Another request from one of my readers, this time concerning weep holes. As you may know I answer every question I’m asked here on my site when I sober up get home from work. I have tried to explain in the comments section several times where to create weep holes in a tub or shower (acrylic base) tile installation and now realize it’s a difficult thing to do with words.
So when Kurt asked me to clarify exactly where they go a stroke of genius hit me! (Yeah, I’m slow sometimes) I have pictures. Well, not exactly pictures of the weep holes themselves, but I can at least let you know where they are.
When you have a tub which does not have specific spaces for a weep hole you need to ‘create’ them in your caulk line. Let me back up here a second and explain what weep holes are and why you need them.
A weep hole is basically an open space which allows moisture that makes its way behind the tile a space from which to dissipate. This is the spot that moisture can run out. When moisture gets behind your tile it will always end up at the bottom of your wall (tile installation). When it gets there it needs some place to go – to get out from behind the tile and into the tub or shower basin. That’s what the weep hole is.
Some tubs, and most acrylic shower basins, have these built into them. There is a spot about 3/4″ long that dips down from the plane of the edge and back up. It’s a dip in the edge of the tub or shower basin. When equipped with these built-in weep holes – DO NOT FILL THEM WITH CAULK! Everyone does that – they are there for a reason and no one seems to know what it is. They are weep holes. If you caulk them in it defeats the purpose of them – that will seal in the moisture.
If the moisture is sealed in behind the tile it has no place to dissipate and will simply sit there. Beyond that, the level of that moisture will continue to build with every use. The moisture cannot dissipate at the same rate that is gets back there. That’s gonna lead to a problem. You need weep holes to eliminate the moisture.
When you caulk or silicone the change of plane between the tile and tub you should leave an open space – a space without caulk – in each side wall about an inch out from the back wall. If you click on that little bitty picture to the right you will see two pretty pink lines on it – that’s where those spots are.
Each of these spots are about an inch long (this doesn’t need to be exact) and contain no grout, caulk or silicone – they are simply open space. These are your weep holes.
These spaces will allow moisture to dissipate. These do not need to be the lowest spots on the tub. In other words, if your tub is not entirely level and those spots are not the lowest, it doesn’t matter. The water will end up there and run out – it is the only space to release the pressure the water will build up. It’s a whole physics thing and I haven’t had enough beer Pepsi to properly explain it – but that’s what happens. And yes, you can put them wherever you want, that’s simply where I put them.
When you have an acrylic or fiberglass shower basin without built-in weep holes the same technique applies. Depending on how your tile and shower door lay out you may choose to put the weep holes toward the front of the basin, entirely up to you.
If you click the photo of the shower to the right, and ignore the fuzzy toilet seat cover, you will see the two pretty pink lines in the back as well as pretty blue lines toward the front. That’s where I put them when I don’t put them in the back. They sometimes look better toward the front if there is a shower door there – the frame will make the weep holes less noticeable.
That’s it – longer than I expected but much easier than trying to explain with just words. If you have a question or just need something clarified do not hesitate to let me know! My blog is here to help you and the fact that I do this stuff every day will, at times, blind me to certain basic things. I do a lot of this stuff without even thinking about it and don’t realize that what is basic to me is not basic to you. If you want a post about a specific subject just let me know in the comment section of any of my posts or shoot me an email at Roger@FloorElf.com. Or, you know, send up smoke signals from your dogs back – he may have just burst into flames again.
There you go Kurt, tell mom you win this one and she owes you a six-pack.
UPDATE: I finally got off my ass and actually took some photos of weep holes in the silicone bead around a tub. These are what I’ve described above and can be used in either a tub or a shower base. There is one on each side of the tub towards the front.
Hi Roger, thanks for the great, informative website. One quick question about the weep holes: why doesn’t capillary action wick water into the wall via the weep holes? You do after all have a porous surface with very fine “tubes”, perfect for capillary action. Thanks!
Because of pressure. Once there is water behind the tile running down the wall the weight of that water will ALWAYS push water out of the weep holes rather than allowing it in. For capillary action to occur the pressure of the water at the front of the weep hole must be greater than the pressure of the water behind it – that will never happen unless you aim a hose directly into the weep hole.
I have recently done a tub with tiled walls and had weep holes put on the back wall. After the first couple uses I noticed quite a bit of water sort of stuck in the holes. I’m thinking water is getting in there from the shower. It sort of collects a lot of water on the tub ledge and I think it’s getting into the weep hole and behind the tile. Maybe my placement was bad but I’m worried I’m doing more harm. If these holes were filled in then and water did get behind the tile through the grout I’d think it would evaporate. Any advice? Should I move the weep holes or maybe fill the ones I have?
Your weep holes are fine. While they may get water into them from the front the pressure from behind the tile will push it out. Water will not get into the wall behind the tile from the weep holes. Really.
Elf – great site!! Thanks! A few weep hole questions. They all boil down to, “How screwed are we for not following your advice?”
1. We did our best to waterproof with 6 mil vapor barrier, but did not attach it to the tub. It overlaps the top of the tub, but was just laying there. Hopefully it stayed put. How screwed are we?
2. We did not silicone the gap between the backer board and the tub. Just left a 1/8 ” gap. How screwed are we?
3. We ran a bead of silicone between the bottom of the bottom tile and the tub, where they overlapped, to secure them. ( We used 1″x2″ tile mosaic sheets. )Not necessarily a solid line, but not sure if there are any gaps for water to drain. Given numbers 1 and 2 above, is there any reason to try to carve out some holes in that silicone line to create channels for the water to drain, and leave some weep holes in our final caulk line? How screwed are we?
4. Although a tub and shower, this will be used primarily as a tub for our two young boys. Does tub vs. shower use affect vapor barrier/weep hole issues? Yes – I know they will grow up and start taking showers, but just wondering, ” How screwed are we?”
5. Does humidity affect levels of water vapor? We live high in the mountains and the air is VERY DRY. Not sure if that affects any issues.
6. The tub surround is partially accessible (at the floor level) from an access panel in the tub apron and from an unfinished closet wall that backs up to it from the mechanical room. Given your assessment of how screwed we are, is there anything I could/should shove or snake under the tub surround to soak up the torrents of water I am now envisioning collecting behind the surround walls?
Thanks for any insights.
1. You’re not screwed at all as long as the barrier overlaps your flange. The backer should be placed so it holds the barrier in place. It’s not going anywhere.
2. Not at all.
3. Yes, you need weep holes in your silicone between the tile and tub.
5. Yes, but not so much as to change anything with most types of shower construction and waterproofing.
6. It wouldn’t do any good if you were screwed. Any water will not simply drip down under the tub, it’ll be soaking and running into the wall framing. But you’re not screwed, so don’t worry about it.
I am just finishing a shower that’s been done in all wedi board. I dont believe there were any weep holes in the drain assembly. The top of the drain pipe is flush with the top of the tiles. I am assuming I would need weep hikes or the drain should’ve been lower than the tiles and flush with the wedi substrate or water that gets trapped beneath cannot get out. I could still drill some weep holes but I would have to be in the exact right spot. Thoughts on this?
You mentioned wedi board, which is on the walls. You did not mention the floor construction. If it’s topical (wedi) then yes, the top of the drain should be flush with the top of the wedi. NO WEEP HOLES. If it’s not topical then yes, it requires weep holes. If it is topical and not installed correctly it needs to be removed and installed correctly – you can not drill weep holes into it.
Yes the pan is a Wedi fundo pan with the included Wedi drain. The Wedi site says no weep holes necessary.
Roger, what technique do you use to create the weep holes? Working with caulk isn’t that easy, yet your weep holes seem to be near-perfect rectangles. Do you just stop caulking where you want the opening to begin, and then start an inch later?
Yes, I stop where I want it and begin about an inch later. I’ve just had a lot of practice.
I just bought my first house and recently noticed the weep holes. At first I thought it was a bad caulking job but there is one on either side of the shower stall and they appear to be delibert – googleing it lead me to your article. The paint outside my shower is blistering, right up against the tile edge. The blistering extends up about a foot and a half and out about 6-8 inches. Could this be caused by water getting into the sheetrock from the weep holes? The seller primed the walls but didn’t cover the primer with bathroom specific paint. I’m not sure if all i need to do is sand down the area and use the correct paint or if I need the wall cut open and the area checked for moisture/mold. Any advice would be appreciated!
Water WILL NOT get into the weep holes. Physics prevents it. If your drywall is deteriorating outside your shower it is likely because your tile is bonded directly to drywall. Water will get behind your tile and grout, they are not waterproof. If your tile substrate is drywall then that is the problem. I would do some type of inspection and see what your tile is bonded to.
I plan to install a 4″ band of glass mosaic as a backsplash behind and to the side of a bathroom vanity. I’m assuming that I should waterproof this part of the drywall first. What would be the the easiest way to do this?
You don’t really need to waterproof it, but you can if you want. The quickest and easiest would likely be a liquid membrane like redgard, which can be found at home depot. Aquadefense is made by mapei and is usually stocked at Lowe’s.
So, just to be clear, Redgard will stick to drywall and will afford some level of moisture protection. But it’s not recommended for applications with a lot of splashing, like a shower. Is that right?
Could the Redgard be applied directly to new drywall (no primer or paint)?
What about on a tub surround (no shower)? Same answer?
I have a stand alone shower with cultured marble surrounding. For 11 years I thought the two spaces near the shower door on each side were “air holes.” Recently two plumbers and one construction person said; contrary to what the home builder told me, I don’t have weep holes. They say they are faulty craftsmanship. I don’t see a place to upload pictures of the holes here but would appreciate it if you could look at them. Please let me know how to send pictures to you. thanks so much!
I already answered your email but I’ll put it up here on the site in case anyone else has a similar issue.
It may be a feeble attempt at weep holes, but it is crappy work if that’s what they are supposed to be. However (!) in a cultured marble shower they are not needed, the surface of your wall covering is your waterproofing. With tile the waterproofing is behind the tile, water will get back there and needs to come back out somewhere, the cultured marble IS the waterproofing, water should not ever get behind it, so weep holes are not needed.
I apologize in advance, too analytical…weep holes…why caulk the bottom at all if its not 100%? If you need the weep holes why do you need the caulking along the tub at all? Would make the joint look the consistant if the caulk wasnt applied at all…Inquiring minds want to know…
It doesn’t need to be caulked at all. Caulking at the bottom of the tub is not a required step, it’s more aesthetic than anything else. Although it does contain more water in front of the surface of the tile, you don’t NEED it. I don’t understand what “Would make the joint look the consistant if the caulk wasnt applied at all” means? If the cuts on the tile were consistent it would look consistent, short of that I’m not sure what you’re asking here.
You answered my question, thanks. As far as the joint comment I was simply expressing my opinion that perhaps it would look more consistant to have no caulk then to have spots were it is missing. Thanks again for the reply.
I have a master bath with a shower and a tub. The shower is tile walls all the way down the the pan that I stand it to shower. I am a first time homeowner. The shower ‘pan’ that I stand in to shower has indentions in each corner and one in between each corner. These indentions slope back into the shower. Where the indention of the pan and the wall meet, the caulk looked to be wearing out, or there was a hole there. I went out thinking that I was letting water behind my walls and recaulked the entire border joint of my tile wall and pan.
From reading the blog post above, should I have left some areas caulk free?
Those are all weep holes, they should all be left open. Water may run into it, but it’s only going as far as the upwardly-turned flange behind the tile. It will not soak into, nor run into, the wall.
Could you please add a little clarification on weep holes in tub / shower wall? I am following your instructions in your “Liquid topical waterproofing for walls around a tub or pre-formed base” manual and came across the thread about weep holes. I am at the point where I just ran a bead of silicone between the bottom of the backerboard and the top of the tub.
The next steps in the project are to tape & mud the seams, apply the topical membrane, apply thinset and the tile. When I run the final bead of silicone between the bottom edge of the finished tile and the top of the tub, do the weep holes go all the way back thru the first bead of silicone between the backerboard and the top of the tub? I.e. does the weep hole go all the way back to the tub’s vertical flange?
Thanks for creating and maintaining this web site. I couldn’t have gotten this far with out it.
The weep holes only go back to behind the tile, not through the first bead of silicone between the backer and flange. It is to drain water getting between the waterproofing and tile.
I’ve been trying to find some info on waterproofing a tiled main entrance (like you have in the first picture on this page) and how such an entryway would connect into the house’s wood flooring. There is a waterproofing membrane under the wood floor to protect it from any crawlspace moisture infiltration, but I don’t think this membrane should connect into the tiled area’s waterproofing. Any moisture that would seep past the tile (from say snowy boots left in the tiled entrance) should be prevented from migrating under the wood flooring. Is there a location for some sort of drainage or drying area that would achieve this?
Also, I seem to remember tiled transitions in some commercial spaces as delineated with a metal strip that allows for curves (so the transition is not a straight threshold). Do you know if this is in the realm of the dyi?
By the way, in keeping with the season, is there a Tile Santa?
The membrane beneath your wood floor is a moisture barrier, not necessarily a waterproof barrier, they are two different things. It does as you say, prevent vapor from penetrating below the wood. A properly installed tile floor will dissipate any moisture before it reaches your substrate (unless you flood it). Any decent membrane or substrate will work, backerboards or a membrane such as ditra (which is waterproof). The metal transition strips you speak of are notched in the horizontal leg (which goes under the tile) and are easily curved to nearly any shape you want. The only limitation for a diy’er would be your proficiency at cutting the curves in the tile.
Not sure about tile santa, pretty sure he just gives all his jobs away.
I am utterly amazed that there are such things as weep holes above the edge of the tubs, I have never heard of it, they are ugly, and one would think, other stuff would get in it (soap, etc) but now that I know about them, I will pay attention to your recommendation. They do have an “unfinished” look. Like someone forgot something.
Question, doing a shower in a old old old house, quite crooked, going to do tile on the angle, any other suggestions for this, other than should have ripped it out and straightened it(too late)
Thanks for all the info!
In the case of a shower you want function over form. There are creative ways to do it so that they don’t look unfinished or so noticeable, as long as you have an open area at the bottom from which water can drain it doesn’t matter how you do it.
Start you angled tile on two level lines (tile corners are placed on lines) and cut the tile to match the crooked areas. If you try to go off the uneven spots it’ll throw everything off.
Hi,Roger!Thanks for response?I feel safer to go with Redgard. Ceiling I intend
to cover with moist resistant drywall. Should I cover it with Redgard too?
Does Redgard take,say,Zinsser 123 Bulls-eye primer and then some
mildew-treated semi-gloss paint(kitchen-bathroom kind)?Do I seal
joint between walltile and ceiling with SiliconeII caulk or tilecaulk?
You will have a difficult time trying to paint redgard with anything, primer included. As long as it’s not an enclosed shower you can just use the primer and a good paint, it’ll be fine. You can seal the joint with silicone or tape and mud it.
It’s a room with entrance door,tiled walls and floor,fan-light and framed
ceiling. No showerdoor.Is that considered enclosed ? Then what with
painting drywall ceiling? Will tile caulk or silicone seal between drywall
did I misplace my second question again?Sorry!But I still need an
No, that is not enclosed. I don’t understand what you mean by ‘then what with painting drywall ceiling’? Regular latex paint works fine – is that what you mean? Yes, silicone will seal between drywall and tile. I moved your question for you. If you have any more just click the ‘reply’ at the bottom of this answer and it will post correctly. It helps me keep track of your project.
I have a standup shower with three walls. According to your illustration you have weep holes on two walls of a three wall shower. Shouldn’t each wall have its own weep hole or is the water able to turn corners to drain?
Water will go around the corner at the tub toward the weep holes. A properly installed tub actually slopes a bit toward the outside corner of the shower (the very back of the arm does, against the flange). No reason you can’t install more weep holes if you want to, though.
I sent you an email with a question about where the water goes when installing tile with a proper moisture barrier. You sent me the link to the information on weep holes and I thank you very much. I am just wondering how many weep holes I have covered up in my life with caulk and/or silicone??!! thinking I was keeping water out…and doing the responsible home owner thing. Your ebooks and information are awesome!
Thank you for all the good advice. My question involves the substrate. I want to install tile in my kitchen which currently has vinyl with a luan underlayment. Is it acceptable to put ditra over the luan, after removing the vinyl. The luan I found is very difficult to remove because of all the staples they use to attach it to the subfloor. Thanks for your help in advance.
Unfortunately the luan needs to be removed. It is not stable nor sturdy enough to be used beneath a tile installation. It’s normally easiest to peel up the luan without worrying about the staples, then just pound the staples down into the subfloor once all the wood is gone.
I have one 2 inch spot in the change of plane where the tiles touch. Should I try to get some space between the two by using a grinding wheel or a vibrating saw or should I just leave it as is?
If it’s just two inches I’d just leave it. That isn’t really significant enough to cause any problems.
Thank you for the answer and your site. It was a cut tile that I got to close to the corner and the part touching must be a slight out cropping from where the cut did not exactly follow the scouring. I really really thank you for your site!!!
Our contractor did the bathroom remodel project and he only left one weep hole on one of the walls. See http://postimage.org/image/nkz6tjwvl/
Would this be OK? If not, then can he open up more weep holes on other walls now that he already finished everything? Thanks
That does not look to be a weep hole to me Judy, it simply looks like shoddy work to me. Weep holes should be at the base of the tile between the tub and tile wall, not up there by your inset row.
If our contractor already put up the tiles and ONLY left one weep hole on one of the walls, would one weep hole be enough?? If not, can you open up more weep holes on other walls now that he already finished everything?? Thanks!
Yes, one weep hole is normally enough. And yes, you can add more if you want to by cutting out the silicone.
now that I have built a shower from the wall studs on out, it makes perfect sense to me…I did all that waterproofing so the water would go down, when it gets to the bottom, it has to go somewhere.
Roger, I redid my son’s shower and left 3 weep holes, one on each wall. They were built into the tub so I didn’t caulk them (following your advice). What I’ve noticed now is that when my son takes his marathon showers, the water that bounces off of him and runs down the tiles on the short wall (with the faucet) and the long wall. That water then fills up the weep holes, from the outside in! The weep holes are having the reverse affect – water is going into the weep holes and they fill up and then the water sits in there for hours after his shower is over.
Should I seal up those two week holes and leave only the one on the far short wall?
You can if you want, but no reason to. All it’s doing is just filling the small cavity with water. It is not letting water into the wall, only into the small space there. Water rarely defies gravity. Provided it is waterproofed correctly there’s absolutely nothing to worry about.
Another question: I re-grouted and caulked my shower (what a difference – looks brand new with minimal effort required!) and kept an eye out for weep holes but found none. However, I did notice some dips in the shower base at two of the corners, are those the weep holes that I should leave uncaulked?
As always, thanks so much for your help.
Yup, that’s what they are.
I am NOT questioning the wisdom of the Floor Elf, my particular Tile God, just making an observation…since I got into this, I have been scrutinizing every bathroom I ever have a chance to be in, and have yet to see a weep hole in any of them.
Me either. That’s why my business thrives.
Most people have no idea what they are. Even when they’re built into the shower bases (the little dip on the side arms toward the front) everyone still caulks them in. Water needs to be able to get to the drain. Sealing it into the wall will not allow that.
When explaining the weep hole you said, “Each of these spots are about an inch long (this doesn’t need to be exact) and contain no grout, caulk or silicone – they are simply open space”. My question is do you do anything different between the substrate and tub where the weep hole will be?
Nope. Provided your waterproofing is tied into the tub or flange correctly you’ll have no problems there.
I have a (typical) leak that has worked it’s way outside of my shower along the wall. Yes, I will need to do a little drywall and trim work… While working on the project last year, I (unknowingly) caulked the weep holes. As you would imagine, the leak continued. In doing some grout work recently, I removed some of the caulking from the weep hole. Now that I am fairly sure I have found the smoking gun, a few questions for you:
1) Do weep holes just get clogged and require regular cleaning?
2) How can I safely remove all caulking/grout from the weep holes without damaging the backerboard?
3) How far back should I expect to “dig”? If I stay away from drills and stay careful, can I be reasonably sure I won’t cause other damage?
1. Weep holes rarely get clogged. There is normally some water (a very small amount, but it’s there) coming out of the weep holes. If the shower is regularly cleaned and you don’t have overly-hard water (mineral deposits everywhere) then they’ll never plug up.
2. Don’t remove it with a jackhammer. The glob of silicone or caulk that plug weep holes will normally come out all in one chunk.* Dig into the caulk or silicone, not into the board itself. The caulk should come out fairly easily.
3. Just a little bit deeper than the thickness of your tile. You should be able to see the flange of the tub or pan rather than backerboard.
*I can’t believe I used both ‘glob’ and ‘chunk’ in one sentence.
>>3. Just a little bit deeper than the thickness of your tile. You should be able to see the flange of the tub or pan rather than backerboard.
Outstanding. I’ll use the bottom edge of the hole as a guide and just take it out carefully (last time I had to dig a little with a pair of needle-nose pliers to grab the pieces. No worries.)
Thanks for the quick reply!