How do I repair a shower pan leak?

Answered by Jeffrey Anderson ~ October 15, 2012 ~ No Comments

We recently had our bathroom remodeled and everything was inspected and we thought everything was fine. Well turns out it wasn't, after my husband was finished taking a shower we noticed a leak on the basement ceiling. At this point what can we do besides ripping out the whole bathroom? One contractor came out and said he can replace the bottom of the shower. As for the original contractor, we cannot locate him. Help!

Maria - Lyons, IL

Jeffrey Anderson

Maria, while I'm sure this is a very frustrating situation, I doubt that the entire bathroom renovation will need to be redone. In the original contractor's defense, it's not all that unusual to have a plumbing leak pop up after a remodeling project. However, it is unfortunate that the first contractor can't be found. Even if it's not their mistake, they are responsible for the project and should fix the problem free of charge.

You mention that another contractor has looked at the leak and is offering to replace the shower pan. Are they sure that's what's causing the leak? While it could be a cracked fiberglass pan, that would be somewhat unusual. I have had hundreds of shower pans installed and have yet to have one crack; however, anything is possible. Depending on where the crack is, it may be possible to have it repaired. Unfortunately, if it's on the bottom, a repair may not be possible as the weight of a person standing in the shower would probably cause it to fail.

If the contractor is guessing that the shower pan is the problem, I suggest investigating the leak a little further before jumping to conclusions. Fixing the leak could be as simple as adding a little caulk around the edge of the pan where the tile or wall finish meets the fiberglass - that area is the culprit for many shower water leaks.

I would also take a look at the drain and water supply line connections for the shower. If the plumbing contractor made the connections improperly or a fitting failed, both of these locations can leak. Unfortunately, you may have to cut some sheetrock to access these areas, but the material can be repaired and it's better than tearing apart the entire shower. The shower drain should be accessible from the ceiling in the room below and the supply lines can often be reached from the wall behind the shower faucets.

Even if the shower pan must be replaced, this can usually be done without any major renovations, but you may have to redo several rows of tile at the bottom of the enclosure walls. Of course, when you have to pay for any repairs after a remodeling project, it can be a frustrating expense.

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