19th March 2007

How to Repair a Shower Stall

posted in HowTo |

Recently one of our tenants moved out and upon inspection of the master bath shower stall I was greeted by the sight of this:

Damaged shower stall tile

Basically, the tile grout in the tiles near the floor eventually loses its sealing functionality and moisture seeps through the paces between the tiles causing the drywall backing to degrade. This weakens the tiles and causes even more moisture to get behind the tiles.

Here’s what it looks like behind the tiles. Yick!

Tile removed from shower wall

What I do to repair this kind of problem is remove all the weak tiles until you find strong drywall/wallboard.

Remove any damaged drywall from the back of the tiles. I used a grout knife to scrape any paper and loose Thinset mortar from the back of the tiles, that way, I can use them again.

Clean back of tile to promote adhesion

Cut to size and screw into place pieces of Durock concrete wallboard to be used as the new backing for the tile. Durock is great because it will not degrade if it becomes wet. These days, the entire backing of a shower stall or tub enclosure is usually Durock or some kind of concrete wallboard.

Install Durock concrete wallboard

Apply and texture a coat of Thinset mortar to the Durock wallboard and replace the old tiles.

Reinstall tile

Once the Thinset is dry (usually overnight) use a good rubberized, sanded grout between the tiles.

Repaired shower stall wall

And that’s it. Good for another 10 years and about $2000 saved from not re-doing the entire shower enclosure.

Oh, how I love property maintenance so.

There are currently 11 responses to “How to Repair a Shower Stall”

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  1. 1 On April 1st, 2007, Austin said:

    Nice repair job, and a good job with the walkthrough article. I guess it worked out well that you could find matching tiles! I’m curious, in the 3rd photo up from the bottom, it looks like mold was growing behind the tile. What can you use to kill that with..bleach?

  2. 2 On April 1st, 2007, TheLandlord said:

    Thanks for your comment. The tiles I used to repair the shower stall were the original tiles. I just had to be V-E-R-Y careful when I was removing them. As a result, this job took much longer than it would have normally.

    To answer your question about the mold: basically there was a little bit of black mold in the water damaged drywall but I found that as soon as I applied some Thinset to the tile, the bit of drywall that was stuck to the back of the tile came off. In the end, I had to scrape the damaged drywall and old adhesive from the back of the tiles with a grout knife and wire brush.

    Not fun, but like I said in the post, it avoided about a $2000 job by my tile guy.

  3. 3 On November 17th, 2007, Seth said:

    The most toxic and deadly of molds is black, it’s fumes cause permanent brain damage. Not all black molds are the deadly, and maybe that was just mildew, but oy. Here in Texas you have to remove everything in a 3′ radius of the mold, I think. Bleach is good to kill tiny spots on the surface but not in the drywall, not that I would ever ignore Texas law.

    Never use drywall in a wet room. Mold eats the paper. Use cement board in the shower and mold-proof green board (drywall made with fiberglass instead of paper) in the rest. Of course, everyone uses drywall, and the cheapest, most energy-wasting everything else…

    Anyway, good post.

  4. 4 On May 18th, 2008, Christina Rocha said:

    Thanks for sharing. We have the same problem with the tile in our bathroom and we are trying to decide on how to repair it.

  5. 5 On February 12th, 2009, Terry Anderson said:

    I would have to say, a fair job by a property manager. The problem that you run into by doing a project like this is the fact that while you may have patched the giant hole in the wall, the problem is usually caused by something more major than just water damage at the area were tile is falling off. Shower pans (the liner under the shower floor) that are older than 15 years old are not made of PVC like the newer ones made today. So after 20-30 years they have degraded into mush and protect nothing. Hence you get what we have here..water wicking from the leaking pan up into the wall board. So you may have saved yourself $2000 at the present time, but the problem will be recuring. Make sure if you want the peace of mind that the problem has been solved,then you should enlist the help of a proffessional Tile person that can give you the options and guidance to make sure you are protected from mold and water damage. You can actually replace just the bottom half of the shower from about 9″ up from the shower floor, and match (or tie in) the tile and solve the problem for good.

  6. 6 On June 3rd, 2009, Jason said:


    Just stumbled across this and thought I’d toss in a few cents. I happen to be a union tile guy, and I’ve seen a lot of this. While I can’t fault you for going with the cheapest option in a rental unit, I can tell you that 10 years is an extremely optimistic estimate.

    Once you’ve got water damage, it’s going to continue to create mold, because even though your underlayments are sound, they’ve still caught water. You could be looking at a black mold abatement which could cost you upwards of ten grand.

    I would recommend doing the whole job over again, with a few different modifications. Put in a double layer of 6 mil vapor barrier behind the backerboard to stop any possibility of water behind your walls, purchase a product called redgard. coat all your cement board with two coats to specifications, and replace the work with 4 1/4 tile at 20 cents or so each. I would not use any latex based caulks, since they harden and are useless beyond a year or so. I’d recommend a nice bead of a urethane based caulk at all tile to tile joints ( corners, floor and ceiling)

    Now I know this seems excessive, but it would save you money in the long run if you go overboard at the outset.

  7. 7 On June 17th, 2009, Mary said:

    Hi. I am renting a house now where they patched up the old shower wall. The drywall is rotted behind the tiles, which are falling out, and the mold is causing me to wake up with headaches. A professional may cost a bit more but you owe it to yourself and your tenants to keep the home safe and liveable. I own a home that I rent out as long as active duty keeps us away and we consider it our duty to keep the residents in decent housing and not pocket every penny of their rent.
    Never rent out a home that you would not live in yourself. You may find yourself in their shoes someday.

  8. 8 On November 6th, 2009, Joan Hamilton said:

    Back at you Mary. We rented my old homeplace for awhile. When I retired, my husband and I spent 3 whole months, tearing out everything inside, and replaced it. Put in new carpet and new vinyl in the kitchen and bath. Painted and papered every wall, and baseboard, put in a new vanity. Within 6 mo. it looked like a bunch of sewer rats had lived there. Lipstick on the wallpaper, ballpoint pen on the white woodwork. They tore a motorcycle down in the living room, grease on the carpet, tore the vanity off the wall, all of the faucets gone, wrote with felt tip pen on the water tank. Took all of the drapes and curtains. I just closed it up, locked it up and never rented again. The house has sat empty now for 10 years, I will never rent again. I sure as heck didn’t make anything off of that deal. They spent their money on tattoes, concert tickets and such stuff instead of paying the rent, and we were out 3 months work, plus all the money we had put in the house. We rented that house before buying it, when I was in grade school. We never damaged anything, these days, forget renting anything. I am suprised the way people treat other’s property anyone will rent anymore. At least I won’t.

  9. 9 On January 23rd, 2010, gibby said:

    Mrs “never will rent again,”
    Think about this idea if you decide to rent again. Add in to the cost a maid that comes in twice a month. This way you have some idea what is happening in your income property. If the renters don’t like the idea, they probably have something to hide. Especially a motorcyle in the living room. ouch!

  10. 10 On June 28th, 2010, Nikki said:

    Through my research on do it yourself tile I have seen many mention the importance of a vapor barrier even when using cement backer board. I’m confused, if I put 6 mil vapor barrier behind the cement board piece that is a patch, then I will need to trim around the patched section to cut off the plastic vapor barrier. Won’t this then leave a “crack” around the patched section and water can still get in if the grout breakes down over time? So then what good would the plastic do? If water gets in, then it would run down the wall behind the tile and would be wicked into the areas below which wouldn’t have the plastic vapor barrier since the plastic is only behind the patched section of wall. So I’m not seeing the value of the plastic application in a small patch job like the one shown. I will definitely use the paint on vapor barrier though in my patch job. Glad I found this site, think I have all the info I need to make a successful repair.

  11. 11 On September 29th, 2010, Jeff said:

    Mrs. “Never will rent again”,

    You should have done a better job screening your tenant, and you should have done an inspection of the place every quarter until you felt safe with their conduct.

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