Bathtub Flexing downward

I've owned this house for about 4 years now, and am 2 to 3 years away from selling it (not due to this problem).
In the master bathroom there is a small, either plastic or fiberglass tube. It appears to be one of those liners but I have no idea. It looks, and feels cheap when you step into it (I don't take baths, just showers). About 6 months after moving in I noticed the caulk around the seam between the tub and the tiled walls was cracking and separating. I took out the old caulk and recaulked the entire tub. A few month later, same thing. Noticed that the right hand corner is where the flexing starts and is most pronounced. Maybe 1/8th of an inch at the time. It's been about 3 or 4 times total that I've recaulked this tub now.
I just did a search on this and I wish I had come to the internet before - as the trick is to fill the tub with water first before caulking. However my concern now is not just slight flex, but major flexing. I'm worried that the foundation that the tub sits on is not right, as now the crack seems wider - about 1/4" at it's widest point (starting at the same spot - right corner, next to the piping/valves).
My worry is that I need to rip this tub out and repair what is below it. Is this true? If so, how? Obviously I'd have to break the rest of the caulk seem, but then what? I can't afford to have a pro do this.
Perhaps I should just fill the tub with water and try re-caulking and see if that holds? It's *possible* that the crack is just bigger because I've let it go without recaulking for a while, which I regret because this is a 2nd floor bathroom and one morning I let water splash into that corner and it leaked down into the ceiling. There is a slight, small water mark there now.
Help!
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It's monkey work, but it's not as bad a job as you might think to pull that tub out and check what's under it. It does sound like it mght not be supported right, especially since it's on a 2nd floor. You don't mention any ceiling problems downstairs, so I'd assume then that the problem is in the setting of the tub. You sound pretty sure that it's just flexing, and that's not right. If properly supported, it won't happen. I'll bet it's just sitting on the bare floor and no regard was given to the mounting "feet" or whatever the support areas are called.
Regards.
Pop
mark wrote:

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It's also not uncommon for half ass plumbers to hack through joists and really foul things up in order to run pipes fast and easy. By the time things start to sag, they are long gone.
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snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

I would think it more likely there is just no support under the tub; someone probably just laid it down without any preps, or even making sure it was on the joists, like maybe it's midway between them where it rested on the floor. There was no mention of ceiling damage below and the poster sounded fairly thorough, so I didn't feel like it was a joist moving. I'm betting it was a diy job; just a feeling.
Pop
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In alt.home.repair on Sun, 19 Dec 2004 17:13:12 -0500 "Pop"

It's not? I readily admit that I don't know, but I thought the typical tub was, say, 60 inches long, with only 58 inches showing. That is, there is an inch at either end that is inside the wall. (At least for tubs that fill the width of the room.)
That to take the tub out, one had to cut the tub in half or redo a lot of wall afterwards.

Meirman
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No, it's not really that bad a job. Like I said, mostly monkey work. You probably -could- cut & break the tub out, but it's not going to save any damage over just removing it. You called it plastic or fiberglass, so it's not heavy. It flexes, so it's going to be relatively easy to move -part- of it to expose some information you'll need.
If you just want to see what's under the tub, is it double-walled, such that you can cut away a part of the outer wall enough to look inside with a flashlight? I suggest this because it just occurred to me that water might have gotten in under the tub and you could have half rotted wood in there, making the thing pretty much a hanging tub! If the leaks were allowed to go for very long, and they made it under the tub, you might want to be prepared for the possibility of finding rotted flooring in there. There _should_ be a membrane under the tub to catch water and protect things, but if it's torn or missing or set so it sends the water down in side a wall, you might never know water was leaking in there.
If you still have that crack exposed and dont' mind exposing a little more, you can verify a few things: -- Most of this kind of tub has flanges on each end and along the back. The flanges extend UP, higher than the visible top of the tub, so that water, if any gets there, will flow into the tub and not down the wall. These flanges are usually (100% of the ones I've seen) screwed to framing members of the walls along the back and eah end if there is a wall at each end. Some tubs I've seen only had flangeing on one end; dunno why. Do you have those flanges? You might have to pull that crack open a bit to find out. If you do, the tile (ouch!) might have to be removed to expose the flanges - the wall is intended to cover them. Even if you cut/break out the tub, you'll still have the flange problem if it's screwed to the framing. Either way it'll be best, IMO, to cut out the tile, saving the pieces to put back. Or if you're luckuy you could remove whole tiles at the grout lines. If the flanges aren't screwed to anything, you might be able to cut/break out the tub, but ... a new tub isnt' liklely to perfectly match up to the tile lines, and besided, you'll still have to screw those flanges down.
ANYway, once those flanges are exposed/removed, it should be a relatively simple job to take the plumbing off and slide the tub out. You might need a "drain wrench" to get the drain off. They're fairly cheap and easy to find.
-- Once the tub is out, the you can see what it's sitting on. There should be something in there to span the weight of the tub out over the joists under it. The tub will hvae little bulges, or feet, underneath, which are meant to sit on something solid. If there is nothing to spread out the weight of the tub over the joists, and especially if those feet are sitting between joists, the tub won't be solid and will move and sag in places, just by standing in it, even without the weight of the water.
You can see pretty much everything I'm talking about by jumping over to a Sears or a bathroom display and looking at the products; maybe your local lumber yard. Most places will also have lots of flyers and booklets showing the details of an installation, one of which should match yours. There are some good diy web sites on this too, but I can't find them at the moment and am pressed for time. Just about any of them should be able to give you enough details to understand what I've been trying to describe.
If you're not handy or if you don't like monkey work, and if a 6 or 12 pack won't get the right friend/s to help out, you might want to consider the yellow pages. Otherwise it could be a job that's longer than you want to do without a shower <g>. I'd consider it a day without a tub or water, and three or four days total including the fine finishing. For a contractor, probably 5 hours to the big part of the job.
LUCK, & let us know how it works out,
Pop

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<< However my concern now is not just slight flex, but major flexing. I'm worried that the foundation that the tub sits on is not right, >>
Some low priced tubs must be bedded in a leveling compound or mortar during installation. If you are stuck with one of those, you will have to access the tub bottom via an opposite wall.to shovel in the levelling material. Tough call, as it will be quite a project no matter if you fix or replace. For now, use another shower if you have one while you ponder the best course to take. Gioiod luck.
Joe.
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Pretty much impossible to get it right that way and there's likely none there right now, so ... IMO, much better to pull the tub out, especially since it's such a light one - hardest job will be getting to the screws that fasten it to the wall if there are any. Even if it were cast iron, I'd pull the tub out so everything could be inspected and done up right.
Pop
Joe Bobst wrote:

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Can you get to it from behind or underneath? Just throw a few shovels of mortar under it for some support.
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Thanks everyone for the advice. Unfortunately you all have told me the last thing I wanted to hear though....
There is no way to get under it without cutting a hole in my living room ceiling. The opposite wall is another bathroom, with that bathroom's tub sitting right there in the way, so that's not an option either.
Here's a dumb question: is *any* deflection acceptable for a second-floor bathtub? I plan on selling this house in two years and the last thing I want to do/can afford to do right now is to have to rip out an entire bathroom, which is what this will take if I'm to take out the tub.
At this point I'm thinking about filling the tub with water and trying to caulk it again and see if the filled tub trick will work.
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You could cut a hole in the head or footwall, you could cut a hole in the floor/ceiling underneath, you could cut a hole in the outside skirt of the tub, or you could disconnect the overflow drain and lever, (which assembly is probably plastic) shove the drop-pipe sideways, and shove a hose down under the pipe to squirt agregate or expanding foam through.
It just depends on what surface you think you'll have the best luck repairing.
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The head and footwalls are tiled. I hate to rip the ceramic tiles out of either or I'd have to retile the whole thing as I don't have matching tiles, not that those would look right anyway since the existing ones are 18 years old now. There's really no easy solution unfortunately it seems.
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It sounds like you are a very lazy man.
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Not really. But I also know when to not attempt something that may not turn out right. You have no idea, just as I have no idea, what is underneath the bath tub in question. And it may just be that all I need to do is fill the tub with water and recaulk with some flexible caulk and be done with it.
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