What Can a Broken Shower Do To My Bathroom?

Many people tend to ignore the “minor inconvenience” of their damaged or broken showerhead. Or, they tell themselves that “it’s not a big problem, I can take care of it later” over and over when they turn on the water and start watching the erratic spray of the shower. If you have a broken showerhead in your bathroom, however, you should have it repaired or replaced as soon as you notice it, not someday maybe somewhere down the line when you have a free weekend or something. Putting off a home repair job for too long can lead to what was once a simple leak becoming a full-blown crisis over time.

While a broken shower may not be immediately catastrophic, over time, it can cause several problems for your bathroom, and your home:

Mold/Mildew. One of the most common problems with any leak in the home is the accumulation of mold and mildew. A leak or break in a showerhead can create an ideal environment for mold to grow, especially if the leak is occurring in the wall behind the showerhead. If the mold growth is allowed to become severe enough, it can spread mold spores throughout the air, where people can breathe them in and become ill as a result.

Damage to Bathroom Walls. Sometimes, a malfunctioning showerhead can send water spraying in random directions. Unless your shower is completely enclosed, that water can hit the ceiling and walls beyond the confines of your shower, surfaces that are sometimes not designed to handle excessive amounts of water.

Many homeowners might assume that all of the surfaces within their bathroom are waterproof, but that assumption is most often incorrect. If you are building a bathroom, the common wisdom would hold that you would use water-resistant and stain-resistant materials because the bathroom is susceptible to numerous sources of heavy water exposure and even unsanitary liquid exposure. However, despite the likelihood of water exposure, many bathrooms are built with drywall or plaster.

As noted by eHow.com, plaster walls were prevalent up to the 1950’s, so if your home was built before that time period, you are at increased risk of water damage to your bathroom walls. Why? Because, as the eHow article notes, “You should not use plaster in a bathroom with a shower or bathtub. The high humidity levels created when the tub or shower is in use can damage plaster walls.” Green drywall, which has been treated to resist moisture, is still not much better, as it is still unable to handle direct contact with water. If your bathroom has either material for its walls, an erratically-spraying showerhead can cause these materials to absorb water directly, causing damage over time.

Damage to the Tile Floor. It may seem inconceivable, but excessive amounts of water left on the floor over a long period of time can damage event the most resilient tile floors. While a well-built floor made of water-impervious tile can stand up to bathroom moisture admirably, the development of mold and mildew can eat away at the grout between tiles, and even eventually begin to eat away at the adhesive underneath the flooring if left alone for long enough. This can cause tiles to separate from the floor, and create slip and fall hazards in your home. If your bathroom is above the first floor of a multi-story building, the water and mold can even begin to seep into the ceiling of the next floor down, causing further damage.

Rack up Your Water Bill. Even if your shower leak is just a slow drip, it can cause 15 gallons per day of water wasted, which can add up to 450 gallons to your water waste in a month, which is half of a payment tier on a Sarasota Metered Dwelling unit bill. A more severe 1/32 inch or 1/16 inch leak can add up to 943 gallons to your water consumption and waste per day, ensuring that you pay the maximum possible water bill in Sarasota for both water and waste.

While these are some of the more extreme examples of what a broken shower can do to your bathroom, the minor annoyances of dealing with an erratic shower spray and water splashing on your floor can be enough reason to want to replace that busted showerhead. Compared to the potential costs of water damage to your bathroom, twenty to thirty dollars for a new showerhead is a small price to pay (assuming the showerhead is the source of the leak, for a behind the wall problem, more extensive repairs will be necessary). In fact, if you do not already have one, installing a low-flow showerhead can cut your water use by a third, so there is another reason to change that old showerhead.

Replacing the Shower Head
Once you have obtained a new showerhead, the process of replacing the old showerhead is relatively simple. This how-to guide from wikihow.com demonstrates the relative simplicity of the process:

Remove the old showerhead with a wrench or pliers. Begin by holding the shower arm behind the showerhead steady with one hand, and loosening the nut that connects the showerhead with the pliers or wrench. Once loosened, you can probably twist the nut off with your bare hands.

Using a wire brush, clean the threads of the shower arm. By the time you are finished, the threads should be clean and free of debris. If this connection is damaged, you may need to replace the shower arm too.
Wrap plumber’s tape around the threads of the shower arm. Make sure the wrapping is tight, and that there is no excess material beyond the lip of the pipe.

Install the new showerhead. Using your hands, screw the new showerhead onto the shower arm. Then, cover the showerhead with a cloth to protect it from getting tool marks when you tighten the head on with a wrench to ensure a solid connection.

Test the shower. Run the shower for a minute, and see if the connection between the shower arm and the showerhead is leaking. If not, then you are good to go, if there is a leak, repeat from step one until there is no more leakage.