To get right to the point, No. Shower repair is not worth the money or the hassle. If you have the resources I whole heartedly recommend doing a full replacement of your leaky, toxic shower.
This week I fielded a call from a man that has a shower that is leaking into his house. The corner bench was allowing water to escape and penetrate the sub structure, the pan was also holding water making it into a veritable swamp inside his house. Corner benches are notorious for doing this, simply put, because of improper installation and unscrupulous installers. As always, I told him we only do full replacement because he would be throwing "good money after bad" or my favorite, putting "lipstick on a pig".
There isn't one homeowner out there that wants to hear this diagnosis! A person purchases a home expecting their shower to be functional for the life of the home, It looks good, why wouldn't it? Unfortunately, a shower isn't like a furnace where it has a defined life span. When purchasing a house, the shower can be a mystery, a ticking time bomb, a wallet drainer.
Here in Atlanta, If I see a shower built with a "water in, water out" system (I can tell generally, by the drain used) I assume it's a potential swamp, ripe for bacteria growth and filth. (Be sure to watch the video at the link above for a full description of a "water in, water out" system.) I make this assumption because of a pattern I've recognized among builders here, especially new home builders, whatever is cheapest, fastest...they will do. Including hiring unskilled, corner cutting tile guys. Ultimately, what does a builder care about the shower? Ten years is all it needs to last! That check will be cashed and there will be nothing the homeowner can do except buy a whole new shower on their own dime, some homeowners aren't prepared for this so they turn to a "shower repair".
Now if I see a Schluter Sytems drain, or a comparable drain, I assume the shower will be functional for life. With a "water in, water out" system, if the tile guy skips or ignores one step it will fail over time. With a Schluter Systems shower, the moisture management technology has a standardized installation process that makes it a fool proof, lasting install. A "water in, water out" shower construction system has proven to have a problem with longevity due to human error, which has been solved by the German engineers at Schluter Systems.
This leads me to the reasons I do not recommend "Repairing" a shower.
- When repairing a shower you will be taking off the glass structure, the first two rows of the wall tile, the shower base including the curb and in the case of the man that called me this week, the bench. So, that is about two-thirds of the shower or about two-thirds of the cost of a BRAND NEW, MODERN SHOWER with a technologically superior water management system that will last forever. Does it make sense to go back with the same old school, "water in, water out system" and the same old tile and drain you had before? Who's to say the tile guy you hired that still uses the old building methods is going to build the shower correctly, so you don't have the same problem in 10 years again?
- Tying in the moisture management system with the old tile is always a problem. When you tear out the two bottom rows of wall tile, How do you tie in the water proofing from the "new" tile to the old tile? Ask the tile shower "repair" guy this question, That'll be an interesting answer, I'm sure.
- Matching the old tile you have currently to the new tile is next to impossible. Yes, you will get the new tile close, but it will never be the same. Even if you do find the same tile, the dye lots will be different. A dye lot number indicates when tile was made, and tile with different dye lots, although they are the same model tile, will be different because they were made at different times. It will only be the SLIGHTEST difference, but they will be different. So, with an investment of time and money of this magnitude, Why not go all the way?
The number one reason Hamilton Tile does not do tile "repairs" is, where do we stop? Say we agree to tear out your shower and "repair" it. We start the demolition and notice that the rot goes deeper and is more extensive than was originally thought, guess who now owns that shower and is responsible for putting it all back together. We are. So that brings up the question again, where do we stop? You have a leaky, swamp in your house, we start tearing things out, there is evidence of rot above where we expected, do we keep going? Where do we stop?
It's illogical to build good work on top of bad. It's just a band aid. There are plenty of people who will gladly take your money for a "repair" but you mine as well set your money on fire because your house is not truly being fixed. You still have an antiquated shower but now it's with tile that doesn't exactly match, with water proofing that is incomplete, you've had a crew run rough shod through your life for a week, and your bank account is thousands lighter.
A lot of the issue is that people buy houses with features that they do not expect to fail, so a shower leak is a hugely unexpected bill for people on say, a fixed income. I realize people are inclined to fix a problem just well enough to get them through, but as I always say, If you think we are expensive...Try paying for it twice.