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How waterproof is your bathroom?

By Marilyn Campton

Water damage is second only to fire as a cause of decay and deterioration in buildings, and leaking showers and bathrooms are the most common source of the problem. We investigate how you can spot the signs and maybe ward off costly repairs.

Apart from the obvious casualties such as rotting timber and finishes and the corrosion of metals, damp can cause plasterboard to swell, ceramic tiles to come loose and carpet to rot. From a health aspect, electrical hazards and respiratory problems are more prevalent in a damp house.

So, it’s important to stay ahead of any water damage before it becomes an issue. Leaking showers represent a significant proportion of wet-area failure, followed by bathrooms then laundries and toilets.

Here’s a checklist to help track down the source of the leaking.

  • The main tell-tale sign of trouble is peeling, bubbling or stained paint or efflorescence salts on the wall behind a shower, bath or basin – this may be evident in the bathroom (or laundry) itself, or in an adjacent room. Plaster, render and floorcoverings can also be affected, often causing them to become mouldy, discoloured or detached from the wall.
  • Look at the general condition of the shower. What is the condition of the grout and sealant? Cracked or loose tiles are a significant cause of shower leaks. Unfortunately, simply removing the loose tiles and re-fixing them is not the answer. Dampness may be rotting the base to which the tiles are attached, and all affected areas need to be redone.
  • Next, check if the shower, screen or drainage system is leaking. Make sure that the shower screen has been properly installed and sealed. (It should be flush with the inside face of the hob).
  • Check the roof drainage connections for signs of leaks – does the leak only ever happen when it rains?
  • If none of these exposes the culprit, it is time to check if the shower tray is damaged. Plug the shower drain hole; fill with water up to 25 mm from the top of hob or 10 mm from the top of the step down and check for leaks. Allow water to sit in the shower for at least 12 hours.

Once you have determined the source of the dampness you can then decide on the best method to treat the problem. In most instances, you will probably require a professional to assess the problem, suggest a treatment and quote for the repair work.

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