Mold, Mildew Steam from shower

Published on November 18th, 2017 | by Henri

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Outlandish reasons for shower mildew

Q.  In a recent column about mildew in a shower, you listed a number of possibilities in which water can get into the walls and cause potential problems besides causing the mildew smell your reader complained about.

A couple of your suggestions seem somewhat outlandish to me. How does water get into walls by splashing from a tall person showering? And how through the shower faucet?

A. I see your point, but in the course of my 60 years in the residential construction business, I have seen a lot of the issues I am asked about and answer, including this one.

Many, many years ago, in the ‘50s and ‘60s, our business was concentrated on residential remodeling, restoration and rehabilitation in the Washington, D.C. area. We also built a few architect-designed custom houses by request.

I still remember vividly how my partner and I spent weeks trying to find out where a mysterious leak was coming from in a client’s beautiful home. The ceiling just below a tub/shower was showing a small stain, which seemed to dry up only to recur every time the man of the house, easily several inches over six feet tall, showered when he was home from his frequent business travels. It did not happen when his wife and daughters showered.

The stain was below the back wall of the tub/shower, which added to the mystery.

We ended up having to cut a hole into the ceiling below and one of us would spray water all over the back wall onto the tiles and on the plaster above them while the other was watching from below.

Eureka! Water began to show up as my partner sprayed the plaster wall.
We stood on a stepladder and looked at the joint of the tiles and the plaster and saw that there was a very small space where water could enter. We sprayed the wall above the tiles again just above where that small space was, and finally found the source of the leak.

In another case, we had to do similar investigation by cutting into the ceiling below a tub faucet to find the leak. Water entered around the faucet’s escutcheon. We caulked under the escutcheon and the leak never occurred again.

But wonders never cease. An Illinois reader sent this: “I read today about one of your readers having a mildew smell problem around the bathroom tub area. I experienced the same. After many attempts to rectify it, I put a hook into the drain and removed a wad of hair. Once gone, so was the smell.”

This is a new one on me; I never experienced that one. Hair caught in a sink drain is usually responsible for a sluggish drain, of course. Thanks for adding that one to many causes of mildew problems.

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