Bathroom Update: Plumbing and More Framing

For a while there it seemed like we were in some sort of plumber communication black hole. Of course it didn’t help that we waffled indecisively for a long while before even attempting to contact anyone, but even when Dave started leaving voice mails, he wasn’t getting any responses! Perhaps it’s because what we’re looking for is actually a pretty big job…

We knew even before we put an offer on this house that the plumbing was a bit of a mess. First, we knew the hot water heater would need to be replaced fairly soon. (it’s still trucking at the moment, but I’d rather replace it before it fails completely.) Also, at some point some enterprising person had gone through and replaced some of the original galvanized steel piping with copper piping, probably as they did things like update the kitchen and add the shower in the hallway bath. The problem with having both copper and steel in the same plumbing system is that you get an electrolysis effect (think battery electrodes) that corrodes the pipes. It’s not like this issue is a big secret in the plumbing world or anything, and the way you’re SUPPOSED to deal with this is to install a little adapter between the two metals instead of letting them contact each other directly, but no one bothered to do this on our house. Unfortunately, our weird piping has clearly been in place for a while, so the corrosion is pretty far along. Here’s where the copper piping from our water heater connects to the steel pipe leading into the house:

Copper/steel connection

I’m not entirely sure, but I believe the rust stains running down from the connection are a bad thing. And I’m told that the pipes under the house are ten times worse than this. Long story short, almost from day one we were saving up to re-pipe the whole house with PEX tubing. We’ve been a bit enamored with PEX since we started seeing it used in home improvement shows a few years ago. It’s a little funny to me that we’re planning on switching to plastic while living in California (aka the heartland of OMG PLASTIC IS EVIL) but Dave is a polymer scientist/engineer after all, so he did his research and we’ve decided we’re a-okay with it.

The nice thing about the amount of foot-dragging we’ve been doing on this bathroom remodel is that we’ve had a whole extra year to save up for the re-piping, and we can get the plumber to move the fixtures that we need for the bathroom at the same time as he’s doing the re-pipe, which will save us a little money. And all of the bathroom pipes are completely exposed at the moment, which will make his life easier too. The downside to our procrastination is that we didn’t even really get the option of trying to do the plumbing ourselves. (PEX is a bit easier than copper for brave DIYers; check out these awesome people for example.) Actually, considering the potential for massive failure, some might consider being forced to hire a professional to be an upside, not a downside. 🙂

Enough background. So we finally got an estimate that we’re happy with for replacing the water heater plus the re-pipe plus moving the bathroom fixtures. That last bit will entail putting the sink on a different wall and adding a second faucet, moving the shower drain and fixtures about 2 feet, and replacing the shower valve in our hallway bath. Here’s the existing shower valve for our hallway bath, conveniently accessible since the two bathrooms share a wall:

Hallway shower valve

The plumber says whoever installed this was very flux-happy but couldn’t be bothered to clean up the excess, thus the corroded green areas. We’re actually replacing the valve anyway because the new valve trim we’ve been wanting to add isn’t compatible with this valve. Don’t worry, the new trim is still big enough to hide that weird-shaped hole in the tile. Sigh… Anyway, the main cost for actually moving/replacing bathroom fixtures will be moving the shower drain and the sink drain, since the rest of the fixtures were essentially being replaced with the re-pipe anyway. We’re pretty comfortable with installing toilets, sinks, shower heads and such, so the plumber will only need to do the rough-in portion.

Enough plumbing, the title of this post implies that I have something to say about how the framing is going! We’re almost completely done with the shower, which now boasts a pony wall separating it from the toilet:

Pony wall

The toilet will be to the left of the picture above, under the window, while the opening to the shower is on the right.

Dave even managed to cut and cap the old shower pipes, so he could remove those last few studs and we can really visualize how awesome our new shower space is going to be. The main thing left for the shower framing now is to frame out the built-in bench. Oh and Dave’s going to reinforce the pony wall with a sheet of 1/2″ plywood, because it’s going to be tiled on one side and we don’t want that sucker to move AT ALL. Here’s how things are looking right now:

Shower drain

The thing covered in green tape is the old shower drain, the pony wall is to the left, and the beginnings of the built-in bench are at the top. You can see the holes in the floor a foot or so to the right of the drain where the shower pipes used to be. The new shower is about 3′ by 5′, minus the angled doorway. The drain will be centered, so it needs to move about 2 feet to the right in the picture above.

We had a bit of a scare with a cracked hot water pipe when Dave removed the old shower fixtures, so we left the old sink fixtures in place pending the re-pipe, meaning that we still can’t frame out the new bathroom doorway since one of the pipes is in the way. But hopefully our experience framing the new closet door will allow us to get the bathroom door framed pretty quickly once the pipe is out of the way. Here’s the current opening:

Bathroom door

I was standing in the shower looking back at the master bedroom to take this picture. The old sink pipes are on the bottom right, with the left-most pipe juuusst in the way of where the king stud needs to go for the new doorway. The new sink will be along the wall out of the picture to the right.

The plumbers will supposedly be completely done by next Tuesday! Next up: Ummm I think laying the plywood subfloor?


Posted on March 14, 2013, in home improvement and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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