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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

Wintertime, and the Venting Is Easy

Well, the planning stage, such as it was, was over. Nothing left to do but bang nails. We extended one of the walls that formed the dormer straight across until it hit the wall with the chimney in it. There’s a work box for the light switch for an overhead light in the new bathroom. My son is still smiling, so I assume he hasn’t hit his thumb with a hammer yet. Either that, or he’s smiling because his father just hit his thumb with a hammer. I notice a torchiere lamp off to the right in that photo. I’m beginning to recall this job in detail. It was winter, and the room was cold indeed, and dark as a teen romance.

Once the wall was in place, we covered it with 1/2″ thick drywall sheets. If you’re wondering what’s going on in the following picture, I’ll do my best to ‘splain it to you, Lucy. When you frame a wall, it’s customary to extend the bottom plate (the 2×4 running horizontally at the floor) the length of the wall, including across any door openings. That way, there’s less chance that the left and right sides of the opening will be out of alignment when it comes time to hang a door in it. Once the wall is firmly affixed to the subfloor, you cut the stub out. That’s what the spare heir is up to. I’m probably thinking great thoughts, or sleeping. I know which way I’d bet, if wagering was allowed.

I had a scavenged solid wood, 6-panel door kicking around the basement. I rescued it out of a dumpster something like thirty years ago. It was trimmed down already, so we made the door opening fit it, not the other way around. It’s not that hard to make a door jamb, and mortise in some hinges. I’ve done it many dozens of times over the years. If you can deal with slab doors like this, you can save a bunch of money.

We all have to give my wife a pass on the fuzzy photography this go-round.  It was pretty dark in there, and cold enough to shiver. But here’s what’s going on behind the door and under the floor. I had to get the floor level. It was sloped pretty badly from right to left in the next picture. Bathroom fixtures don’t like to sit on sloped floors.

The floors in a house this vintage (1901) are just two layers of wood planks. The top layer is 7/8″ thick tongue and groove pine, and the subfloor is 7/8″ thick pine laid on the diagonal. I demolished a strip of the finish floor on the high side, and added a shim above the floor on the low side. Then we laid a new plywood subfloor. It butted into the existing floor on the high side, and the low side is hidden inside a crawl space we’re leaving. All the drain piping was laid in the floor already when this photo was taken. You can see the floor drain pipe for the toilet, a drain for the sink, and on the left, a vent pipe for the tub. The pipes are at an angle because the new wall is sitting on top of a joist below, and I didn’t want to notch it, or move it. We’ll put the plumbing mostly behind this wall, not in it, because we can.  The hot and cold pex pipes are stubbed up into the wall, too.

Our cat is always getting into everything. This isn’t a surprise anymore, so I plan on it. Every night, after working on the subfloor and the pipes in the floor, I always nailed the demolished flooring back over the hole to keep her out of it. One morning, I opened up the floor to work on it, and looked down the joist bay to see something or other, and saw two blinking eyes in there. I still can’t figure out how she got in there.

Who, me?

We set the tub in its niche. It’s a 60″ long enameled steel tub. That’s the one dimension that was-non-negotiable when planning this bathroom. You have to fit a five-foot tub in it. Enameled steel is the cheapest thing you can buy and still call it a tub. No one likes enameled steel tubs anymore. I hate all plastic tubs, and can’t afford a cast-iron job, so this is fine with me.

If you’re smart, you can avoid most of the trouble people encounter with enameled steel tubs. First, buy it at the store, not online, and open the box right there. You’ll find out if it’s got dents and chipped enamel from being dropped, right away, and you can ask for another one.

Next, deal with the flimsy-feeling problem. Enameled steel is kind of flexible. It feels a little wobbly underfoot. Before you set the tub in place, mix up a batch of mortar. Any old kind. Dump the mortar on the floor, and then set the tub on top of it while the mortar’s wet. When it dries, it’s really solid. The mortar holds heat, too, so your cheap enameled steel tub feels like a cast iron job when you stand in it, or soak in it.

It’s a wild scene when you’re setting a tub like this. You have to line up the drain with the rough plumbing while it’s being set. You need to smoosh the mortar down at the same time. We had fun with me laying on the floor behind the tub to futz with the plumbing, while my wife and son marched in place inside the tub. If you’re smart, you cut up the box the tub comes in and lay a piece in the bottom to protect the finish. If you’re really smart, you cut a piece of OSB and lay it on top of the tub after it’s in place and use it like a worktable.

Lastly, be careful when you affix the tub to the wall studs. Unlike a plastic tub, you can’t just drill holes through the flange and screw it to the walls. Get plastic fender washers and pinch the flange to the wall with the screw fully above the flange. Don’t use metal washers or the enamel will crack and get rusty.

Here’s the rough plumbing in place. You can see the big drain, waste, vent (DWV)pipe going up through the roof. I had to punch a hole in the roof and put a flange around the pipe. That roof is forty feet up, but you can walk on that part of it, thank the savior. We also poked a hole for the exhaust fan and installed the outlet while I was up there.

In the picture, you can see the blocking installed in the stud bays for the sink. There’s a double-gang electrical work box. It will have a GFCI plug and a duplex switch that has the fan on the top and a wall sconce switch on the bottom. There’s a copper stubout for the toilet, and two for the sink. The drain is under the floor, going left to right. It drops, takes a turn, and runs along the ceiling in the kitchen (hidden in a soffit), goes outside to the pantry porch, goes down two stories into the car hole, and finally leaves the building through the main house drain. Everything just fit, without 1/2″ to spare. The pex pipe is color coded for hot and cold, but it’s the same stuff no matter what color it is. You always end up with too much red and not enough blue, and use the red up on cold water lines, and things like that shower spout leader.

The sink’s drain continues up and becomes a vent, and ties into the main vent. The pipe on the left is a vent for the tub. It’s technically overkill, because the sink vent could handle another fixture, but what the hell, the wall is open and the venting is easy.

[To be continued. Thanks for supporting this site. Please tell an internet friend that Sippican Cottage is back in business]

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