Shower leak repair conundrum: can't afford expensive tile/drywall work, is there another way?

Yes, this is something worth exploring. I am concerned that the home will have to be inspected, and thus lose a lot of value. Still, I may have to take your suggestion.

That’s kind of what I was getting at in the OP - does the mortgage company want to know or need to know about these plumbing issues? Would a mortgage company be more inclined to want to help a homeowner facing such repairs, or more inclined to “punish” the homeowner somehow (e.g. sending out an inspector to ding the home’s value because of the jacked-up plumbing)?

Full disclosure: Our credit ain’t great, and we refinanced our house in January 2019 to take help care of personal debts. Yes, we can’t do money, and have no money skills. Thus: no savings for home repairs, rainy days, etc.

I have no idea if this exists, but it would be great if it did.

Imagine having a Vo-Tech class come out and work on a house in disrepair. I’ve known people who go to a dental school for work they can’t afford, this would be similar.

I’ve been there: No judgment. And if you can’t do it now, we’ll, it is what it is.

You might also try a third plumber. Some of them are more creative than others. And if you do have to tear a hole, you just have to replace it with something waterproof. It doesn’t have to match or be pretty. At some point, it sounds like both showers will have to be ripped up. Make sure the plumber knows you are looking for a 5-10 year fix, but looks don’t matter.

To be clear: the opposite shower/tub works, but doesn’t drain. Under-the-slab work is suspected but not confirmed.

This is actually a good point – thank you. I’d have never thought to be clear upfront about what level of repair is required/expected.

Perhaps ask the plumber which tub/shower can be fixed more easily and cheaply?

Is the slab work something you suspect or is that something that the other plumber told you? Typically, the problem is just lots of gunk in the pipe somewhere and you can often clear the clog yourself with just a toilet plunger. Fill the tub about 1/2 way with hot water, put the plunger over the drain, and then push and pull the plunger vigorously so that the water in the drain pipe moves with a lot of force. If your plunger doesn’t fit well over the drain, different plungers have different designs and a different one may seal better. Doing the plunger several times will often dislodge the clog and the tub will drain normally. For even better plunging force, have someone take a wet rag and cover the overflow drain opening. That’s the cap that’s typically near the top of the tub above the drain and allows excess water to drain into the pipe. Sealing that overflow port will help the plunging force be transferred down the drain pipe rather than up through the overflow port.

The trusted plumber actually wanted to take a crack at “blowing out” the drains in that other bathroom … the one with the under-the-slab blockage suspected. He said he had an air compressor and some tools that could be used for the purpose.

When he was here looking at the shower, I asked him to schedule us for another visit to blow out the drains (also a sink) in that other bathroom. This was at the end of March and we haven’t heard from the guy since. Shortly after the shower visit, our financial situation changed so that we’d no longer be able to afford the drain blowout as quoted (it’s actually cheap-ish, but we don’t have it).

Something nagging at the back of my mind: if a tradesman gets the idea that a particular customer really can’t pay for unforeseen work (such as if a seemingly easy job goes wrong) … might they be less likely to want to deal with that customer?

The plumber I’m talking about has a great rep locally and has done solid, lasting work for us in the past. However, that great rep has meant the guy is constantly backed up with appointments for weeks (the nearly-post-COVID timing has exacerbated this). And the person he has setting his appointments is not on the ball (e.g. doesn’t call back after saying ‘let me check something’, customer has to chase them down, etc.).

We had a very slow drain they told us would require tearing out the shower and maybe the slab. We deferred it and just used to snake attached to the drill whenever it got too slow. After a year or two, it cleared up. I think something was down there that would catch other things like hair . Eventually, it got knocked free.

Both – something that I suspected myself, and something both plumbers also suspect (admittedly, based on my verbal account).

I’ve done the plunger thing numerous times and IMHO correctly (lots of YouTube videos cover clearing drain clogs). The same bathroom with the no-drain tub also has a sink that can’t drain at all – it’s like filling a water glass and the water barely moves except to evaporate even over days and weeks (yes, we’ve done that). I disassembled all the piping underneath that sink, enough to be able to snake about six feet past the wall. Nothing. The pipes were totally clear, as well.

But anyway, the trusted plumber said he wanted to take a crack at the no-drain tub and sink. Someday – his proposed “blowout” fix is cheaper than the shower repair in the OP. IF the blowout works first time like magic (I’m a little doubtful).

I hope something like that happens here.

Going back 11 years, the bathroom with the no-drain tub was snaked from the roof of our house by a friend-of-a-friend. It worked, though the tub still drained slow-ish (but fast enough to use, a full tub drained in about 45 minutes).

Both current plumbers say that they don’t go on roofs to snake drains. There’s supposed to be a law or code about doing that, if I understand right.

One thing I’m surprised about is that I would expect the bathtub to fill up in this case. The bathtub and sink drains are typically connected to the same pipe. If the clog was past the union point of the sink and tub drains, I would expect the sink water come up into the tub. Have you ever seen the clogged sink water coming up into the tub or into the shower in the other bathroom?

No, never.

One possibility is that there are two independent clogs, but that seems like a big coincidence. I’m guessing there is a common clog, but I’m not clear on how the pipes would be linked together to cause this kind of drain behavior. One thing you could try is to vigorously plunge both drains at the same time. Fill both the sink and tub 1/2 with water and have one person plunge the sink and another plunge the tub. You’ll likely need to get a smaller, sink-sized plunger to get a good seal over the sink drain rather than use a toilet-sized plunger. Keep in mind that it’s often the pull up on the plunger that clears the drain more than the push, so make sure you pull back with a lot of force.

I way out of my area of competency, but could the drainage issue be lack of/clogged venting of the drain pipe? Just a WAG.

No.
That might make it drain a bit slower, but it wouldn’t prevent draining completely.

For a temp fix, how about something like this.

StG

This ended up being the solution. At least for now.

@Oredigger77, I ended up installing the ball valve with the water to the house shut off. I am curious, though – what happens if you don’t have the water flowing when installing the ball valve?

I am at a loss as to why, but the Teflon tape didn’t make as watertight a seal as I had hoped. I ended up using RectorSeal pipe thread sealant instead of the tape … seemed to do the trick.

Absolutely, nothing wrong with what you did. It was actually the correct fix. I was more going quick and dirty and assuming you didn’t know how to shut of the water to the house. You’ll get a better seal by shutting of the water and properly sealing the threads so good job.

One easy mistake is to wrap the tape in the wrong direction around the pipe. If you think about how you can wrap the tape around the pipe in two different directions, when you screw the valve on the pipe it will either wrap the tape tighter or unwrap it. You want to wrap the tape in the same circular direction you use to tighten the valve on the stem, which is typically clockwise.

Another possibility (just a guess) is that the valve is designed to go around steel plumbing pipe, which may have deeper threads than what you have on a shower stem. Valves designed for shower stems may have threads that naturally make a tighter seal. That putty may be able to fill the gaps better than the thin tape.

Aaahh … maybe so. Next time, I’ll be careful to take note which way I’m winding the tape.

Thanks for the advice, everyone! The SDMB rocks yet again :sunglasses: