Thursday, February 9, 2012

Fun with Plumbing

Pardon me while I ramble on about neglected 1950s plumbing, without a single photo of cute animals or flowers.

I had a secret plan to try to get the master bath functional again while the husband was away this week...I thought it would be such a nice surprise for him to come back and have it all working and lovely (though it will still be cramped, dated and ugly...can't win them all).

This bathroom had two problems - one, when you ran the shower it rained downstairs (seen here). It also leaked around the edge of the shower pan where the grout had crumbled. Two, the bathroom sink took about four hours to drain after you washed your hands. Sexy.

Yesterday I cleaned out the p-trap for the sink, and it is better but still draining a little slow, probably in need of augering. The shower pan got new silicone caulking all around the edge, and I replaced the nasty, broken cast iron piping directly under the shower a while ago, but it was still raining under the house.

The master bath shower and the shower on the ground floor directly below it share a drain line, and we couldn't use either of them because of this hot mess under the house.

This problem isn't as visually obvious as the other one, but where the red arrow is, the pipe has rusted out completely and detached from the pipe below. You can wiggle it back and forth, and water sprays out in a lovely 360 degree fan when you run either shower. Since you can't tell that this is a problem unless you happened to be looking into the crawl space while someone is in the shower, which I happened to do one morning while I was feeding the chickens, this could have been happening for years. I'm not thrilled with our home inspector for missing that.

Anyway, since all the pipes are rusted solidly (or not so solidly) together, the only solution is to cut away the cast iron (where the red lines are in the drawing) and replace a big section of the drain line with ABS plastic. There is a special tool for cutting cast iron pipes, and at first I was really excited about having an excuse to buy another weirdass plumbing tool, but they cost about $650, reading further, I was warned that trying to use one on rusty old pipes could cause catastrophic results. Instead, I learned that I could get a special blade for an angle grinder, which I already own, and slice through that pipe like butter.

Or so I am told. Plumbing retrofits never goes that easily in my experience. Plus, I have a client going in for labor induction today, so I'm probably not going to get anything finished...but I'm off to the hardware store to buy that blade anyway. Nothing makes babies come faster like getting into some complicated, messy project entanglement, right? It would be unfair to that mama NOT to get to work on it.


  1. I can hardly wait to hear the end of this story! And THEN what happened? You got all the rusted pipes cut out then had to race to the labor, and rats climbed up the open pipes and now you have dead rats clogging the drains and. . . .

    May it never be so bd as all that!

  2. I want to know the rest too! You are up to your armpits in rust and water, and then the phone call... Heh. Oh, gotta see where this goes!


  3. Oh, we have so "been-there-done-that". You can get through that cast-iron pipe with a reciprocating saw (sawzall) outfitted with a carbide blade if all else fails.

    From experience, a good plumbing store with helpful employees and a nice digital photo can do wonders in how many times you need to return to the store for some weird-ass coupling or clamp...that and YouTube is your BFF.

    Let us know how the rest of the saga turns out!

  4. You’re an amazing woman! We don’t have to rely on our husbands with all the plumbing and fixing around the house. If they can do it, so can we! Hehe. It’s such a nice feeling for your hubby to come home and know that you have taken care of things while he’s away. It’s just great to be independent and reliable as a wife. ;)

    - Soledad Feigenbaum

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