Installing tiled showers in your Plainfield, IL home gives you access to countless colors, cuts, and styles. Tiled showers have a much more luxurious look and feel than pre-fabricated inserts. They also offer ease of maintenance and lasting durability. However, if your shower tiles start loosening and falling off, you have a real problem on your hands. This could be a sign of faulty tile installation or a serious plumbing issue. Read on to find out why shower tiles detach and what you can do to fix them.
Common Tile Installation Problems
Falling tiles are usually the result of faulty installation or water infiltration. In bathroom areas, moisture is the most likely culprit, but it’s still important to rule out factors like:
- Low-quality materials
- Failure to prime the plaster behind tiles
- Uneven base layers
- Incorrect mix ratios for mortar
Even installing bathroom tile when the temperature is too low can prove problematic. Cold temperatures can inhibit the setting effect of bonding materials, including adhesives, mortar, and cement.
Installation-related problems often manifest within just six to 12 months. Before tiles actually fall off, you might notice loose tiles or cracked grout and caulking as your tiles begin to shift.
The Domino Effect
Apart from diminished aesthetics, a single loose or missing tile might not seem like a big deal. However, it’s all but guaranteed to trigger a domino effect. As moisture finds its way into the newly unsealed area, the surrounding tiles will gradually loosen and fall off as well. Even when moisture isn’t the underlying cause of loosening tiles or tile loss, it will invariably become a problem. As soon as the watertight seal of a tiled shower is broken, moisture will find its way in and cause progressive damage.
Find the Leak and Fix It
If you can’t trace the problem back to a bungled tile installation, the most likely cause is a plumbing leak. Although multiple precautions are taken to prevent in-wall leaks from affecting bathroom interiors, these precautions are subject to installation-related issues as well. You might have insufficient waterproofing behind your tiles, damaged supply or drain lines, a poorly installed shower pan, faulty plumbing fixtures, or a failed PVC pan liner.
Faulty Shower Pan Installation
If you have a leaky shower pan, you may see water spilling out onto the floor whenever the tap is on. Depending upon the magnitude of this leak, this water could be mistaken for over-spray, a poorly closed shower enclosure, or other problems. However, in downstairs bathrooms that are installed just above the slab, the moisture from shower pan leaks often finds its way outside by seeping out along the outer brick ledge.
Multiple issues can cause PVC pan liners to fail. These include perforations or other defects that existed before installation, installation-related cracks, or blocked drain weep holes that overflow the pan liner. Bond-flange drains and three-piece clamp drains have very specific installation requirements. If any of these requirements aren’t met, shower pans and their liners will sustain rapid wear. Shower pan problems tend to be especially challenging to resolve when these features are site-built and integrated into the surrounding elements.
If your shower pan or pan liner is the culprit, you’ll likely have missing tiles on the shower floor or the lower wall. However, shower pan problems aren’t likely to affect tiling that’s more than one foot above ground level.
Leaky Plumbing Fixtures
Plumbing fixtures that leak along their connections could cause shower tiles to loosen and fall off just around their perimeters. Fortunately, the fix for this issue might be as simple as removing the offending faucet or showerhead, applying additional thread seal tape, and reinstalling the fixture with a tighter connection.
Whole-House Plumbing Inspections and Slow or Hidden Plumbing Leaks
Slow and hidden leaks are the bane of homeowners everywhere. Even when they’re small and slow-moving, these leaks can lead to thousands of dollars in building damages. This is because they often go unnoticed and unchecked for months. You might not suspect that you have a slow or hidden leak until your indoor air quality (IAQ) declines, your shower tiles detach, or your interior paint starts peeling.
During whole-house plumbing inspections, we check for slow and hidden leaks in all commonly affected areas. We inspect and tighten the connections at the backs of appliances, look for damp baseboards and drywall damage, and investigate crawlspaces. When problems like loose shower tiles exist, we carefully seek out their sources. Scheduling a whole-house plumbing inspection each year will ensure that leaks like these are identified and resolved as quickly as possible.
You might have a slow or hidden leak that’s affecting your shower tiles if your water bill has increased but your water use hasn’t, if there’s visible mold in the area, or if your bathroom constantly maintains a damp, moldering smell. In-wall leaks from plumbing supply or drain lines are more likely to impact shower tiles when the sheet membrane or liquid-applied waterproofing behind tiling is improperly installed or insufficient.
You Might Need a Roofer
There’s no telling where water might go when it enters your home from the roof. Bathrooms with overhead skylights, ceiling-mounted exhaust fans, and other rooftop protrusions are especially vulnerable to roof leak damage. If your shower tiles are falling off at the upper portion of the wall and if there’s visible paint or drywall damage nearby, this may be the case.
Are Your Tile Problems Humidity-Related?
When properly installed and right for the application, shower tiles can withstand lots of hot water and steam. However, your shower tiles shouldn’t be subjected to these things all of the time. If your bathroom is poorly ventilated, you could have high levels of humidity in this space that adversely affect building materials. Even if your exhaust fan is working or your bathroom has a functional window, it might be that residents aren’t using them.
Having excess humidity in your home can result in peeling wallpaper, blistered paint, warped flooring and subfloors, and loose shower tiles. It can also lead to widespread mold and mildew problems along with dank, musty odors. However, humidity that’s high enough to cause your shower tiles to loosen has probably caused visible damage in other areas. For instance, if your sub-floors are squeaky and soft or your walls feel wet and slimy, excess moisture is probably the culprit. But, if your shower tiles are falling off and no other building materials are affected, you’ll need to keep looking for the source of the problem.
Putting Tiles Back On
The progressive nature of tile loss can make quick, do-it-yourself repairs seem tempting. Sanding the underlying surface, grouting a new tile, and applying a new adhesive seems quick and simple enough, but it won’t solve your problem for long. Falling shower tiles are usually a symptom of a larger, underlying issue. Until you find and take care of this issue, more shower tiles will loosen. Worse still, your home could be sustaining additional, unseen damages in the meantime, and you may be paying far more than necessary for your water bill.
To put things into perspective, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), unchecked plumbing leaks can result in the loss of 10,000 gallons of water each year. Although some of this moisture might loosen your shower tiles, you have to account for where the rest of this water is going and the damage that it’s causing along the way.
Contact Your Trusted Professionals
We’re proud to serve Plainfield, IL and the surrounding cities. We offer exceptional heating, cooling, plumbing, and drain services. We also provide indoor air quality improvements and preventative maintenance plans. If your shower tiles are falling off and you suspect a plumbing leak, give TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing a call now.