Monday, April 16, 2007


Sunday. Another rainy one, this time with wind gusts. If Saturday is plugged in, surely Sunday is plumbed? We got to the house and contemplated the task before us: assemble the so-called "tree" where the showerhead and tub faucets connect.

Between the multilingual instructions that came with our faucet set and the two or three books we're consulting as we decipher the language of the plumbers, it took us a good hour to get a shopping list together for the hardware store—bits and pieces we'd need to finish the assembly. Along with the list were several questions for the long-suffering owner of the hardware store, who has taken to greeting us with "What's up, guys?" and expectantly waiting for whatever query we have that day. (Typical example: "This is brass, right?") Where would we be without him? Some furnished condo in Charlottesville with two numbered parking spots and all-night gym access, I guess.

Anyway, our list got a lot shorter once we started talking to him about the job and he told us to just use pex tubing to build the tree, instead of sweating copper like we'd planned. I haven't soldered since seventh grade shop class. John has soldered a lot, but sweating copper is apparently not the same thing. So we were happy to hear we could use pex. (After all, we have a WHOLE DAY'S experience with it!) Got ourselves a pipe wrench and adjustable wrench, some pex fittings, plumber's tape, coffee, dried apricots. Back to the house.

We stood in the tub and tested the recommended 78" height for the showerhead. Seemed right. Measured for the height of the faucets and the tub spout. Then used these to lay out three 2x6 horizontal nailers that will go between the studs. We put a temporary 2x4 vertically behind these and screwed it in, so that we can move the plumbing tree around and have everything stay put until it's in the wall. Then we'll unscrew the vertical.

Putting brass connectors together with plumber's tape, we discovered that the tapered threads are mighty hard to screw in. You only go so far before it starts getting really tight, and we weren't sure where we could safely stop and still make a seal. So we figured we'd try to get them all the way on. (Experienced plumbers, start laughing here.) I got on the pipe wrench, which worked much better once we got it facing the right way, John got on the adjustable, and we pushed with all our might. This went on for about 40 minutes, during which we made four connections and John pinched his finger really badly when the adjustable slipped. (Blood on the valves.) After that he started using the brick chimney to push against instead of me. Who can blame him? We found out later that no one expects you to get those things all the way on. Well, we like to go above and beyond.

Measured and cut pex, crimped it on, and soon we had most of the tree. Now for the supply lines, which have been sticking up from the crawlspace since we ran them a few weeks ago. Where should we cut them? It's all guesswork at this point. The pex is curving around and running into joists so it's pretty hard to see how this will all go together. We had long air chambers we'd put on (to prevent "hammering," that slamming sound in the pipes) and these were really in the way. So we did our best and made a cut in the hot supply line. John did some very difficult crimping while lying on his stomach. Repeat for the cold line. Now we're all ready to put in the tree, except for needing a 3/4" drill bit to go through the soleplate of the wall and connect everything together.

We were discussing that and the other stuff we'd do the next day, when we came to the last remaining vestige of the old bathroom: the wall of white tile. We've put off deciding what to do with it. Time to fish or cut bait. It might be moldy back there; we don't know if it's insulated. Worth saving? Nah.

What a fun ending to a tough day: smashing tile and yanking drywall.

Not too much mold, but the insulation was mouse-chewed. We were almost done when the power went out. Total blackness! John felt his way around the perilous gaps in the subfloor and found the flashlight. We skipped cleaning the mess and just gathered up our stuff. The wind made a terrible sound under the metal roof. A breeze whirled through the house. Did our roof just fly off? Nope, the plastic over the attic window and door was totally loose and flapping around. We put it back as best we could, with nails instead of staples (no power for the staple gun). Goodbye, house. Hope to see you intact when this storm is gone.

- Erika

(pics of the plumbing "tree" will be placed here in a day or so! dude!)

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