Wednesday, February 24, 2016

How to connect PEX to PVC for cheap

Sure, you can use a sharkbite fitting, but they're kind of a pain in the butt and they're expensive. For less than a third the cost, you can use plastic fittings that work just as well.

Here I was connecting ½" PVC to ½" PEX. The black piece is a ¾" to ½" MNPT with teflon-taped threads. You can find this piece in the PEX section of the hardware store. The white piece is a PVC coupling with one threaded and one unthreaded end, which can be found in the PVC section.

Monday, February 22, 2016


When you can't figure out how to connect your supply lines, there's always the alternative...

Friday, February 19, 2016

How to secure clawfoot tub feet using turnbuckles

Once we'd moved the clawfoot tub into the bathroom, I realized that the feet needed some reinforcement to reliably secure them onto the tub. The internet was of little to no help with this dilemma, so I called up Kevin Galloway of Galloway Porcelein who had assisted with restoring the tub. He had a brilliant solution—secure the feet using turnbuckles.

I set off to Home Depot and found them on the screws aisle: 2 turnbuckles with eyes at both ends, and 2 turnbuckles with an eye on one end and a hook on the other. I also picked up 4 washers that were just slightly larger than the eye opening on the turnbuckles. If you decide to go this route, make sure to know the distance between the feet and also take along one of the foot bolts so that you can ensure they fit snuggly onto the washers and turnbuckle eyes.

Here's an example of this same method Jason and Reilly's Remodel blog.

Bathroom Progress

and yes. my bathroom has a bow-tie
: )

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Gamble House

Excellent! A documentary about Greene and Greene, pioneers of the American Arts & Crafts movement!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Baby socks and bones

Not sure if it gets any weirder than finding old baby socks and bones in your bathroom wall.

A number of guests had mentioned that the house smelled kind of funny when they were standing in the hallway. Since the bathroom was already torn up I decided to get to the bottom of this 'old smell' and stuck my shop vac attachment up into the wall. Turns out, someone a long time ago had insulated it with old linens, curtains, burlap wallpaper, and baby socks. Then, some sort of rodent came along and made a nest in there, filling it with twigs, pecans, and garbage scraps.

While cleaning this out, the detail attachment of my shop-vac got clogged up.  What came out was really cool...

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

How to connect ½" PEX to ½" galvanized pipe

This was my friend Tommy's brilliant idea to help me connect a PEX cold-water supply line to my garden hose spigot. Much of it depends on the size of the lines you are joining. Here, we were connecting ½" galvanized pipe to ½" PEX. From left, we used:

  • a ¾" to ½" galvanized reducer, 
  • a ¾" coupler with teflon taped threads, and 
  • a ¾" to ½" PEX something-or-other

Worked like a charm.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Part II: She demanded a toilet

I was planning on renovating the bathroom after I finished painting the exterior.
but no, the bungalow gods had other plans for me....
...and my best friend Renee....who was scheduled to arrive in town in 3 days.

She demanded a toilet.

So on new year's eve, realizing that I had not a clue about how to plumb a bathroom, I called on my friend Tommy for immediate assistance. He knows a lot about plumbing, though there was a little wrench in the plan. We now had only 2 days to complete the project. 

So I took off on vacation a day earlier than planned and we got to work. If I was going to re-do the bathroom plumbing, I figured we might as well get that clawfoot tub installed.

To install the clawfoot tub, the toilet had to be moved, and
to replace the old pipes, the floor had to be removed,
which meant the shower and the sink had to be demo'ed out.
To remove the floor, the drywall had to be removed,
to remove the drywall, the beadboard had to be torn off, and
to remove the beadboard, the baseboards had to be removed.

You see where I'm going with this. 
Now my bathroom looked like this:

The floor presented an issue. A 1 day setback to be exact. This too was unexpected.
We discovered that there was concrete backer-board over not just 1, but 2 layers of subfloor.

The first layer was screwed to the second layer,
which was screwed and nailed to the joists.
and most of the screws were unrecognizably corroded and stripped, so the floor came up in pieces,
with me under the house, and Tommy above with the reciprocating and circular saws:
"ok, you can cut 3 inches to the right" (Tommy starts the cut) "
Good, good, now stop! There's a gas line there!" (he stops)
"go 2 inches to the left"
and so on and so forth. Piece by piece, we worked that subfloor up, occasionally shouting "I got one!" every time one of us worked a screw loose.

So now we had 1 day to re-do the plumbing.

I decided to treat this like a law school exam.
With a marker in hand I wrote on the wall:

by 4:00 - plumbing completed
by 4:30 - floorboards cut
by 4:45 - floor installed
by 5:00 - toilet installed
by 5:30 - leave to pick up Renee at the airport

and just to demonstrate how tight we were on time:

We did manage to stick to the timeline, except there was one wrench in the plan:
the toilet was positioned directly over the old cast iron sewer stack
which meant the flange was sticking up too high.
4 inches above the floor to be exact.

We now had 2 minutes to build a pedestal for the toilet to rest on:


Part I: The unexpected bathroom renovation

For those of you who are wondering why my posts have been sporadic lately:

I was sidetracked by another project.
You see, my shower drain broke.
and not just broke, like a miniscule leak or something minor, no.
It fell through the floor.

One morning, while I was showering, I accidentally stepped on the 'no-no zone'—
that questionable circle in the middle of the shower floor that I've avoided stepping on for over a year.
But not that morning.
No, my foot must have had a mind of it's own, because it landed smack-dab on top of the drain with all my weight behind it.

and that was when the drain pipe dropped through the floor, taking my heel along with it.

So there I was, naked, wet, and bleeding with my foot lodged partway between the bathroom and the crawlspace. Plastic shower pans apparently double as razor blades.

and better yet, I had a meeting that morning, which meant a long (long) trek across the med center. When the back of your heel is sliced open, every footstep causes it to crack open and bleed more, especially when your speed-walking to a meeting, because your neighborhood was surrounded by stopped trains and your house has 30 keys—2 for each door— all which look exactly the same and none of which work very well in the first place.

Back home that afternoon, I crawled under the house to investigate, having decided that we better fix this lickity-ding-dong-split otherwise I'd be showering under a pizza pan with a garden hose over it again. Did I mention it was 36 degrees outside? I've paid my dues—the pizza pan was not a solution this time.

'Easy,' I thought, 'it's just a shower drain. Let's just go secure that thing back into place.'

But of course, in a comedy of errors, I ended up trapped in a tangled web of 50 year old galvanized pipes. 

I'm a pretty limber guy with a small stature, yet there was no way I could limbo through that mess of pipes to reach the shower drain. 

The only way to repair the shower drain was to either a) tear the floor out, or b) remove and replace the pipes.

Those of you who have worked with jungle jims of corroded, old, galvanized pipe know where I'm going with this. The solution was to tear the floor out so that the old pipes could more easily be replaced.

This seemingly minor inconvenience had turned into an unexpected, immediate bathroom renovation. 

(to be continued in Part II: She demanded a toilet)