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Tips for Installing Leakproof Showers

Shower installations are tough, no getting around it. Most home remodeling projects require care, but this is one case where even a small error can lead to disaster. Behind-the-wall or under-the-floor leaks can cause increased insect invasions and large repair bills. So, before you decide to undertake it, prepare to commit yourself to nothing less than a first rate job.

Most do-it-yourself'ers won't be installing all the plumbing from scratch, but just replacing or re-doing an existing shower. That's a big advantage but it presents the need to make sure you prepare all the surfaces properly.

After the old shower is removed it isn't necessary to chip away or sand every single spot of glue or silicon caulk. But you do need to ensure that wherever the new shower meets the drain pipe or wall surfaces that everything will fit flush and snug.

To do that, start with the drain pipe. Make sure the pipe is clean and smooth as new for at least an inch down its length. Clear away any build up from calcium carbonate (the white chalky mineral common in most water systems) and sand away any rust. If the pipe is corroded to the point it can't be well sealed, it will need to be replaced. A job for a professional, in most cases.

If you attach a copper pipe to a galvanized one, be sure to join the two with some insulating material. Because of natural electro-chemical activity between the two types of metal, corrosion will result over time otherwise. For plastic piping, this isn't a concern. Use a generous amount of Teflon tape or pipe sealing compound at any threaded joints.

Now that your surfaces are prepared, lay the pan or complete molded unit into place. For pan and shower-door installations you'll need to carefully seal the line around the base with silicon caulking. Most large hardware or home project stores have pre-made tubes that don't require use of a caulking gun, but those too are inexpensive.

Place the flange in the pan hole and connect according to the manufacturers directions. Here again, you'll need to seal the result with compound and/or silicon caulking. Take care to get everything at the proper angle.

One way to check for leaks, after the assembly has dried for an hour, is to build a small, temporary 'dam' around the flange. You can use any piece of non-absorbing material for this, it doesn't have to be water tight. Stop the drain, pour in a cup of water and see whether it leaks through.

If leaks exist, it can be frustrating. But, it's best to find out right away if the assembly needs to be re-done.

Once you have the flange fitted and sealed, and the pan or complete mold caulked and set, you can install the shower door hardware.

Here again you want to take care to prevent leaks. Though not disastrous if water leaks through to the bathroom, it's still unpleasant. While drilling and fastening rails and tracks according to the directions, seal the exterior surfaces only.

That way any small water build up can drain back into the tub. Also, since rails and tracks can experience small warps with changes in temperature, moisture inside small crevices can evaporate more readily. That helps cut down on mildew buildup.

Congratulations! You've now installed a safe, healthy shower that will last.