Now’s a good time to learn how to prevent water damage in your bathroom before it’s too late! When you find damage, it’s not only a huge hassle, but it can be costly to repair water damage or have mold remediation done.
And what you should know is that your bathroom is just like any other room in your home and can be prone to mold and rot and damaged by humidity or leaks more easily since so much water is used daily in there. Besides a few lines of sealant or waterproof tiles in the shower, there’s nothing to protect your bathroom other than thinking ahead and taking a few extra cautions.
Check Your Exhaust
Be sure to turn on your exhaust fan every time you shower or use the tub and leave it on for a while afterward. Certain states require that landlords provide an exhaust in the bathroom, so if you’re renting and you don’t have one or yours is broken, you should find out your rights and have the landlord fix or install one.
If you’ve purchased your home, the onus is on you to have a working fan. At the very least, a bathroom window near the shower can be opened, or you can place a dehumidifier of various sizes in the bathroom, but the exhaust fan is by far the best remedy as it removes the most moisture and odors no matter what the weather is outside your window.
Minimize Splashing and Pooling Water
It can be helpful when you enter the shower to run your hand under the water, then down the shower wall where your plastic liner hangs. Pushing the liner against the freshly wet wall will act as a seal and hold the shower liner tighter against the wall so while you wash, water is not splashing out. And if you have a shower door instead of a curtain, check the seal on the door if you notice water outside the shower.
If you find a little water on the floor, don’t leave it thinking it will dry itself soon enough. Wipe it up so it’s not finding its way into hairline cracks and spaces or damaged tile grout. The same goes for water on the walls – repeated splashes of water will damage your drywall.
Kids splash a lot, so having extra towels tucked against the corners around the outside of the tub will make for easier water clean-up. And no matter what age the user, get a great, absorbent bath mat that you can hang to dry after use.
Something most of us never think about is that water sitting in the bathtub can find it’s way out of old or defective pipes, so drain bath water immediately instead of waiting. This type of water damage would be caused under the floor and that can certainly cost you time, aggravation, and a lot of money to fix if there’s rot.
Check Your Grout, Caulk, Drywall, and Tiles
Leaks can be hard to locate because the discoloration in a ceiling, wall or floor does not necessarily mean that’s the place the leak is originating from. For instance, since the toilet is usually the lowest point in the bathroom, leaks from other sources can run along under the floor and pool in the toilet area making you think the toilet is the source of the leak. It can take some detective work to find the true source, and most likely a professional if you’re not a natural at this sort of thing.
Also pay attention to bubbling, soft, or warping drywall and musty or dewy smells that you need to track down a source for, not just discolorations. If your drywall is soft, it should be replaced. You can try temporarily poking holes in the area to help let moisture out until the wall can be replaced. But don’t leave it too long! The source of the water damage or leak needs to be found and remedied before it gets worse or mold grows, and the materials behind that drywall need to be thoroughly dried out and checked for mold before new drywall can be installed.
Any tiles damaged by cracks, chips, breaks, or that are missing altogether need to be replaced immediately. Grout often has micro-sized chips that aren’t easily seen as it decays and/or is walked on day in and day out and so it should be maintained to high standards so there’s less chance water will find its way under the tiles. If there has been damage to tiles or grout for quite some time, you may have mold growth underneath already.
As for caulk, you’ll want to check anything in the bathroom where caulk was used or where you need to use it. A tub surround is not easy or cheap to replace, so if it’s cracking, warping, or growing mold, you’ll want to treat it immediately to stop the mold growth and caulk any areas where water can get behind the surround until you’re able to replace it. Likewise, you’ll need to check your shower pan for cracks and punctures as damage to a shower pan is certainly going to cause water damage to your subfloor underneath. If you don’t know what a shower pan or tub surround is, please Google them!
Check Your Sink and Vanity Too
Go inside and under your vanity to check water lines, pipes, and caulking for damage or leaks. Repair and replace as needed. Keep the faucet area of the sink dry and free from any sitting water as the seals and caulk will eventually deteriorate and allow that water to leak.
Oh, That Leaky Toilet!
And finally, if you’re not a plumber or motivated to do a lot of Googling and YouTube video research, this is where a professional will surely need to be hired. There are so many reasons a toilet could be leaking and sometimes it seems it’s one thing, but it ends up being another. There are valves, floor flanges, gaskets, tank-to-bowl connections, the possibility that the leak is sourced elsewhere but pooling under the toilet…so don’t be afraid to get some help.
There’s silicone caulk or another product that could need sealing around the base of the toilet, so do check that regularly as well. This is important as pooling or splashed water, bad aim by users, toilet leaks from above, and water during mopping can find its way under your toilet and subfloor. Be sure to take this step only if you’re sure there’s no current leak, and keep a gap open behind the base of the toilet so any large leaks will show themselves in the future instead of being completely sealed and allowed to damage everything to the point of no return.
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