If you own a home that was built in the 30’s or 40’s in San Francisco, or on the peninsula in San Mateo County, you may still have one of these tiled stall showers. They were generally placed adjacent to a separate cast iron bathtub in these old bathrooms. It is pretty amazing the number of these showers that are still in service, given the eras in which they were constructed.
My grandmother purchased a “brand new” home in the Mission Terrace neighborhood of San Francisco in 1936 for $5,000! That was a considerable amount of money in the depths of the depression, but she managed to pay it off early, and the home remains in our family to this day. The bathroom was finished in “art-deco” tile, and believe it or not, the shower is still being used every day, is still in pretty good shape, and it doesn’t leak!
But our shower is the exception to the rule. The shower depicted in the photo is in a 1940’s era home in San Mateo County, and it is no longer serviceable. During an inspection of this home by my company, Bay Area Mold Pros, my meters detected moisture behind the tile on all three walls, and under the tile in the shower pan. I took air samples both within the shower and in the hallway adjacent to the shower, and both samples came back with elevated mold spore counts.
If your home still has one of these original stall showers, it would probably be wise to have a mold inspector determine what you’re breathing when you’re using the shower. There is really no way to “repair” these old showers, they’re simply too far gone. Most of the pans have failed (they used either a “hot-mop” waterproofing, or a sheet metal pan in this era of construction).
If you determine that your shower is still serviceable, remember to keep it clean, and you may wish to apply some grout sealer. The grout on these old showers is often missing in places, but you can prolong its life with frequent applications of a modern grout sealer.