Access panels and wet walls.

Discussion in 'Shower & Bathtub Forum & Blog' started by rap, May 18, 2012.

  1. rap

    rap New Member

    Messages:
    63
    Location:
    california
    It's common in the Bay Area Ca. for PI's to pick-up the lack of an access panel in a wet wall. Access is, typically, required to the fixture(s) and supplies, but also to the waste & overflow. Freestanding tubs, with their backs and works to a wall, must also be provided with a means of access. Is this a common code requirement across the states, esp. with the popularity of "Whirlpool" tubs etc.?

    AAMOI:
    In the UK, with almost total masonry walls, access panels are rare and not Regs. This can create difficulties, esp. with a nightmare plastic effort called a corner bath - i've never seen these flimsy monstrosities in the USA, thank goodness. Installing them is like building the Bay Bridge, servicing them is a struggle, their works are typically located tight in the inside corner. Given the time and construction that can often go into fitting, even the average, UK style bath panel, then plumbers and bathroom installers of the US can thank their lucky stars.

    To continue my rant, about the only thing she says i'm good at.
    Europe, the UK in particular has been flooded with homeowner, internet purchased bits and bobs to make up a bathroom's fittings and fixtures. Lack of compatibility, no or weird instructions, pics that refer to other items: for example, mixer taps/faucets might be supplied with no indication as to wether they are high or low pressure - you find out after fitting them. This is essentially from China, however, India, Indonesia and others are gearing up with even weirder flimsier and cheaper stuff -USA beware, this will happen here. Homeowners will, naturally, buy the cheap junk, and you will, naturally, have to earn a living fitting it.
  2. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

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    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    It is NOT common to find ANY access to tub valves, waste and overflow, etc.
  3. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

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    I could count on the fingers of one hand, the number of access panels I have seen in the past 60 years, but that would assume I can even remember where they were. The ONLY time you should have to "access" tub/shower valves or drain assemblies, is when you remodel the room and then an "accss panel" is a moot subject.
  4. Cookie

    Cookie .

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    When we put a whirlpool tub in our upstairs bath, my husband installed an access panel in the adjoining bedroom for the electrical & motor. This bath also, had an access panel for the plumbing in a closet in the adjoining room, and made it really convenient when it started leaking years prior which is why we decided access panels are the best thing since indoor plumbing. In 2005, when the floor and toilet needed replaced, I put in an access panel in the downstairs closet ceiling, and that, also, paid for itself. Not an expensive thing to do, quite easy, and I think, all homes should have them. I like to see what is going on.
  5. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    Location:
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    While they may be convenient, plumbing bits are designed to last a very LONG time, and their utility is minor. Many things can be serviced without an access panel. Replacement is often where they might be useful, but then if you're remodeling, again, it is mostly a moot point since if it is hidden behind a wall you're remodeling, it doesn't really matter. Hidden in a closet or basement, IF the service person knows they're there, it might make a major repair or replacement easier, but that utility often isn't big.
  6. Cookie

    Cookie .

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    It paid off for me. I would recommend a panel access it makes just good common sense. No ripping into a wall, no listening with a glass to the wall to hear that drip, no, you rip off that sucker, you look inside and see for yourself, that drip, that part which needs replaced, saving time and money, and giving the homeowner a great peace of mind. It is an assurance. It is really nothing small, it is just plain ole horse sense. Where and when one can place an access panel, it would be to their advantage. Not very costly at all, a project, you can do easily, for yourself. I did. Bought the panel at HD, measured, measured again, cut, and popped it in. Yes sire' bob. A great invention.
  7. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,152
    Location:
    New England
    If you have a wall where you can add an access panel, it doesn't have to be done in advance of a problem...it's just as easy to do it after. But, if it makes you feel good, it's your house, no problem putting one in anywhere, anyplace you like.
  8. Cookie

    Cookie .

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    It only makes good sense to put it in when the plumbing or electrical is going in. To do it after a problem rears its ugly head is okay, I guess, but, why not do it right in the beginning. I would like to see all new construction have them.
  9. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    Ubiquitous back-to-back bathrooms make the issue of access panels moot.
  10. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,835
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    I cannot imagine how an access panel in the ceiling would be a benefit. THere should be NOTHING in the ceiling which needs servicing. You might as well install a "suspended ceiling" which is ALL access panels. The U.S.Steel home I worked on in the 50s, was ALL access panels because the walls were 4x8 finished plywood panels screwed in place.
  11. Cookie

    Cookie .

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    Hmm, Hj, the access panel in the closet ceiling, lol, is beneath the toilet. Easy to figure out :) Was also real easy to fix the leak.
  12. Cookie

    Cookie .

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    Imagine, a toilet under each one of those! LOL. :) Hj, you made a funny!

    This is a nice little thing to read, :)
    http://www.johnbridge.com/vbulletin/archive/index.php/t-30644.html
    Last edited: May 19, 2012
  13. johnfrwhipple

    johnfrwhipple Bathroom Design & Build - North Vancouver, B.C.

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    Location:
    North Vancouver, BC
  14. Cookie

    Cookie .

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    I have been working with a lot of new construction for the past 6 months and I have been seeing a new trend regarding the homeowners desiring access panels where and when, possible on plumbing & motors. Once a thing of the past, in mainly, older homes in the US, it has been evolving. I like the change. I am seeing the specs change to incorporate it. There has been discussion in my office as to maybe, the reasons for this, I think there are basically two, 1. It makes a lot of sense 2. Many homeowners are becoming a DIY'er, some for the first time, with a first home; and, they see, it can be beneficial and have an advantage point. They are doing their homework.

    To add an interesting point, 75% in the past year in our office with new construction, was being built by unmarried women. :) and, they work very closely with the contractors and oversee, the plans, the changes, and all designs. Nothing goes by without them signing off on it.


    Another interesting fact, which makes me smile when I think of it, and as I write this, is the reason why, many unmarried women are building new construction. Which is the reason why I am intersted in new construction. Women, are building new construction to make money on the property. That is a given. It is not just a place to hang their straw hat. lol. They don't need the big 3 car-sized garage or the built-in, workshop, or any other typical manly, feature or desire. They are not building the over-sized clothes closet or the large eatery, or the built-in make-up mirror, no, sir, no siree bob, the tables have changed. The meeting of the minds has changed in regarding building new construction. Now, the women are building new construction, for simply the reason for resale, to a man. A man with 3 kids, 3 cars, a place for all his work tools. I love it. It is neat to see. :)

    It is funny. One day, you wait and see, their will be a Ms. President and you won't recognize the White House. lol.
    Last edited: May 19, 2012
  15. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

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    Location:
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    quote; you won't recognize the White House. lol.

    Of course we will. It will be the big white building with all the access panels.
  16. Cookie

    Cookie .

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    correction: big pink building with all the access panels!

    Thought I would share this with you, it is odd... and, true! I am showing a newly constructed home in a short while, it has 4 full baths, 4... access panels, (lol) one for each, it has a 4 car garage, sits on 4 acres, the woman who constructed it, was married 4 times, lol, and, the man I am showing it to, his name is Forthsite... The house numbers are composed of 4's. I am not sure I can show this with a straight face. :)
    Last edited: May 19, 2012
  17. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,152
    Location:
    New England
    When things are built...to pass the plumbing test(s), the connections must be leak free. Then, the walls/ceilings are closed in. Things don't magically leak in the wall/ceiling after time. Cartridges, seals, etc. can and do leak. Most can be fixed from the finished side. A toilet won't magically start leaking if it is installed properly.

    Having an access panel to fix something that shouldn't need fixing, if it works for you, fine, but is not that useful. IF there's an adacent wall where you can actually put an access panel, then, there's no reason to put one there until, and if, you need to do maintenance there that can't be done from the finished side.

    Now, certain things really should have an access panel...these include things that are known to wear out and not commonly triggering a major remodel. For example, the motor of a whirlpool tub. While it should and does generally last a long time, it may need maintenance before the tub wears out too, so would qualify for a good reason to have an access panel.

    Sprinkling them around the house, especially if they end up in visible areas, is not very common or useful.

    Go for it if it makes you feel comfortable, but it is generally a waste of time and money and asthetics.
  18. Cookie

    Cookie .

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    Hm, so what you are saying Jd, is that there is no need for repairmen because everything is done perfect, the first time around. I got to think on this, because, I must just have very bad luck, lol. Along with a whole lot of other people.

    Now, this house tonite. Amazingly, without me saying a word about the plumbing or access panels, he started to peek around and looked into them. Yes, there was another one on the hot tub, so, it made 5, and he looked into each & every one. What do you think, he found? You betcha. A leak. In the masterbath. This house was just completed and yes, passed all the tests, but, the one would not stand the test of time. It leaks. Now, it didn't turn him off as to not buy it, but, he wanted it addressed. The electrical components on one of the garage doors was not up to snuff. Along with, one of the circuit breakers. When I turned it on, it felt squishy and was bouncing backward when pushed forward. A wire I would assume is not exactly right. Other than that all seemed well. I called the inspector to let him know of what he signed off on, and stated he might want to take another look see, I wanted to ask him, " where are your glasses?" So, nothing is ever perfect, no matter how good you might be. Sprinkling the access panels in the plumbing areas just might be a good thing. This homeowner, he is buying, will have them from the start, and the cost in putting them in was really moot, but, the pay off was great. This buyer really liked that idea, it was really, one of the selling points. Not in totality, but, it was a definite asset. I wish it was a perfect world we live in. I wish nothing ever breaks, nothing ever malfunctions, no recalls, no bad products or parts, or bad contractors, but, eventually, our feet has to hit the ground and accept the realities of things. This house is marketed for 440,000, and, it came fresh off the line with failures. The contractor has a great name in this neck of the woods. So, shit happens.
    Last edited: May 19, 2012
  19. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,152
    Location:
    New England
    Not what I'm saying at all! What I'm saying is that most valves are designed to be REPAIRED from the front, and thus, no rear access is required. Now, replacement is sometimes a different story. But, how often do you do a remodel where you need to replace the valve? At that point in time, you often don't care about the finished side as you're replacing it anyway. 20-30 years down the road when you decide you want to upgrade the valve, then, if there's room for an access panel, or a hole to gain access, IF needed, then, you can add one. in the meantime, it doesn't do anything for you except look potentially ugly, cost more during the build, and is primarly useless.

    As I said, if it makes you feel better, go for it.
  20. Cookie

    Cookie .

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    5,658
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    It's not me going for it. lol. It is the builders. They know a good thing. There is nothing ugly about the panels I looked at tonite. They blended in, or tucked away into a closet. You never would had known if not paying attention. Ugly to me, is water damage, and mold. I have seen them both. Tonite? The water was running down the inside of the wall. Nice. Without the access panel, this new homeowner would have had a problem on his hands, he eventually, would had noticed it, eventually.
    Last edited: May 19, 2012
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