Tub/Shower enclosures can be difficult to maintain due to the usual daily exposure to water. Water from showering beats on the tile or other waterproof materials and finds its way through any cracks, unsealed grout, or fixtures into the substrate the tiles are attached to. Depending on what kind of substrate it is, can make the difference between whether the shower enclosure will last virtually forever or whether it will need to be replaced in a year. Keeping the tub spout and other wall attachments (like soap dishes and grab bars) well sealed is crucial to preventing hidden damage behind the waterproof surfaces. Leaking shower enclosures often lead to moldy and rotten messes in the walls and floors around them.
Given how difficult it can be to achieve and maintain good tub/shower enclosures, it is baffling that anyone would think that an enclosure with no protection would ever be an option. Every once in a while I come across installations that are merely painted drywall for the enclosure. The durability of this type of surface is nil. Both installations pictured are newer installations as is indicated by the lack of deterioration—or only beginning deterioration. Over time the drywall will be destroyed.
In this next picture, there is a small band of tile installed around the tub—-not nearly high enough to protect the walls during use of the shower.
Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector
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