Please Help! Shower Renovation Woes...

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by KP Texan, Nov 12, 2013.

  1. KP Texan

    KP Texan Marine Engineer

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Corpus Christi, TX
    Our house was built in 1962 and my wife and I decided to tear out our master bath shower since the tile was in bad shape and the valves had obviously been leaking behind the wall had caused some damage to the wall paneling. Once the tile was torn out, we realized that we had seriously opened up a can of worms! There was fairly significant termite damage around the studs and sill plates of the shower due to the leaking valves and pan liner. Anyway to make a long story short, I have two plumbing concerns at this point, one of them obviously needing repair and the other maybe or maybe not:

    1. The vent line behind the wall is partially 3" PVC and partially 3" cast iron, probably due to the reroute that was done on the house about 10 years ago. When the plumber came today to install the new shower drain, he brought it to my attention that there looked to be a hole in the cast iron "T". I poked around on the cast iron T and it is definitely a hole. I have no doubt that this item needs correction, but I need some help on how to do it. The plumber quoted me $300 to replace just the elbow with a new PVC one and tie it into the copper pipe from the sink and connect it to the remaining cast iron pipe which runs through the roof. He quoted me $600 to replace everything from the elbow up through the roof with PVC and also tie it into the copper sink vent. Do these prices seem reasonable? I really don't mind tackling something like this myself, but I've never had to run a new vent through the roof so I'm not exactly sure what is involved.

    2. I decided to sweat the existing copper pipe into my new Toto shower valve as opposed to paying a plumber, but before I did so, I had a concern. The old piping job looks terrible since they used no elbows and didn't secure any of the piping or shower valve; it just kind of hangs there in the wall. This isn't a big deal since I know how to properly install the new valve, but I did notice some damage to the hot water 1/2" copper pipe down at the very bottom where it comes through the concrete foundation. The pipe is slightly crushed in at the bottom and there are also some small dents around there. It's obviously very old damage, but it looks like it would be a real big pain to cut it out of the concrete and then join new pipe to it. While I do like to repair things right, please bear in mind that we probably won't own this house 5 more years so I'm hoping this would hold up fine up to that point. Would you just leave this damage be and the join the new copper pipe about 1' above the foundation like I had planned?

    Here are some photos to help illustrate what I'm speaking of:

    Vent pipe-
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    1/2" Copper Water Pipes-
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    Last edited: Nov 12, 2013
  2. KP Texan

    KP Texan Marine Engineer

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Corpus Christi, TX
    More Pipe Photos:
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  3. KP Texan

    KP Texan Marine Engineer

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Corpus Christi, TX
    And the last copper pipe photos:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I truly appreciate any help that you can offer! :)
  4. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,134
    Location:
    New England
    I can't help you with the pipes other than there should be sleeves around the copper as it comes through the slab to protect it. But, I am somewhat concerned about the newly installed shower drain. It does not appear it is high enough for a proper installation of a conventional mudbed shower. It might be, hard to tell from the picture, though.

    A properly built shower (should you use this technique) requires a preslope, then a liner, then a setting bed. It doesn't look like you have enough height to the shower drain for that. While it's done, you do not want the liner directly on the flat floor.
  5. KP Texan

    KP Texan Marine Engineer

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Corpus Christi, TX
    Thank you for the reply. It is an adjustable drain and I believe that it is threaded all the way down. The drain also sits in a slight mound of cement. Does this sound plausible or do you believe that it is too low even with that?
  6. chefwong

    chefwong New Member

    Messages:
    710
    Location:
    District of Columbia
    For all you pros who see this day in day out, aside from lack of proper supports, does tradesman use soft copper to run pipe like this and is this considered acceptable practice ?
  7. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    15,121
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    We use soft copper below the slab and up through the slab.
    We then go to hard copper once we have coupled onto it. I don't see an issue with it though. I did get turned down for using some soft copper with a niced bend to it. It didn't make a bit of sense to me. It was better than a 90 el fitting in my mind. A gradual turn works better in most things.
  8. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,134
    Location:
    New England
    Over a slab, the preslope can taper to near zero...depends on where the clamping ring is. The setting bed, on top of the liner needs some thickness, but you should have enough with the adjustable portion.

    When you add blocking, make sure you notch things so you can get the folds of the liner installed without bowing out the cbu you put on the wall. There's lots of details in making a shower last, not hard, but very detailed, and skipping one can compromise things.
  9. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,815
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    It may just be the angle of the photo, but that looks like a reducing elbow, in addition to the reducer in the direction of flow, so one would have to question WHO did the replacement, since a competent plumber would NOT have done that. Dents and kinks in copper tubing are where failures start. Our inspectors prefer that we only have about a foot of soft copper above the slab before converting to hard/rigid copper.
  10. KP Texan

    KP Texan Marine Engineer

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Corpus Christi, TX
    Thank you for all of the helpful replies. When I go home for lunch, I'll look at the PVC elbow in that drain/vent line. It may be an illusion, since part of the old broken out cast iron vent is covering up part of the elbow. I think my plan of attack for these two items will be as follows:

    1. Pay the plumber $300 to come in and replace that cast iron T with PVC and tie into the copper drain pipe. My only question is, isn't that cast iron stack a lot of weight to be placed on the PVC fittings? Can they handle it?

    2. Leave the copper pipe as is and cross my fingers. I've instructed my tile guy and any other people doing work to be very careful around those lines so as not to cause further damage. I will cut the pipe about 1' up from the foundation, and fully support it with blocking between the studs and 1/2" copper pipe clamps. I'll also fully support the shower valve with proper blocking.
  11. bruceha2000

    bruceha2000 New Member

    Messages:
    21
    Location:
    Vermont
    "While I do like to repair things right, please bear in mind that we probably won't own this house 5 more years so I'm hoping this would hold up fine up to that point. Would you just leave this damage be and the join the new copper pipe about 1' above the foundation like I had planned?"

    Having been the "recipient" of such "it won't be MY problem" thinking in the recent past, I say FIX IT rather than screwing the person you sell the house to. Imagine how much they will have to rip out if those soft copper pipes do need to be replaced in the future. We ended up gutting a house that had be recently "rehabbed" because they HID all the rot and structural damage. 98% of what they put in the house is now in the landfill. A HUGE waste of our money and an environmental hit simply because they didn't make even the bare minimum necessary repairs.

    As for running a PVC vent up through the roof, if you have access, it is easier than tying your shoes. It just shoves up through a rubber boot mounted on the roof. That assumes, of course, that there isn't a bunch of other cast pipe hooked into what you show in your picture. Cast is heavy, don't get hurt taking it down.

    As for the shower bed: If you are thinking of doing this yourself, Laticrete makes presloped rigid foam shower bases. If a "stock" one is a bit too large, it can be cut down. If too small, they have extensions. Thinset it in place, seal it, thinset the strata_mat over it and tile on top of that. Had I known about this earlier in our "whole house rebuild" process, I would have gone that way. I tiled the floors and walls in the prior house, not all that difficult but wasn't willing to try a mud pan shower base. I think that would require a bit more than Google search knowledge to do well in a timely fashion. My tile work has held up 20+ years (so far) and it was well before uncoupling membranes existed.

    Bruce
  12. KP Texan

    KP Texan Marine Engineer

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Corpus Christi, TX
    I hear what you're saying and I probably phrased that wrong; I would never intentionally leave someone with a current known problem, but I'm not convinced that pipe is really a big problem. All of the existing rot that was behind the shower is being removed and replaced but I'm still trying to keep the financials of this project from spiraling out of control any more than they already have. My house has plenty of hack job stuff in it right now from the previous owners and I've corrected these items as I come across them. My tile guy actually did the demo on the old shower, and he informed me that the pan liner was all wrong which also contributed to the rot and termite damage around the sides. :( Needless to say, I'm paying the have the entire shower done by my installer since I don't want a repeat of this.
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