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Zulu 01-18-2008 02:43 PM

Repairing Shower Tiles, Gap between Tub/Drywayll
First time home-owner here, trying to do alot of the work myself. I know which end of a wrench to hold, but I'm pretty new to any plumbing or tile work.

The tub/shower in one of our bathrooms had small pieces of grout missing between some of the tiles. I thought it would be relatively simple to whip up some grout, fill the missing chunks, and reseal it. When I started knocking the loose pieces of grout out I noticed one section in particular being alot different.

The tiles near the bath spout were uneven, like they'd been put back in poorly. I found several loose tiles, and ended up pulling off the tile from the top of the tub about 4" up on the spout side of the tub. Now I can see what I assume is drywall, with all the brown adhesive. What's strange though is that there is a gap of about an inch between the bottom of the drywall and the 'lip' of the tub. Should there be a gap here? My gut tells me that the drywall should come down and be flush with the tub deck, with the lip butting up against the back of the drywall.

In any case, I am hesitant to simply put the tile back on with that gap there. For one thing, the bottom row of tiles would only have adhesive on 1/2 to 2/3 of the surface area, and for another it seems like a water problem waiting to happen. Can someone point me in the right direction?

Thanks in advance, I appreciate any help :)


Marlin 01-18-2008 04:24 PM

How old is the house? They stopped using drywall behind showers about fifteen years ago and started using green board, then probably twelve years ago they started using cement board. Before the days of drywall you would typically have mud on the walls which was tiled over.
My point is drywall is a lousy material to have back there and you discovered one of the reasons. You don't want the drywall touching the tub but it should come closer than an inch. Take a strip of drywall and put it in there, if it's too small to do that cut out a larger piece and replace it.

davefoc 01-19-2008 12:13 PM

I think Marlin is right. the ceramic tile forums are full of stories about the problems with showers built with drywall. Apparently, at one point greenboard was believed to have been an adequate solution so they built showers with greenboard (a water resistant form of drywall). This didn't seem to have improved the situation much and showers built with greenboard apparently weren't much better than showers built with regular drywall.

As to your drywall not extending down to the tub: That may have been an effort to deal with the problem by providing a large gap so as to restrict wicking. It sounds like a pretty lame idea though since the substrate for the lower tiles would be substantially reduced in size and the tiles would probably just fall off eventually.

I am not a tile guy (I have installed several showers though) but it sounds to me like you will not be able to adequately repair this shower. You might be able to get a few more years out of it by replacing the exposed drywall with hardibacker or other cement board backer, reinstalling the tiles preferably with thinset and grouting. You might consider painting the hardibacker with redguard or a similar product to eliminate vapor transfer through the hardibacker since it doesn't sound like you could install a standard vapor barrier. Then put lots of sealer on the grout to attempt to limit water transfer through it. The hardibacker should be installed about a 1/4 of an inch above the tub so as to reduce the possibility of water wicking up.

When you're all done, you might have something that would work for awhile with the ever present possibility that water and water vapor will be transferred from the shower to the drywall and the cavity behind it causing mold and rot.

AtlanticWBConst. 01-19-2008 12:27 PM

Use cement board...PLEASE?

You could also do a search on the site, there has been other discussions about the best methods for sub-surface/sub-layer materials in a tile tub/shower location...and how to install it.

davefoc 01-19-2008 01:11 PM

I think your comment might have been meant humorously, in which case: :)

But for clarity, I wasn't attempting to get into the issue of tile shower construction.

I was providing an idea for what I thought was a mickey mouse temporary fix of questionable reliability for somebody that might not want to do a complete new tile shower at this point in time.

If this was a shower in the apartment building I own, I would rip it out and replace it.

Marlin 01-19-2008 01:16 PM


Originally Posted by davefoc (Post 89951)
I would rip it out and replace it.

Best idea yet and the only perminant one.

Zulu 01-22-2008 08:59 AM

The house was built in 1985. I'm pretty sure it's straight drywall, not greenboard, but there's so much adhesive left on from the tiles I took off it's hard to tell.

I've got another shower in (apparently) good shape, a wife who hates the existing tiles plus I'm keen to learn how to redo the whole shower, so I reckon I'll gut it and replace everything as suggested. It's time to start getting smart on how to do this properly.

Thanks for all the responses, I appreciate it.


davefoc 01-22-2008 01:25 PM

Good luck to you Zulu,

I was sorry that I hadn't added one other thing to my comment. I would have ripped it out in the apartment building that I own when the unit was vacant because the units only have one shower and reliability of an item that could bring down the whole unit and take a long time to fix is important, but in my own house I might have put in a mickey mouse fix until I was ready to do the work. Maybe an unimportant distinction, but I wanted to at least express my opinion correctly.

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