Bathrooms and specifically showers and bathtubs are prone to leaks. Do you have a shower door that leaks? Maybe the corners of the glass enclosure leak every time you take a shower? If you answered yes, you may have water damage on your walls, baseboard or the floor outside the shower. The problem and solution to shower door leaks may be less complicated than you think once you learn about the new solutions for a frameless shower door.
Dealing with water leaks is a common problem for many of my handyman customers. They generally try to solve the problem themselves and ask for help when their repairs don't work. The challenge is figuring out what part of the shower door or tub is leaking.
Fixing shower doors leaks means understanding:
- What type of shower door do you have? Framed shower door, sliding shower door or frameless shower door.
- Where is the shower door leaking? At the bottom, on the vertical side with hinges or on the side of the frameless shower door opens?
- What type of shower base do you have? Precast shower pan with a lip (shown below)or tile base installed by hand?
Common Shower Door Leaks
Most showers I've inspected have leaked at the door or metal track that holds the glass. The leak isn't always noticeable but the damage it causes over the years is obvious. Sometimes there are stains on the walls, water damage on the baseboard or mold where the shower meets the floor just outside the glass door.
When you find water damage outside the shower door, the problem is typically due to an installation error. The shower door trim wasn't sealed correctly. The mistake is compounded over the years by handymen and DIY’ers adding more caulk to the inside of the shower, trying to fix the problem. It seems logical that to fix a leak you want to close the gaps where water can get out but that isn't always the right solution.
Using Caulk to Prevent Shower Door Leaks
The lesson here is there are times when “less caulk is better”. Yes, you want to thoroughly caulk the outside of the metal shower trim. But you don't want to caulk over the “weep holes” inside the shower. These small drain holes at the bottom of the metal track inside the shower allow condensation and water to drain back into the shower.
If you trap water inside the track, it will then find another escape route … and that's why we have so many shower door leaks. So caulking should focus on leaving the weep holes clear, as well as the corners inside the track. The faster the water can flow down the track and out to the shower drain, the quicker the shower will dry.
The type of caulk you use is also key to a long lasting seal. 100% silicone caulk is the only caulk that has stood the test of time during my time running a handyman business. It doesn’t shrink or crack unless it is in direct sunlight, and it stays flexible for a long time. Avoid acrylic caulk that hardens, cracks and is less successful in keeping out mold and mildew.
As a rule of thumb, clear silicone works best with metal trim and plumbing fixtures. White or grout colored silicone can be used to match the corners of walls, shelves and benches inside the shower.
Check to see that all rubber seals are in place and in good shape around the glass and the shower door. Each of these features plays a role in how the water is directed back into the shower, reducing the possibility of water splashing and getting through gaps in the door. These seals are inexpensive and easily replaced at a glass supply shop.
Buying Caulk Is Never Easy
Buying caulk is always challenging, so here are some general rules to follow.
- Buy caulking for the room or object you're going to caulk. For shower door leaks, you want a caulk that's meant for bathrooms and other “water areas”. Don't want to use a caulk meant for doors and windows.
- Read the label and identify additives like mold resistance. Use these to pick between two products that look about the same.
- Don't get fooled by the manufacturer's product names. They're used to grab attention but don't explain the product. Below you'll see two DAP products named “silicone rubber caulk” and “silicone sealant”. Reading the article, Difference Between Rubber and Silicone to understand the difference was more confusing. Next step, I called DAP and was told they're basically the same … confusing, yes!
- Color matters so make sure you buy – white if that's the color of your tile, toilet or bathtub. Otherwise you'll want to get a clear caulk where the color shows through.
Dap Bathroom Silicone Rubber
(Caulk 9.8 oz, White)Dap 100% Silicone Kitchen & Bath Sealant (10.1 oz, Clear)Pro Caulk Caulking Kit
Maybe you're used the traditional caulking tubes (upper left and center) that require a caulking gun to apply the caulk. Caulking guns aren't easy to use, so consider trying one of the new squeezable caulking tubes show below.
Dap Bathtub Silicone Rubber
Caulk (2.8 oz, White)General Electric Kitchen & Bath Silicone Caulk, (2.8 oz, Clear
Solutions for Frameless Shower Door Leaks
Caulking is the traditional way to fix shower door leaks but what do you do when you have a frameless shower door? These new shower doors are more elegant and there's less metal to corrode but they're also more susceptible to water leaks. Don't panic though, as there are several different solutions to handle these types of shower door leaks.
First you'll want to identify where the water is leaking. Is water escaping through the gap under the shower door? Test to determine if water is also squeezing through the gap along either side of the shower door? Just tape a piece of paper or paper towel to help you spot where the water is coming from … to determine which of these solutions you need.
PS If you'd like to review detailed instructions on how to measure and install any of shower door solutions below, here's a detailed YouTube video from Dulles Glass & Mirror.
Frameless Shower Door Leaks Under the Door
If water is spraying out through the gap under your door, you'll want to install a frameless shower door sweep (click for more details) like the one shown here. Made from vinyl, the installation is easy – you simply slip it onto the shower door. Make sure you buy the size you need, or a longer sweep and cut it down. And remember to measure twice and cut once.
Frameless Shower Door Leaks on Either Side
If you find your frameless shower door is leaking up higher, then you'll need to seal the gap between the door and the adjacent glass wall. The shower door seal shown here can be used on either side of the shower door.
Frameless Shower Door Jam Can Stop Leaks
If the vertical gap where all/most of the water is escaping from your shower enclosure is where your shower door meets the wall, a frameless shower door jamb might be the best solution. Like the other solutions, it's easy to install this clear plastic jamb with the pre-applied, doubled-sided tape. You simply have to measure and cut the plastic to the desired length.
You now see that it's smart to do some detective work to identify what's causing your shower door leaks. There simply isn't one problem or one solution, so take your time figuring this out. All of these solutions are easy for most homeowners to do themselves and here are more tips to help you:
- Caulking Confusion: How Many Types of Caulk are There?
- Why & Where to Caulk Around Your Home
- Signs a Bathroom Remodel is Coming to Your House Soon
Thanks to Chad Walker, owner of the Texas Shower Company, who contributed the original article which has since been expanded to cover more shower door problems. Following in his grandfather's footsteps, Chad takes great pride in the work he does, giving back to his community by donating all reusable building materials to Habitat for Humanity. Visit Chad's web site at the TexasShowerCompany.
And if you discover that you have a different leak related to a tile shower, here's an amazing video on shower tile problems and how to avoid them.
Thanks for the tips to install door sweeps on your shower doors to keep water in. I don’t want the water to escape into the bedroom and ruin the carpet. I’ll look for some watertight doors that have sweeps on them.
hi, i am looking for a way to repair my tub enclosure sliding glass door that the frame of the door separated from the glass. the vinyl liner is full of soap scum and i would like to replace it. can you help me.
Charly, I can’t give you specific advice as each door is different. It does sound like you need to either clean & reattach the door frame to the glass or possibly replace the door if it can’t be repaired. When doing the repairs, pay close attention to cleaning all the parts, drying them & using the correct adhesive, caulk and piping. Here’s the best article I could find on a project like the one you’re describing, https://www.hunker.com/13415508/how-to-replace-piping-that-holds-glass-inside-frame-of-shower-door
Thank you for talking about the different types of damage a shower leak can cause. It’s been a frustrating experience trying to keep everything clean in my house after moving into it, but the hardest experience I’ve had so far is with the bathroom. We would notice water running for no reason even if we made sure that we sealed the faucets and showers. Now that I know what kind of damage it can cause if we leave it alone, I’ll make sure that I get a plumber to find out why the shower is leaking while taking your advice and preventing the water from reaching the floor in the first place.
Hello there, I have installed a corner shower NEO-ANGLE and it leaks between shower enclosure and base. I have caulked the outside as directed. The issue is that the glass enclosure just sits on the base and then you silicone caulk, well if you bump the shower, the caulk is no longer secure which then leaks past the caulk. Any suggestions?
Zebbie, It sounds like you need to add some type of shower door sweep (like these at Amazon) to the bottom of your glass door. It needs to be flexible when you open/close the door, but seal the opening when closed. Good luck
It’s interesting to know that you need to consider the type of shower door that you have if you are planning on repair any problem with it. My husband noticed that our shower door has a leak, and we are looking for advice. I will let him know about your recommendations to help him with that problem.
We recently remodeled a small bathroom and had a sliding glass shower door installed. Love the door, but water leaks between the vertical gap in the doors. What can be done to help with this? Thanks
This is a barn door type sliding glass door.
Denise, I wish there were a good answer but I don’t have the magic solution. You obviously need some type of seal or weather stripping to put on one of your barn doors. I think you’re going to have to experiment to find the best situation for your doors. It might be something as simple as clear/translucent weatherstripping (here’s one I found on Amazon) or if that isn’t enough to fill the gap, try the door jam stop I showed in the article although you might need to trim it down?
No, you need a wiper style polycarbonate sweep that attaches to the glass by friction. Dream line uses these for the enigma series. And can be purchased through them
Dan, Thanks for trying to help one of my visitors find a solution to their problem. I didn’t find any info about shower door sweeps or seals on the Dreamline website … so I found some added info & will reply to original question.
Denise, I did some more digging & found a great video that explains the 3 types of shower door seals – sweeps at the bottom, seals on the side that doesn’t open & door stops for the side with openings. I also found a website which offers lots of these shower door parts so hopefully you can find what you need.
Thanks so much! These still don’t really address our barn door style glass doors leak problem, but i’ll Try this other web-site to see what I can find. Ours is a top to bottom leak where there is a vertical space between the two glass doors.
Denise, Only one more idea & it’s rather unusual. The door is leaking because the water is pointing at the gap between the door. Can you change the shower head like maybe one of the new overhead, rain shower heads so the water is pointing down rather than sideways? I realize this might not fit your budget & I probably won’t do this in my new house for a couple of years but definitely on my list of future updates.
Denise, I believe that I have the same type of doors that you have. The 2 doors can slide past each other, correct? You want to be sure that the inside door is closest to the shower head and the outside door is at the rear. That way, the gap between the 2 doors is pointed away from the stream of water. Hope this makes sense and helps.
Thanks Mark as it feels like lots of people have this or similar problems.
Lawrence Barnett @sweetbathroom
Firstly, thanks for sharing your information as it’s been really helpful. I enjoyed reading your article. We just bought a house and we found that our frameless shower door has a leak, so I hope we can solve the problem with the information here.
Lawrence, Good luck getting the leak stopped as water damage is the worst.
My shower keeps on leaking. Thank you for letting me know that I can caulk up areas where I believe are causing the leaks. Also I will make sure I look into what type of caulk I use to ensure that it has silicone in it. I am also considering getting a new shower all together. I’ve always loved the look of frame-less showers.
I wanted to look into shower glass doors and see how easy it was to fix. I really appreciated how it talked about how the faster the water can flow down the track and out to the shower drain, the quicker it will dry. I will have to keep this in mind if I hire a company to install a shower door.
Max, If you’re only changing the glass in a door it should be relatively easy. If you try to change the entire shower, you may stumble on the fact that your current shower no longer meets building codes.
Thanks for mentioning that you need to find a specific kind of caulk for shower door leaks, door and window caulk won’t work. I have a leak in my shower door that is driving me crazy. I am going to try to fix it today, thanks for the tips, they should really help!
Thanks for the caulking tips. I will probably use clear caulk on my whole shower. This way I won’t have to worry about matching caulk colors with my grout. If my shower still leaks after this then I’ll just have to call an expert to come fix whatever problems I have caused.
These are all awesome tips for shower doors! I have a curtain on my shower, and this is unrelated but my drain gets clogged because of my long hair. Do you have tips on unclogging drains? Or should I just buy Drano?
Jasmine, I’m at the annual home builder show & haven’t had time to research your question enough. The typical response is to buy/use plumber’s snake (25 ft long) but they’re not always easy to handle (video for this, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGDYaKPAKNI). A cheaper alternative is to use an old fashion coat hannger & there are several videos for this (can’t find the best one but this shows you what I mean, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nauWJ52PnMc) and I found another idea I haven’t validate yet, using a wet/dry vac to suck up standing water & this mihgt (not) do the job, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6sMO3Zsztw)
Google shower drain hair catcher. I used to clog shower drains, and clearing the drain frequently was a real pain – much easier to prevent the hair from going down the drain in the first place!
You’re so right Daniell, that it’s better to prevent problems than to have to clean up and/or repair the problems they create. I’ve had short hair for so long that I forget how badly long hair can clog up drains so thanks for the reminder.
Omg such a helpful tip!!! I’m horrible when it comes to repairs so this will help in the further
Courtney, This one is important along with any problems related to hidden water damage.
It’s funny that I would read this today. Last night my son used the shower that’s on the second floor. When he was done, there was water all over the floor, and I got mad at him thinking he just left the door open but turns out the door is not closing properly.
Perfect timing & good luck finding/fixing the problem.
This is such great advice. So many people would just think to replace the door.
Wow, guess I never even thought of that option, LOL. My worst experience when running my handyman business – on the second recall I finally called 2 plumbers and learned that the shower pan will sink a bit when a really heavy person is standing in the shower. Sure enough, the husband who I never met weighed about 250 lbs … so my directions to my technician were to stand inside the shower when caulking, to simulate the husband. No more callbacks after that!
I discovered a leak and damage to a wall and floor this weekend while removing moldy caulking. I was happy to find your website while looking for repair help. Thank you for making home repairs easier.
Good luck fixing the problem Carol and hope to see you back here.
PS Make sure you clean all the mold out, and get the surfaces nice and clean before applying new mold that is specifically meant for bathrooms, preferably one that has an additive that tries to prevent mold growth.
Beautiful shower!! Thank you so much for the tips!
I just had to do my shower in our guest bathroom. Wish I had seen this post beforehand, your photos are great.
Vanessa, You may find that your walls get streaky from the water vapor & it will dry if you have enough ventilation. If it bothers you, you might want to re-paint.
My husband uses Caulk for everything it has been a lifesave, but I never really know how it holds up with water. Must be good.
Thanks for making me laugh. Caulk is like magic but only if you use the right kind as I have a friend who somehow buys the wrong kind of caulk & it turns black from mold. They’re different & you definitely want the right caulk for anything that will come into contact with water.
This is really helpful. It’s probably time to make sure there aren’t any small leaks. That water damage gets out of hand quickly.
Sounds like you’ve seen these problems before as yes, they can get out of hand …
This is timely since we have shower leaks too. I should go to the hardware to check on this product. Thanks for sharing!
Mhaan | http://www.mommyrockininstyle.com
Water leaks are something you want to fix as soon as possible, to avoid hidden wood rot damage that can be very costly to repair … so head over to your hardware store or order caulk online.
It makes sense that leaks are a result of installation errors. We have metal fixtures and glass doors so the clear silicone caulk works best for our showers.
Being a single parent this will come in very handy! I had a leak a few years ago and had to get the ex husband in to have a look but now I can revisit this blog and sort it myself 🙂 Thankyou for sharing!
Emma, So glad to have connected as that’s my goal at Home Tips, to simplify home maintenance & repairs so women can manage their homes with confidence.
Hi .my shower bottom track leaks underneath because it has to set too far back from the edge so the water cant drain back into the shower. .not sure a sweep will be long enough ..or do they makw extra long ones?
Most are 36″ long – but there are some that are 96″ long.
Nice to hear that the brand is giving back to other people. I’ve never experienced leaks in my bathroom coz probably I keep on moving houses, but now at least I know now what to do.
I can certainly relate to the “keep moving” because we’re now in our 15th house. You still want to be vigilant because you don’t know what hidden problems you inherit with each house you buy … and that goes for new houses too.
We have had to do this a couple of times. Caulk is a great inexpensive fix on so many things. Thanks for sharing!
Corallie, Yes we’re lucky to have lots of magic home products to prevent … or repair, so many problems. The trick is simply matching the right product to the project & that can be challenging.
This is great to know! I’ll keep it in mind.
Amber, The most important thing you can do to maintain your home (and it’s value) is to look at things more closely so you can tell when something’s different … and then, when you spot something get it fixed before there’s a big expense or worse, an emergency.
Very good tips about leaks in the bathroom. I have used some of these when I had to repair mine a few years back.
Glad to here that you found & repaired your bathroom leaks Wendy. It’s so important & most often, not knowing what to do … homeowners just ignore these problems.
Ana De- Jesus
Wow I never knew that you should be careful about how much caulk you use. I will bear that in mind next time!
That is fantastic! I have that problem in my bathroom but I’ve never thought about this. Thank you!
Melanie, This isn’t a problem to ignore because it can cost you a lot of money. Water trapped inside walls or under floors supports wood rot, and you might not find the damage for years. In one house where the kids constantly splashed water outside the tub, my handyman business had to remove the floor, subfloor & some of the floor joists … because the problem was ignored.
Very interesting article. I didn’t realize it’s bad to use too much caulk. I’ll have to keep these pointers in mind next time when we remodel our bathroom. Great photos!
Jennifer, It’s only bad to use caulk where there are holes with a purpose. Water is bad, bad & bad. That’s why there are weep holes in shower doors, windows, decks & places you wouldn’t imagine like behind brick siding. These weep holes give the water a path to escape because if it’s trapped inside your house/walls/siding, it will contribute to wood rot.
Alison | So Chic Life
We built our home a year ago and I just noticed our master bath needs to be resealed in the corners. I guess the house settled which caused the corners to separate a little. Have you ever heard of that happening?
Alison, New houses always settle as the ground adjusts to being excavated & then backfilled. Your problem is most likely due to grout being used throughout the bathroom(s) and grout isn’t flexible. That’s why settling causes the grout to crack. It’s just the way tile has been installed forever. You’ve got to dig a bit to find grout that has matching (color) caulk so you can use it in the most vulnerable places – seams between walls & floor and where different materials meet. If you’re able to find a matching caulk that would be great. If not, you can use clear caulk to protect the area from water seeping in (don’t use the shower for a few days before sealing) although you might still see the cracks.
Most leaks are very small, but the water accumulates over time to the point that mold and mildew stains the ceiling and walls below,
so interested! Where can I find more like this?
Mold in Homes
Thank you for taking the time to create and maintain this…never easy when you’re busy.
Grout Colorseal Philadelphia
I must say that overall I am really impressed with this blog.It is easy to see that you are passionate about your writing.
Thanks and I love your website’s before/after photos. I’d love to learn more about why there are so many problems with grout and how often grout should be sealed.