Monday, March 08, 2010

Calling in "The Man"

It had been quiet, too quiet on the home repair front. I was working in the basement two Saturdays ago and needed to use the facilities. (Normally this is WAY more disclosure than you'd get in a normal post here, but it is essential to the plot development.) We have a toilet in the basement that gets used MAYBE once a month, so I went in there and I suddenly realized there was water dripping on my head...

The first floor bathroom is right above the basement one, and youngest daughter was taking a shower. I went up and since she had finished I started looking around for the source of the leak. My first guess was that the pan and surround of the shower needed to be recaulked because it looked pretty bad. I spent time removing the old caulk and putting in new on Sunday, and figured we'd try it out on Tuesday. The shower was put in some time in the 1980's and replaced the sunken bathtub that was original to the house. Sadly all I have to show of the original is the blueprint:

Well, we turned on the water Tuesday and there was still a leak downstairs so I knew it must be the pipes up to the shower. Last Friday being my day off I emptied the shelves in the bathroom closet and removed them. I then took out the two panels that lead to the shower pipes:

I could see where the frame and wallboard had been wet in the past and could also see why there were such drips given the size of the hole in the floor:

I turned on the water and saw it was leaking way at the top where the filler tube for the shower head went into the copper pipe. I realized I could remove the filler tube and probably just put new teflon tape on it and stop the leaking. So I removed the shower head and flange so I could get at the filler:

I got out the pipe wrench and very gently applied pressure, I was surprised at how easily it turned and the next thing I knew it was in my hands. The only problem was all the threads were still in the copper elbow. The entire pipe had just crumbled away:

Now I was stuck. I had no way to get the threads out of the elbow. I was afraid I was going to have to call in a real plumber, since I am not competent at sweating in new copper. (I thought we'd have to saw off the old pipe and sweat on new.) As I considered, I wondered if it wouldn't be better to just do it all in PEX since that is what all the new plumbing on second floor is. Either way I saw this as getting much more pricy than I wanted.

Fortunately we had a family dinner Friday night and my younger brother Tom came over. He asked what was up in the bathroom after being in there and I told him of my mishap that morning with the pipe.

Now Tom is a tool salesman and much better at most home repair than I am. He said he'd come over with his extractor set and try to see if we couldn't get the threads out.

Saturday morning he showed up with tools and went to work, finding the right extractor and tapping it into place:

Here is a view from inside the panel:

We couldn't get the thread loose so a judicious application of his torch was in order to heat and expand the joint a little. After a minute of heating Tom went back to cranking it out:

And it came loose:

Right after we finished cleaning up, Pete came by for me to troubleshoot some of his school web pages. In exchange for my help he agreed to go to the hardware store (he was on his way there next) and pick up a new filler tube. When he brought it back I taped it up:

And put the shower head back on:

So I'm happy to say I got the "the man" to come out and I didn't have to pay for a plumber. And yes, the shower works just fine.

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