Copper waste line flat, venting lacking, and so much more

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by farmerisland, Jun 9, 2021.

  1. farmerisland

    farmerisland New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2021
    Location:
    Iowa
    Hey guys. I need to share a little back story to give proper context of my issue with some upstairs very old plumbing. I live in an old farmhouse that was originally Mennonite-built in 1890. There was no indoor plumbing initially but the main floor bath was put in by my grandparents at some point. The waste/drain pipes from under there to basement access have been replaced with PVC. The copper water lines coming up behind the shower are newer too from around 1998, and they go to grey plastic further down in the basement. The waste stack is cast iron coming up from basement where the pvc under that bath drains into. Accessible from a "closet" with a wall door opening behind the shower. The hvac pipe, some electrical, and the plumbing all coming up in that passageway to the upstairs.

    Now... the problem is with the upstairs bath which got put in in 1960, where they just ran the waste drain into what is the vent stack for that main floor. Partway up from that main floor access door behind the shower, the cast iron turns to smaller 3" copper. The pipe coming up to the upstairs looks black, but it almost has to be copper, right? Because everything viewable up there is 3" copper pipe, with brass elbow fittings. That copper vent stack comes up and then right below the floor joists upstairs, it tees right into the north wall cavity behind the lath & plaster, then elbow up through wall, attic, and roof. The topside of the tee then elbows west about 9 foot to the shower drain in this small bathroom they did in 1960. The pipe is cut perp through the floor joists though, and the floor cavity is barely deep enough anyway. That waste line is virtually flat flat.

    All of this setup has been working okay for 60 plus years though, until I started opening this can of worms and discovering all this, ultimately because 6 months ago we started having a lot of gurgling and air venting noise from the bathroom sinks and toilet drainage. Because it was more than one floor I figured it wasn't a clog, but I double checked. I also ruled out septic tank because it was overdue to be pumped and checked out anyway. Got pumped and augered from main floor toilet all the way out to the tank to be sure. Leading to what I figured it was anyway, the roof vent. Tried to snake from the roof with nothing. Somebody told me to run a garden hose down the stack so I did, but I ended up with water gushing down my wall cavity in the basement!! Thus that copper vent stack had at a minimum, pinholing. I have now confirmed it's a lot worse than pinholes though, and all the way up in that wall cavity to boot. Green corrosion running down the side of it for as far up as I can see. But... That horizontal copper waste line from the small bath looks good (at least the short section I've uncovered anyway) and that vertical chunk from the upstairs floor down to the main level turning to cast iron looks great yet too (looks black with no discoloration or visible damage).

    My question for the professionals is, how invasive do I go? I'd rather spend the money and time and mess to do it right right than sluff off for a 5-10 yr fix. The whole reason why it's easy (easier) for me to access this described piping in the floor at the moment is we are ripping up carpet and putting in new floor. I wasn't planning on new subfloor but while I'm making a mess already, this is the time to open the wall up for that vent stack (at a minimum). But the question is, do I just replace that stack with pvc down to a fernco at the brass fittings, floor level? Or really is the right thing to do is replace all the copper, which would involve pulling more subfloor west (not such a big deal) but also have to either open the bathroom floor up in remodel fashion, or do it from below at ceiling level? Around 2008, there was a water leak from the copper waste line cracking where it ties under the toilet. At that time, the pervious owners did just that from below, opening the ceiling and changing out just what they needed to with pvc and drywalling a ceiling patch in. The rest of that copper going east (flat) across through the floor joists still stands.

    What's my options? One could be just opening the lath and plaster up enough to replace that copper stack from floor level through the roof, and drywall patching in... Then there's the option of gutting at least two walls fully, insulating them (nothing currently with plaster) and drywalling after replacing that stack and all other copper, ripping up more floor to do so (and I suppose ceiling below too.... The upstairs shower was brand new in 2014 and hardly gets used so there's no need to rip that). If I opened that divide wall between the bath and that upstairs room where copper comes up and over, could/should I redirect venting up in that wall to the attic and tie over to the main stack that way? I know there's a lot typed here, but there's a lot of consider as well. Thanks.
     
  2. farmerisland

    farmerisland New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2021
    Location:
    Iowa
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  4. James Henry

    James Henry In the Trades

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2019
    Occupation:
    Plumber
    Location:
    Billings, Montana.
    I can never get through all the verbiage on these long posts, it just always reminds me that I wish I could type, I coulda been somebody. No offense. :(
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2021
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  5. Jeff H Young

    Jeff H Young In the Trades

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2020
    Location:
    92346
    Yea I can't / wont follow through all that either. but total repipe gets my vote . and PVC is going to require deeper notching than copper because OD is bigger plus you need fall not flat. then you may consider the 60 plus year old water piping good time to replace those as well. that's my opinion but its a personal choice.
     
  6. breplum

    breplum Member

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2004
    Occupation:
    Plumbing and heating contractor
    Location:
    San Francisco Bay Area
    I echo Jeff Young's comments. I only recommend nohub cast iron above first floor (for sound).
     
  7. farmerisland

    farmerisland New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2021
    Location:
    Iowa
    Thanks for the reply. That's an interesting point you've made about the noise that I hadn't even considered. Are you in the minority though? I've assumed most people have pvc in new homes all through the house levels.

    Noise alone really isn't enough of a determining factor for me to be honest. Jeff Young made a good point about the larger OD though.... Hmm. I don't know if there's any way to get around that tight/flat issue in the floor... Unless I opened up the wall between small upstairs bath and that room the copper comes up and over in the floor, and opened it up all the way down, multi-floor, to reroute the entire stack?? At that point probably not worth it.
     
  8. farmerisland

    farmerisland New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2021
    Location:
    Iowa
    Yeah I'm sorry for the lengthy word vomit. I just wanted to get all the details out there since it's a multi problem situation and to understand it in full. I made sure to post these photos to help with that. I do appreciate the reply.

    When you say repipe, do you mean all of the copper, or even down where it turns to cast iron in the basement and ultimately into the floor and out to septic? I kinda figured starting fresh right where the cast iron hub turns to copper going up would be a decent place to, and less invasive than gutting the entire sewer line, let's say.

    I'm going to have this professionally done, not DIY, but just how much can you notch down those floor joists to code? It looks like I could bring it down some more but I don't know what's safe. I really would prefer pvc unless it simply won't work in those 9' of floor lateral.
     
  9. farmerisland

    farmerisland New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2021
    Location:
    Iowa
    Doing a second separate reply so the first one doesn't get too lengthy. The other thing to really note is that this upstairs bathroom is dumping down into what is ultimately the vent for the main floor bath. I know this is a no-no, so how important is it that I fix that while I'm at it? Because that would kinda argue for opening up that wall between upstairs bath & room current copper piping coming up and over in floor, only multi floor opened up down so I would reroute the waste line new from upstairs bath to basement separate.

    Or is there any easier/better way to do this? Since the main floor bath dumps through the floor into the main stack, I don't know how I'd easily reroute a different vent for there, if looking at the opposite way to fix.
     
  10. farmerisland

    farmerisland New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2021
    Location:
    Iowa
    No offense taken. Just based off the photos I replied with, do you have any thoughts/recommendation? The upstairs bath drains into what is ultimately the main floor bath vent aka top side of main septic stack.
     
  11. James Henry

    James Henry In the Trades

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2019
    Occupation:
    Plumber
    Location:
    Billings, Montana.
    In that case, I would open the walls and floors up that have pipes in them and inspect them for being installed correctly and what condition they are in. If you plan on staying in the house you need to be very methodical on how to dismantle the floor and walls so you don't create a dangerous living condition, which means you temporarily cover any holes you make in the floor. That is my disclaimer.
    I would keep the cast iron coming out of the basement, I wouldn't destroy a perfectly good concrete floor unless that drain had failed.
    In reality the only cast iron that would be used for sound would be if you had a toilet draining into a stack in a dining room wall down below.
    If the original ceilings are lathe then I don't think you will have a sound issue.
    In a nutshell, Jeff and Breplum said the same thing I'm saying but with fewer words.
    Plumbers can't see through floors and walls, I wish I had a dollar every time someone asked me which way a pipe was running through a wall that someone else put in.

    Very Important: Only hire a plumber that has One million good references. Do not hire a Hack, I don't care how long it takes you to find a professional plumber.
    I have seen good young ones and good old ones, age doesn't matter.
    If your a good judge of character, you can weed out the bad ones.
    If you do open everything up you can post some pictures and everyone on here can give you advise and the good news is is that we will be straight with you because we are not trying to make money off of you.
    That's my 2 cents.
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2021
  12. Jeff H Young

    Jeff H Young In the Trades

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2020
    Location:
    92346
    Farmer island, thanks for giving so much info from get go but for me it was hard to absorb it all others might be able to . I'm not always so good following that.
    Each job a little different sometimes certain things are so difficult and expense so great that to replace an area has to be skipped. so I can't detail exactly but we that have responded seem pretty close in thought . now you'll have to consult and decide. or perhaps others still have more specific ideas
    btw most people today don't use cast iron due to labor and material cost the price of home has a lot to do with it but unless they are over a million bucks I don't see anything but plastic.
    I really like cast its great but most won't pay for it . but in your case you might need to use copper to keep the structure integrity
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2021
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