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Install & Replace

Bath tile loose along soap holder

I recently noticed our soap holder surrounded by tile, in our bath/shower area is separating from the wall.  It appears to give when I place my hand on the tile area.  The house was built in 1979, which I suppose the material used was drywall.  Should I fix the problem area or the whole area around the tub/shower?  If so what is needed to complete the task?

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Posted 2011-03-06T18:48:03+0000  by sc1t3ach3r sc1t3ach3r

Hey sc1t3ach3r,


Thanks for the great question and welcome to the community.


Seeing/feeling  bathroom tiles giving way on the shower wall is a common issue I hear about a lot when I'm at  the store in my tile aisle.


Since your house was built in 1979, I am with you in the thinking that the tiles are in their state now is due to having drywall or some gypsum-based board up behind the tiles, creating the loose tiles. The best solution is checking the problem area first with the soap holder, since it is something that can be reattached easier than replacing the entire wall of tiles out, IF it is the only that small area. 


To to that, grab a manual grout saw, and a stiff putty knife, and see if you can take the grout lines off the bad areas first, be it around the soap dish or even the row of tiles that touch the shower/bath area. The area where the tile meets perpendicularly to the shower/sink/threshold etc. is the #1 spot where tiles can fail in a bathroom. Taking off the grout lines ensures that when you take the tiles off the wall, it will be easier and cleaner to remove and renovate certain areas of your wall if needed. Here is a picture of the manual grout saw I typically use for projects like these.



After taking most of the grout off the loose areas, see you if you can take off the individual tiles with your putty knife/pry bar. After taking off a few few, you will be able to discern whether or not you will need to replace the board underneath the tile or try to salvage it. More often than not though, it is easier to take off the rest of the wall and start over, since you do not have to worry about this situation happening ever again.


My co-conspirator greengiant did a post a while back regarding entire replacement of your walls, if that is the case, you can find the information he gave and the link here



Also, consider the structure integrity of the 2x6 studs that (typically) are holding up the walls in there if you get to the exposed studs. If they are moldy or have mildew, check and clean them before putting any backerboard down again, and even placing a vapor barrier like thick 6mil plastic can protect them even further down the road. Doing this makes sure no water penetrates and damages any load bearing supports for your bathroom wall.


It's always the small things that you can't see in your home that sometimes can lead to big projects. However, try out checking the tiles first, and if you do have to replace the wall out with a newer one, it will be a project I can guarantee you'll never have to do ever again.


Let me or any of us on the community here if you have any further questions!



Posted 2011-03-07T13:47:27+0000  by Joseph_HD_ATL
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