If you have tile problems in a shower area, pretty soon you're going to have mildew problems in your walls. To avoid this, deal with the moisture problem in your shower area as soon as you spot the warning signs. If you see a tiny crack developing, act quickly to fix it; you might be able to avoid nasty mould development.
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Rusty stains on ceilings below shower areas, water leaks, loose tile, cracking grout and discoloured grout (especially if there are gaps in the grout) are all signs of moisture problems in a shower area. Water leaks tend to start near the bottom courses of tile, so inspect there first. Potential causes of the problem are a faulty tile installation, bad tile grout or poor silicone caulking around the top of the tub.
Poor Tile Installation
One possible cause is poor installation. For example, tile installations require concrete backer board as an underlayment, but some home builders cut corners and use wallboard that is merely water-resistant. While water-resistant drywall may work in areas that do not encounter constant moisture and water vapour, it is not suitable for shower and tub areas. The consequence is that the wallboard gets soggy and loses its structural integrity.
Another possible cause is bad grout. Most tile is waterproof no matter how old it is, but the grout between the tiles often cracks and decays due to age or to the flexing of the walls from seasonal temperature shifts or the heat of the shower. Cracked, old grout allows water to seep in behind the tile, where it can pool or wick up through the paper facing of wallboard, leading to more damage.
Poor silicone caulking can also allow water to enter walls. If this is the case, you may not have to remove the tile. Instead, open up the area where the water is pooling. For example, if the ceiling directly below a bathroom shows signs of water damage, cut out the soggy portion. Set up fans and allow it to dry thoroughly before re-covering the area with fresh wallboard. Use silicone caulk to reseal the poorly caulked areas.
If you see severe moisture problems in a shower area, act quickly. For example, if tiles are falling off and there are visible water leaks, you need to remove the tile, the wallboard and the insulation. If the damaged area is small, remove several courses of tile and dry out the area behind them. Do not simply reseal the area with tile grout or silicone caulk. You may end up sealing in a mildew problem that will worsen over time. When you reinstall the tile, either hire a professional or carefully follow the tile manufacturer's instruction for installation. Be sure to use concrete backer board and quality grouting materials.
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