Also known as “the day the !#@T^Q#WT$@@%@# plumbing gots done!”
Yeah. It’s been a rough week. Throughout the morning, I found myself humming the Music Man soundtrack… Specifically the song “Trouble,” with a little twist. “[…] which starts with T which rhymes with P which stands for” Plumbing.
Oh, yeah. Plumbing has been trouble this past week.
Remember when I said there was a leak, and I couldn’t track it down? I tried the plumbers epoxy, resoldering it, I even purchased sprays and a fibre wrap to try to address the leak. Turns out, though, I’m stubborn. (I know, not a surprise. Most non-stubborn folks would have called a plumber by now.) The best way to fix this, believe it or not, is to “screw my courage to the sticking place” and tackle that soldering. If I could have screwed the plumbing together in the first place, this would have been finished ages ago. But I digress.
I decided to cut out segments of the plumbing, so that I could heat up the offensive and offending joint with the leak, and remove it to determine what I did wrong. (Aside from soldering it and not calling an expert, that is.) While it took a little finagling, and some personal injury, I managed to get the section out. While the photo is not as clear as I’d like (I’m using my phone for all these photos), if you look closely at the end of the pipe in the frame you can see a partial band of silver and an uneven stripe of copper in the middle. Then a band of copper, then the elbow (90 degree bend.) That stripe of copper in the middle is (was) the problem.
You see, when the solder wrapped around the joint, the heat sucked it into the space between the two pieces of metal. Copper interior, brass exterior. (Yeah, that’s another bit that caused problems: bi-metal joints. Soldering will work… as long as you know how to solder. In my case…) The significance of this silver-free spot is that the solder is the silver: that space where there wasn’t any solder means the water was free to escape using this channel. What you are seeing is the rear of the piece, so naturally this hole was where I couldn’t see it.
The epoxy was not as effective as I’d hoped. (Then again, short of actually stopping the leak, it was just about useless for me. It might work for someone else.) I was able to cut it off in chunks, so I could heat up this section of pipe (after cutting it apart on the longer stem) to remove it. During this process of examination, I dropped a bit of solder on my hand. And then the torch. (Fortunately, the torch was out. Still hot, though.) Yes, I have a second degree burn. It’s not a project unless you get injured, right?
But after allowing the fixture to cool so I could inspect it, I determined three things. One, there’s a crap-ton of solder in that joint already. Two, access panels are a wonderful thing, but I’d still have issues with soldering the back of any of these pipes if I went through an access panel.
And three: this thing is getting fragging done tonight.
(Pardon my French. I’ve been playing Shadowrun a lot, so I figure I’d be better off using their curse word instead of everybody else’s.)
While cutting and inserting a new piece of pipe into this solder-encased hole was a bit of a challenge, I did manage to get it inserted. And a new coupler and elbow later, I’ve got the pipe lined up and fluxed, and inserted into the appropriate holes, just waiting on me to burn it down…. er….. finish this. I’ve got a soundtrack in my head going, and I’m driven to get it done tonight. (Soundtrack includes AC/DC, Metallica, Apocalyptica, and A State of Trance, in case you were wondering.)
While heating up the pieces, the pipe settled just a bit. I worried, until I realized it was the excess solder. It had heated up enough to move, and no longer be in the way. And I was patient (for a change) and slow, and worked my way up from the lowest joint to the highest. The fact that it went from the easiest to the hardest is irrelevant.
And, after three days of working on this, and a year of a leaking pipe, I’m pleased to announce that there’s a new fixture in town. And the sheriff says that it don’t leak. Ain’t it purdy?
OK, maybe not with a drawl. But the pipes are in, the fixture’s up and ready for baths, and the drywall will be tackled tomorrow. (Unfortunately, can’t do a shower: the spout has a little sliding gate that will block the end of the pipe, and the back pressure sends the water up to the shower head. Since the spout requires the wall to be there, we’ll have to make do with a bath. I’m surprised people aren’t lining up to take one now. Yes, it’s 2 AM.)
Now, the pieces I installed do have a bit of an issue. It was created assuming the hot water line would be on the right, and the cold water line was on the left. Even the escutcheon indicates this water mix. So of course, my unit happens to be plumbed backwards. Sure, I could fix it if I really wanted to. Simple, really. A simple ‘X’ would suffice, and just cross the water lines. But I’m done with that. No runs, no drips, no leaks, and I can deal with the errors. We just have to enjoy what we have now, right?
I do wish to thank several individuals and sources for this project. I know I’m not done, but the plumbing portion is over, so I’ll list those tools and parts and information. For tips on soldering, I used a webpage from Family Handyman, as well as some tips from some local pros and folks that do this for a living…or as part of their living. Those include Robert McDonald, Edward McDonald, Jerome from Litt Plumbing, the fine folks of Kredo Hardware (an Ace Hardware retailer and industrial supply company), Royalton Hardware (another Ace Hardware retailer), Sears Outlet stores, Lowe’s, and experience I’ve picked up from my family. The fixture is a Moen Adler fixture with Positemp features (sadly not going to be used much), purchased from Litt Plumbing. The copper pipe I got from three sources: Lowe’s, Ace (Royalton), and Sears. The couplings I got from any store that was open, but mostly from Parma Hardware and Larsen Lumber. The solder and flux also come from Parma Hardware, as does the plumber’s putty and plumbers tape (neither of which have been used, because they need the wall up first). Please feel free to acquire items from them and let them know you found them here. They are not expecting this, but I like to refer those who have helped to people I know looking for help. You will have to look them up on your own, however. Not because I’m paranoid about security or privacy: it’s 2:30 in the morning. I need some sleep.
But I know that in the morning, I’ll be able to bathe at l(e)ast. You know I’m sleeping happy tonight.