Plastic Laminate Shower Walls

Topic: 
Bathrooms
Question: 

Dear George and Associates,

What is the proper installation of a "seamless?" laminate shower that does happen to have a horizontal seam in it at a height of five feet.

I have a new installation of a seamless laminate shower in a bathroom remodel. The product is molded horizontally and is only five feet wide or tall as you look at the shower pan to ceiling shower. Thus there are two horizontal pieces to this shower. The Seamless Shower Walls, Inc. out of Fresno, California, put the bottom piece over the top piece with a four inch overlap. At this height a lot of water will hit that seam. Then they put a molding around the horizontal seam and sealed it with silicone. However, before the rest of the other part of the bathroom remodel was done the bottom piece of the shower had pulled away from the wall on the longest or back side of the shower. The company then came back and tried to reglue the wall and pushed a frame on it to hold until it was dry. Since that did not work they say they will redo the bottom section using more glue.

The contractor I am working with for other projects and who properly prepared the shower area for this company states that he believes the overlap should go the other way like shingles on a roof or siding on a house, whereby the top piece overlaps on top of the bottom piece so the water will run down and off. Or he says some kind of z-molding engineering should be done to assure water will not creep behind the bottom half.

The company states this bottom over top is perfectly fine and that the glue will last for years and seal the wall perfectly. At the same time they are saying they can easily remove the bottom half and redo it.

With this bathroom remodel we have corrected many leak problems in the walls and flooring and we are anxious that this installation of a shower will not repeat the past troubles. Unfortunately we are already tied in with this company and I am not sure they are giving us the right information. They also have been fairly rude stating that our contractor does not know what he is talking about.

The situation today is that the contractor is suggesting that I request them to pull the whole thing out and put the top over the bottom. The company is insisting that they only do the job one way, bottom over top and that they are going to schedule in the time when they are going to return.

I want the job done correctly and I need some leverage that comes from knowledge and what is the proper installation technique. California code is that the wall be waterproof to six feet. The company is saying that I have to do the maintenance for the seam to last. Then they said that they would come out and do the maintenance and if it does not work replace everything ... all damage. They say over the phone that their product lasts 10 years, but on the back of the estimate, it states five years for the product and one year for the installation. I have already paid for the product as the installation was completed.

I will appreciate your input into this confusing situation.

Sincerely, Elizabeth

Answer: 

Hello Elizabeth,

Glues and caulking are wonderful products and I am not sure how we could get along without them. But glue and caulking have their limitations and should not be used where other techniques can be used.

When it comes to water, glues and caulking have some severe limitations and when it comes to showers, they should be used as secondary methods to prevent leaks etc. This confirms your contractor?s comments about the use of ?shingle? style work in the shower area. Shingles allow water to drain from one surface down to the next and this is a much better and longer lasting method for roofs, shower stalls and flashing system.

I vote for the upper piece to go over the lower piece and then to use glues and caulking to act as secondary protections and methods to hold the plastic laminate on the wall.

As for rudeness, it has not place in a business relationship. I would attempt to extricate yourself from further relationship with any contractor who can?t act in a civil and polite manner.

One more point. The shower surfaces are critical in building a good bathroom. In my work, I find that failing shower surfaces are one of the most common defects in homes. And so I would advise you to have a quality contractor install a good shower surface. And if that costs another $1000+, its better to do such work now then to pay a lot more to fix the problem later.

George

p.s. I am pleased to tell you that this and all other questions are answered by me, George