Builderstrackworld – how resilient to water is fibreboard and ply?

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  • Builderstrackworld – how resilient to water is fibreboard and ply?
  • Hi

    So it turns out the “small leak”‘from the towel rail in a newly installed bathroom wasn’t the only leak.

    The fitters have finally returned today to investigate as I suggested that the water running down the kitchen walls and the sound of water sloshing above the kitchen ceiling boards, were perhaps not indicative of a small leak that had been fixed.

    Anyway, it seems there was an additional issue with the flexible water pipes going to the bath.

    The water must have been leaking for about 2 weeks (I was repeatedly told it was just residual water from the previous supposed leak) so I am now wondering what damage has been done to the new floor (fibre) boards and the ply laid on top? The tiles have all shifted and grouting has cracked along with a disconcerting squelching noise when stepping on some tiles.

    The fitters claim that it’ll all dry out and the boards will be fine as the water rolls off them and down the joints etc.

    Does this sound likely? Will the ply really settle back down after moving about? I’m really not ecstatic about the idea of risking keeping the boards when they’ve had a soaking and we’ve spent ££££’s on the bathroom!

    Advice of STW experts? The old bathroom was ripped out as the floor was rotten for flips sake (new house).


    Fibreboard makes a very effective sponge and expands a fair amount when sodden.
    Unless they used marine ply, which is unlikely for internal work, the ply also will absorb water which will compromise the laminations and will expand over time.
    I’m sure this is not what you wanted to here just after christmas but it is my experience of the materials you mentioned were involved.
    Are the tiles still attached to whatever is underneath?

    Premier Icon psling

    Hard to say!
    What you refer to as ‘fibre’ board – do you mean chipboard (Possibly in 610mm x 2440mm sheets)? If so, it comes in different grades, some of which are “moisture resistant”.
    Same for plywood; usual building plywood sheets can come in a choice of 3 adhesive specifications and 3 durability specifications, the best of which are classed as waterproof (but they can come in a combination of adhesive and durability grades!)
    In all cases, the sheets will have the grading stamped on them although this may no longer be accessible/visible.
    Also, if the boards have been SOAKED through then IMO they would need repacing but if this is the case I would get someone independant to inspect and test.

    Well, the timing could be better as we’ve spent Christmas in hospital waiting for mini RRR to arrive (still waiting).

    Anyway, yes the tiles that were laid 2 weeks ago are still on the ply board. As much as I suspect you’re right about the fibreboard I’m terrified of demanding they replace both floor and ply as it would involve the newly installed suite being removed and we’ll hopefully be taking a pink screaming thing home soon :-/

    We can’t be without a bathroom , erk

    psling – I only know that the boards are floorboard spec (Wickes) as somewhat ironically the whole floor was replaced due to the previous one being rotten :-/

    Premier Icon easygirl

    If the boards have been saturated fir 2 weeks, they will need replacing, especially if you can hear squelching nouses when walking on them.its better to get it done now rather than in 6 months time, when the builders will be long gone, and it will cost you to get it put right

    Premier Icon leffeboy

    We can’t be without a bathroom , erk

    Oh yes you can [/pantomode]

    Although not ideal it’s way easier to deal with now than later

    Premier Icon cb

    big plastic bath for the nipper, or sink if that young. Fibreboards up (and I suspect if its floor then it will be chipboard) and replaced as well.


    If its floorboards about 6 inches wide going lengthways down the bathroom then not so bad, if its chipboard pannels about 18 inches wide and 4 foot long and not coloured green(waterproof) big triouble as chipboard is like shredded weat, swells like mad and tastes the same, so new floor new tiles etc,and who ever did the job needs to fund it all.

    Then there is the upside of the gf ceiling , plasterboard doesnt like water and swells, also the water will flow until it finds an outlet, usualy a ceiling rose lamp holder.

    Lots of pictures for proof, and happy babytimes to you both.

    Well, I was wondering whether the water would have run between the gaps in the floorboard so they’re not actually sitting in the water. I do however think some water is trapped between the ply and tiles.

    It was bad enough peeing in a bucket and washing in the kitchen sink when the wife was 36 weeks pregnant let alone our potentially doing it with a new-born sproglet in tow :-/

    I guess there’s no easy way of knowing without removing the tiles to check the ply or perhaps the ruined kitchen ceiling to check the underside of the floorboards?

    Premier Icon psling

    If the floor has been replaced my guess is chipboard. Fibreboard isn’t structural and strictly speaking isn’t designed for use under ceramic tiles (too flexible/bouncy) although the plywood may mitigate this a bit.

    It needs to be looked at to ascertain the extent of any damage really.

    ps – you won’t be putting baby in the bath for a while yet though mum will be glad of a relaxing bath, good luck.

    Project – yep not green chipboard sounds about right.

    It’s a big company we’ve bought the bathroom/install from but the fitters (perhaps unsurprisingly) seem very reluctant to admit the floor needs replacing! I can’t really start removing the tiles to check the damage to the ply as they’ll be funny about refitting them :-/

    Oh and I assume it’s reasonable to expect the kitchen to be redecorated once the ceilings been replaced?!

    Premier Icon cb

    Green doesn’t mean waterproof, just resistant. If water is pooling it will have penetrated the boards – chip. ply or fibre.


    It’s a big company we’ve bought the bathroom/install from but the fitters (perhaps unsurprisingly) seem very reluctant to admit the floor needs replacing!

    Probably because the installers are responsible for doing the job right and renewing any damaged work or paying for new materials,

    Phone the head office first.and see what they say.
    Its not a 2 initials firm is it.

    Yep, the installers originally wanted me to settle the water damage with the big company directly as they said that the towel rail valves were faulty.

    It’s not a two initialled big company no, but more one that would be of interest to chandlers.

    (I’m sure if things don’t get sorted the vaguely cryptic clues will stop and an out and out flaming will commence)


    The floor will need replacing end of. Once the old is removed you’ll need to let it dry out…for at least a week depending on the amount of heating you have..when the floor is removed have a look at the ‘ top ‘ of the Kitchen ceiling ( probably plasterboard ) and look for damage. If the kitchen ceiling is sodden it’ll need replacing also..

    Good luck with the bab.

    Cheers tymbian!
    The plaster board of the kitchen ceiling is definitely knackered – I can push it with one hand so it moves a couple of inches, not to mention the cracks in it …

    Do the joists need to dry out fully before a new floor can be out down? I’m just trying to figure out how I can it done with minimal disruption!


    you would be trapping moist timber betwen the ceiling and the floor,resulting in mould, wet and posibly dry rot.


    Degree in Construction and Charted Institute of Building here.

    It’s knackered.

    pull it all up and leave to dry for a couple of weeks then renew. They reckon marine ply (which is 4 times the cost of normal ply) is OK to get wet, but it’s not really to get proper wet. Your builder probably used far-eastern ply (the most common type) or Chinese (both types about £20 a sheet. Both are no good if wet. Same goes for plasterboard (even moisture resistant), MDF and OSB

    get it up



    Lifetime DIY experience here!

    Get them to rip it all out and to start again, it’s totally f**cked.


    Take the ceiling down and leave it down, get the leak fixed and you can see its fixed while its down,
    then take the floor up and put a new one down, the joists won’t be holding that much water now to fook
    anymore while the ceilings down, when your happy put the ceiling back.
    Leave the ceiling as long as you like unless you walk on it 😉

    Oh Lordy.

    I’ve just looked at the bit of chipboard under the bath which isn’t covered in tiles and ply wood and it doesn’t look too bad.

    However I fear that you’re all right. The problem is that I can’t be without a bathroom for long at all! I suppose the problem is that I can’t really check the state of the chipboard or ply until the fitters come to sort it out (i.e. them hoping they can just retile). If I start ripping tiles and ply up I’m sure they’ll get all funny about stuff :-/

    I suppose to

    Premier Icon Rusty Mac

    I would second pretty much what everyone else has, get it fixed now.

    It is not impossible to be without a bathroom especially in the early stages, as they are so small baby will be able to be washed in the kitchen sink no problem at all.

    Leaving it to fester will only lead to bigger problems down the line when the installers will find it easier to back out of covering the repair work.


    Get them to sign a written agreement that the tiles won’t lift when it’s all done!, if the boards have expanded with moisture they could move more when drying fully out causing yet more grout cracking and tile movement 🙁

    Premier Icon psling

    Chartered Building Surveyor here with over 30 years experience.

    Without actually inspecting the job I couldn’t tell you whether it needs ripping up or not because I am unable to determine the extent of water damage (unlike ChrisE and oldboy above!) 😉

    Get it looked at by the Company’s Contracts Manager / Installation Manager and/or your own independent ‘expert’. Then get them to fix it. If they are reluctant to agree to the extent of the damage you may have to go legal I’m afraid although you won’t know this until someone has looked at the job – properly!


    RRR where are you based?

    Cheers guys – I could do with someone independent taking a look although how they’d check the floorboards and ply without taking up the tiles I’m not sure?

    Tymbian – we’re just north of Chesterfield

    Premier Icon tthew

    Floorboards can be checked by taking down the already knackered ceiling, (but I think someone mentioned that earlier?) and if they are jiggered, then the tiles and ply are going to have to come up anyway.

    I’d not be talking to the installers, all through the supplier. Your contract is with the supplier, theirs is with the fitting company.

    Your insurance company may be a good source of advice and able to supply an independent assessor then possibly legal information.


    RRR Chesterfield is too far for me..( Banbury )

    Had a thought today ( like you do )…Remove the floor from the bathroom, put a decently thick polythene sheet on the rafters, replace floor. Let the joists dry out from underneath via the removed kitchen ceiling. This way you, Mrs RRR and the pink one wont have to do without a bathroom.

    If the floor-boards are solid timber then there’s a good chance they will dry out ( without ply etc. on top ). when they do re-fix. I, personally wouldn’t re-use any ply or chip-board that’s had two weeks of saturation.

    Oh this is fun.

    Mini RRR has arrived early and we have this bathroom to sort out still.

    So, the Store manager of the large chain we bought the bathroom from has forwarded my complaint to the installation company they subcontract to.

    This morning I got a call from the fitter who firmly told me that the floor doesn’t need replacing. He actually said “you leave your car outside and it gets wet then dries out” , almost suggesting that chipboard is as resilient to water as galvanised steel.


    I’m now losing my patience. Anyone good on consumer advice?!


    go buy an offcut piece of chip board

    get it nice and sodden

    let it dry out –

    show him the mess.


    Independant inspection or the like then go to town with them.

    Premier Icon Cougar

    Start documenting everything. Dates, times of work done and every conversation you have and everything they tell you.

    Premier Icon Nobby

    Have you been to your insurance co?

    As mentioned above, they should be a good source of info. It is also likely you could claim for the damage under your policy & let insurers do the chasing down of the installer. The last time we had something similar here our client ended up being put up in a local hotel for the week or so the works took & it was all subrogated back from the builders insurance company.

    Premier Icon tthew

    Ring their central customer services department, this sort of dispute is their job to sort, not a store manager but you’re going to have to start the explainaiton all over again. Ask if the call is being recorded, ask them if they can if not and tell them you are making notes, (Cougar’s advice is good).

    Don’t engage with the fitter any longer, if they contact you again just explain politely that you are sorting it out with the people you signed the contract with, (and make sure the DIY company understand that position too)

    CAB is good with consumer advice, but I believe they are struggling due to having funding cut? Again, your house insurance may have some kind of legal cover/advice included, did you ring them yet?

    Thanks guys. I fear that it’s going to get complicated as I’ve paid the fitters some cash directly (and the claim the rest from the store) , have paid a deposit to the store and have the remainder to pay as a low cost finance agreement.

    I am now wondering whether I should contact their head office directly but am waiting for the store manager to get back to me.

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