Working on the Old House #16 Bathroom Break

I know that some of these posts may seem tedious, but this is what’s necessary before I can get to the pretty stuff. This will be someone’s new starter home – I want them to enjoy this little place as much as I and my brother before me – we have a family connection to this old home since 1975.

As we leave the kitchen renovation for a while, we head back to the only bathroom in the house – Let’s assess the situation:

Well, this is kind disappointing. We have a old vanity and OK toilet – and what’s up with that huge air vent?

We have an ok – but filthy fiberglass shower.

Linoleum floor covering and just a variety of random stuff – like that Ice cube tray trying to disguise the poor decor. We can do better.

Now a closer look at the plumbing. I had the whole house plumbed several years ago – all in copper to replace the galvanized pipes. He was a licensed plumber, but wasn’t – how shall we say – motivated to do really good work. He ran the water supplies and drain up through the floor. And this is why that’s not a good thing. Lots of corrosion, hard to keep clean. We can do better.

We’ll take a look downstairs. The old galvanized pipes still in the wall, I’ll cut out the copper pipes and run them up and out of the wall – the drain pipe will be removed and reconfigured to drain more efficiently.

We’ve cut out the water supplies and drain in the floor and opened up the wall. That horizontal pipe was the original drain that is connected to the vent stack – it was leaking here. The old plumber wasn’t much better than the one I hired – they had plugged the end of the pipe with steel wool and pipe dope. Never a long term solution. You can see the staining on the wall from leaks. We can do better.

First we open up the wall a little more and get access to the old galvanized water pipes to take them out.

Now with more access, I can cut of the end of the pipe and add a rubber cap. Problem solved – or maybe not.

Now that I’m working in the area and have the wall opened up, I noticed the stain on the drywall – it’s in line with the plumbing vent stack. Well – I could just leave it – I mean I’m selling this house. A little paint and all will be fine. I’ve got two choices a little paint or possibly a lot of work and expense.

I’m going in.

And there you have it. Opening the wall exposes the plumbing vent stack. The large cast iron pipe that goes all the way up an out the roof to vent your plumbing. With my fingers I was able to push the paper thin walls of the pipe. That’s where the water staining was coming from. This is common when the horizontal pipe tees into the stack – water constantly flows over this area and the pipe is exposed to the air, rusting it from the inside out.

So we hop downstairs and do a little plastic (pvc) surgery. We’ll cut the drain and wye.

We cut out the pieces and run the new sink drain pipe up through the wall plate.And prepare the vent stack to be replaced.

So the nice thing about cast iron is that it’s very brittle. To make a clean cut in close quarters, you use an angle grinder with a meal blade and cut 3/4 through the pipe. Insert a large flat blade screwdriver in the cut and give it a twist and the pipe will break cleanly through. You can see I’m working inside a plaster lath wall, so you have to be careful not to damage the wall.

We reconfigure the drain and vent and run some new copper water pipes in the correct location and we’re ready to go back upstairs.

We add a rubber Fernco fitting to mate the pvc drain the the cast iron vent. We now have the drain and water supplies in and out of the wall instead of the floor. That’s better.

We continue on…

6 thoughts on “Working on the Old House #16 Bathroom Break

  1. You’re amazing! I guess the good news here is that you’re cutting out drywall instead of the lath and plaster on the other side. Could always be worse. We have an ugly spot in our bathroom where the cast iron drain pipe fitting is too large to fit inside the wall and bulges out. We’ve never fixed it. It used to be hidden by a vanity, but now it lurks behind our sink’s pedestal. I had to tile up to the pipe … I have to avert my eyes because it’s just not right to see into the wall!! 🙂

    • Hi D’Arcy – the other side of the plumbing wall is lath – and I have to repair the other side which is in the bedroom. Being able to do it and having the time to do it is the real challenge.

    • Thanks so much Barbara! Well, at least I have proof I did the repairs – I guess we’ll see if they approve (whoever they are) of the renovations.

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