How to identify and fix a shower pan leak

So, you’ve seen an increase in mold and mildew in your bathroom on or near the floors. You’re sure you have a leak in the bathroom, but you’re not entirely sure of the source.

One place – whether tiled or fiberglass -- may be the shower pan. The shower pan, also known as the base of the shower, may be missing grout or have loose tiles, be poorly sloped, or have unintentional space where the wall and the floor meet.

To be certain, you will need to test it for eight hours on a day you plan to be home. Otherwise, you risk an overflow that can unintentionally ruin floors in the bathroom and other parts of the house. The eight hours are necessary to detect smaller holes that will leak more slowly.

Take the following steps to detect and identify a leak in your home's shower pan:

1. Place several strips of duct tape over the drain. The tape should be about as wide a paper plate. Cover the drain entirely and make it as watertight as possible.
2. Fill the shower pan with water. Pour enough water from a bucket or use another source of water other than the shower faucet to make the standing water about one inch deep. You don’t want to use the shower faucet because you want to know if the leak is coming from the faucet or the pan.
3. Look for water around the base of the shower pan. You may need to remove carpeting or look for pooling beyond the tile. Go to the floor below, into the basement or into crawl space to see whether there is any evidence of water.

If you see any water, the pan likely needs to be repaired or replaced. Even if this test does not reveal a leak, there may be other related areas, such as tile-covered seating in the shower stall, that may leak.

Though you may be able to solve the problem, at least temporarily, by applying a couple of coats of masonry sealer, this really is not a do-it-yourself repair unless you are a plumber or remodeler. Properly repairing or replacing the pan usually requires tearing out the flooring of the shower and several rows of wall tile. Additionally, there may be some issues lining up the joint of the old wall with the new floor.

To find highly rated New York City-area plumbers or contractors who may be able to repair or replace your home's leaking plumbing or shower pan, sign into Angie's List.

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