Demolition Man, The Sequel

Monday, August 2, 2010

[I hadn't intended to leave such a large time gab between the last cliffhanger post and this one, had a few other things come up that were higher priority than blogging]

When last we left our intrepid home repair hero (um, I mean Me), he had successfully removed a 60"x30"x72" shower/tub enclosure from the bathroom, without causing any damage to the framing or plumbing.

With that out, I was able to inspect for signs of water damage (after all, there had been some form of crack on the bottom of the tub on and off for twelve years). There were some water stains around the edges where the caulking had apparently not entirely done its job, but there was no buckling or warping of the wood. There were no signs of water ever getting through the crack in the tub. In fact, inspecting the tub that now lay in pieces in my driveway, it appears the crack had always only been in the gelcoat surface, and had never gone all the way through the fiberglass structure. Unfortunately though, as you can see in the picture, there were signs of mold growth on the insulation.

So, time to pull out the contaminated insulation, and use a little bleach wash on the studs just in case the mold had invisibly spread to them. There were no signs of mold on the two "short walls", so I left that insulation in place. Here you can see the exorcised framing.

In addition, newer tub models do not have their drains in exactly the same location as the one I just removed -- so I was going to have to widen the cutout for the drain, and cutoff the drain tailpipe to move the drain plumbing. I broke out the reciprocating saw again. This would be the final demolition step -- after this I could get to the fun part of installing the new tub. Widening the cutout was no big deal -- but I should have reverted to the dremmel for cutting off the drain pipe -- sitting right behind the drain pipe was a copper supply line, and yup, I nicked that sucker just enough for water to come spraying out.

What happened next was just the sort of chaotic panic you would expect when water is suddenly spraying uncontrollably in your house. I ran to our front coat closet where I thought our main water shutoff valve was, while my wife ran around turning other faucets on to try to relieve the pressure on the leak (unfortunately, we have pretty decent water pressure in our house, so the leak was still spraying strongly even with nearly everything turned on).

We have three valves in the front closet -- two smaller, and one larger valve. The two smaller ones each shutoff the outdoor house bibs on either side of the house. I have used those to "winterize" by shutting off the supply from inside for the winter. I have always assumed, though never had a reason to confirm, that the big valve was the main shutoff for the house. Wrong. Apparently, the larger one is just a master control for the two smaller ones. Yes, that valve essentially just shuts off the two external hose bibs and nothing else. So, then I run out to the front yard to where the water meter pit is to see if I can get the cover off. Turns out those things have a pentagonal nut holding them on. Every wrench or socket I have is designed for hexagonal nuts. I run to my neighbors to see if he can help. He runs over with an armload of various wrenches, and after extensive fiddling, manages to get the cover off, and we finally succeed in shutting of the water supply to the whole house.

Luckily, the leak was spraying almost directly downward inside the crawlspace. The good news being that nothing else got wet, the bad news being the big puddle of water in the crawlspace -- and, of course, the broken pipe. Turns out I had nicked the pipe right at a T-intersection where three different pipes were connected.

Now, I know very little about sweating copper pipe, and I certainly wasn't going to start with a repair like this. A friend of mine suggested that I get some compression fittings and attach a plastic fitting to the three copper pipes to fit everything back together again.
So I ran out and purchased the necessary compression fittings and T-fitting and had a Go. Got everything put together, went out and turned the water on -- water sprayed from almost all my fittings. So, I try again, take all the fittings off, re-seat, and try again. I probably killed 6-8 hours trying to get that to work before I finally gave up.

Next day, I called a plumber, who came out and sweated new copper pipe in its place in about 90 minutes, and the whole thing held together without problems on the first attempt. So, now I just blew $300 fixing a problem on a project I had only planned on spending about $300 on. That little nicked pipe just doubled the cost of my little bathroom renovation project.

But at least demolition was complete, and I could now concentrate on getting back to the business of putting in my new tub -- stay tuned for the installation story.

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