2008 A Plumbing Odyssey

Some of you may be aware that the bathtub in our guest bathroom has had a dripping faucet and it has since we moved in back in 2004. Well, it's been getting worse over the years and basically was mostly a matter of me just grimly ignoring it. Since Karin and I don't use that shower (we have one in the master bathroom) it only comes up when we have guests or when the cleaning service turns it on to clean. But last year Karin's dad told me that fixing the leak was probably pretty easy (I had a rap about how I didn't know what I was doing and all of the pipes were old and probably on the edge of breaking, blah, blah.) so I had recently decided that I'd take a peek before her folks visit this year for the holidays.

Turns out that replacing a faucet valve isn't all that bad, although I'll contend it's a little more difficult than I was lead to believe and needs some special tools. But then I got all aggressive and pumped up on my badass home-repair self. Short form is that I ended up replacing all of the fixtures in the bathtub: the handles, the valves themselves, the shower head, the tub faucet itself, and even the little plate that covered the emergency drain. It turns out the valve that needed the washer "replaced"? It had no washer whatsoever. WTF?

Then, completely out of my brain with home-fixit powers I attempted to remove the "unremovable" shower head on our shower. This was less successful and I ended up breaking off the pipe inside the next joint back. (Now that I've been able to look at things clearer I believe the ball joint on the neck pipe is threaded on the pipe. I was trying to remove that ball when I broke the neck pipe.)

After some careful consideration I decided to try to very carefully remove the tile had the hole for the shower neck pipe exited. This was a mistake really. Karin had made great strides at removing the grout around the tile, but she realized that at the end of it all it's still mortared to a backboard. D'oh! This left me stymied for a while and it was much later when Karin and I realized that wait a minute - that shower pipe is inside a wall. The other side of that wall is in our bedroom and that's just drywall. Well, I know how to make a big hole in drywall. I even know how to patch said hole(s) afterward (which is probably the more important bit.) Sure enough I was able to go into the other side of the wall, find the elbow bend with the bit of pipe inside, and try to remove it. It was well and truly stuck and what I actually managed to do was unscrew the pipe connecting the elbow to the T-joint where the hot and cold water feed into a single pipe. Ah well, I can make a hole down there too. Three smallish holes later I had found both ends of this pipe and had a nice clean threaded pipe end I could use to run new pipe forward.

So as of this writing both showers have completely finished plumbing again. In our shower we only replaced some pipe and the shower head since the valves and handles are fine. Karin and I have been using the guest shower while we repair the grout in our shower (it takes three days to cure the grout), and then we need to caulk around the new neck pipe. Once that shower is back in operation then I can caulk the new fixtures in the guest room. And I still need to patch the drywall, I'm going to put up the first coat of putty this afternoon. But both showers are working much better than they ever have before. I am a plumbing wizard! Fear me. And when Karin's parents visit this year I don't have to be ashamed of the bathroom we provide. (The drain is still a bit sluggish but I gotta save something for 2009. Plus drains mean getting into the crawlspace — that's a whole 'nother thing.)