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Drainage Problem

Drainage is a topic near and dear to the hearts of all New Orleanians. Well, maybe not dear. Anyway, besides the inadequate pumps and clogged sewers, I’ve got a new kind of drainage problem at home. This was revealed when the plumber visited yesterday and installed our shower heads.

Drainage Problem

Yes, it seems that the floor of the shower is not level. Even I know that the floor should slope from the edges to the drain. Alas, ours just seems to slope uniformly in one direction, so that water pools to the side.

It is a most egregious situation.

I had assumed that this job had been done right. I didn’t double check their work with a level. Actually, now that I look at it, I realize you can see the slant is off even without a level. (The tile guys didn’t put a liner down either. There’s nothing under the shower but concrete and the earth, so I’m not sure that we need a liner.)

I am meeting Juan the Tile Guy tomorrow morning to talk about it. I don’t think there’s much that can be done except rip up the tile floor, pour concrete for a proper slope, and re-tile. I’m just hoping Juan will do it for no extra charge. A Times-Picayune photographer is scheduled to show up at the same time, to take pictures of the situation for Stephanie Bruno’s next installment of our renovation story. Maybe that will put Juan in a generous frame of mind.

Update: Juan came early and so beat the photographer. He’s agreed to make it right at no extra charge. At first he thought it could be fixed by just re-doing the lower half of the floor, but I said I wanted a liner so they’ll be re-doing the whole floor as well as part of the lower wall.

Published inOur HousePix


  1. I think Juan and his gang are stone-cold morons. I can’t believe they didn’t put down a liner… that is basic to building a shower.

    Our guys might be available for a repair on your shower, but it’ll be after Turkey Day.

  2. rcs rcs

    IANA tile installer but properly sloping a shower base is Tiling 101-level stuff. Juan has no right to charge you for fixing his mistake.

  3. Juan fucked up. If he doesn’t fix it for free, with a smile, at no charge….well, you got fucked.

    The real problem is that he didn’t do it right in the first place, and maybe even didn’t know HOW to do it right in the first place. That’s very problematic. Google it and you’ll find all kinds of detailed notes on the proper construction of a shower bed, pan, liner, tiles, etc.

  4. Juan came early and so beat the photographer. He’s agreed to make it right at no extra charge. At first he thought it could be fixed by just re-doing the lower half of the floor, but I said I wanted a liner so they’ll be re-doing the whole floor as well as part of the lower wall.

  5. Bart, I’m surprised I didn’t hear from ya about this, but maybe I lost my status as your professional tile consultant when I failed to show up last year to do it for you….Sorry bout that! Anyway, number one, there absolutely must be a liner. And it doesn’t just go under the floor; it must wrap up the walls (at least six or eight inches) and up and over the dam (the step-over ledge at the entry to the shower). The liner must drain into the weep-holes in the drain assembly — they’re little holes that are in the base part of the pvc drain assembly that the top part screws into. A good tile guy will “preslope” with thinset or concrete underneath the liner, but that’s not absolutely necessarily in your situation since you’re not at danger of wood damage underneath.

    The drypack concrete goes over the liner, and it absolutely MUST drain evenly toward the drain. In your situation there should be a 3/4″ drop from the wall to the drain all the way around. That’s accomplished by measuring the drain height from the subfloor, then measuring up 3/4″ plus the drain height on the wall, marking a level line all the way around the wall, then working the drypack from there. It’s worked by roughly shaping it into the area, and then tamping it down with a trowel – that brings the moisture toward the surface.

    Note that if he’s pouring wet concrete and trying to work with that, he doesn’t know what he’s doing; drypack — which has the consistency of moist sand when mixed (it’s more crumbly than wet) — is the only reliable way to go.

    I’m sorry if it puts a scare in you, but when I heard what you’re paying, my first thought was, “this guy isn’t a professional.” Our company would normally charge in the neighborhood of $4,000 for a shower like that, tile not included. We’re not the most expensive around here, and we’re certainly not making a killing. I think you’d do well to review all the steps of how a shower pan is built and go over them carefully with him before you have him resume work (matter is right: there are plenty of good tutorials online). Shower pans are the one thing that I would never recommend to a non-professional; there’s just too much that can go wrong; so make sure he is fastidious about it the second time around.


  6. Joe, thanks for the advice. I’m still not clear on why we need a liner. Some of the sites I’ve read indicate it’s to protect the subflooring. But we don’t have any subflooring — under the concrete is just earth.

    I don’t have a lot of confidence that Juan’s crew can do the job the way you describe.

  7. That’s an awfull way of doing business, but by getting this guy’s name out, he’ll get a bad name and he’ll get less business so it’s his image too he should worry about and deliver better. Good luck

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