Shower Pan Repair

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We all can become victim to the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality when it comes to home maintenance or repair. The health of an older shower pan can certainly fall under this category. If your shower pan becomes faulty, it’s time to take action.

The shower pan is one of the insulating materials used in the proper construction of all showers. It keeps the moisture inside the shower and away from the materials that could rot as a result of excessive moisture. Ceramic and marble tile showers are not waterproof: they are water-repellent. Under the tiled floor surface about two inches of cement mortar is usually found. The pan is under the mortar. When you begin using the shower, the mortar becomes saturated with water and remains that way as long as the shower is used regularly. In essence, when you take a shower, you displace the water already in the floor with new water. There are small “weep holes” at the base of the drain fixture that allow the water to move down the drain pipe. Shower “pans” have never been actual pans. They are, rather, fabricated on the job from some sort of flexible waterproof material. The material is laid on the sub-floor, brought up the side walls to a point slightly above the top of the curb (dam), and folded in the corners in what is referred to as a “hospital fold.” No cuts are made at the corners. A hole is cut where the pan joins the drain assembly.

Among the various materials shower pans are made from is lead sheeting. The life of a lead shower pan averages 20 years or so, after which the lead will have oxidized to the point that it is nonexistent in places. Eventually the water that gets beyond the pan spreads toward the walls and their wood framing. Although lead was the best material available for years, it is no longer the material of choice.

 A leaky shower pan can cause nasty mold problems, wood rot, and a whole list of other concerns. If your shower pan is located on the first floor over an unfinished basement or crawl space, it can be an easy chore to look up under the floor to see if any moisture exists after a shower. Please keep in mind that it is never an acceptable situation to have a shower pan drip into unfinished space as this leads to moist floor sheathing and possible structure mold. If rot has begun, you may be looking at a more costly shower pan replacement and possible structural repairs. If you see any discoloration on the sheetrock ceiling below a second floor shower, you probably are looking at a tell-tale sign of shower pan failure.

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