Why Are Brand-New Hotel Showers Falling Apart?

portrait photo of Edward

Edward M. Deegan, Jr., M.S., P.E.

EDT Case Study: Why Are Brand-New Hotel Showers Falling Apart?

What Happened?

An urban-market hotel owner desired to update 500-plus guest rooms of a high-end, multi-story hotel. The owner engaged a construction manager who, in turn, engaged a design and construction team. The update emphasized remodeling the 500-plus guest bathrooms throughout the hotel.  

The design professionals prepared construction documents, which included details for demolishing and replacing ornate shower stalls in the bathrooms. The construction team proceeded with a phased construction schedule to keep the hotel operational during the project. As construction proceeded, nominal water leaks were identified, which resulted in damage to the new shower stalls and beyond. The impression was the problems were one-off situations that would be remedied with minor impact to the construction schedule and overall project.

Nearing the end of the project, more problems were developing in the bathrooms, namely with the new showers. The construction manager engaged EDT to investigate the shower damage.  

What Did EDT Find?

EDT examined a sample of the bathrooms and listened with a keen ear to the menagerie of problems that were thought to be one-off issues.  It was decided that selective demolition of a sample of bathrooms would aid the investigation. Tile finishes and other materials were removed to expose details of the shower construction. Following selective demolition, observations were analyzed with the menagerie of problems. It was determined that a contractor did not execute a waterproofing detail in the manner shown in the design plans. As a result, all of the showers required a retrofit of the waterproofing.  

Custom showers, also known as shower receptors, are becoming more and more common. Many include glass panels that rest on custom-built curbs; others are curbless with fewer walls than we might expect. While many may think tile is “waterproof,” tile is only the outer surface of a well-designed shower receptor. Behind the tile should be a detailed water management system consisting of a drain, weep protection, and a continuous waterproof membrane… the keyword there is continuous. On a more technical note, the Tile Council of North America publishes the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass, and Stone Tile Installation. Numerous shower receptors are detailed in the Handbook. When the details are followed, you are guaranteed more successful installations.  


The moral of the story is when we listen with a keen ear and piece together details that may otherwise seem unrelated, we can solve the problem.