How to Fix a Leaking Shower Without Removing Tiles

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Last updated: April 8, 2023

Do you have a leaking shower and want to fix it, but don’t want to remove the tiles? Great news! You don’t have to take off the entire shower wall to find and repair water damage. Maybe you don’t have the problem yet but wonder what the main cause might be. Fair question. The small things no one thinks about usually cause the problem, flooding the tile floor the next day.

If you are a budding property owner, this article may be one of the best ways to tackle shower repair. If you’re in a new or old home, the tips below will help prevent further damage and help you prepare for any major concerns. Many problems arise due to age or the use of inferior products used in known areas of older homes. I am talking about the bathroom floor and the whole bathroom. In many home renovations, I’ve seen so much structural damage due to signs of water penetration that were largely ignored.

Many homeowners find older homes saddled with a temporary solution for almost anything to hide the extent of the damage. In some home renovations, I’ve seen terrible shortcuts made with hidden waste material between walls (lazy workmanship! ) and work that seriously questions the structural integrity of walls! Where was the hard work from these professionals? Luckily, modern construction techniques have improved, but always check for the business reviews when it comes to home renovations and custom home builders!

Remember the Challenger Shuttle tragedy? One of the first things to note was the damaged O-rings around the booster rocket. The weather caused the ring to flex from hot/cold weather and to expand/contract. This leads to a crack, which causes the gases to come out and burn on the outer side of the booster rocket to the point where the flame/plume consumed the shell enough to cause a massive explosion.

Table of Contents

The following are the common reasons for a leaky shower. Leaky showers experience damaged O-rings, gaskets, and washers all the time. Things like a rubber gasket under the shower drain crack from dryness and leak with age like anything in life. They’re not costly items but do need to get replaced to prevent future leaks.

Also, when you shower, there’s a lot of gunk that gets gummed up in the drain. This includes hair, soap, and other debris around the shower area. If you’re not careful, the tub will overflow, damage your floor, and seep through the ceiling below with leaky tiles. There are some solutions to counter some of these risks such as an underlying waterproof membrane and using a base of waterproof cement board. This is a good idea and is the easiest way to avoid risks from a leaking pipe, black mold developing, or being forced to add new tiles to the bathroom floor.

Here’s an excellent primer on how to easily install cement board in the shower.

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Here’s another excellent video on how to remodel with shower pan tiles and also understand how weep holes work around the drain pipe:

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To repair shower leaks without removing wall tiles, all you have to do is take the first step which includes the following:

  • Remove grout lines with a utility knife or angle grinder (have a look at this video)
  • Clean between tiles and tile grout using soapy water and use a stream of water to avoid soap scum build-up
  • Replace the damaged tiles and apply new solid grout when grout replacement is required
  • Remove waste material
  • Use silicone caulk to add a full seal to the shower (make sure to remove the old caulk)
  • Apply two layers of transparent waterproofing to help create the waterproof barrier

When applying adhesives and other materials, you can use a caulking gun and or notched trowel to scoop, level, and spread the material evenly. You’ll find many of these retail products at Home Depot and the general retail market.

Continue reading below to know how to do these steps.

Remove the Existing Grout

Removing the old epoxy grout is the initial step in repairing water leaks in your shower. Be sure to remove any deteriorated or moldy sealants. It would be best to get rid of the grout in this case. You shouldn’t just focus on deterioration spots since the old grout might already be leaking below the surface, even if it doesn’t appear that bad yet. 

For this step, you need a rotary tool, safety glasses, a flathead screwdriver, and a rigid but dull blade.

Wear your safety glasses. 

Please turn on your rotary tool and then run its blade on the grout down and up. Maintain a stable hand but avoid pressing too hard. Keep the rotary tool at a safe distance from the tiles’ edges. 

Remove any leftover grout pieces with the flathead screwdriver or the blade.

Clean Between Tiles

Once you have finished removing the grout pieces from the bathroom tiles, you can start cleaning between them. Please get rid of excess dust and waste materials between them.

  • A dustpan, hand broom, and vacuum cleaner are the things you need here. 
  • Use the dustpan and hand broom to sweep up the larger grout pieces. 
  • Use the vacuum cleaner to eliminate the smaller grout pieces and dust between the shower tiles. 

Replace the Damaged Tiles and Apply New Grout

After removing the old grout and dusting between the tiles, it is now time for you to apply the new grout. The first thing you should do is remove the damaged ceramic tiles / loose tile from the shower walls, the floor tiles, and the rest of the tiles on the shower pan, shower bases, and shower drain as needed. 

While it is not necessary, anything that is damaged should get replaced. It would be best to wait for several days between detaching the existing grout and putting the new one and building movement joints. Doing so gives your shower wall enough time to dry and ensures that there are no wet areas anywhere in between. It also helps eliminate mildew and mold present in the wall. 

For the third step, you need some tools, including safety gloves, a grout spreader, premixed grout, a grout shaper, and a sponge. 

  • Put on your safety gloves.
  • Apply some grout on your grout spreader and pass the groove lengthways in the middle of the tiles. Make sure you move the spreader with lengthy strokes to work the new grout properly in the grooves. 
  • Use a damp sponge to eliminate any grout pieces that might have spread over the tiles. 
  • Pass the grout shaper diagonally on the grout after it hardened a bit. 
  • Make sure that you pass it in a single smooth movement. Apply a small amount of grout to fill gaps, and then use the damp sponge to wipe away any excess grout.
  • Repeat the above steps on the remaining tiles. 
handyman tiling-the-bathroom-tub-enclosure

Remove Waste Materials

After regrouting the tiles, let the grout sealer dry entirely first. After everything has dried off, use water to clean the tile surfaces. Ensure that your bathroom is dry properly before proceeding to the following step. You can speed up this process by turning on the fan or opening your bathroom window.

Warm water and a sponge are the only tools you need for this step.

Use a sponge and warm water to wash the entire area of your shower. Pass over the sponge on the tiles using circular motions to get rid of waste materials and debris.

Let your bathroom dry off thoroughly first before proceeding to the next step.

handyman repairing leaky shower plumber tap without removing tiles

Use Silicone for Sealing the Shower

Once your shower has dried off, use the silicone sealant to seal the grout joints. Using silicone sealant to fill the internal floor wastes would be best.

Now, you might be a bit worried that you wouldn’t be able to put the sealant in proper straight lines. After all, crooked silicone lines can affect the appearance of your bathroom. Use tape if you are not confident that you can maintain a firm hand during application. 

  • Put two masking tape lines around the area where you will apply the sealant, one tape below and another above. This way, it won’t matter when you go beyond the line. A masking tape and silicone are the only tools you need here.
  • The optional step is to put masking tape below and above the groove.
  • Squeeze the sealant across the tile groove starting from the edge in a single clean sweep.
  • Press down your finger across the sealant’s length to ensure no air gaps. Apply another silicone layer above the first one in a single smooth motion. Use the silicone wipe to wet your finger and run it gently across the sealant to achieve an even finish. 

You can follow the above steps for the rest of the internal floor wastes and joints. 

Apply Two Layers Clear Waterproofing Sealant

This final step is to make sure that your shower has proper waterproofing. Clean the entire shower, including the shower tray, shower screens, and down to the shower floor after you finish applying silicone over all the joints. 

Let everything dry before you proceed with this step. After the shower is dry, you can now apply two layers of a clear waterproofing sealant, and this will help your shower remain free from stains for a long time. 

  • It would be best to have your safety gloves, clear waterproofing sealant, paint roller, and paintbrush for this last step. 
  • Wear your safety gloves. 
  • Dip your paintbrush in clear waterproofing sealant and apply this to the floor and walls of your shower, just like how you use paint over walls. 
  • Let the layer dry first.
  • Once dry, put the sealant on the roller, then run it over the tiled wall and floor of the shower. Be careful when applying the adhesive, just like using a roller to apply coats of paint over the walls. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Where do leaks in your shower come from?

The shower floor is the most common source of the leak, often in the area where the wall and floor tiles meet. There are times when it can also leak through the waste. If you plan to completely rebuild your bathroom shower, understanding wall junctions and horizontal joints will be helpful to create a proper shower wall frame. Here’s a good video primer on this. If you decide to do this by yourself or hire a professional, make sure you do a thorough job! The idea is for the workmanship to last and not be a headache for you should you ever decide to sell your home.

What is the leading cause of a leaky shower?

Your leaking shower can result from several causes, including missing grout, broken or cracked tiles, and plumbing issues like broken seals or cracked pipes around the pipe connections. Even damaged o-rings, washers, and gaskets can cause this problem.

Do you need to remove tiles to fix leaking showers?

No. A sealing system works by getting rid of the existing grout and then replacing this with the specialized product known as epoxy grout. You can perform this process and achieve the best results without removing or damaging your shower fittings or bathroom tiles. 

How long will it take to repair leaking showers?

A standard-size shower can be fixed or repaired on an average of 3 to 4 hours. Technicians offering a professional service undergo training and stay updated on the newest processes and latest technology. Enjoy peace of mind knowing that your leaking shower’s repair process gets done effectively and efficiently. 

They know things like when to use a putty knife or sharp knife, how to apply a moisture barrier, and more. 

How much time must you wait to use your shower after the repair?

I recommend you wait for 12 to 24 hours before you can use your shower again.

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