Old Stone House

Plumbing Marathon – Part Two

October 10, 2006

Filed under: Basement @ 9:49 am

plumb1.jpgHaving moved all of the waste pipes, installed a laundry tub, and moved the water meter, the only remaining chore was to move the copper piping. Like the ABS, the copper pipes had been installed correctly, however they were pinned on the underside of the joists, which meant that they once again would require small bulkheads if they weren’t moved. The saving grace was that the copper pipes simply needed to be raised, not reconfigured like the waste pipes.

Another timely visit to the hardware store resulted in 24 feet of new copper pipe and an assorted bag of fittings. Unlike the ABS pipe, I didn’t have the luxury of cutting out all the pipes with a saw as I wanted to save as much as possible, but I certainly didn’t want to be caught short, so I bought more then I needed with the intention of returning most of it.

I turned of the water main, opened the taps on the laundry tub as well as the rest of the taps in the house, and smugly watched as all of the water was sucked away by my new pump. This small victory made up for the hell I endured the night before.

Starting from the back room and working forward, I methodically reinstalled every pipe – carefully measuring and cutting as I went until all of the lines had been replaced. Having learned some valuable lessons in the past, I cleaned each joint with emery cloth, and applied an even coating of flux paste. Rather then assemble all of the plumbing and then solder all the joints at once, I decided to solder as I worked, worried that if I were to wait until I had fit all the pipes that inevitably I would discover that a pipe had disconnected and then I would need to re-cut more pipes to fill the gaps.

There is definitely a knack to soldering, and I don’t think I have it – if the countless burn marks on my hands and upper arms are any indicator of skill. That being said, I was fairly satisfied with the job I did.

When it came time to hook up the last connection, there was a persistent drip of water that I couldn’t stop, and I couldn’t effectively heat the pipe to solder it. I had heard of the ‘bread’ trick from several sources, whereby you roll a hunk of break into a ball and shove it into the pipe that is dripping to stop the water flow. Once you’ve connected the pipes and turned the water back on, the water will dissolve the bread, and the blockage will disappear. It was 2:00a.m. and I had no interest in trolling the internet to verify this story. I decided to take a leap of faith and go for it. I shoved in the bread, the drip stopped, and I soldered the joint.

I opened up the water main a little and rushed into the room awaiting disaster – the pipes groaned and banged as the water rushed through them, but none of them leaked! Success!

I went upstairs to shut off all of the taps, and noticed that the one bathroom tap was sputtering, with barely any water flowing out. I remembered the little ball of bread and unscrewed the filter screen at the end of the faucet to find the remains of the bread stuck in the mesh. I cleaned the screen, returned it to the tap, turned on the faucet and voila – the water flowed freely!

It was now 3:00a.m., and I trudged off to bed, happy that the plumbing was now finished.

Or was it…

At 5:30a.m., I shot out of bed, awoken from my sleep by the realisation that I hadn’t hooked up the water softener!

I rushed to the basement to confirm my fears, and worked furiously until 7:00, running a bypass line to the sink for drinking, and reconfigure the original lines to carry the soft water. I managed to install the new pipes without incident; however my perfectly tidy plumbing now had a knot of twisted pipes and a number of T’s with caps.

In 50 years when somebody guts this basement again, they’re going to see this little mess, and think I was an idiot…

Here’s a picture explaining why I didn’t need to cut many notches in the joists to run the plumbing – parts of the joists were missing!


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