Posts tagged "plumbing"

You guys – this is so exciting!  We put in a new, super useful laundry sink in the basement last weekend!  I know, I know – you might not hear “laundry sink” and think “exciting”, but let me tell you, this is revolutionary.

We have been talking about how nice it would be to have a laundry tub in the basement for pretty much as long as we’ve lived here.  The only sink in the basement was an old pedestal sink with the most worthless faucet.  We basically never used it.  The handles for the faucet were a little touchy – it was hard to get the water shut off completely.  And the “spout” part was barely long enough to get the water into the basin of the sink.  Seriously – it was a challenge to wash your hands with that sink, let alone wash out a paint brush.  And filling a bucket was impossible.

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The old (useless) pedestal sink. Clearly, we didn’t even run enough water in it to be able to keep it clean.

So, instead of using that sink, we’d resorted to using the basement shower for anything that needed water.  But, have you ever tried to fill a bucket or wash out a mop in a shower?  Yeah – you basically wind up taking a shower in the process.  So, a laundry sink was really needed.  And, after the plumber was here last Friday, leaving us with a functional, non-leaking toilet in the basement, we decided we might as well make the rest of that bathroom useful by replacing the sink, too.  Yay!

We’ve been thinking about this project for a while and had scoped out the selection of laundry tubs at all of the local home improvement places in the past.  Surprisingly, though, although there are lots of different models, there’s really not that much of a selection – they’re all basically the same.  Which is a little frustrating.  It would have been super nice to find one with a shelf or something below the sink for storage.  Anyway, of all of the available options, we decided to go with this one from Menards.

We debated between a standard single laundry tub or the double, but ultimately picked the double since we have the space and figured it might actually work out to be a lot more useful in the long run.  For the faucet, we figured out pretty quickly that selection there is similarly limited.  There are the super basic laundry sink faucets … or you could spend quite a bit more and put in a kitchen faucet.  Especially with the double sink, I really wanted a sprayer, but really didn’t want to spend $150 for a full kitchen faucet.  So, we bought this one – the only laundry sink faucet that includes a pull-out sprayer.

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(image source – no idea why this photo is so grainy!)

Functionally, it does everything I want (the sprayer is awesome), but it is SO CHEAP.  I have no idea how long it will last.  When (not if – when) it breaks, we’ll probably bite the bullet and pay for a kitchen faucet instead.

So, Chad got started on Saturday by shutting off the water to the house and removing the old pedestal sink.  We aren’t sure how old the sink was, but it was completely plumbed with rigid galvanized (no flexible supply hoses) and there were no shut off valves for the hot or cold water.

Note the rigid galvanized supply lines and no shut-off for the old pedestal sink.

The old pedestal sink was plumbed with rigid galvanized supply lines and no shut-offs.

This had us a little worried since we weren’t sure how easy the fittings on the galvanized would come apart, but, thankfully, it turned out to be a non-issue.  It took Chad probably all of 30 minutes to disconnect the sink, install new shut off valves, and turn the water back on.  Hooray!

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New shut off valves!

At this point, I caught myself thinking the project was going super smoothly and we should be able to have the new sink installed within a couple of hours (after all, the “hard part” with the galvanized plumbing was over).  And, of course, that totally jinxed the rest of the job.

The sink went together great, the supply lines were connected to the faucet with no problems, but then there was the drain.  Because the new laundry tub was so much deeper than the old pedestal sink, the bottom of the tub was actually lower than the place where the drain connected to the stack.  Had we hooked the drain up like that, the sink wouldn’t have drained right – and, even better, waste water from the stack could have backed up into the sink.  Yuck.  Definitely not an option.

We obviously could have called a plumber and seen what they could do to re-work the stack so that the laundry sink drain would connect lower, but that sounded expensive. And risky, considering the age of our plumbing system.  So, instead, we opted to raise the sink up.  We briefly debated switching the installation to wall-mounted, but since the supply lines for the sink run straight down the wall right behind it, that would have required a lot of plumbing re-work.  So, instead, we decided to just lengthen the legs for the wash tub by attaching a piece of solid aluminum angle, raising it up about 5″.  That gave the laundry tub enough height so that it was taller than the point where the drain connected into the stack.

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Look!  It’s a laundry sink on stilts!

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We worried that the added height would seem weird at first, but I’m convinced now that it’s actually made the sink more accessible.  With the leg extensions, it sits about an inch or so higher than a kitchen counter and it’s a lot easier to reach the bottom of the sink, etc. than it was before.

Anyway, with the height issue squared away, we then started making up the drain connection.  The drain actually pieced together easier than most of the ones we’ve worked on … and again, I started thinking this turned out to be a lot easier than it could have been.  But then we tested the drain … and it leaked.  Not just a little periodic drip, but a nice trickle coming from the place where our new PVC drain pipe connected with a brass fitting that joined the drain to the stack.

Chad tried tightening the plastic nut and tried using a variety of poly and rubber washers, but it still leaked like crazy.  Then, on a whim, he decided to remove the brass fitting and discovered that the two ends of the fitting are actually different.

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See the lip on the brass fitting? This was preventing the washer from sealing the connection, making it so that this portion of the drain leaked like crazy.

The end that he had been trying to connect up with the PVC drain pipe had a lip after the threads (see the picture above), which made it impossible for any of the washers to actually help seal the connection.  The other side did not.  So, he flipped it around, added a rubber washer, and, just like that, the leak was fixed.

No more leaks with the brass fitting turned around!

No more leaks with the brass fitting turned around!

It’s funny because I remember when we walked through the house before we made an offer, there was a pretty good size trash can positioned behind the old pedestal sink.  I’m almost certain now that the previous owner probably battled a leak in the same place all because that brass fitting was in backwards.  And we probably just never noticed it before because we never really used that old pedestal sink for anything.

You can kind of see the trash can positioned behind the sink - we took this picture before we bought the house.

From 2007 (before we bought the house) – you can kind of see the trash can positioned behind the sink.

So, anyway, that’s the story of the installation of our new laundry tub in the basement.  And I can’t tell you how beyond excited I am.  I actually mopped the basement floor yesterday mostly because I was so happy to not have to shower with the bucket anymore!  Seriously, though, the new laundry sink will make it so much easier to keep the basement clean – and I’m super excited to be able to use it for all of those painting projects I really need to get started on.  No excuses now!

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We had a plumber come out last week to tackle a couple of issues that we’d probably let go on a little too long.  Both were things we’d thought we might be able to DIY, but both became a little more involved once we got into it, so we figured it would be best to just call a professional.

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The first issue was the cold water supply for the sink in our main floor guest bathroom.  We first noticed maybe a year ago that the cold water pressure in that bathroom was terrible in comparison to hot.  And, over the course of the next few months, it continued to dwindle, until it was just a small trickle, then just a few drops, then nothing – even with the faucet completely open.  Initially, we thought it was plugged with sediment, so Chad took apart the faucet, then the shut off valve, but even with the valve completely removed, no water came out of the pipe.  And that was when we knew we were dealing with a bigger issue than just a little sediment.

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The “Before” picture. The old galvanized pipes for the bathroom sink are those grayish ones going into the wall.

A quick peak at the plumbing for that sink in the basement told us the problem must be with the old galvanized pipe, which had likely corroded completely shut.  We had no way of knowing where the blockage was, but it didn’t really matter – right next to the galvanized pipes for the guest bathroom sink is the (newer) copper plumbing for the laundry room bathroom on the second floor, so we had a good spot to tie into for running new copper supply lines to the powder room sink.  But, since old galvanized pipe can be tricky to work with (every plumber that has worked on our house mentions how brittle it gets), we opted to hire a plumber to cap off the old galvanized lines and re-plumb the sink with copper.

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The “after” picture. See the new copper lines going into the wall? Beautiful.

For the sake of consistency, the plumber did the same fix (re-plumbing with copper) for both the hot and cold supply lines and also installed new shutoff valves, flanges, etc. in the powder room.  For some reason, I just figured all of the work would be done behind the wall (I’m not sure why), but I was thrilled to have an excuse to replace the old painted pipes/valves sticking out of the wall for the sink.  The shiny new chrome looks so much nicer!  And – bonus – we actually have cold water in that sink again!

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The new (unpainted) shut off valves & flanges. (And, no, I did not clean the floor before taking pictures.)

It still totally amazes me that galvanized pipes can corrode so much that the water can’t get through AT ALL, but I guess our bathroom is proof that it can, in fact, happen!

 

So, that was the first issue.  The second thing we asked the plumber to look at while he was here was the basement toilet, which has been leaking in one way or another for what seems like forever.  Probably about a 18 months ago, the fill mechanism failed and the toilet overflowed in the basement – water everywhere.  Luckily we were home and caught it before it turned into a real nightmare.  So, we replaced the “guts” of the tank then, but it still leaked whenever it was flushed.  The seal between the tank and the toilet was definitely leaking, so we replaced that first, but, even then, there was still water on the floor after every flush, so we decided it probably needed a new wax ring.  Definitely not our favorite home improvement job.

Anyway, a couple of weekends ago, Chad took up the toilet, prepared to re-set it with a new wax ring – and discovered that the cast iron flange under it had rotted away.  One of the bolts was broken off completely and there was no nut on the other.  No wonder the toilet leaked – it had been held down with nothing but caulk and paint.  Ug.  And, since the flange was in the concrete floor, it was a little more than we wanted to get into repairing ourselves – yet another job to leave to the professionals.

Let's pretend that I thought to remove those rags over the old flange so you could actually see how rotted out it was, ok?

Let’s pretend that I thought to remove those rags over the old flange so you could actually see how rotted out it was, ok?

It took the plumber just over an hour to break out the old flange, pour a new lead seal, and set a cast iron repair flange in place.  He then re-installed the toilet with a new wax ring and – for the first time in as long as I can remember – IT DOESN’T LEAK!  And it’s a job I’m sure we would have spent most of a weekend on if we’d attempted to do it ourselves – completed in a fraction of the time.  Awesome!

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Our (like-new) non-leaking basement toilet. All that missing paint around the bottom? That (along with some pretty dried out caulk) was all that held the toilet to the floor before.

So, we’re 2 for 2 on plumbing repairs.  Yay!

But, before I wrap up this post – just wondering if anyone out there has ever seen anything like this:

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When Chad pulled the basement toilet up to install the new wax ring, there was a ton of dirt under it.  Like, under the front part of the toilet (not the area where the wax ring goes).  At first he thought it was sand that had maybe been used for leveling, but it definitely turned to mud when it got wet.

There were a couple of screw holes through the concrete floor that were probably used to secure a different style of toilet sometime in the past – and they weren’t filled with anything, so best we can come up with is that all that dirt was pushed up through those tiny screw holes during a really wet spring or something.  It’s just so odd – we’ve never noticed muddy water leaking from the bottom of the toilet … and don’t recall the basement taking any water in that room at all since we’ve lived here.  So, that’s the latest old house mystery that’s got us scratching our heads.  Anyone ever seen anything like it?

It’s been nearly a year since we installed a new tankless water heater and I thought it would make sense to do a quick follow-up to share our thoughts now that we’ve lived with it for a while.

And, in a nutshell … we love it!

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We contemplated a tankless water heater for A LONG TIME before we actually had one installed.  (We actually wrote a post a few years back when we first considered installing one … that was 2009!)  During that time, we (mostly Chad) did A LOT of reading about all of the “pros” and “cons” of tankless vs. a traditional tank water heater.  Going into it, we were aware of a lot of things that could happen with a tankless water heater that we hadn’t experienced before with a tank water heater.  So, today, I wanted to share our experiences regarding all those things we read about beforehand.  (My guess is that our experiences would be similar for any comparable tankless water heater, but, for reference, ours is a Rinnai RU98i.)

 

1.  Delayed Hot Water.

We had read about tankless water heaters taking longer to deliver hot water than a traditional water heater because of the time it takes for the water heater to recognize water flow and turn on the burner.  For our installation, though, this hasn’t been a problem.  When the new water heater was installed, we re-located it to the furnace room in the basement, which is much closer to all of our plumbing fixtures than the old location of the water heater.  So, our guess is that, in our case, the delayed start time for the water heater is offset by the shorter length of pipe that the hot water has to travel to reach the sinks, showers, etc.  Regardless of why, though, this is a non-issue for us.

2.  Cold Water Sandwich.

This is something that can happen when the water heater is on, producing hot water, the faucet is shut off briefly, which in turn shuts off the water heater, and then the faucet is turned back on.  The idea is that, because it takes a bit for the water heater to start back up, there will be an amount of cold water delivered before the water heater starts producing hot water again.  Hence – hot water, cold water, hot water – the cold water sandwich.  This was something we figured we’d probably experience, but we just didn’t think it would bother us that much.  Really, though, we aren’t sure we’ve ever really noticed it.  Our thought here is that the pipes are all warmed up from the hot water that was just running through them and they help to warm up the cold water before it reaches the faucet.  We maybe notice a burst of water that isn’t quite as hot, but I definitely wouldn’t call it cold.  Totally not an issue as far as we are concerned.

3.  Smell.

This was something that we hadn’t read about and didn’t expect.  When the water heater was first installed, we noticed that the hot water smelled.  It wasn’t a terrible smell or anything – just noticeable.  At first we worried that it wouldn’t go away (which would have been annoying), but it gradually got better and was totally gone after a couple weeks.  Just thought I’d mention it since it kind of freaked us out in the beginning.

4.  Minimum Flow.

We worried that the water heater might not turn on if only a small amount of hot water was being used (like if a faucet was only open a little bit).  I’m not really sure what to say about this except that we haven’t noticed it being a problem.  To be fair, though, I’m not sure we ever really use a tiny amount of hot water.  Usually we are running a shower or opening a faucet all of the way to wash hands or fill the kitchen sink for dishes and all of those things trigger the water heater to turn on just fine.  Anyway, this has turned out to be a non-issue for us as well.

5.  Maxing out the capacity of the water heater.

We also worried that we might hit the limit of how much hot water the water heater was able to generate, but this hasn’t been an issue for us either.  It’s very normal for us to have multiple appliances/showers running at the same time.  Chad and I actually both get up at 6:00 every morning and run two showers at exactly the same time every day.  And we honestly can’t tell that more than one shower is running at the time.  The same is true even if the washing machine is going at the same time.  The water temperature is totally unaffected – and we never run out of hot water.  It’s such a luxury!

6.  Water pressure.

I don’t remember reading anything about a tankless water heater doing anything to affect water pressure, but we’ve definitely noticed a change in ours – for the better.  My guess is that this might be more the result of replacing long lengths of old (corroded) galvanized pipe with shorter runs of copper piping than the switch to a tankless water heater.  But, still, we have better water pressure now than we did before and it’s a great thing!

7.  Energy Efficiency.

We knew energy efficiency is a big selling point for switching to a tankless water heater, but we also knew to expect that we wouldn’t save enough money on our utility bills to make up the cost difference for the inital purchase of a tankless water heater vs. a traditional one.  So, having said that, what’s our experience?  Well, here’s the thing.  I really don’t know.  Normally, I would say comparing our gas usage during those months where we aren’t running the furnace would be a good way to tell how big of a difference the new water heater has made, but during those summer months, we run our pool heater.  So, our gas usage is pretty heavily tied to the weather all year round.  Having said that, we have used less gas just about every month over the last year as compared to the same month during the previous year.  That’s probably somewhat related to weather … and probably somewhat tied to the savings we are seeing due to the new water heater.  As far as figuring out exactly how much we have saved, though – I really have no idea.

 

Anyway, bottom line is that we’re still really happy with the switch to a tankless water heater.  We haven’t had any problems with it over the last year or so … and just about every “negative” that we’d read and worried about has turned out to be a non-issue for us.  And if we had it to do again, we’d definitely still go with a tankless water heater – with no hesitation at all!

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