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Rental house tub surround issues

March 27, 2019

Wow! I walked into the storage room in the basement of our rental house one day to find water leaking through the ceiling onto my belongings. 

Everything was soaked. Huge puddle of water in the center of the room. We had a few cardboard boxes on the ground that had soaked up so much water that, when I reached down to move them that they came apart in my hand. Danger more water is leaking on the floor now! 

What is going on, where is the water coming from. I went upstairs to find that there was no noticeable puddles or wetness around the toilet, tub, or sinks and nothing coming from the pipes. I noticed that this happened more frequently when out tenant's youngest kid was taking a bath. So I thought that maybe she was splashing a lot of water around. Not the main issue but it didn't help either.

 

Turns out that the grout was so old in between the tiles of the tub surround (the house was built in the 1950s, and this was the original tile) that water was just leaking right through. So quick fix, I got some clear silicone caulk and went around all the tile from the top of the tub up about 2 feet. This like I said we a quick fix to keep the water from running behind the tiles and tub into the basement. The final fix would be a new tub surround. 

 

Well, we don't do things the easy way and get a pre-molded tub surround insert. My husband was adamant about that solution, not working for him. We also didn't want to do a complete demo and rip out the old tub and tile. (Unfortunately the tile not only was in the shower, but typical of homes built in the 1950's era the tile matches and goes around the whole bathroom.) I searched online for comparable tiles to replace the ones we already had, in case any break. Ordered a few sample tiles to compare, not one matched. Either the color was wrong, the size was off or the tile thickness itself was different, so that was not a viable solution. So, we talked about getting granite or marble slabs to put in but, that was really expensive. The area is a normal wall to wall tub so the slabs would have had to be special order to fit without us having to rip out the tub. Then to get the wholes cut for the shower head, faucet and handles, complicated the issue, when we did not have the proper tools.

 

After months of research, my husband found a local, family owned bathroom / kitchen store. They offered a lot of different surround ideas that we had not previously seen. After comparing most of the affordable options, he settled on a composite material surround, that you could special order in panels. This option had small metal corner pieces that held the panels in place. Once He decided that was the option that he wanted to use, the problem now was how do we install this while we have tenants living in the rental, that required up to 5 people to be able to shower / or take a bath every day. We talked it over, perfect they are going to Florida for a week in the summer, we will do it then. 

 

My husband goes a week before they leave town to order the panels, it takes up to 4 weeks for special orders to arrive. Great! Now what do we do? Well after talking it over with the tenants, we decided to go through with the demo and when the panels came in, we would install them. In the interim we decided to put up a temporary plastic covering. 

 

We get started on the demo. I was very careful while removing the tiles, so that I could save as many of them as possible. (I think that we may have broken 10 total, which was pretty good, if you ask me.) It shocked me as I went that all of the tiles from the top of tub up about 2 feet came off with a quick little pry. As I am taking the tile off, there was standard drywall behind them. In areas, the drywall is muddily, crumbling in my hand. I was shocked. There were two layers of drywall too.  Weird. So I tried to pull as much as I could out, trying not to let it fall between the tub and the open studded wall. The project got so over whelming. My husband helped after he got home from work for a couple hours every evening. Eventually it got to the point where I couldn't get any more tiles off the wall and the drywall was no longer coming off easily. Also all of the corners had a metal mesh attached to the studs, under the drywall, so that posed another problem. So we pushed through it, till we got all the demo done. This part of the project took a majority of the week our tenants were gone.

 

As the week came to a close, we had to put up a temporary covering. Before we could do that, we chose to put up the first layer of thin cement board. That was tough. We again, didn't have the proper tools to cut the cement board. It got complicated fast. After we did finally get it installed, we had to make it waterproof. What better to use than plastic. We went to Lowes and bought this huge roll of 6 MIL black plastic and I cut it to fit, the best I could. I "West Virginia Chromed" the whole thing into place. I was very happy with the way the temporary covering fit. 

 

We waited for over 6 weeks for the surround to come in. Once it got here, we were so overwhelmed with the size of the one panel that we couldn't do anything with it. Not to mention, the size of the one panel made it so heavy and irregular that it was both hard to handle and hard to store. We started to measure the shower, faucet and knob locations and we had no tools that made that job easy for us, so that was another deterrent. So these 3 panels sat on our living room floor for months. Eventually, my husband decided that it would be best to find a GC that could do the install in a day. We found a local guy, he had a helper come that day, and they did ok. but the cuts were a little short and the install did not look like it was done by a professional. Also, this guy was a bit on the expensive side, so we decided to the that caulking ourselves. 

 

I went and found a 1 hour dry caulking at Lowes and that was what we used. Instead of making life easy, we decided that we would put the dark blue boarder tiles back in place to try to tie in with the rest of the bathroom. Well because the install guys did a half-@ssed job, the tiles didn't line up and that made it much harder to replace the boarder tiles. Together we got it completed and put the black plastic back up for 48 hours, to assure the caulking had bonded, even though it was quick dry. We took down the plastic 2 days later everything seems to be in place. 

 

It's been probably half a year since the install. I walked into the storage room the other day and guess what, there is a huge puddle on the ground and there is a steady drip coming from upstairs tub / shower area.  YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! After all of that and it's still leaking. So I will be putting some caulking on the rest of the pipes. Also, the littlest tenant was taking a bath, so maybe she was splashing around in the tub. So I will be having a conversation with them. UGG!

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