Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How not to prepare your steam shower for a linear shower drain

Yesterday I visited a new job site in Burnaby to take a look at the preparation work done so far on a Kerdi Line drain Steam Shower Build.  The home is the personal one of a local builder and this builder was a little worried about the installation work so far.

When I got there every thing look somewhat OK.  A few minor things where not as I like to see but the truly shocking points where discovered when I double checked the pre-slope work.  In the following pictures a Kerdi Specialist (at least this is what a local Burnaby tile store employee told my client) was hired to prepare the pre-slope and set the Kerdi Line drain.

A pre-slope was installed.  So was a 36" Kerdi-Line drain.  At first observation it appeared that a basic pre-slope of roughly 2% was in place but once the true checking took place we found out a massive flaw in this Kerdi steam shower build.

Take a look at the following pictures closely and see if you can spot the errors before reading on below.



Spoiler Alert !!!

Before you continue reading this text first scan the pictures and see if you spot the problem on your own.

Looking at these top two pictures everything looks pretty good.  We can see a grade change from the left side of the bathroom to the shower and the Kerdi Drain looks like it is installed roughly 7/8" below the surface of the dry side.  

I discussed many things with the builder during our design call (he booked a meeting with me via this blog page).  We talked about European installations of Kerdi verses Canadian installations.  We discussed the pit falls of Kerdi.  The better choice in the DS version.  We discussed capillary breaks.  Vapour proofing benches and walls.  We discussed the glass layout.  We covered bath mats and stainless trims.  Pretty much everything he wanted.

I asked to borrow a level (mine was way down outside in the truck) and I did a quick check of the prep work.  I found a piece of 1/2" drywall outside the room and cut two small pieces to use as shims.  When you check a pre-slope with a four foot level you need to raise the low side (drain side) one inch.  Then the level should read level.  This tells you there is a 1/4" per foot slope.



Here you can see the four foot level I used and the scrap pieces of drywall.  When I checked the floor I assumed the level was broken.  So I flipped it and shockingly got the same read.  I have never seen a worse job of a pre-slope.  Remember this work was done by a local Burnaby Kerdi Installation Specialist - or so they say.

I re-checked with a two foot level and got the same readings.  Here is what the two foot level showed me.



The level is checking the PRE - SLOPE.  The key word is SLOPE.  Do you see the slope?  If you do it's an optical illusion since the shower floor that should have a 1" drop from the right to the left is in fact perfectly level.  Not graded like required by Schluter, the TCNA, the TTMAC and the BC Plumber's Asspociation.  FLAT - are your kidding me?

The builder was of course not so happy with my findings.  I stayed an hour plus past our agreed meeting time no charge to document this find and to try and find out how this could have happened.  I noticed at the entry to the bathroom that the bottom 2"x4" was higher than the cement concrete.  By almost 7/8".  This by itself is concerning since below the concrete is radiant heating and cooling pipes.  These should be topped with 1.5" of concrete.

Now I mentioned that this is the builders own home.  He took the time to add little plywood spacers for the concrete placers so he could have a 2" pour of concrete not the typical 1.5".  I believe he did this to make his floor stronger but to also allow more room to make the barrier free no hob shower.

I asked if he had a string line and we pulled it from the East side of the master bedroom to the West wall of the bathroom.  When we checked the dip in the middle it was over 3/4".





Now when you look at this photo below the concrete on the left of the shower is 1" higher than the concrete to the right in front of the bench.  The concrete pour is light.  What I mean by that is that they did not pump out all the concrete this builder ordered and paid for.

Now I'm not going to say the kerdi Specialist is fully to blame since he probably set the Kerdi Line drain down over it's silly foam gasket thingy and set that 1" below the concrete on the left hand wall.  Then levelled off his mortar bed with the floor and graded the two points and assumed he had it perfect.

But as we can see.  If the installer bothered the check the floor grade like I did he would have found the floor was out of wack.  This is a barrier free shower.  If this had got to the point of being tiled the water would have escaped the shower and flooded the bedroom.  The floor has a  grade towards the bedroom.  A total train wreck of an install.


I poured some water over the pre-slope to see what happens.  The water spread in all directions with very little movement toward the drain.  So - all we can say is this is not how to install a Kerdi Line drain's pre-slope.  This is not the way to build a barrier free Hobless Shower and now the fix is a total do over, or the builder needs to build a curb for his curbless shower.

How pissed would you be?

This builder hired me for a one hour design call.  I charged him $125.00.  I just saved him thousands in future repairs.  And to boot - I get to quote on the repairs and the installation on the vapour proofing.

I guess the real lesson here is not trusting a tile shop's retail person to pick your tradesmen.  You might also learn that a second opinion on a build is not such a bad thing.  To add insult to inquiry the builder was short changed but the concrete placers.  Now he will have to live with out of level floors or spend thousands more on new self levelling concrete to fix the problem.

If I was a builder or homeowner I would learn from this.  I would double check my concrete pours and make sure the work was done like it should have been - before paying for the work.  They say you get what you pay for.  In this case that is not true - this builder got shafted - got screwed.  At least his gut instinct was right.  He did not feel like it was right.  He researched what to look for.  Found me. Called me and then the same day had the answers he wish he didn't have....