Loo Academy

How to Fix a Leaking Shower Without Removing Tiles

Leaking showers are a horrible ordeal for homeowners and renters alike.

Neglecting leaks can lead to many serious health problems caused by mold or mildew and expensive repairs from water damage to your drywall, floors, and foundation.

inspecting shower leak

Learning how to detect and fix the common causes of a leaking shower without removing any tile can save you a lot of time, money, and frustration down the road.

Signs That Your Shower Is Leaking

Bathroom leaks are unfortunately a common occurrence, especially in older homes. Nothing good will ever come of a leak in your bathroom, and it will only get worse over time. Either the water created by using the shower or your shower system itself will become a major cause of bathroom leaks. Fortunately, there are many signs to indicate you have a leaking shower, and any leak can be fixed.

Here’s a list of the common signs that your shower is leaking:

  • Water puddling on the floor
  • Peeling wallpaper
  • Stains on the wall or ceiling
  • A musty or earthy smell
  • Excessive mold or mildew growth
  • Broken or loose tiling
  • Unusual noises
  • Cracked or damaged grout
  • Loose or wobbly faucets

Common Reasons for a Leaking Shower and How to Fix Them

Leaky Faucets

The hardware inside your faucet helps to keep your faucet performing at its best. Eventually, this hardware will give out, causing faucets to leak. Luckily this is a problem that is easy and inexpensive to fix.

You may need to purchase a new valve seat, O ring, or washer to replace the bad hardware. Or you may just need to use a wrench to tighten the faucet. You can use your shower immediately after the repairs are finished.

Leaky Showerhead

Leaking showerheads are usually caused by mineral and hard water deposits building up within the showerhead or from hardware such as the rubber washer giving out.

You can remove mineral and hard water deposits from your showerhead by removing the showerhead and soaking it in white vinegar for up to 8 hours.

There is a rubber washer in your showerhead and the shower faucet. You can simply remove the showerhead and replace these washers. Run your shower for a few minutes before using it to get rid of any leftover vinegar.

Clogged Drain

Clogged drains are a common occurrence and have many different causes. The most common cause of a clogged shower drain is hair. Soap can also combine with hair to make the clog even worse.

You have many options when it comes to unclogging your drain. You can use household products such as straightening a wire coat hanger or using a mixture of baking soda and vinegar. There are also many products you can purchase that are specifically formulated to unclog your drain. You are free to use your shower as soon as the drain is unclogged.

Leaking Drain Gasket

A thick rubber gasket is used in a shower drain to keep the water in the drain. Over the years, these gaskets will give out. Water will leak into your basement, the floor below, or into your foundation. Some people are unaware that you can replace the drain gasket without taking extreme measures like cutting your floor or taking out the shower pan.

Begin by using a screwdriver to remove the metal drain grate. Use tongue and groove pliers to remove the drain strainer. By turning the pliers clockwise, you should be able to remove the strainer body. You should remove all of the plumber’s putty, which can easily be done by hand. You will find the rubber gasket on the strainer body, remove the old gasket, and install the new one. Before you put everything back together, apply new plumbers putty. Wait 12 hours for the plumber’s putty to set before using your shower.

Leaky Sink P-Trap

P-traps are what allow sinks to keep sewage water and vermin from rising up into your water. Most P-trap leaks are due to loose bolts or bad washers. P-traps should be cleaned, so they are easy to take apart.

Begin by checking all the bolts and nuts on the P-trap. By using a wrench or pliers, tighten each bolt as best as possible but do not strip the nut. If this does not stop your leak, then you may remove the bolts and see if the trap needs to be cleaned or if the washer needs to be replaced. You can use your shower immediately after this repair.

Worn Shower Hose

Shower hoses have rubber washers at each end of them. These washers can give out, or other times the hose has been punctured, damaged, or is just very old. Any of these things will cause your shower hose to leak. There are universal shower hoses on the market but be sure the hose will fit your shower.

To install your new hose, the only tool you will need is an adjustable wrench. You may be able to loosen your hose from the showerhead with your bare hands, but you will likely need the wrench. After loosening the hose from both the showerhead and the faucet, set it aside. Your new hose will come with two new rubber washers, one for the top and bottom. Put in your new washers and re-attach the hose at the top and the bottom, tightening the connections as best you can. You can then use your shower as soon as your new hose is installed.

Worn Shower Valve

Some of the signs that your shower valve has gone bad include loss of water pressure, rapid water temperature changes, water coming out of both your faucet and a showerhead, and difficulty turning the handle. A worn shower valve can give you an uncomfortable shower experience and lead to leaks in your showerhead or leaks from the valve itself. Be mindful that replacing your shower valve can be a challenging job.

You would begin by removing the shower handle with a screwdriver. Behind the handle is a metal plate that covers the hole in which the valve is located. Unscrew and remove the plate. There may be caulking attached to the plate that you must remove with a utility knife. You will now have access to the valve and the water shutoffs for your shower.

Make sure you shut off the water completely before proceeding. There are usually two shutoffs, one for cold and hot water. If you cannot access the valve with pliers or a wrench, you may need to use a handsaw to widen the hole. Once you have the valve out, you can replace it with a new one, turn your water back on and put the plate and handle back together. If you applied fresh caulking, you could use your shower as soon as it dries. Otherwise, you could use it immediately.

Cracked Grout Because of Structural Movement

As time passes, the structure underneath your shower may move or flex. Flex has its own causes, but it will lead to cracked grout and even ruined tile. Cracked grout is an issue that not only leads to leaks but mold. Grout will not last the life of your shower and is meant to be replaced every 15 years.

Begin by using a utility knife to remove all of the protruding grout. Then vacuum out any dust or debris left in your grout lines. When you put the grout yourself, mix it by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Once properly mixed, you would use a grout float similar to a plastic trowel to apply the grout to the tile. Use some floor protection if you are applying grout on a vertical surface such as a wall. Then smear the grout diagonally across the tile, so it seeps deep into the joints. Once all the joints have been filled, wipe off your grout and use it to remove excess grout. Then use a sponge to clean up your tile of any remaining grout. Finish by caulking all of the corners. You will be able to use your shower in 48 hours.

Deteriorated Seal of the Shower Tray

The seal of your shower tray can be destroyed by structural movement or just deteriorate with age. Other times the contractor used a low-quality sealant, or they did not apply the sealant properly. All of these possible causes will leave you with the same result, a leak that can seep into your walls, floors, and foundation.

This can be a complicated or straightforward repair depending entirely on your ability to gain access underneath your shower. If you have a crawlspace, you can easily access your shower pan, remove the old silicone caulking and apply the new product. On rare occasions, there is no type of crawlspace which would mean you’d have to cut a hole in your wall or flooring in order to gain access and repair the seal. Wait for 24 to 48 hours for your sealant to set before using your shower.

Deteriorated Seal Between the Bathtub and the Wall

This seal has many of the exact causes as the shower tray seal. They are usually impacted by structural movement or deteriorate with age. Also, applying low-quality sealant or misapplying sealant will bring a shorter lifespan to the seal. Silicone sealant generally lasts for 20 years when used correctly but eventually, it will give out leading to leaks and other issues.

Resealing between your bathtub and the wall is an easy process. Unlike your shower tray, no crawlspaces are required, and your wall and bathtub are easy to access. Begin by removing any old sealant with a utility knife. Using a high-quality silicone sealant and a caulking gun, apply the new sealant everywhere in which your tub and wall meet. You will not be able to use your shower for up to 48 hours as you wait for your sealant to set.

Leaking Shower Door

Shower doors are usually blamed for leaks caused by other issues such as bad shower tray seals. But shower doors do leak, and luckily they are generally easy to fix. The leak caused by your shower door may depend on the type of door you have. Both sliding and frameless units have tracks, but they operate much differently. Bad seals, gaskets, and sweeps are other common problems that will cause your shower door to leak.

The most important thing to do is to determine exactly where the source of your shower door leak. This can be done by turning on your shower, closing the door, and watching it from the outside. If it is leaking from the bottom, a worn track or sweep is likely your issue. If the leak originates from the top or middle of your door, a bad seal or gasket is likely to blame.

Fixing these issues is a straightforward process that we have outlined in more detail in another article: How to Fix a Leaking Shower Door

Conclusion

As long as you have a shower, combating leaks is an inevitable battle that we all must face from time to time. By being knowledgeable of the signs that we have a leak and learning how to diagnose and fix our issues properly, we can always win our battles.

Shower leaks come in many forms, but there is no leak that you cannot repair. By becoming more familiar with these leaks and fixing them, you can save yourself time, money, and trouble. You will be left with a shower that runs as it was meant to, efficiently and leak-free.

James B. Parker

I was taught carpentry at a young age by my father. After highschool I worked with my father as a Union Carpenter for six years.

Though I no longer practice carpentry professionally I still do projects at my home and for family and friends.