Small spots of missing grout
The first picture shows a half inch of missing grout, more than enough to allow water to seep in and cause big problems.
This next picture shows a small piece of missing grout directly above the soap dish, After a short period of time the soap dish will be history. It is common to see these problems in the lower front corner of the shower, the area that takes the direct water assault every day.
The third photo shows how the caulk has separated from the tub, once this happens water gets trapped behind the caulk causing it to turn black from the inside out. This also creates the problem of the water running along the lip of the tub, behind the caulk and tile, finding its way to the floor outside the shower, ultimately causing floor damage as well.
Inspect your grout and caulk periodically
It is a great idea to inspect all your tile work from time to time as most of these minor problems can be fixed easily and inexpensively, but putting it off will surely result in thousands of dollars in repairs.
What causes these problems?
There are many reasons grout and caulk fail, the main reason is poor installation. Grout is a cement based product that has no elasticity at all, so if there is any movement in the wall, floor, or tub, the grout will crack for sure. It is common for the grout to crack along the corners and edges after installation, when this happens we usually caulk those areas. Caulk has the elastic properties needed to handle the expansion and contraction that happens in all homes. Just filling a bathtub can be enough weight to compromise the joints between the tile and the tub if the subfloor, floor joists or tub installation does not meet code requirements.
Other common reasons for failure is improper mixing of the grout, over working the grout with too much water, or not preparing the surfaces for grout and caulk. Caulk will not stick properly to surfaces that have moisture, soap scum, body oils, mold, mildew ect…
These additional reasons still fall under the improper installation category. The only reason that doesn’t fall under that category is faulty products. Bad grout and caulk is not common, but we do come across it from time to time. Just like grocery shopping, always check the dates on the product, I have come across many out of date products in the home centers across the Fredericksburg area. Never use grout or caulk that has been opened or laying around the garage for a long time. These products are inexpensive and it is definitely worth buying fresh sealed product for every job.
The last two photos show the same tub and shower I worked on, in Stafford County Virginia last week. Both were minor repairs that took less than an hour, and will save this rental property from big repairs and even worse…down time.