Odd Pipes - Any Ideas?

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice, Tips & ' started by rachees613, Dec 24, 2013.

  1. rachees613

    rachees613 New Member

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    So ... we bought a foreclosure/fixer-upper in Austin, and have just ripped out some bathroom walls to reveal some very strange pipe formations. Please see attached. toilet pipe.jpg weird pipes.jpg
    (I hope those attached -- the attachment process is a little strange to me.)

    Any ideas? They just look crazy to us. And, in a house where someone used an extension cord to wire a ceiling fan, we figured they ARE crazy. But does that mean we need to hire a plumber to come fix them? Or do they need to be cut and capped off? Or can we just leave them?

    Thanks!
    Rachel
  2. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,270
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    Are you referring to the "stubbed up" pipes next to the cast iron? If so, they do not seem to have any purpose so you can probably just ignore them. ANyone who would install a manifold that far out of level and plumb and use that soft copper to the toilet, could have done anything when they installed the piping.
  3. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,308
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    Looks like normal Texas code to me.
  4. rachees613

    rachees613 New Member

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    In the top photo, I'm referring to the small skinny one, and in the bottom, to all the copper off-shoots -- there are seven extra ones beside the main two coppers that are next to the big middle one. Is the big middle one cast iron?

    What's a manifold? I'm sure my husband knows more than I do, but I'm the one posting this, so I have no idea, and it just looks nuts to me.

    So, hj, do we cut them and cap them off? Or do we just leave them?

    Thanks so much and Merry Christmas!
    Rachel
  5. rachees613

    rachees613 New Member

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    @Gary -- ha! But if that's the case, what are all of them even for?

    Merry Christmas!
    Rachel
  6. Smooky

    Smooky Member

    Messages:
    569
    Location:
    NC
    It is hard to tell but the pipe next to the cast iron drain may have been driven into the dirt to hold the other pipes in place until after the concrete was poured. I assume there are other water pipes to a kitchen etc. Since the house is on a slab they may have used the manifolds so there would be no branches in the pipe under the concrete. If you cap them off you may not have any water in the kitchen or at other faucets.
  7. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,270
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    Only cut those "extra pipes" off if you do NOT want your faucets elsewhere to work. That is the main distribution point for the whole house and each of those pipes goes to a specific area. It was, and is, done that way to eliminate pipe connections under the floor, which are NOT permitted. The big black pipe is a cast iron drain line for the sink. It looks "nuts" to you because you did NOT spend years learning the plumbing business and how things HAVE to be done to do them properly.
  8. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    14,780
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    Like hj mentions, a typical manifold to spread water to the plumbing fixtures. That has to stay.

    Black pipe is the cast iron drain.

    The open pipe was likely used to stake the copper in place while the concrete was poured around the manifold and the drain line to keep them from shifting out of the wall during the pour.
  9. bluebinky

    bluebinky Member

    Messages:
    382
    Location:
    Santa Clara, CA
    Yep, the southern building code -- a beer in one hand and a shotgun in the other.

    It actually looks quite normal for the slab on grade houses in north Texas. I would sister in another stud by the toilet stub out to stiffen up the wall, but that's me.
  10. kcodyjr

    kcodyjr New Member

    Messages:
    103
    Location:
    Chelmsford, MA
    Please, educate us about why exactly it's necessary and proper to install a manifold so far out of plumb/level that it looks like the job was done by a blind one-armed man during his lunch break. Even accepting the normalcy of a manifold, which I do, it still looks nuts.

    Also, what's all that crap all over the sole plate? I can't tell from the photo if there's some kind of flaky mess, or if that's actually concrete.

    Jumping on people again, hj. He came here asking what to make of it. There's no good reason to castigate him for not knowing what to make of it. Yours is exactly the expert opinion he was seeking. Be flattered, not annoyed.
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2013
  11. houptee

    houptee Member

    Messages:
    181
    Location:
    Monmouth County, NJ
    Are you planning to do all the work yourself on this house?
    If so you could clean up that mess with blue and red PEX tubing.
    Carefully cut each copper pipe and solder on pex adapters to each, extend them up to a new PEX hot and cold distribution manifold in a location that can be accessed in the future so you can shut off the individual water branch circuits.
    That's the way the majority of new construction and most repairs are done, PEX tubing.
  12. kcodyjr

    kcodyjr New Member

    Messages:
    103
    Location:
    Chelmsford, MA
    hj, could you clarify? It's not obvious to a noob how strictly "connection" is defined.

    Does that mean it has to be copper flex where it goes in the slab, or are ells and bends allowed to support the use of hard pipe?
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2013
  13. kcodyjr

    kcodyjr New Member

    Messages:
    103
    Location:
    Chelmsford, MA
    Not that I don't agree that it's ugly, but what would be the profit in bothering to replace it at all? In what way is it functionally deficient?

    Generally, whether PEX or copper, I do like the idea of having a bunch of valves located together for shutting off individual circuits. I'm professionally biased to prefer star topologies over bus topologies even if I can't see a benefit, and for water distribution, I can plainly see that it makes tracing a leak easier as well as letting the rest of the house function while the licensed pro is actually executing the repair. However, I'm not sold that it's worth the trouble to fix what isn't yet shown to be broken.

    If there's anything I'd be (possibly stupidly) tempted to do, it'd be to cut off that open-ended piece at the slab, grind it down below flush, and plug/cap it with some mortar to keep any bugs out. Even if they're not coming up through it, they've gotta be using it for condo space.
  14. craigpump

    craigpump Member

    Messages:
    854
    Location:
    ct
    Whoever did that forgot that the first word in plumber is plumb.
  15. Tom Sawyer

    Tom Sawyer In the Trades

    Messages:
    3,064
    Location:
    Maine

    It's pretty typical for southern slab piping. Behind the wall, under the floor, nobody will see it so save time and materials and just get it done. Not a whole lot different really than all the PEX being strung like spaghetti these days.

    HJ, you do seem to be getting pretty cranky these days. If you're not careful Slusser will call you anti-DIY LOL
  16. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,270
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    quote; Does that mean it has to be copper flex where it goes in the slab, or are ells and bends allowed to support the use of hard pipe?

    Actually, it has to be "copper flex" ALL the way under the floor, because you CANNOT use ells, bends, couplings, any other fitting, OR hard "pipe" under the floor. (There is an exception if the joints are brazed, but that introduces another, more serious problem, since doing so weakens the pipe and fitting making them susceptible to cracking). Unless there is a special condition, such as a very long distance without intervening walls, the tubing has to be ONE PIECE from where it enters the floor, to where it exits. Sometimes it is HARDER to install something "crooked", like this manifold, than to do it correctly. Crooked makes measurements more difficult. The ONLY time I have installed a valve on a manifold buried in the wall was when I had to do a repair on the line and a valve made it more manageable. I would NOT consider replacing this manifold with one made of PEX an "improvement".
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2013
  17. bluebinky

    bluebinky Member

    Messages:
    382
    Location:
    Santa Clara, CA
    While it looks sloppy, and kinda is, it really is not that bad. It looks sound and once covered up, who cares...

    The group of pipes on the right are leaning to the right. Probably they were knocked over some during the concrete work, or the plumber pulled the left-most pipe to the right to get his cutter between it and the cast iron pipe -- meaning the others needed to be leaned over also to be parallel. It also looks like the far right side is pulled out making things look more out of plumb -- most of the work probably should have been done from the other side of the wall.
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