Frederick M. Hueston, PhD

Once again, it’s another 90-plus degrees day here in Florida. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I love it here in paradise. Sure, I miss the seasons, but I can always get on a plane and see snow, the leaf changes, etc. I’m lucky that I travel a lot as a stone and tile expert.

I got up and turned the A.C. down a bit since it was like 68 degrees, and I was freezing. I walked into the bathroom for my morning routine. I looked in the mirror and started to see spots before my eyes. I blinked several times and then reached for the eye drops. The spots finally went away. Why am I boring you with my eye issues? It just so happened that later that morning, while eating at my favorite greasy spoon, I would get a call with a similar problem. 

I was just minding my own business, enjoying my ham and eggs and flirting with Flo the waitress, when my cell phone rang. Yes, I have one of those “antique” rings that sounds like a real phone. I thought I would let it go to voicemail, but a little voice inside my head said “answer it.”  The caller had a very deep voice. For a minute I thought he was Bowzer from Sha Na Na. If you don’t know who that is, then you’re a lot younger than I am. He told me that he had a shower installed with quartzite about a year ago and there were spots appearing on the wall, but they would disappear within a day or two. As he went on and on about these spots I thought he might have had the same condition I had this morning, but that would be just too weird. He continued to tell me that the spots only show up right after a shower and then disappear in a few hours. He told me these spots are getting bigger and bigger. He then asked if I could come out and take a look at it. I told him yes, but only if he could sing a few bars of “16 Tons” (Google it). I really didn’t ask him that, but was very tempted. He told me he was in Miami, which was a three-hour ride for me. I got his info and scheduled the inspection for the following week.

It was another hot day and I thought about taking the Harley for the trip to Bowzer’s inspection. In Florida when it’s hot it rains every afternoon, so I opted for the ole Woody instead.  Of course, I would have to stop to flirt with Flo, listen to the old folk’s same ole stories, and grab a quick bite to eat before heading out.

I arrived at Bowzer’s home, a very large Southern mansion. I pulled up to the gate, and it opened to let me in. I guess he was watching for me – after all, who else drives an ole Woody? I pulled up to the front door and he was waiting for me, sitting on a porch swing. He stood up as I approached, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. He looked just like Bowzer, sleeveless T-shirt and all. Later I would find out that he was in a tribute band and he played Bowzer!  He asked me to take off my shoes and he led me up the stairs to the master bath. He pointed to the shower and said, “Take a look.”

Seeing spots? You probably don’t need to have your eyes checked – just the adhesive used on your shower panels.

Seeing spots? You probably don’t need to have your eyes checked – just the adhesive used on your shower panels.

Well, I looked closely at the shower and did not see any spotting. I did notice that the corners had some bleeding, which is common when certain caulks are used. I asked if I could turn the shower on and wet down the walls. He told me to go for it. Darn, he sounded just like Bowzer, and it made it a little hard to concentrate!

Fortunately, he had one of those shower wands, so I turned the hot water on and started wetting the walls down. Within two minutes these circular spots started appearing. They were very faint and hard to photograph. It was like someone set these slabs with silicone circles. 

I asked if he knew what was used to set the panels. He told me that he didn’t, but we could call the installer. My first thought was, Boy, is this is going to be fun. Here I am, on the job inspecting someone else’s work, and they are going to be defensive. So, I handled this with kid gloves. What, you doubt me? I can be diplomatic!

We called the installer and asked him to explain how they installed the panels. Are you ready for this? He said they used Interior Liquid Nails. That’s all I needed to hear. Liquid Nails is an organic adhesive that should not be used in a wet area. In addition, it can bleed through a porous stone. The reason it only shows up when it is wet is that the stone is getting wet, and where the Liquid Nails are, the stone has a different moisture content. Mystery spots solved, but sadly, it will have to be torn out. I think I’ll ask Bowzer to sing a few bars before I leave. Maybe that’ll cheer us both up!

The Stone Detective is a fictional character created by Dr. Frederick M. Hueston, PhD, written to entertain and educate. 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. Send your email comments to him at fhueston@stone