Shower/Tub Caulking Question

Jimmy KingJimmy King Registered User regular
edited January 2014 in Help / Advice Forum
Short, immediate question (more details on the whole situation can be provided if anyone thinks it could allow them to give better advice). I have a bath tub with a separate shower wall. Should that small gap between the tub and wall be caulked? I have had some issues in the last week and had plumbers in and out. One thing that came up, and may be at the root of my current problem (but separate from what they already "fixed"), is that they told me that gap should not actually be caulked and it is in my house. There's a lip and bit of a catch where the tub goes back behind that and having it caulked apparently causes water to get trapped back there. I can feel around, look behind the wall and see that lip, etc.

Now, that has been caulked since before I bought the house almost 8 years ago. It's never been a problem before. In my mind, if everything is properly sealed, why would there be water back there to get trapped behind the caulk?

That said, there is certainly a problem. Lots of water leaking from a 2nd floor bathtub. This morning after showering (because I thought it was fixed), after discovering a fresh puddle downstairs, I went back up and fiddled around. I pushed on the upper wall section and it did move back a bit, and split away from the caulk between it and the tub. When that happened, some water did drain out, suggesting water is trapped back there and having no caulk may have allowed it to just run right out.

Jimmy King on
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  • CogCog Registered User regular
    Jimmy King wrote: »
    Now, that has been caulked since before I bought the house almost 8 years ago. It's never been a problem before. In my mind, if everything is properly sealed, why would there be water back there to get trapped behind the caulk?

    I can't imagine where else water would be entering that area unless there's seams or cracks in the wall itself and the water is actually spraying against that wall during the shower operation. This shower has a functional exhaust fan to take care of condensation, yes? Which side of the shower is this on relative to the shower head?
    Jimmy King wrote: »
    When that happened, some water did drain out, suggesting water is trapped back there and having no caulk may have allowed it to just run right out.

    I can't imagine a configuration where having water trapped behind a shower wall/surround and letting it run out of an unsealed joint is intentional or optimal, but I'm in no way a plumber, architect, or anything more than an average home-owning handyman-by-necessity.

  • Jimmy KingJimmy King Registered User regular
    yeah, this is all my thinking as well. There's no sane reason to me for there to be water back there that I should be allowing to drain and if there is I've just got a different problem. We already re-caulked all around the wall part to make sure it is well sealed and I kept an eye on it while showering. On the floor below there was literally a 3ft x 3ft puddle of water with more still up in the ceiling (there are holes in my ceiling from the initial repair, which is why so much made it to the floor so quickly and I can reach around and see what's up), which is way more than I'd expect if this was all just a small crack in the caulk up above the wall where water doesn't even get except while I'm rinsing shampoo out of my hair, as was first explained before we re-caulked that.
    Cog wrote: »
    This shower has a functional exhaust fan to take care of condensation, yes? Which side of the shower is this on relative to the shower head?

    Oddly enough, no. It's on the to-do list if I can ever afford to after fixing shit that's flat out broken and has to be dealt with immediately. I've always just left a door open to let the moisture out. I probably should have just had one put in when I bought the house, but being a naive first time home owner, my thought was "well, it's been like this for 20 years, it must be ok."

    I'm close to telling them to just stop everything and waiting until I can afford to pay to just have that remodeled... rip all of the tub/shower out, put a new one in that I know (or, really, hope) is installed properly, and call it a day. I feel like I'm going to end up spending at least that much taking guesses and "fixing" random shit or letting them rip out enough ceiling and wall that they can see 100% for sure what the problem is anyway... might as well get a whole new setup out of it.

    Definitely going to do some experimenting and investigation on my own. I probably will rip that caulking out to see if it makes anything better and am going to pick up one of those cheap clear shower curtains, cut it into a few strips, and hang them so that they hang over any caulking/joints and force all water to definitely drain down into the tub. I'm also going to have to take a very close look at the tub while standing in it to make sure there's not some hairline crack that you can only barely see with a 230lb dude standing on it.

    I can tell you that, at least as of testing on Monday, it definitely did not leak when just running a bath and letting that drain. It is only when running a shower and seems to only be when running a shower and I am in it. No leak when running the shower with no one in there. I actually took a shower with the plumber hanging out below the leak on Monday and that's when there was an issue, which is when he pointed out the caulking that maybe shouldn't be there and re-caulked around where it definitely should be.

  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    Yes you should calk all the seams between the the wall and fixtures like faucets and tub and all that.

    Having a puddle though... that's way more than a crack around a tub should put out.

    http://www.lowes.com/pd_66835-72643-M90006_?PL=1&productId=3242342
    http://www.lowes.com/pd_185393-1168-5860_4294729413__?productId=3064329

    Grab yourself a caulk gun that fits it, do it yourself, laugh manically that you paid $20 for what someone would charge you $200 on.

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
    zepherin
  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    Oh uh, thought it wasn't caulked at all, hm. Might be a leak on the pipe that leads to the shower head?

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
    MalakaiusCroakerBC
  • CogCog Registered User regular
    edited January 2014
    bowen wrote: »
    Oh uh, thought it wasn't caulked at all, hm. Might be a leak on the pipe that leads to the shower head?

    That was my thought too, until I got to the part where he said
    Jimmy King wrote: »
    No leak when running the shower with no one in there.

    That's really fucking weird. Here's all I can think of:

    You don't need to buy a clear shower curtain, just buy a plastic drop cloth, like you'd use for painting. It should be cheaper, and even larger than a shower curtain. You can pretty much re-wrap your shower walls with it, without cutting it up (thus creating seams for water to slip through and ruin your test) and funnel all the water straight to the drain with it. Take a shower (yes with yourself in it) like this and see if you leak. If no leak, you're looking at a problem with the surround or the seam between the wall and tub basin. If it still leaks, then you have a problem with the actual plumbing - either the faucet/shower head portion, or the drain & drain piping.

    Or, hell, take your showerhead off, and stick a hose on the end of the pipe and run it straight to the drain. Stand in your shower and let it run for 10 minutes.

    One really quick and easy thing you can do do is take off your showerhead and the pipe it's connected to and make sure the back side is properly sealed with dope & plumbing tape. Depending on your actual fixture, you might be able to pull off the faucet portion, and check there as well. Shine a flashlight around behind whatever you can open up and see if you can spot any wet/rotting/mildewy/moldy wood or drywall that might indicate where the leak is generally located.

    Since it only seems to occur when you are actually IN the shower, that is leading me to believe it has something to do with your weight, and your suspicions about a hairline crack somewhere may be correct. Problem is, I wouldn't expect a "hairline" crack to cause that amount of water to leak, so I'm wondering if it's more that the body weight is shifting the plumbing itself and opening a joint somewhere. All of that seems pretty far fetched, but I don't know what other direction this could possibly be taking. Unfortunately, all you can really do is the plastic curtain/cloth trial & error to try to eliminate possibilities or start ripping out drywall so you can actually see wtf is going on.

    Also, you didn't clarify where the water coming from behind the shower surround is in relation to the showerhead or faucet fixture.

    And yeah, get an exhaust fan in there. Condensation is almost certainly not causing that volume of water to leak down a floor, but it's still a good thing to have to avoid the mold/mildew issue.

    Cog on
    bowen
  • zepherinzepherin Registered User regular
    I would generally point my finger at a leak in the diverter valve. I find that to be the most finicky of items behind the shower wall.

    CogbowenEssee
  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    Yeah that seems the most likely.

    Might just be enough weight in the shower to shift the pipes attached to the valve to make it spew water?

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
    zepherin
  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    If there is, holy fuck that is some shoddy carpentry work!

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
    Cogzepherincabsy
  • Jimmy KingJimmy King Registered User regular
    Cog wrote: »
    Since it only seems to occur when you are actually IN the shower, that is leading me to believe it has something to do with your weight, and your suspicions about a hairline crack somewhere may be correct. Problem is, I wouldn't expect a "hairline" crack to cause that amount of water to leak, so I'm wondering if it's more that the body weight is shifting the plumbing itself and opening a joint somewhere. All of that seems pretty far fetched, but I don't know what other direction this could possibly be taking. Unfortunately, all you can really do is the plastic curtain/cloth trial & error to try to eliminate possibilities or start ripping out drywall so you can actually see wtf is going on.

    Also, you didn't clarify where the water coming from behind the shower surround is in relation to the showerhead or faucet fixture.
    Yeah, this all makes sense.

    As to where the water is coming from, it's hard to tell. I'll find time to mock up a picture of what's up in ms paint as far as where the shower and tub are, what I can see, etc. I also shoved my phone in various nooks and crannies and took pictures to try to get an idea of just how much water was there and where it's coming from.

  • CogCog Registered User regular
    Well, when you said
    I pushed on the upper wall section and it did move back a bit, and split away from the caulk between it and the tub. When that happened, some water did drain out
    was that on the side of the shower with the fixtures, or the side wall, or..?

  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    Taking pictures of everything would help a bit, I think. And a diagram of the rooms above each other. But if your house isn't level and slopes, it can throw that off a bit.

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
  • CogCog Registered User regular
    I at least think we can all agree that "Yeah, that wall is supposed to get water behind it and you just leave the seam at the bottom uncaulked so it can drain" is bananas, at any rate.

    bowenzepherinCroakerBC
  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    I mean... unless you're the kind of person who likes to collect spores, molds, and fungus.

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
  • Jimmy KingJimmy King Registered User regular
    Cog wrote: »
    Well, when you said
    I pushed on the upper wall section and it did move back a bit, and split away from the caulk between it and the tub. When that happened, some water did drain out
    was that on the side of the shower with the fixtures, or the side wall, or..?
    Both, actually. First I did the side wall, then a few minutes ago I did the side with the fixtures. I can see the split on the side wall, but I cannot actually see the caulk split away on the side with the fixtures, but I can see water seep out so it must be split a tiny bit. The part on the side wall is semi-interesting because it's exactly where it originally split months ago (well, probably years ago and being a terrible homeowner it took me a long time to deal with it) and I stripped out the caulk and redid it all.

    As another idea which is possible but I have no solid proof yet, is I wonder if it's leaking, possibly only when I stand in the shower, from the pipes leading up to the shower and falling right into that catch area behind the tub and overflowing. For the amount of water, that makes a whole shitload more sense to me.

    Anyway, will do pics when I get a chance. I need to do some actual work to keep the boss man happy since, sadly, I do not just shit out $1000 bills. The papercuts from that would be awful, but I think it might be worth it lately.

  • zepherinzepherin Registered User regular
    Cog wrote: »
    I at least think we can all agree that "Yeah, that wall is supposed to get water behind it and you just leave the seam at the bottom uncaulked so it can drain" is bananas, at any rate.
    That doesn't even make any sense to me. From my professional experience plumbers love to lay it on so they can replace all sorts of shit. This is a legit change order and he can cash in. Hey your diverter valve is probably leaking I'm going to need to change it out and make sure the piping is snug and possibly solder a couple of joints $250 please. Hey because of the leak your greenboard is junk. I'm going to need to pull out that wall and green board, put in a Hardie backer board, and re-tile and re-cauk your shower. $650 please, and those things actually probably need to get done.

    I don't know a plumber who doesn't rack it up when something is all fucked up like this. This guy just is just odd, like he hates making an extra money, especially when they are legitimate issues.

    bowen
  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    zepherin wrote: »
    I don't know a plumber who doesn't rack it up when something is all fucked up like this. This guy just is just odd, like he hates making an extra money, especially when they are legitimate issues.

    Yeah, either he's a shit plumber or he just doesn't want to do that kind of work and just wants to unclog drains.

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
  • Jimmy KingJimmy King Registered User regular
    Well, this is a fairly reputable (prices are a bit high, but they are honest and the work is usually done right) larger company here in town for this sort of thing. I tend to use them for most repairs I cannot do or do not have time to do (full time work + school + dad means I don't have time to fix shit if I can afford to pay someone else to do it) and work with the same manager there all the time. If he's smart, he knows long term there's a lot more money in treating me right than in getting as much money from me in one shot and leaving me feeling ripped off.

    The workers themselves probably have a constant enough stream of work that they don't benefit in any way from sticking me with extra shit if they don't really think it needs done. If they aren't installing extra crap on my house, they're doing it on someone else's.

    That said, their solution at this point is "let's replace the whole thing" - tub, fixtures, shower wall, some of the other plumbing (going to tell them to send me a line by line quote shortly) with acrylic tub, I think single piece tub and wall, and so on. I don't know that it truly needs to be done, but tther than, as said, I don't crap $1000 bills, I wouldn't necessarily mind because I'll end up spending nearly as much taking wild ass guesses and the tub clearly does move and pull away when I put weight in it (did some testing).

  • zepherinzepherin Registered User regular
    If your going to do that, make sure if you see green board behind the shower (it's green, looks like foam and hard to miss) have them replace that with cement backer board. That green board stuff is absolute dog shit. Don't let them pull one green board out and put another one, or a blue board in, pretty much anything that is a gypsum product. Hardie backer and durarock make pretty good products, but if your going to pull the wall replace the green board, pretty much everything built before 2000 had that stuff in and it is crap.

    bowen
  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    It's only crap if you didn't make your bathroom watertight.

    Guess how contractors cut corners!

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
    zepherin
  • zepherinzepherin Registered User regular
    edited January 2014
    bowen wrote: »
    It's only crap if you didn't make your bathroom watertight.

    Guess how contractors cut corners!
    Fair enough but there is always going to be some condensation and if there is an issue a quality backboard can keep an $800 repair from turning into an $8000 repair.

    zepherin on
    bowen
  • Jimmy KingJimmy King Registered User regular
    So here's the bathroom. Not drawn to scale. Not straight walls are way more accurate than I'd like.

    Entrance door is on the bottom wall by the sink. The thicker red line is a small wall in between the sink and tub/shower. That is where the piping for the fixtures are, etc. Underneath that sink is a little board I can unscrew and see the back of the tub, some of the fixture piping, and so on. Not much, though, it's like a 2x2 ft opening in the wall down at floor level. Where the water for the leak is collecting and leaking through the ceiling is at that end on the corner by the green wall. The green wall is the one where I pushed and it visibly pulled away from the caulking.

    bathroom_zps1601c41e.jpg

    Here are pictures from shoving my phone in the opening under the sink at the base of the redwall. You can see it looks like the water is coming from under the tub.
    IMAG0386_zps9caa5bd6.jpg
    Same spot, just looking deeper back along the green wall.
    IMAG0389_zps95acfd41.jpg

    An attempt to view under the tub. I also reached around under there and can view it through the ceiling from the first floor and it doesn't actually look like the leak is truly coming from under the tub like a couple of these pictures suggest is happening.
    IMAG0392_zpsbb5b7efb.jpg

    Here is reaching up through the hole in the ceiling in between the ceiling and the floor where the bath tub is. There is also another hole in the ceiling that you can kind of see further down. Oddly enough, water appears to be coming from the hole you can see where the tub is and then running down and out the hole where I am taking the picture rather than out the hole which is directly beneath it.
    IMAG0394_zpsd8b8ac43.jpg

    alltheolive
  • Jimmy KingJimmy King Registered User regular
    The more I think about that last comment, the more I think the water is not dripping where it is in the first few and then flowing over to here. It is just dripping/spraying right down at that corner closest to me and coming down both holes. The water up on the floorboard area by the tub is just some of it hitting there and then it is actually spreading and running under the tub.

  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    Is that the drain on the tub?

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
  • Jimmy KingJimmy King Registered User regular
    In the last picture? yes, that's the drain. It was actually just replaced days ago as part of this mess. That was the first thing checked for leaks when there was still water leaking. It's (almost) definitely not from that.

  • schussschuss Registered User regular
    Yeah, sounds like either the drain is messed up or the tub was never mounted properly, leading it to drain badly.

  • zepherinzepherin Registered User regular
    I do think the tub isn't seated properly, but I'm kind of frowning cause I don't see any back board, or vapor barrier, it looks like they just used plywood.

    I can be mad about that later.

    I would avoid paying the plumber that came out. He did a shit job. There is no way water should be coming out like that.

    bowen
  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    That hole is gigantic.

    Though judging from where the water is pooled and the way that... piping(?) is running up along the tub in that hole, I'm going to guess your leak is there. Why isn't that strapping being used?

    This bathroom makes me upset.

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
    zepherin
  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    I'm almost wondering if he didn't fuck up that job so they could come out and redo your entire bathroom.

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
    zepherin
  • Jimmy KingJimmy King Registered User regular
    edited January 2014
    Oh, no, this shit job was done almost 8 years ago. When I bought the house the tub had a crack in the floor, so the conditions for buying the house was that they'd replace the tub. It's been fine until recently.

    I'm fairly confident the drain is fine. I've stood under it while it drained, had the current plumb stand under it while it drained and I was in the shower, etc. Going to have the wife do that today as well, but so far, the water was not coming from the drain. On the other hand, it is in the right spot to be coming from somewhere between the tub spout and the shower head... and the water pressure on the shower head sucks. I would not be at all surprised about that still being caused by a shoddy as fuck tub installation at its root.

    So... original questions answer is "Yes, it should be fine to have that seam between the tub and the separate shower wall caulked and that is almost certainly not causing the problem". But further discussion takeaway is "something is still definitely fucked and shit is not installed right"

    Probably a good idea to go ahead and just get the whole fucking thing replaced/reinstalled by someone, whether it's the people I'm currently working with or someone else?

    That said, I do think the plumber who did the most recent fix, when called back out, was much more concerned with proving that whatever is leaking now was not his fault and was not something he should have caught and that he did the job right than he was with properly figuring out what's actually wrong and fixing it. That's why I've been investigating the fuck out of it myself.

    Jimmy King on
  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    Yeah if you think that part is fine, it's probably that piping leading up to the shower head. Hard to say without your bathroom gutted to the studs, though.

    Have another bathroom you can use?

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
  • Jimmy KingJimmy King Registered User regular
    Fortunately, yes, I do. 2 full baths in this house, so this one being out of service is just an annoyance. I really fucking expensive annoyance.

    And yeah, that's kind of what I was thinking as far as verifying it. I'd have to remove that shower wall to expose the pipes, then probably replace a bunch of shit there, at which point I'm a good chunk of the way towards full replacement anyway. I'm waiting on an e-mailed quote and breakdown of costs for what they wanted to do for replacement... they were talking just under $7k for new tub/wall, fixtures, plumbing, removal of the old one, etc.

  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    $7k sounds about right.

    But for 7k, I'd want a high end toilet, tile on the floor, and a nice vanity/sink and a custom shower.

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
    zerzhul
  • Jimmy KingJimmy King Registered User regular
    yeah, it won't be that. I think this place is somewhat overpriced - which hasn't been a huge problem with smaller stuff, but may be a bit much now. It'd be tub/shower, including that wall, new fixtures, whatever plumbing required for the tub. It would be an acrylic tub rather than cheap fiberglass shit like I have now.

    After I get the quote I'm going to call a few other places. The advantage the current place has is that I owe them for the current shit they've done... about $1500. They are going to roll that into the replacement, so just under $7k total. If someone else does it and they quote $7k, my cost will actually be $8500, etc. going to check though just in case this place is bending me over even more than I expect on the price, which is entirely possible.

  • schussschuss Registered User regular
    Yeah, if you're generally happy with the tub, you really just need to rip down the wall and possibly redo the other walls there. It's actually not that hard (provided you don't have rotted studs), as it will likely amount to (from a busy DIYer perspective):
    Demo - A few hours at most, including cleanup
    Fix plumbing - showers are not that complex - Let's say a day to include the home depot trips
    Re-Drywall with proper greenboard etc. - A day, maybe 2
    Shower walls - A few hours, at most

    Also, if these guys haven't been able to fix this for 1500 dollars, fuck em, they're useless.

    bowen
  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    Yeah get a few quotes. $7k is about right though, but like I said, you'd be getting a tile floor and a custom shower and a new vanity out of that.

    Let me price out some things for you:

    $600 vanity
    $1200 fancy ass clawed foot tub
    $300 worth of $2.29 sq-ft tile, maybe?
    $400 toilet, pretty good ratings, has a low flow option for pee to save you money on your water bill
    $150 Medicine cabinet

    Then some drywall, maybe another $300

    Total cost of hardware: $3500 (the extra $700 should account for thin-set, grout, screws, trim, and paint)

    If it were me, I'd pull some permits, hire a rough plumber to come fix the plumbing in the bathroom, after I've gone down to the subfloor and studs, then redo that bathroom. But that's me, and I'm crazy.

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
    zepherinchrishallett83
  • schussschuss Registered User regular
    Pffft, you don't even need to spend that much. We did our vanity for $300 and 88c per square foot tile, and it looks beautiful. Tiling is a lot of labor though, so a busy person may not want to go that route.

    bowen
  • Jimmy KingJimmy King Registered User regular
    yeah, I think a lot of the price here comes from this being Nu-Bath shit that they install which others I've talked to say is some expensive as shit. from what I'm being told It's nice and worth the cost for a house you intend to stay in long term, but it's expensive as hell.

  • zepherinzepherin Registered User regular
    edited January 2014
    Schuss: Greenboard is old and busted. Concrete board is the new hotness.

    If your going to pay 7k make sure that fixing any rotted joists, drywall, the ceiling where the water went through (because it's going to be trashed) floor boards and studs behind the wall is included in that price. Make sure putting up a proper vapor barrier is in that price as well.

    Bowen: Also it may be to his advantage to just buy the stuff he want's installed. And simply get a price to do the demo repairs and installation.

    Jimmy: I would fight paying them.

    It doesn't look like they did the shit right. When it comes to this I'm pretty good at it. I generally go with. "It wasn't leaking before your repair, now it is. You caused more than $1,500 worth of damage. You can try to put a lien on the property but I'll just bond out of it, and the bond company will tell you the damage was your fault to avoid paying you." That usually will get them to actually find the cause of the leak so you can't hold it over them, or to actually give you a real price on the repair.

    Also see if your home owners insurance would be willing to put up some of the money.

    Post up a copy of the quote. I've got a copy of walker sitting at my desk I can reference.

    zepherin on
    bowenEssee
  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    Nu-Bath is around here too, they're just tub/shower liners. Fuck that noise. Bring that fuck to the studs and do it yourself. Make it a month long project you do on the weekends.

    @schuss has got the right times for how long that stuff takes, honestly it's like a 2-3 day job if you know what you're doing. Give yourself some time, learn how to do things. Think of it this way. A Nu-Bath might add the cost of itself onto your house, but a fully custom bathroom will add maybe 10k or more. Plus looks better. Who the fuck doesn't like claw foot tubs?!

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
    zepherin
  • bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    And then your wife will make you redo the kitchen.

    not a doctor, not a lawyer, examples I use may not be fully researched so don't take out of context plz, don't @ me
    schusszepherin
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