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Whatever happened with the good ol hotmop? There is enough felt and tar in one of them things to make you think a dinosaur died in there many moons ago.
I have torn apart many shower surrounds, some had zero damage, others had damage that cost thousands of dollars worth of labor to repair, I have seen some nasty damage. It baffles me how people think its OK to rip out the sheetrock if they were feeling sporty, replace it with hardi board and tile right over it. No moisture barrier, no fiber tape at the seams, NOTHING! I have gone so far on a couple of jobs to quietly talk to the home owner and ask if this is how they told the tile guy to do the tile, if they say "its how the tile guy is doing it" I recommend they do some research on how the tile should be done before they let the tile guy use up their expensive marble. Once its installed, there is no re-using it. Some customers were flat out angry that I would have the nerve to question their tile guy, others were very thankful I said something. The ones who get upset usually have the line of "well so and so has been doing tile for me and my friends forever, never had a problem." I finish their sentence with "yet" and try to avoid the door hitting me on the way out...
I did construction management for residential tract homes for several years. I worked closely with the customer service guys, and sometimes would see things that would blow my mind. Tile would always somehow get past the grout, make its way down to the top of the fiberglass pan, and then enter the home. As luck would have it, the person who did the grout were usually people making $10 an hour, barely spoke english, and had no problems with filling up the weep hole. The owners also did not care for staring at the weep hole, would call it in as a warranty issue to have the hole filled. Most of the time however, the hole would be filled. "Why would they have this stupid ugly hole here for anyways..."
The customer service manager got so fed up with this re-occuring problem that he mandated that all tile installations not get the lower course grouted or caulked to stop this problem. It was maybe 3 years too late however, the problem was showing up in 3-4 year old homes, and was slowly making its way to the new construction. Oh boy was all I could think. It looked TERRIBLE not having that grout applied, but that is what the head chingon of customer service wanted, and talked the head chingon of the construction side of letting him dictate how it was going to go. OMG the problems I had with homeowners complaining that their shower did not look finished....
Me: "Uhm, yeah, well, that is how its supposed to look so you don't get water damage..."
Them: What kind of shoddy home are you selling to be leaving this unfinished. Isn't this tile supposed to be water proof?
Me: Yes it is "supposed" to be, I am just doing what I am told to do.
Them Blah blah blah blah blah etc.
Me: I am sorry Sir/Ma'am, if there is a problem you need to talk to the Sales folks, they will be able to help you.
[this is where I would tactfully change the subject or pretend I had a meeting I had to go to then disapear]
Another issue I could think of was the PVC liners, and the crummy tar paper they would use over top of the sheetrock before they would put down the chicken wire. That paper can barely withstand having water sit on it for 5-10 minutes before it gets soft. "Duh, er, um uh, code says we can use it...." 60 minute building paper is a little bit better, but the 60 minutes is how long it can withstand water before it fails, and that is just one time its rated for. WTH?
The issue I had with the PVC liners was that I would fail my shower pan inspection EVER TIME because the liner would be compressed forcing it to conform to the shape of the weep holes, plugging them. If there was not 3 visible streams of water flowing when the nails were pulled, I failed. It got so irritating trying to get the tile guy back to make it work, or have him deal with the inspector, I did what any good superintendent should NEVER do... Bring in their own tools and fix it themselves. (you personally assume liability for their work by telling them how to do their job or touch anything they did) I wonder now if I had really done the liner any favors by making a relief cut in the where the weep holes would go. It was a nightmare to get those things dry so I could re apply silicone to the underside of the liner, it took forever to get things dry enough... I bet somebody going back into those homes was cursing whoever the idiot was who last touched them?
Maybe stuff back in the old days never rotted out because people did not shower as often??
We used copper pans up North also and had no problems. I suspect the lead pans worked just as good. The PVC pans down here in Fl work when installed properly but do have failures, where the copper pans didn't. the only regular water damage I see is at the threshold corners. I've got in the habit of adding outside corners to the PVC pans on those thresholds. Our tile guys notch the framing corners and thresholds to accommodate the extra thickness of the PVC folds.