What was typical rough-in shower/tub in the 50s... copper?

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2002sheds

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Hi All,
I am needing to replace the 1950's 3 handle (hot, cold, and shower/tub) valve assembly in my mother-in-law's 1950s house, and I am considering a Moen setup that uses PEX.
When I have replaced the stem for the shower head, it appears that the small part that I can see in the wall is galvanized. Since there is not a PEX-to-galvanized fitting, I am wondering if the galvanized part that the stem threads into is most likely a small fitting that was attached to copper as part of the original installation.
If all of the lines leading to and from that valve are copper, it seems as though it would a candidate for the pex setup. I have some access to the back side of the tiled wall, so I shouldn't need to rip out a lot of the original 1950s tile.
As always, any help is appreciated !


Thanks,
David
 

jadnashua

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There may have been some galvanized, but copper was more common in the 50's.

If you can gain access behind that wall, you would want to remove any galvanized piping you might see...it's a leak waiting to happen after 70-years.

If you're not just repairing the tub/shower valve, code requires the things you touch be brought up to current code, which requires an anti-scald capable valve, which any new Moen should be. To cover the space, you'll probably need a remodel plate.

Keep in mind that PEX's ID is smaller than copper, and the fittings make it smaller again, so your tub may take longer to fill. You cannot use PEX from the valve to the tub spout, but can from the valve to the showerhead otherwise, that restriction will likely force water up to the shower all of the time so it would be coming out both places until you diverted it. If you have copper, my preference would be to plumb the new valve in with copper. It will also be easier to brace the new valve, which you'll want to do.
 

2002sheds

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Hi Jim,
Thanks very much -- I appreciate it ! I am hoping to tackle this myself, which is why I am hoping that PEX is a good option. My soldering skills are questionable, but my PEX fu is strong :) Great point about the bracing of the valve...
I guess that my best bet is to remove the access panel on the wall surface behind the shower valve. I should be able to see what is going up to the shower head (crossing my fingers that it is copper)...
My plumber quoted me $1,200 to do the remodel. Ultimately, I may go with him to have it done the absolutely correct way...

Thanks,
David
 

Terry

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Very much of the time it was galvanized in the 50's. Take a look at how your water heater was plumbed, that should give you some clues.

I did do some plumbing in Santa Rosa before the fires. Their well house was galvanized. Doesn't matter now though, the house is ashes.
 

Jeff H Young

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I find copper to be non typical here on homes from the 50s that are original almost all had galvanized in my small world Orange, Riverside , San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties .
You might just bite the bullet and open it up from the Head to the spout and if its in a closet put a nicely painted panel back on and do it your self , Personally I'd want all that old pipe gone but ... have gotten away with using the old riser to the shower head and confining my work area to the valve area. Don't run PEX to tub spout at least that's what I see on all Tub / shower valves its ok on the shower portion.
1400 bucks is a sizeable amount probably save 1200 doing it yourself. Its not that hard nor necessarily a walk in the park Just curious is 1400 the price to replace a shower valve when you say "remodel" or is their more to the scope
 

2002sheds

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Very much of the time it was galvanized in the 50's. Take a look at how your water heater was plumbed, that should give you some clues.

I did do some plumbing in Santa Rosa before the fires. Their well house was galvanized. Doesn't matter now though, the house is ashes.
Hi Terry,
Thanks a bunch! I had no idea that there was a Santa Rosa connection... :) Where my family lives (also in Santa Rosa, also in an early 1950s house) we have a walkout basement, so I can see quite a bit of the rough plumbing. Everything I can see is galvanized.
If the shower valve was indeed roughed in with galvanized, would there be a transition to copper right at the valve, or are some of the old setups threaded, and therefore it can be galvanized all the way to the valve? I ask this because I wonder how the plumber will make these transitions. The house is on a slab, and it would not surprise me if the nearest joints are in the concrete... hopefully not.

Thanks,
David
 

JohnCT

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I find copper to be non typical here on homes from the 50s that are original almost all had galvanized in my small world Orange, Riverside , San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties .

Must be a west coast thing? Here in CT, I have never seen any galv plumbing in any house I've bought and flipped including the hundred or more houses I just looked at for me and others. 100% copper in any house that wasn't remodeled and repiped, unless all the galv pipe failed and was changed out by necessity ...

John
 

2002sheds

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I find copper to be non typical here on homes from the 50s that are original almost all had galvanized in my small world Orange, Riverside , San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties .
You might just bite the bullet and open it up from the Head to the spout and if its in a closet put a nicely painted panel back on and do it your self , Personally I'd want all that old pipe gone but ... have gotten away with using the old riser to the shower head and confining my work area to the valve area. Don't run PEX to tub spout at least that's what I see on all Tub / shower valves its ok on the shower portion.
1400 bucks is a sizeable amount probably save 1200 doing it yourself. Its not that hard nor necessarily a walk in the park Just curious is 1400 the price to replace a shower valve when you say "remodel" or is their more to the scope
I find copper to be non typical here on homes from the 50s that are original almost all had galvanized in my small world Orange, Riverside , San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties .
You might just bite the bullet and open it up from the Head to the spout and if its in a closet put a nicely painted panel back on and do it your self , Personally I'd want all that old pipe gone but ... have gotten away with using the old riser to the shower head and confining my work area to the valve area. Don't run PEX to tub spout at least that's what I see on all Tub / shower valves its ok on the shower portion.
1400 bucks is a sizeable amount probably save 1200 doing it yourself. Its not that hard nor necessarily a walk in the park Just curious is 1400 the price to replace a shower valve when you say "remodel" or is their more to the scope
Hi Jeff,
Thanks very much -- you hit several nails on the head!

I can access the whole setup via the closet that is behind the shower, so that is a great idea (opening the whole thing. Currently, only a small section has been cut to provide access).
The quote of around $1,200 is strictly to replace the existing Price Pfister 2 handle plus diverter setup from when the house was built (around 1952).
The portion of this job that had/has me most apprehensive was/is the idea of having to transition from galvanized (if that is what is in there...becoming more likely with every reply that I receive :) to pex.
And I hear you about no pex to the tub. I have read -- on here, I think -- that the flow rate is cut down too much. Hopefully, I can simply stub some new pipe into that area of the new valve.
Thanks also for the encouragement to consider doing this myself. I have done plenty of work with my hands, and would like to think that I can take this on, at least as an option.


Thanks Again,
David
 

2002sheds

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Must be a west coast thing? Here in CT, I have never seen any galv plumbing in any house I've bought and flipped including the hundred or more houses I just looked at for me and others. 100% copper in any house that wasn't remodeled and repiped, unless all the galv pipe failed and was changed out by necessity ...

John
Hi John,
It must be a regional thing... the plumbing is all original, and all galvanized.

Thanks,
David
 

2002sheds

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Wow, I must be getting old faster than I thought... the place that I read about not using pex to the tub spout was HERE, in THIS thread! Sorry, Jim, credit needs to go to you on that great tip !


Thanks,
David
 

JohnCT

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Hi John,
It must be a regional thing... the plumbing is all original, and all galvanized.

Thanks,
David

I wonder if water quality has anything to do with it. In my town in CT, low pH is a big issue, but even so, copper doesn't hold up either without some sort of acid remediation.

John
 

John Gayewski

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So first off all you would need is a threaded pex adapter. That would screw directly into galvanized fittings and then directly to the pex.

Second. Copper took a while to become accepted by plumbers. Just like pex and sharkbite fittings nowadays. Plumbers all over the United States believed copper was an inferior product and it took a very long time for it to become standard.
 

jadnashua

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The house I grew up in was built in 1954, and was plumbed in all copper except for the drains which were CI. So, yes, galvanized may be a regional thing...don't know.

The installation instructions on any tub/shower valve will state that you should not use pex (or cpvc) to the tub spout because the ID is restrictive. Some ignore it, and run into problems. ANother reason to not use pex for the tub spout is that it has no rigidity, and the spout often uses the pipe for that. It might work IF you had a full port diverter valve, but most end up using a diverter on the tub spout. The outlet to the shower is normally fully open on many valves, and the water takes the path of least resistance. If you restrict the flow to the tub spout, the back pressure will force some up the shower riser, causing some to go there as well.
 

Jeff H Young

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David You should be able to see what piping is in the access panel which is likely 12 x12 or up to 14 inches wide but meant for the waste and overflow .
water piping could be from bottom or from above . most (but certainly not all have been repiped once or more but again sometimes areas are never changed)
I don't know how it would come out from a cost perspective but if you open up the other side and handle the patch or panel work and have everything ready to go closet cleared and access . You might get a better price on a second bid plus I believe the better access will more insure who ever does a good job strapping and soldering the joints. and you'll be able to clearly see the work . Many wouldn't do this but I Might even if not saving money but just for my own reasons of feeling more secure
I know if I had a job like that opened up ready for me Id give a better price saving me demo and clean up time
 

Jeff H Young

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I might have seen a house that old originaly copper . but I cant remember ever seeing one. not saying they arent around but I dont see them
 

jadnashua

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Prior to her death, my mother lived in the house I grew up in...it was done in copper in 1954. Different areas, possibly different results. I was aware of all of the changes made to the house until her death, nearly 70-years after moving in...I think it really depends on local practices, and is not a nation-wide situation.
 

Jeff H Young

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True different practice and material for reasons we usually don't know. plus no real sampling is done one house you grew up in might be a fluke I don't see that many 1950s houses mostly I work in homes under 50 years old
 

jadnashua

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It's sort of like where ABS is common in some places, whereas PVC is in others...local practices. When copper prices spike, PEX and CPVC tend to be more common. During the war, copper was rationed, and not readily available. stuff still got built with available materials. You do the best you can with what you have.
 
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