Leaky shower doors are a nightmare for homeowners.
If not addressed in a timely fashion, even a small leak may lead to a host of problems such as mold and mildew, or cause costly damage to your drywall and subfloor.
Learn how to detect and fix the most common shower door leaks by yourself to avoid expensive repairs down the road.
Signs of Shower Door Leaks
There are obvious signs you have a shower door leak besides a pool of water on your bathroom floor.
But minor shower door leaks can be hard to detect.
This is because what’s thought to be a minor leak could just be water that dripped off the door when you opened it or some water that splashed over your door.
Signs of a major leak will be more certain and definite. Besides a large puddle of water on your bathroom floor, there are a few other signs that you have a major water leak.
If your bathroom is constantly smelling musty or sour, this is a sign you have mold on your interior walls or floor.
Also, look for stains on your walls or floor. This is another indication of a major water leak.
Another more technical aspect that will show you signs of water leaks is to monitor your water bill and check your water gauge regularly.
Over a couple of months, you can get an average of how much water you use a month.
If one month your gauge spikes showing much more water than you usually use and you cannot find an explanation for it, you may have a water leak.
How To Detect Shower Door Leaks
For Framed Doors
One easy method for detecting minor leaks on a framed door is running your shower, closing the door, and standing outside of your shower.
From the outside, observe the door closely for 5 to 10 minutes and see if you can find any leaks.
Due to their construction, framed doors tend to be the most leak-proof, but there are few reasons why they can leak, such as:
- Bad or Loose Framing
This is an unlikely but possible reason you have a door leak.
If the framing installed is out of alignment or not square with the door, gaps can cause the shower door to leak.
Also, if your framing has become loose or rusty, you will get leaks.
- Bad Sweep
There is a sweep at the bottom of the doorway that is meant to keep the door sealed tight when closed and capture water.
This sweep can get clogged with different substances, often caulking, and will not perform correctly.
This will cause the shower door not to close properly, or it will allow water to seep out of the bottom of the door.
- Bad Door Seals or Caulking
This is the most common reason that your framed shower door may leak.
Caulking without silicone and seals in your shower will generally last for five years.
Replacing caulking and seals is like doing extended maintenance on a vehicle.
You will be required to replace these items every so often for your shower to run properly.
For Frameless Doors
Frameless doors have been called the best and worst at preventing leaks.
It will usually depend on your model and installation. But, most frameless doors don’t have a traditional door.
This can cause many people to think they have a leak when all they have is splash over.
Common causes of frameless door leaks are as follows:
- Bad Gaskets
Gaskets and silicone are what seal the walls of frameless shower doors.
Over time these gaskets will go bad and become one of the leading causes of frameless door leaks.
The lifespan of a gasket will be anywhere from 5 to 20 years, depending on the conditions and installation.
- Bad Silicone
Frameless doors are held together by a caulking agent that contains silicone.
Silicone is known to last for a long time, usually up to 20 years or more.
Problems arise when the silicone was not applied properly.
This could mean that not enough silicone was applied or that not all the seams had silicone applied to them.
- Bad Track
A metal track holds the wall material, usually glass, in place on frameless shower doors.
These tracks are thought to last 20 to 30 years which is pretty much the life of a shower.
Unless your shower is pretty old or the track is visibly damaged then this is an unlikely cause for your leak.
For Sliding Doors
Sliding door showers create an elegant look and are easy to use.
Sliding door showers generally perform as well as framed showers.
The only difference is issues with the track that slides the door open and closed, developing wear and tear over time.
- Bad Track
The track on sliding shower doors is a bit different than the frameless variety.
The track on sliding doors is what actually guides the door and allows it to slide back and forth.
If this track becomes damaged or loose, the door will not seal properly, giving you leaks.
These tracks do not last as long as they do on frameless units because they are constantly being used.
- Bad Caulking
Bad caulking or silicone is an issue that exists on any type of shower door system.
With sliding doors, the doors themselves are not caulked as they are free-moving, but where your door meets the wall will have caulking, and that is where you will find your leak.
- Improper Door Installation
This does not happen often, but there have been cases where a sliding door was installed backward.
It will not be as noticeable as you think, and the door will seem to function properly.
The outside of the door that is meant to seal water when placed on the inside will not work right.
How To Fix Shower Door Leaks
Fixing Framed Shower Doors
- Fixing Bad or Loose Framing
Begin by determining exactly what is wrong with your frame.
If the doorway is not square, you may have to re-do the entire frame, which is quite costly.
Your frame may just be loose, and a few screws may be able to solve this issue.
If the gap in your door is small, a larger seal may fix the issue.
- Fixing a Bad Sweep
Replacing a lousy sweep is an easy and straightforward process.
Remove your old sweep, see if it is clogged and if you can unclog it.
If you cannot take it down to the hardware store to ensure you get an exact match, install the new sweep onto your door.
A new sweep will generally cost you 15$.
- Fixing Bad Door Seals or Caulking
Fixing bad seals and caulking will require some time and effort.
If you are certain your seals and caulking are bad you can use a razor blade to remove them carefully.
Once you have removed the caulking, you must simply re-apply the caulking.
Once your seal is off, use light-grade sandpaper to remove any excess adhesive, and once you have a clean surface, reapply new adhesive and your new seal.
Fixing Frameless Shower Doors
- Fixing Bad Gaskets
The gaskets and seals hold the walls together in frameless models and can cause the doorway to leak.
The process is the same as fixing a door seal on a framed model, using a razor blade to remove the old gasket, and using your manufacturer-recommended sealant or adhesive to install the new gasket.
- Fixing Bad Silicone
Silicone should last the life of your shower if you apply it right.
Begin by using a razor blade to remove your old silicone carefully.
Then apply your new silicone as evenly and thoroughly as possible, getting into the crevice of every seam.
- Fixing Bad Tracks
Fixing bad tracks on a frameless unit can be an expensive endeavor and should only be used as a last resort.
Removing tracks on a frameless door is just as easy as a framed door.
But replacing the tracks on the walls is where things get tricky, as you must remove the entire glass wall to gain access to these tracks.
Fixing Sliding Shower Doors
- Fixing Bad Tracks
All sliding door models have tension screws that keep the door tight on the track.
Begin by loosening these tension screws until you can pry the door off of the track.
Afterward, remove the frame, which is usually held in place by clips or screws.
Once all that is off, you can unscrew the track and replace it with your new one.
Then all you need to do is re-install the frame and the door.
- Fixing Bad Caulking
The process for fixing bad caulking is the exact process that’s outlined in the framed door section.
The only difference is you do not caulk the door directly, but instead, you caulk the walls where they meet the door.
- Fixing Improperly Installed Doors
If you happened to replace a bad track for a sliding door, you already had to take the door off.
To reiterate, loosening the tension screws will give you the ability to pry the door off.
If it was installed backward, flipping it around and reinstalling it will solve your issues.
As you can see with many models and types of doors, there are many possibilities as to why your shower door could leak.
Every situation is different, and it pays to take time to determine exactly what is causing your leak.
Figuring out the cause of the leak is half the battle, and once that is determined, fixing it is usually an easy process in most cases.
I hope this article answered some of your questions and possibly may prevent costly water damage to your home.