your home.
If the project is more involved, such as ceramic tiles coming loose, visible mold contamination, or rot in walls or flooring materials, then it is surely in your best interest to call a professional. There are many trade techniques and specialty products used by the professionals, which will assure a good looking, and long lasting job.
Once opened up, some of the wall and floor cavities around tub and shower enclosures can reveal massive amounts of mold contamination. Because these areas remain in a continually dampened condition, the types of mold that will grow are more likely to be of toxic variety. If you have large concentrations of mold present, be sure to follow mold remediation protocol during its removal. Also, be certain to sanitize and wall studding or other building materials with a chemical biocide prior to enclosing the area with new materials.
To protect your home and your health, be sure to give your bathroom an objective inspection from time to time.
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