If you step into the shower and notice any unusual sloping or cracks, it may be a sign that your shower pan is leaking
You probably don’t give much thought to your shower pan, but if it springs a leak, it can be a headache. A shower pan is the part of the shower that makes up the floor, and its sloped shape acts as a funnel, directing runoff water down the drain instead of pooling around your feet. Shower pans are usually made of durable materials, such as porcelain, ceramic, fiberglass, or plastic. They tend to have a fairly long lifespan, generally lasting at least 10 years and sometimes up to 45 years. However, depending on the material and how old the pan is, things may start to shift, and movement of the shower pan can lead to leaks, mold, or potentially even bathroom flooding.
Here are three telltale signs that your shower pan is leaking and some ways you can fix it quickly.
1. Your Shower Pan Shouldn’t Move
When installed correctly, a shower pan should never have any movement, as it is usually securely affixed to the floor with concrete, sealant, and bolts.As time goes on, however, these tools can begin breaking down and causing some movement. In addition, if there are any major outdoor vibrations (such as an earthquake), this can also jar the securing materials loose.
Any movement, no matter how minor, is a sign that your shower pan is susceptible to leaking. If the pan is visibly moving when you clean your shower or step into it, that’s a problem.
2. Deflection Can Be a Huge Safety Hazard
If you notice any unusual sloping in the shower pan, or if it feels unstable when stepping in or out, this might be a warning sign of deflection. Deflection is an up and down movement, which may indicate that the floor beneath the shower pan has started to give out due to water damage.You should have it checked immediately, as the subfloor may have damage from leaking water, which is a huge safety concern.
3. Look Out for Cracks in Your Shower Pan
Cracks are often the first telltale signs of shower pan damage. If you have a plastic pan, any cracking is an indication that the pan has failed. With sturdier materials, such as porcelain, cracks in the pan itself, not the grout or tiles, are a warning sign of a problem.If there is any cracking or splintering in the shower pan, stop using that shower immediately until you can repair it.
What Should You Do if Your Shower Pan Is Leaking?
If you notice any movement, cracking, or instability in the shower pan, there is a simple three-step method to check for leaks:
1. Seal the Drain
Make a water-tight seal around the drain using duct tape, plastic sheeting, or a rubber plug.
2. Pour in a Measured Amount of Water
Pour in enough water to make about 2 inches of standing water in the shower pan—mark where the water level is with a piece of tape or permanent marker.
3. Watch for Water Level Changes
Leave the water in the shower pan for eight hours, then come back to check. If it has gone down from the level you marked, there is likely a shower pan leak.
At this point, you should also check the floor below the bathroom to see if there is any visible water damage or staining.
How to Fix a Leaking Shower Pan
Before calling in a professional, there are a few DIY repairs you can do to stop the leak temporarily. Note that these are all short-term fixes, and you will likely need to consult a plumber near you to secure a permanent solution.
Grout Repair or Replacement
Grout begins to wear down over time, so repairing or replacing it may help slow the shower pan leak. Apply new shower grout in a thick layer over the old, paying special attention to any cracks or holes.
Apply Epoxy or Sealer
Apply masonry sealer or epoxy to any holes or loose areas to help hold everything together temporarily. This solution will help control the damage, but is only a temporary fix for an entire shower pan replacement.
Replace the Pan Liner
You may be able to find a replacement pan liner that fits the shower at a big box store for between $50 and $100. These pans are pre-constructed and will not fit as tightly as a permanent pan replacement, but may work well enough to hold you over for a bit.
Because a shower pan leak has the potential to cause excessive water damage throughout several areas of your home, the best option is to locate a shower repair pro in your area. A full shower pan replacement is a larger undertaking, and a contractor may even have to pull up the floor or even the foundation.