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.
Dealing with water leaks is a common problem for many of my handyman customers. They generally try to solve the problem themselves, and then ask for help when it doesn't work. The challenge is figuring out what part of the shower door or tub is leaking.
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!