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Why enamel steel tubs are not a steal!

 

     As is indicated by the “bluish” highlighted areas in the picture, these are areas of enamel steel type tubs that the moisture meter often finds indications of moisture behind the wall covering.

Steel tub flanges leak

     On a recent new construction inspection I found a great example that shows why this is so.  Steel tubs like this typically have a flange that runs up behind the wall covering to reduce the chance of water finding its way into the wall.  The problem with this flange is that it does not run all the way to the edge of the tub or down the side.  In this next picture one can see the flange where it stops at the black opening that is a hole all the way through.  Really this opening should be properly caulked and sealed previous to installation of the finish surface to reduce the risk of water penetrating this area.  Then of course the gap should be properly caulked after the finish wall surface is installed.

Missing caulk at tub flange

     The way these tubs are constructed speaks to the importance of keeping grout and caulk in good condition. 

     Similar indications of moisture are also very common at the inside corners of the tub because this flange does not wrap around the corner but instead ends just before the corner----just like in the picture at the front of the tub.  This creates an ideal place for moisture to find its way into the wall at the corners due to improper caulking of the corner prior to installation of the wall surface and poor caulking at the wall surface connection with the tub.

    Doesn’t it make you wonder why they would build the tub this way? 

    Apparently it has to do with the way these steel tubs are manufactured and enameled that make it very difficult to do a proper flange all the way around the tub like a plastic tub would have----and part of what makes this type of tub a “cheap” choice in tubs.

    I think now you can see why inspectors are so adamant about keeping these areas well sealed/caulked.

 

 

Charles Buell

 

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Comment balloon 28 commentsCharles Buell • February 22 2009 01:32PM

Comments

Boy, I've seen enough of these cheap steel tubs! After they have been in place for about ten years you can see the trade off of price versus value. Cast Iron still rules in my book.

Posted by Michael S. Mackey, REALTOR ABR, CRS, GRI, RSPS (CENTURY 21 All Islands) over 9 years ago

Michael, I wish that was the case here----about 50 percent of all new construction has at least one tub that is enamel steel.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 9 years ago

Charles, so many times the plumber (while setting the tub) forgets where he put his level. The tub should be very level (not sur ehow you can be more level than level), it is design to drain water back into the tub.  Installers many times don't pay enough attention to this fact.  The green board underneath the tile should go almost to the surface and then be sealed between the enamel and the green board. Since the board overlaps the tub flange during installation it is pretty easy to make it water tight if it is done correctly.

 

Posted by Jack Gilleland (Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton) over 9 years ago

Jack, greenboard should never be used behind tile and it is not a recognized substrate for tile by industry standards.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 9 years ago

Ahhh...water. It just finds it's way into the darndest places.

Posted by Jim Albano, Team - Jean-Marie Vantuno / Realtors North Jersey Real Estate (Prudential Damiano Realty ) over 9 years ago

Jim---it do indeed.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 9 years ago

I see you're using those neat little color examples again.  I still want to learn it but haven't.  Nice looking blog.

Posted by Barbara S. Duncan, GRI, e-PRO, Executive Broker, Searcy AR (RE/MAX Advantage) over 9 years ago

Thanks Barbara

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 9 years ago

I'm green and I'm bored.  I am a great substrate for tile.

 

And I believe that to be a peep hole - great for fly catching.

 

Very kindly,

 

Croakster

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

Charles you obviously haven't seen some the newer homes around here.  I would prefer to see hardi-backer, but what you see is sometimes what you get.

Posted by Jack Gilleland (Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton) over 9 years ago

Croakster---great idea---frog hide as a shower enclosure.  Perhaps you can answer a question that has "bugged" me for years----do frogs sweat?

Jack, again it is that dang "minimum standards" thing again:)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 9 years ago

I love to stop by here. I always learn something useful. Thanks!

Posted by Lizette Fitzpatrick, Lizette Realty,Lexington KY MLS - Kentucky Homes - (Lizette Realty - Lexington KY - Richmond KY) over 9 years ago

Well, it is always great to have you stop by here as well:)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 9 years ago

We don't need to sweat.  We are cold blooded and live in ponds.  Our eyes do pop out a bit after a meal in the shower...

 

Very kindly,

 

Croakster

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

Croakster---I think it would be a deafening sound to step on you in the shower.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 9 years ago

Charles, you said it all!  I've seen too many of these also.  Great blog, now featured at http://activerain.com/groups/virtualoffice

Posted by Regina P. Brown, M.B.A., Broker, Instructor (MBA Broker Consultants) over 9 years ago

Thanks Regina

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 9 years ago

Hard to believe that large gap would have been left on a new tub, but then again not really.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 9 years ago

James, I think that they just never got around to doing the final caulking.  What bothers me is the poor prep of the surface behind the tile.  I am sure you see the bluish colored areas with your IR all the time:)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 9 years ago

Charlie,

That is a great shot of the gap. Sure explains the problem at corners. I often find problems at the wall at the lower runner on the sliding glass shower doors too.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 9 years ago

It is pretty unusual to get such a great view of this problem

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 9 years ago

Mr Charles,

When I bath I do so in the wide open ocean. I find it very refreshing but I am armed against squid.

Your friend Nutsy W

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 9 years ago

Hey Nutsy---want to meet my pet pyranha?

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 9 years ago

Hey Charles,

Great pic, I use to have problems with water enetering these areas in my apartments ...... a real pain in the but...and in the ceiling to the unit below.

Sean Allen

Posted by Sean Allen, International Financing Solutions (International Financing Solutions ) over 9 years ago

Sean---over and over and over and over.......

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 9 years ago

Dear sir,

I have recently had 2 Briggs steel tubs (enameled) installed into a new home. After using the tubs a few times i noticed what appeared to be pin holes in the enamel. I had a couple of guys (one is in the cultured marble tub world and the other was in the tub repair business) look at the problem. They both said that the tubs were defective, that it appeared that the enamel had bubbles in it and the popped once the tub was put into use. I am not in discussion with the maniufacturer to make me whole, but they continue to make me jump through hoops to get them to replace or repair.

Is there a way i can find out how common this issue is with Briggs tubs. I would love to have some data showing that i am not an isolated issue, to assist in getting the resolve that i need.

Thanks for your assistance,

Jerre

Posted by Jerre Bryant over 7 years ago

Jerre, that is an issue I am not familiar with but that brand of tub is not common in this area.  Have you tried Googling the issue?  It is hard to imagine, from what you describe, it not being some sort of factory defect.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 7 years ago

So it sounds like these tubs are okay if you are careful to seal all gaps - before and after tiling.  Replacing a flimsy acrylic tub ( big mistake ) with one of these for $69.00.   I can affort extra materials to waterproof those areas!   Thanks for the great info!

Posted by Bobby Brimm about 6 years ago

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