Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Plumb, Plumb, Plumb the Shower (Part II of IV)

Once the walls were open, I needed to open up the floor so that I could work with the plumbing, so I took out a 2ft by 5ft section of the floor and saw that the plumbing was pretty much straight forward. Luckily I had set my circular saw to just enough to get through the ¾” plywood. I did this because I didn’t want to hit pipes or electrical in the process, but what I found was that there was a duct box right in the middle of one of my cuts and I’m glad I didn’t tear it up. I could have repaired it with duct tape, but anything you don’t have to repair later is always a plus!

So what I found was hot pipe, cold pipe and drain pipe all where they were supposed to be. The drain needed to be moved from the position at the end where the tub was to the position in the middle of the shower. This was easy enough using PVC and enough elbows to create a doohickey that sent the water the right way and made a trap so that nasty gases don’t come back up the pipes.

For the hot and cold pipes the plumbing specialist at Lowes recommended CPVC rather than copper which kept me from having to solder and made my plumbing experience golden. The shopping experience for this part was nice, and there was only one copper to copper fitting for each valve that I had to solder, so I was pretty happy about that.

I sent Jennifer and our circus, I mean zoo, to her parents house because a house full of needy littl’uns with no running water is a bad idea. She left the night before so that I could get a full day’s work in, and I was appreciative of that. I had gone to give blood the day she left because someone through our church needed my blood type and I was only using most of my blood and sharing is a good thing. The problem is that after you give blood you aren’t supposed to do much. They told me I shouldn’t run a marathon, but I don’t listen to doctors, they’re just really smart people who went to school for many years to perform a very necessary service to those who need it. Why would I listen to someone who knows what they are talking about when I could completely ignore them!

So I ended up doing most of the work the night Jennifer left. I shut off the water, cut the copper, used some groovy fittings called Gator Bite fittings to connect the copper to CPVC and glued all the CPVC fittings up to the valves for the shower. I had to add some short 2x4 blocks to stabilize the valve and shower head connection in place. So I got all that done that night and figured out that I had one spot that went copper without threads to CPVC. I didn’t know if I could glue that part so I figured I’d wait until the next day and ask my specialist from Lowes. Turned out that I had to solder it and if I’d have glued it I would have made a really bad mistake. (Yeah for not making mistakes, too bad it didn’t happen more often!)

I hadn’t soldered anything in a very long time. You see, it had been since my last semester in college about 5 years ago when I got the scars on my left hand from soldering plumbing stuff at my on campus job. So, stupidly, I assumed that having done it once upon a time, I didn’t really need a refresher course on how to solder. I should write a book on how to be a dummy for dummies!

I spent the next 10 hours trying to solder two joints, one on each valve. I must have soldered and re-soldered about 20 times on each joint. It took forever because once I soldered the joint, I had to wait for the valve housing to cool off so that I could plug the metal outlets with plastic plugs that would otherwise melt under the fire of the torch I used for soldering. So I would have to wait for it to cool, then close it off, go turn on the water to see if it would hold, cuss when it wouldn’t, run to turn off the water, and repeat.

Turns out, my problem was that I didn’t use any Flux. (Notice the difference between the nice smooth solder on the bottom and my clumpy solder on top) Flux is this neat stuff that sucks the molten solder into the joint and pretty much coats everything it touches. That gets the solder in to create a nice seal instead of having all the solder just sit on the outside like what was happening to me. So after the 10th hour I broke down (it’s amazing that it took that long, I usually don’t have that much patience… I guess having 5 kids must have prepared me for this moment) I called the specialist and after about 10 minutes on the phone I said… “uh… what’s flux”. After he said “that’s your problem” I went to the store, got the flux and within 2 shots I had my soldering done. It didn’t take more than 40 minutes with the right materials.

Covering the floor and walls with Hardibacker board was the next chore, so I jumped on it and put it up. The big issue you run into with Hardi board is cutting it. I recommend using a circular saw with a regular blade. I attempted to use a masonry blade on my cordless circ saw and it was like using a chisel to chop down a tree. It drained the 18v batteries and caused them to overheat like crazy. I ended up trying to use my Miter saw to cut through the smaller pieces, since a miter saw only has a limited cutting range and I found that the regular blade cuts pretty well. So I switched blades on my circ saw and it worked like a champ. The batteries didn’t overheat as quickly and they lasted much longer.

It took 3 or 4 days to do the Hardi board because I didn’t figure out the blade thing until the 3rd day. I had to cut the little pieces for the shelves and I did those close to the end. Cutting the holes for the valves was a bit of a pain because I didn’t figure out the blade thing before I cut them. Thankfully though, cutting holes with a hole saw was very easy. I just mismeasured by an inch on one of the holes and had to drill it twice. That’s why I have a half moon on one of my boards!

Tune in next time when I go head to head with the concrete flooring and lose over and over again!

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