Alternative ways to fix shower-stall cracks

Q My 31-year-old shower stall is cracked where the wall joins the floor. Water seeps into the basement below. Various kinds of tile sealer do not work successfully. What is the answer? Also, how do I remove the soap film which has built up on the tile?

* Paint peels in my kitchen and bathroom. We plan to install exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathroom ceiling to reduce humidity. How should I prepare the walls and ceiling before painting? There is a buildup of three or four coats of paint. C. E. Gulbran Seattle

A Buy a special type of tile mastic and squirt it into the crack at the offending shower joint. Hopefully it will work; but if it does not, there are at least two other ways to stop the leaks.

First, apply a ceramic tile base to the intersection of the wall and the floor. Properly grouted, this base should stop the seepage if it is only coming from, or through, the crack in the grout.

An alternative is to remove the tile floor and one or two rows of wall tile above the floor. Repairs to the old shower base, or more likely a new shower pan, will be required. Careful installation, especially at the drain and at the intersection between the wall and floor, should halt the leakage and provide a solid base for the new tile.

Note: Inspect and replace any wood floor that has been damaged by the water.

You may need to hire a tile contractor to do this rather fussy work. Incidentially, a 31-year-old tile job has done pretty well to serve until now without a leak.

* For a cleaner that will really cut the soap and oil deposits on the shower tile, go to a commercial (not residential) janitorial supply store. Ask for a product which the store owner or clerk knows will really cut the scum.

* To prepare the wall and ceilings in the bath and kitchen before repainting, use a sharp paint scraper to remove all loose paint down to a firm surface.

"Feather edge" the areas by sanding so they are smooth and continuous with the surrounding surfaces. Now spot- prime these areas, if necessary, with an oil-based enamel undercoater. Follow with one or more coats of oil-based enamel.

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