DensShield Failure (Causes And How To Avoid)

There’s nothing more irritating than a tile backer board failure. When a tile backer board fails, the entire project is ruined, and you usually have no option but to start again.

In today’s post, we will focus on the failure of one of the most popular tile backer boards – DensShield. We will discuss what causes this failure and how you can avoid it.


But First, What is DensShield?

DensShield is a tile backer board made by George Pacific. It can be used as regular drywall, but thanks to its high moisture resistance capabilities, DensShield is often used in wet areas such as kitchens and bathrooms.

This backer board is an ideal underlayment for tiles. It is an upgrade of plain old cement board. It is made using gypsum, which is coated with moisture-resistant acrylic. Not only does DensShield resist moisture from passing through but it also prevents mold development.

DensShield, as a tile backer board, stands out in many ways. That’s why people love using it in their homes or offices, especially in wet locations. It’s important to mention that DensShield is super lightweight and easy to install.

From the above, it’s clear that DensShield has many benefits. So, why would it fail?

Even though DensShield is a superior tile backer board, it is far from perfect. There are a couple of factors that can lead to DensShield failure.

If you are considering installing it on your property, you need to familiarize yourself with these causes and learn how to avoid them.

Main Causes of DensShield Failure (And How to Avoid It)

1. Leaving Gaps/Seams on the DensShield During Installation

When installing DensShield, it is unacceptable for you to leave gaps or seams. That counters the work DensShield was designed to do in the first place. DensShield is a moisture-resistant tile backer board.

This feature aims to bar water penetration through the tiles, past the drywall, and into the frame and other things behind it.

If you leave seams or gaps, you create spaces for moisture to pass through. Therefore, there would even be no use for DensShield. Since there won’t be any moisture protection.

Gaps and seams on DensShield often lead to project failure when moisture passes through these openings. And don’t be misled that you can fix these gaps with caulk or silicone. These two are not waterproof and will let moisture pass through, thus resulting in DensShield failure.

Remember, DensShield is made out of gypsum. When exposed to a lot of water, it will turn wet and pasty. And there is a good chance it will crumble.

If you or a contractor leave behind gaps or seams on the DensShield, the project should be stopped and started from scratch.

Remove any DensShield boards that were fitted and install them correctly, ensuring no seams or gaps in between. You need to take accurate measurements to ensure proper installation of the DensShield.

2. Using DensShield at the Bottom of the Shower or Tub

DensShield is a suitable tile backer board for wet areas such as bathrooms. However, when used at the bottom of the tub or shower, that is a recipe for disaster. Here are two reasons why DensShield will fail when used at the bottom of a shower or tub.

One, DensShield is super light. Therefore, it can’t accommodate the weight of a tub or a person. Since showers are in high-traffic areas, the excess weight may cause it to crumble.

Two, the bottom of the shower or tub is often exposed to water. After all, that is where the drain is located. DensShield is water-resistant. It is not waterproof. That means when exposed to a lot of moisture will cause it to turn spongy, and that’s when it will fail.

Because of these two reasons, the DensShield tile backer board shouldn’t be used at the bottom of the shower or tub. If you ask some experienced contractors, they will advise you to completely keep DensShield away from showers.

In this scenario, the best solution to avoid DensShield failure is to swap it out with a cement board. Unlike the DensShield gypsum tile backer board, the cement board is stronger and can withstand long-term moisture exposure without crumbling or cracking.

3. Failing to Seal the Bottom Part of DensShield with a Waterproofing Agent

The shower is one of the main areas DensShield will most likely fail. Now that I have shared with you the risks of using DensShield at the bottom of the shower or tub, you may consider using it on the walls. That’s okay, considering its properties.

However, at the bottom part where the DensShield touches the floor or drain, you must seal that area with a waterproofing agent. To emphasize one more time, DensShield is water-resistant but not waterproof. The assumption that DensShield is waterproof is what leads to failure.

At the bottom edge, there is frequent exposure to water which can be absorbed by DensShield. That’s why you need to apply a waterproofing agent to get double protection from water damage.

4. Exposing DensShield to Rain/Water During Storage or Transportation

After it has been correctly installed, DensShield does a commendable job of preventing moisture from passing through. However, DensShield needs to be kept as far away from water as possible during transportation or storage.

Don’t fall for marketing gimmicks claiming that DensShield can be immersed in a basin of water for weeks and will still look as good as new. That’s a lie.

Many people who have exposed DensShield to water during transportation or storage claim that it behaves like regular sheetrock.

The exposed parts often turn spongy, and the board becomes ineffective because its structure has been compromised. If you go ahead and install it when it’s in that condition, it will automatically fail.

While transporting DensShield or storing it, ensure it’s adequately protected from water exposure.

5. Forgetting to Waterproof the Screw Penetrations

Sealing the bottom edge of DensShield is usually not enough. The screw penetrations are also points of failure.

Therefore, do not forget to waterproof these penetrations as well. Otherwise, moisture can soak into the screw openings and lead to DensShield failure.

Proper Installation is Key to Avoiding DensShield Failures

Besides storage and transportation, most DensShield failures are caused by poor installation. For instance, when you leave gaps on the DensShield or forget to seal the bottom.

These are all recipes for failure. If you have decided to install DensShield, make sure that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions. That’s the only way you can be assured of a successful and long-lasting project.

According to Georgia-Pacific guidelines, measurements are critical to ensure a snug fit. Caulk should be applied on the ends of the backer board after you have fastened them.

Please use fiberglass tape to cover seams and joints. It’s relatively easy, and most people often get it right the first time around.

How Common are DensShield Failures?

The good news about using the DensShield tile backer board is that the number of failures reported about this product is low.

From my research on various online forums, there are very few complaints about DensShield failures. And the few reports are often due to the installer’s negligence. It has got nothing to do with the quality of the product.

It’s also important to mention that Georgia Pacific has never recalled any of its tile backer boards due to failures. That’s a good sign that this is a quality product, and as long as it’s installed correctly, you have nothing to worry about.

If you doubt your ability to install DensShield correctly, you can always have a licensed contractor professionally do it for you so that you can prevent failure.

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