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Four Reasons Shower Tiles Fail and What to Do to Prevent It

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Anyone who has ever had a tile shower knows they can be a pain. They require near-constant upkeep and cleaning, and the grout between tiles often becomes discolored and ugly. What’s worse, is that if left unchecked these small blemishes can turn into major tile leaks. Shower tile failure is not uncommon for several reasons, many of them typical do-it-yourselfer mistakes. Get the help you need to avoid these situations, and you can expect many happy years with your newly tiled surround.

1. Sheetrock Backing

Even greenboard, a sheetrock designed for use in moist conditions, is subject to water damage. You need to have a waterproof base layer that stands up to years of long, steamy showers and nice hot soaks. No matter how thoroughly you think you have sealed the edges of the tile with grout, all it takes is an air bubble-sized hole to let moist air infiltrate the sheetrock. Over time, it starts to buckle, and your beautiful tile work begins to fail.

The experts recommend using a combination of cement board and some type of waterproof membrane as a substrate for your shower or tub surround. The cement board is virtually impervious to moisture, but just in case, the membrane provides backup to keep your tile in place over the long-term.

2. Incomplete Prepping

Even though you have chosen the right waterproof backing, you still have to make sure that the seams are correctly sealed to prevent water damage behind the scenes. The only exception is if you already have waterproofing between the cement board and the surface to be tiled. The pros use a mesh seam tape designed to resist alkaline damage. All the seams should be taped with mud applied over them, just like in a drywall installation, to create a solid barrier against moisture.

3. Failure to Seal

Once your shower/tub tile is in place, grouted and has had the chance to dry, you should coat the entire surround with a brush-on sealant, paying special attention to any built-in shelves or benches where water may puddle. It might seem like overkill, but any leakage spells tile failure.

4. Keeping the old faucet

Even though that old faucet still seems perfectly serviceable, now is not the time to skimp. If you have never replaced it, this is your golden opportunity to do so because your bathroom is already under construction, and your plumbing is accessible. Choose one that is a good fit, both aesthetically and in terms of your pocketbook. Otherwise, you run the risk of a faucet leak and an expensive retrofit.
Choose Acrylic – A Maintenance-Free Option

The heavy workload of tile maintenance and dealing with leaks and tile failures has many homeowners looking for tile-free showers. One option many homeowners are turning to for an almost completely maintenance-free shower system are acrylic showers and enclosures. Acrylic stands up better to constant moisture, and relative to tile, is far less likely to ever leak. What’s more is that cleaning is as simple as wiping down with some soap and water. No more grout cleaning for you!
Professional Tile Installation

When your bathroom needs a makeover, get in touch with the pros at USA Bath in San Francisco, the Bay Area and the Reno, NV., region. We have solutions for your tile shower problems, so you can rest assured you’ll never have to deal with these issues again. Visit us today to see our full selection of groutless shower systems!