The Stone Detective: The Case of the Powdered Limestone Bath
Frederick M. Hueston, PhD
Why is it that I only seem to get calls for inspection in the North when it’s 7 degrees? This Florida boy is not built for the cold. But when there is a stone situation needing my expertise to solve, I guess I have to dig out the old winter coat and just go for it. This time, I was headed to Chicago to look at a shower that was powdering. Here is how it all came about.
It was an early Monday morning when the ringing phone woke me. I’m not a sound sleeper, so I reached over to my nightstand and picked up the phone. “Stone Detective,” I slurred, still half asleep. The voice on the other end sounded very professional. At first I thought it was one of those voice-over guys, and for a second I thought it was a dream.
He apologized for waking me and continued telling me about his limestone shower. He said that he was getting areas in the shower that were turning to powder. He went on for what seemed an hour about the installation and what the installer told him. I thought I was listening to one of those movie trailers. Coming to a theater near you – Limestone Powder!
I woke a little more when he mentioned that the installer told him that he was using harsh chemicals to clean it, and that there may be some issues with his water quality. He said he didn’t use any chemicals other than a neutral cleaner, and that he squeegees the walls down after each shower. He then asked if I could fly to Chicago and take a look at the shower. I told him that I should be able to in a couple of days. I asked for his email and told him I would get back to him once I made my airline reservations. I hung up the phone and immediately logged on to the weather in Chicago. Just my luck – the weather for the next few weeks was going to be in the single digits. Oh well, this is what I do, and it was a little slow right now, so I booked a flight for the next week.
Listen up, people: Despite HGTV and Houzz, there are some limestones that are just not appropriate for wet environments like showers. Do your research.
I just landed at the airport when the pilot announced that it was a brisk, sunny 7 degrees. That’s 7 degrees Fahrenheit, boys and girls. Luckily I brought my winter jacket and also had on a t-shirt, a dress shirt and a hoodie. I stepped off the plane and felt like someone had just opened the freezer door. Holy crap, was it cold. I walked as fast as I could to get to my rental car.
I arrived at Don Pardo’s home, and he was waiting on the front porch for me. He looked just like Ed McMahon from the old Tonight Show. I got out of the car and headed toward him. He extended his hand and nearly broke mine when he gripped it.
“Come inside and I’ll show you the mess,” he said. We walked through the house, and he led me to the master bath. He opened the door and pointed toward the shower and said, “And here’s the mess.” For a second I thought he was going to say, “Heeere’s Johnny!”
I walked into the bathroom and opened the shower door. The entire shower from floor to ceiling was a once-beautiful Portuguese limestone known as Lagos Blue. I looked at Don and rolled my eyes and shook my head. I have seen this many times before with Lagos Blue. Sadly, it’s not an appropriate stone to use in a wet area.
Just to be sure, I took out my knife and started poking at some spalled areas on the stone. The stone just fell apart and powdered. It was almost like sticking a knife in some beach sand, which is where I wished I was at the moment.
I asked him all the standard questions, and finally, my conclusion was to tell him to get ahold of the person who sold him the limestone, take him out on a boat in Lake Michigan and push him overboard.
I cannot believe how much Lagos Blue and other limestones are used in showers these days. Almost every single installation is falling apart. Many of the stone distributors even have on their website that this stone should not be used in a wet area. Don’t believe me? Google Lago Blue and see what many distributors say about this stone in wet areas. Another case solved – sort of.
The Stone Detective is a fictional character created by Dr. Frederick M. Hueston, PhD, written to be entertaining and educational. Dr. Fred has written over 33 books on stone and tile installations, fabrication and restoration and also serves as an expert for many legal cases across the world. You can send your email comments to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.