Trouble-shooting a leak
I guess for some of us, 2020 is taking a little bit of time to go away! Just before the weekend, my wife saw that there were water stains appearing on the ground floor... just beneath the bath and shower combo in the bathroom. Sigh... that could be a portent of something that is going to go really badly... or it could be just a small leak.
We did initially call our plumber straight away... but for whatever reason, he never got back to us. It has been a couple of years since we needed his services, so it is quite possible that he is no longer in The Netherlands! Anyway, we have a back-up option just in case...
Still, the fact that he didn't reply straight away was a bit of a blessing in disguise. It meant that we had a bit of time to recover from our initial freak-out and start to look at the problem a bit more logically.
Given that the area of the water stain is pretty small and it isn't crazy dripping, I'm hoping that it is a small leak, and hopefully something that is related to the sealing rather than a leaking pipe in the wall!
After the stain dried... it didn't take long, half a day... we tested just having baths for a day or two, and that caused no leakage stains. So, that seemed to rule out the bath or anything under the bath being the problem. Also, it meant that it wasn't likely to be a pipe in the wall or the drainage pipe either!
Whilst the tub was filling, I would stand on a chair directly under the bathroom to see if I could hear any dripping or other unwanted sounds. Of course, there is always the problem of pipes creaking and rubbing against wood as they expand with the heat... that sounds very much like water dripping at times.
There was a dripping sound coming from inside the electrical cabinet just inside the corner which have me a bit of a scare. But after tamping down the wooden top of the cabinet and stopping the water pipe from moving... it appears that the pipe was rubbing the wooden plate as it warmed up, and then when it moved slightly to release the tension, it sounded like a small drip. Phew! A water leak in the electrical cabinet would have been a disaster! However, we probably would have noticed something going really bad earlier... or not...
So, it meant that the leak was likely something to do with having showers. So, my wife and I resumed having showers... and lo and behold, the water stain appeared again. Now, all of the shower fittings that carry water are outside the wall.... so, that is a good thing, as there would be no need to smash the wall (something that I definitely wouldn't be able to do with my incredibly minimal DIY skills....).
But... if the water carrying components of the shower were outside the wall...that wouldn't explain how the water would get in behind the wall and onto the floor under the bath. Unless.....
For some reason, the previous owner of the house didn't seal the fittings on the shower and taps around the wall. I did a bit of searching online, and it appears that some people think that you should and others think that you shouldn't. Apparently, the backplates of the fittings should prevent leakage... but other people say that you should seal it anyway, even if it makes it a bit more of a pain later on to adjust or remove.
Taking a closer look at our fittings, there were some places where there were gaps between the wall and the fitting that were on the order of a millimetre or two... and this could definitely be places where water could flow through whilst having a shower. So, with a jury-rigged hack job, we sealed the fitting areas with duct tape and cut up plastic bag to test out that hypothesis...
... and for the last couple of days, no water stain or leakage. So, I think that this is the cause... can't be totally sure, but I will seal up the fittings this week with silicone and then keep an eye on the stain area. If this was the problem, it is a much cheaper and less invasive fix than breaking open the wall to check the pipes!
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