Shower leak

Hi -
We have recently discovered that the shower in the master bedroom above the kitchen is leaking. We learned about it because the ceiling in the kitched started showing signs of water.
I made a hole in the ceiling about a foot in diameter (it was very easy since it was wet ) in hopes of seeing the problem, I can see the shower drain pipe, but it does not appear to be the source of the water. The water keeps dripping (one drop per couple of hours) somewhere from the side even after we stopped using the shower.
I had one contractor stop by, who said that his recommendation is to rebuild the upstairs bathroom, that it would cost about 5K in labor + material, and take about 10 days. Obviously I was not thrilled. The shower (it also has a toiled and a sink, so it's really a bathroom) is probably original in this house (built in the 60's). It's all tile. The link is directly underneath the shower, so I don't think the other parts of the bathroom are the source of the leak.
I am not sure how to proceed there. Is this thing generally "fixable", i.e. break the wall, find the leak, fix it, patch it up, OR is this a situation where the only sure way is to rebuild the bathroom altogether? These days dollars are precious, so I'd much rather just "fix" it, even if it will result in a less pretty looking shower. We don't plan to move out any time soon, I dont' care how it looks for as long as it works. When the kids grow up we'll rebuild it.
What say the usenet wisdom?
D.
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Of course it can be fixed. Don't let the con man con you. The leak could be something as simple as a leak in the shower drain pan if it is a shower stall or the caulking between tub and tile in a full bath. Can you get at back side of shower water supply? There is usually some kind of access panel in a closet somewhere for this reason. Your shower valve could have a small leak also. No need to remodel the whole bath in any of those cases. Shower pans can be replaced it's difficult but can be done if thats your case or caulking is easily replaced if you have a tub. If it's the valve thats easy to replace also.
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Find the leak and repair it. If you can't do that, hire a plumber (maybe $200?). The damages due to the leak can be repaired by you, unless there is structural damage. Labor is expensive.
On 18 Oct 2003 13:18:15 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (Dan Harms) wrote:

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I had a similar problem and found a $9 solution. Maybe this can help.
I found that the leak came from the junction where the drain met the shower floor. For about $8 you can buy a tool that you can use to unscrew the drain from the pipe that goes into the floor. I discovered that the jerk plumber that installed the shower was very stingy on the plumbers putty and there was a leak path. I bought some putty (about $1), took out the old putty and put in an adequate amount. Problem solved.
One thing to note, my leak seemed to only happen when the tub was used. That makes sense if you think that the water will take the path of least resistance. When the shower was in use, the water went down the drain. When the tub was in use, the water seeped around the seal.
Hope this helps.
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The real fun is trying to find out exactly what is leaking. If it keeps on leaking at a steady rate while the shower is completely off and not used for a few days, it's a leak in one of the water supply pipes, a water pipe joint, or one of the valves. To fix that requires being able to access where the leaking pipe/joint/valve is located and doing the plumbing repair.
If the trap is leaking (which it doesn't seem to be in your case) it will slowly drip until the water in the trap empties.
If it's a caulking leak around the outside of the shower base, it will happen when there is water on the floor around the shower. You can test that by putting water on the floor around the shower base and see if the leak increases.
If it's a leak in the shower pan, you can test that by completely plugging up the drain in the shower and filling the shower pan with water, then see if the leak increases.
If it's a leak through the grout in the shower wall tiles, if you have them, it won't leak when doing the tests above, but will leak when running the shower water along the shower walls. The same would occur if there is a leak in the caulking around the shower faucet valves that allows water to go through the wall at that point and down behind the shower through the ceiling.
You might have to take out more parts of the ceiling to get a better idea of where the leak might be originating.
As others have said, replacing the whole bathroom seems way over the top as a way of fixing a simple (but hard to find) leak.

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It could be that simple. Or, it could be a leak in the caulking/putty around the drain. Or, it could be a leak from higher up that is just finding its way to that low point where you see it coming out. If you can re-create the leak by starting low (filling the basin first, putting water on the floor outside the shower, etc), then you know the leak isn't coming from higher up in the plumbing, fixtures, walls, etc.

I don't know the answer to that one but I'm sure someone else here does.
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Had the same problem, on real close exam it was a hairline grout crack right at the bottom. Dont rule out the simplest thing, get a strong light and examine your grout inch by inch. shower water has alot of force in it , and will put alot through a hairline crack. If it doesnt look perfect , its probably leaking.
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Typically there is a pan under the showerstall. The pan is uasually a couple of inches high at the walls and the walls go inside the pan. The pan is supposed to catch any water that gets by the tile and grout and send it to the drain. It's really not that difficult to find the leak. What you need ot do is get a mirror that can be aimed in different directions and a good flashlight. Hold the mirror up thru the hole in your plywood while someone is using the shower. You should be able to tell if it is coming from the pan or form the piping that is in the wall to feed the shower control.
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On 18 Oct 2003 13:18:15 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (Dan Harms) wrote:

Sure.
Find the leak first. Is it galvanized pressure piping?...copper?...other? Does the leak stop completely a few hours after taking a shower?...a few hours after using the toilet?...a few hours after using the sink? Does the leak NEVER stop?
You need to try to determine if its a pressure leak or a drain leak.
And the point where you see the leak is not always where the water is coming from. You could just as easily have a bad toilet seal.

You don't need to rebuild the bathroom to fix a leak. But, if possible, when you DO fix the leak, you should try to make arrangements to have easy access to that area again.
Good luck.
Have a nice week...
Trent
Certified breast self-exam subcontractor.
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