Once the demolition of a room is complete, you have to start thinking about building it back up. More often than not, you would want to start from the ground up. For us, that means focusing on the floor. In previous projects, lifting up the tile was only the first step in a long process of floor preparation. You may remember the trouble we had with removing the cement boards in the kitchen and first floor bathroom. Once the tile was up this time, there was good news – no cement boards! There was also bad news – no cement boards! It was good that there were no cement boards because we would not have to go through the hard work and misery of lifting up the cement boards for a third time but since they did not use cement boards under the tile, some of the subfloor was in pretty bad shape.
Cement board is used to help sturdy the subfloor and also act as a barrier between the tile and subfloor. Luckily, the previous owners did not put the tile directly on the subfloor for the majority of the room they put the tile on plywood that was laid over the subfloor. The plywood did not protect the subfloor in the same way cement board would have since it is also made of wood. The plywood rotted in areas where there was mold and water damage and therefore, the subfloor also rotted and molded underneath the plywood. The plywood was placed over the subfloor and stapled down (using about a million staples). We were able to get up the plywood with relative ease but had to spend just as much time pulling staples out of the subfloor. The areas of the subfloor were rotted needed to go as well. Jim located where the floor jousts were and then started to cut out the subfloor. Luckily, the area that was rotted was the area around the drains (think there might be a correlation there?). Since we will be moving the location of the shower and toilet ever so slightly, the removal of the subfloor enables us to manipulate the pipes easier. We thought we would have gotten that section of the subfloor removed in one night, but the blades on the saw broke twice. We were close enough that Jim planned to run to Home Depot the next day so that we could finish the floors.
We took a little bit of a break from working on the bathroom on Friday and Saturday (Feb 8th and 9th), so Sunday, the 10th, ended up being a big day. You know it is bad when Jim states that he wants to get, “two days worth of work into one day.” Neither of us knew what was in store for us either. With the new blades, Jim finished cutting out the floor. It was a little bit more difficult than we expected it to be to get up, but after a lot of work with the crowbar, we had the subfloor removed. Next, we needed to focus on the toilet and shower waste pipes.
Since the day we moved into the house, our shower drain has released a smell. I have a sensitive nose, so it bothered me more than it bothered Jim. It was worse in the summer and worse when we went away for a few days (when no one had been using the drain). I could see water stuck in the drain and I figured that was the cause. Once we demolition the bathroom, the smell was still there. I pointed to the water in the drain, but Jim informed me that all drains have a “U-bend” that causes some water to get trapped there. It is a way to seal the drain pipe in order to prevent noxious fumes from escaping the pipe. He did agree there may be more water than there should be though and something in the pipe must be causing the smell. Since we planned on moving the shower drain pipe and the toilet waste pipe, we first decide the toilet portion. All of the waste pipes in the bathroom are connected, so when we removed the toilet waste pipe, we saw the “gunk” that was in the shower drain pipe. It was so disgusting that I started to gag a little bit. There clearly was back-up in the pipe that had been causing the smell all along. As we were disassembling the pipes, the smell got to a new level of disgusting-ness. Since all the pipes are connected, we figured that they must all be affected by this smell and gunk. We also discovered, albeit accidentally, that when the hallway bathroom toilet was used, water (and whatever may be in that water) was being washed into the master bathroom waste pipes. This must have been contributing to the gunk and smell as well. Are you sufficiently grossed out yet? Good – join the club.
With all this filthiness, we decided to just get rid of all the drain and waste pipes. We had already planned on altering them somewhat, so we might as well start from scratch with clean and nice smelling pipes. Jim would need to cut the pipes off at different points. I stepped in the other room and shut the down while Jim got to work. I heard Jim and the saw get to work while I waited patiently for the smell-ridden pipes to be removed. All of a sudden, I hear an unusual sound. Is that…water? “KERRY, GO TURN OFF THE WATER! GO TURN OFF THE WATER!” I ran to the basement as quickly as I could to turn off the water. Water was dripping down the waste pipe in the basement. Oh no. When I got back upstairs, Jim and the bathroom were covered with water. While cutting out one of the waste pipes, Jim nicked the hot water supply line. When I say nicked, I really mean that. The cut was very small, but the amount of water released was very large. We started to clean up the areas of the bathroom that got wet. Our plan of the day was just drastically changed.
In previous renovations, we have hired plumbers to change shut off valves or to move supply lines. Jim had done some plumbing, such as hooking up the kitchen and bathroom sinks and also the dishwasher. Before Sunday, Jim had already broached the topic of trying his hand at supply lines and shut off valves this go around. He had his trusty “1, 2, 3…Plumbing” book from Home Depot and he was confident that he could do the job. I was a little hesitant, remembering the difficulty we had with the supply line for the refrigerator. Luckily for us, Jim had ignored my hesitance and bought materials needed to move supply lines. Due to Jim’s accidental nick in the supply line, we were now going to learn how to replace supply lines! We had most of the supplies in place and got to work right away.
Since Jim only nicked the hot water supply, we were able to turn off just the hot water. Thus, we still had cold water so we could use the bathroom and wash our hands (we could have showered too but we had hoped to have the hot water back in place before it was time to shower). Now to understand everything we do next, you need to understand a little bit about our bathroom design plan (because this post wasn’t long enough already).
The previous bathroom design had a little half-wall that didn’t do much other than take up some much-needed space. After removing the wall, we could see that it was added so that the sink vanity would not jut out from the wall since the nook the vanity lives in is slightly too short for the average vanity. We did not want the vanity to jut out but the half-wall took up too much space in an already small bathroom. We would have to get creative. As stated in my last post, the sink in the master bathroom is directly above the staircase. Due to that, there is a lot of space behind the wall that is not being used. That space is one a gradual incline – one that follows the ceiling of the staircase. We could not use all of that space because you would not be able to put much weight on it and what use would an inclined space be? We could use part of the space though. If we pushed back the wall behind the sink just about 4 inches, we could fit a full vanity in the nook without anything sticking out. Of course this means we not only have to build a new wall that starts on an incline, but we also must move the sink supply lines, that where in the wall behind the sink, 4 inches back as well. Keep that in mind…
With the nick in the hot water supply line, it was clear we would have to replace at least part of the copper piping. Jim decided this would be a great opportunity to also move the sink hot water supply line to where we need it to be in the new wall. We did not want to do the cold supply line just yet, but since we were being forced to work on the hot water pipes, we might as well get that all done. We planned to put the supply line basically in place but to cap it off instead of attaching the shut off valve. We would later have to put it through the wall studs, so it didn’t make sense to add too much to it now. Our first “practice” was to attach the cap to the end of the copper pipe. You need to clean the end of the pipe and the cap (or whatever piece you are attaching) with steel wool so that they connect smoothly. Then you brush on paste flux on the pipe and cap. Next you place the pieces together. The last steps are the scary steps. You need a blow torch and solder. Solder looks like a very thick, silver wire. You need to heat up the connection with the blow torch (you should put a fire repellant cloth behind the pipe so you don’t set anything on fire) and then put the solder right at the connection. The soldering melts at a certain heat so it turns to liquid on contact and finalizes the connection. This prevents any leaks from the piping. Needless to say, Jim was in charge of the blow torch. I was in charge of slowing twisting the pipe (when I was able to) and also the fire extinguisher just in case we needed it. Luckily, our practice went flawlessly, so we got to work replacing the nicked pipe. It did not seem to take to long to get all the pipes in the right place. It was the moment of truth. Jim went to turn on the water supply while I eagerly awaited the result. Jim turned on the water supply and I hear….rain? That can’t be right. I quickly discover it is the SHOWER! We had to leave on the old shower head because there were no shut off valves for those pipes. I screamed to Jim to turn off the water. In moving around the pipes, one of us must have bumped into the shower and turned it on. After cleaning up the water that went everywhere, we turned off the shower and tried again. This time, I only heard the water filling the pipes. SUCCESS!
After a long day, with an unexpected adventure, we had learned a new skill. We called it a night and took a long shower with hot water from our working water supply lines.