By Ben King, Aspiring Law Staff Solicitor

After years of leaky home horror stories, leaky shower nightmares have recently sprung up in the media.

According to reports, as older-style acrylic and stainless steel trays have given way to on-trend, fully-tiled showers, some homeowners are facing huge water damage and significant repair bills due to poor waterproofing.

One of the biggest challenges, of course, is that you might not know you have a problem until the damage is already done – and very visible.

There are steps you can take now, if you already have a fully-tiled shower and are worried. And, if you’re going to buy or build a new home, you’re able to put in place proactive measures to ensure you don’t end up high and dry with a dodgy shower.

First things first. Whether you already have a tiled shower, or you’re contemplating one, check the manufacturer’s warranty on the waterproofing membrane used – most are guaranteed for 15 years, providing it’s applied correctly. Manufacturer warranties can differ, so it’s important you know what’s required from the get-go, and that the requirements are adhered to.

When you’re having a tiled shower installed, the person applying the waterproof membrane or “tanking” behind the tiles needs to provide a “producer statement” and waterproofing certificate. The producer statement and waterproofing certificate will be lodged with Council when an application is made for a code compliance certificate, ensuring the waterproofing is certified. Remember, you will need a building consent before you start.

Leaking showers are a hidden menace, and it can be near-on impossible to detect if there is a problem, or the scale of it. As with any water leakage issues in the home, quick action is of the essence.

If you’re worried, seek advice from a professional with specialist knowledge in waterproofing. In cases where you can already see tell-tale signs of leakage, stop using the shower until you’ve had it inspected. Visible or not, a suitably-qualified professional can check for moisture, using specialist equipment such as a thermal imaging camera.

If you’re looking at buying a home with a tiled shower, it pays to check it out thoroughly as part of your pre-purchase due diligence. Be sure to find out whether the current owners had the work done, because if they didn’t, the standard warranties in the sale and purchase agreement might not apply, if problems arise. If they did, ask for information on who completed the work and confirm whether it was properly consented.

If you strike the misfortune of a leaky shower that a previous owner has installed, and discover the work wasn’t properly certified, you may have recourse under the warranties provided in the sale and purchase agreement.

The most likely fix for people who encounter serious leaky shower issues is full tile removal and replacement, as well as re-installation of the waterproof membrane. It’s likely an expensive exercise, especially if the leak has caused rotting timber or more wide-spread damage.

If you’re in any doubt, consult building professionals to have the situation assessed, and your lawyer to see if there are any contractual liabilities that can be relied on to recover costs.

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