19 January, 2013

Here We Go Again

Ahhh, another day, another project. This time it's the shower. Upstairs in the Mennonite house, the shower has developed a problem. Of course, this sort of thing is always an opportunity to lend the manly touch to the decorating scheme of the house. It always surprises me just how quickly I can populate a space with tools and bits of stuff - all necessary to the art and science of repair.
Handy Tool Storage
Tool and Supply Storage
I said that it had developed a problem. Actually, that was two problems. The first is the shower head itself. Since PVC pipe is used almost exclusively down here, that can create problems. For example. Our shower head used one of the shower head apparatus that hung off the shower pipe. You know the kind - with the hose attached and all that. Plus, we had a wire shower caddy attached with all the stuff that is normally kept there. Altogether a lot of weight on that little piece of pipe.

Well, the problem developed over time as the weight began to warp the PVC fitting the pipe screwed into. It seems that no matter how much teflon tape I used, and no matter how much plumber's putty or epoxy I used, it was going to leak.

As it turned out, not only had the fitting warped or stretched, but, when I removed the old piping, I saw damage that had been there since the piping was installed. Now, it probably didn't leak from the get-go, but over time, something like this just provides an avenue for water to begin its inevitable attack on fittings. Combined with expansion and contraction from hot and cold water, it's easy to see how driposis can begin.
Part of the Problem
And leak it did. At first, as you can imagine, it was a barely perceptible drip. Over time, that has increased to such an extent that we had to put a bucket under the pipes downstairs in Dianna's workshop to contain the drips. And it was only going to get worse. Something had to be done.

At first, I was going to tackle the leak from the front, removing a piece of tile and hacking away at the problem. I soon realized that if I was going to fix it (at that time, we didn't realize exactly what the problem was other than that we had a leak), I had to access the back side of the shower anyway, so that soon developed to be the preferred method of attack.

Not that that access was altogether easy. We first had to move our armoire out from the wall about two feet. Not the easiest thing to do, considering that it is about eight or nine feet long and made out of solid mahogany. It weighs a ton.
Narrow Working Quarters
I carefully measured where the shower head was and transferred a small 'x' to the back side to mark the shower head location and then used my trusty stud-finder to help define how large a hole I was going to need. Since metal studs were used, that was relatively easy to do.
Access Hole
I used my hole saw gingerly, mostly to gouge a small hole to be able to feel what I was running in to. I then used a razor knife to score and cut through the sheetrock so I had enough access to do any required work. This had an additional benefit in that using the knife really minimized the dust that would have been produced using the saw for the entire hole.
Small Mess
Replacing the damaged fitting is fairly easy. It's nothing I haven't done many times around here with as much PVC as we have all over the place. I am going to add a bit of wood to the setup, because the metal studs that were used in the walls of the Mennonite house just don't provide the lateral support needed to give the shower head fittings the rigidity needed.

By using the back side for access, I was able to leave the tile on the shower side alone. So, that meant just having to mess around with the two floor tiles. A bit of a relief.
Showerhead Hole
There's no way to really fasten the pipe to the stud to obtain the necessary rigidity any other way. So, I'll add a piece or two of wood and cobble something together out of wire or something to bind the pipe to the wood to hopefully obtain the stiffness it needs.

That was my initial thinking. As it turned out, I was able to use two pieces of wire run through the metal stud and around the pipe to securely fasten the pipe so it won't move at all. 
Coming From Faucet
Also, what we'll do is not keep the shower head and hose attached to the pipe. I'm going to see if I can get a wall mount for the shower head itself. If I can't , then it looks like it will be time to get a new shower head assembly that comes with a wall mount.

Here, you can see some of the wire used to hold the pipe in place. You can also see some of the staining that began to develop because of the leakage. By the way, that's not sheetrock that's stained, it's a concrete board product called Plycem. So, even though stained, it's quite undamaged by the water.
Shower Outlet
Here you can see the new pipe fitting jutting through the wall. I'm going to try to mount whatever hook I can find right in that area. I'll have to figure out an alternate location for the shower caddy. Who knows, maybe the one hook will do double duty. We'll see.
Showerhead Poked Through
The other big part of this project (remember, I mentioned that there were two parts) is we have a couple of floor tiles that cracked. They're rather large tiles (one-foot square) and removing them is proving to be a challenge - especially since we don't want to demolish the adjacent tiles. The grout is tough and the Thinset (used to mount the tiles themselves) is also tough.

The day before yesterday we had chiseled, grout-sawed, pounded, cussed, sweat, cajoled, cussed, poked, prodded, grappled, (did I mention cussing?), drilled and drilled, and all manner of other rites and incantations to try and remove the old tile, all to no avail. Both Dianna and I took turns attacking the tiles, and have gotten pretty much nowhere. What to do?
What to do came to us yesterday evening. Dianna suggested calling Carlos to see if he could come and fix the tile part of the project for us. By that stage, that seemed the most expedient solution to the problem, so I called him. He'll be able to come over and help us Friday morning. Some things are just best left in the hands of the pros, I guess.

There were also a couple other spots where the grout was failing or where, for whatever reason, a couple of the little plastic spacers were left in the grout track. Carlos removed those and will re-grout those as well.
Carlos Chipping Some Defects
Here's Carlos showing just how easy it is to remove the tile - if you know the trick. Obviously, we're not qualified to do this stuff.
Carlos Almost Done Busting Out Tiles
It might not be quite like they would do on Hometime or This Old House, but it's getting the job done, and it will last.
Carlos Doing the Tiles
Carlos will finish up the grout tomorrow morning and we'll have our shower back. It's not like we haven't been able to shower in the meantime. We've been using the shower down at the pool house. It's just a convenience thing, y'know?

And just like that, it's this morning. Chilly, gray overcast. Reminds me of the Northwest. Only thing missing is the drizzle. Come on Sunshine!

Carlos showed up around 8:00 AM this morning and was ready to tackle the grout. He opened the bucket that had three bags of left-over stuff in it. Was any of them grout? Of course not. A partial bag of Thinset, a partial bag of white cement, and a partial bag of sand of all things.

Well, it just wouldn't be a good project without at least one trip daily to a hardware store or something. So, off we went, Carlos riding shotgun and me with the reins, to Creative Tiles and Windows in Corozal.

Carlos was pretty sure they sold small bags of grout. I wasn't sure. I had never seen a small bag of it before, at least at Creative. Lo and behold, they actually had two-kilo bags, which was great. Even greater, it was available in a tan color that closely matched what we already had in the shower.
Carlos Working the Grout
After scoring the grout, we swung by Lano's to see if they might have a bracket for the shower handle. Naturally, I didn't call it a bracket. I called it a 'hook' which presented a minor problem which was easily solved by the same girl I had the discussion with about 'inch and a half' pumps'. She asked if I meant "a bracket". Perfect was my response. And they had it too. Now all I have to do is bore a couple of holes through the wall tile and hang the thing up there, probably just off center from the pipe outlet in the wall.

As you can see, the outlet is framed nicely by the chrome bezel from the old shower setup. I had to use a hole saw and my drill to expand the hole for the outlet pipe. A bit dicey, but it came out quite nice, I think. All I need to do now is apply some caulk around the inner and outer edges and that's done - well beside hooking up the actual shower hose and handle.
Add Some Caulk and Done
The only thing left, which Dianna will do this afternoon, while I'm at an all-important Corozal Men's Group meeting (solving the world's major problems, of course) is to apply grout sealer to all the new grout. Dianna thinks we'll have just enough to handle the job.

So, after all that, guess what? We'll have a functioning bathroom once again. Just in time to relax Sunday and gear up for another episode of Downton Abbey in the evening.


Wilma said...

Great project, Dave! I'm envious - cold and HOT water. We only have cold and cooold. It's a bit on the chilly side here these past few days.

Dave Rider said...

Hi Wilma,

Thanks for the nice comment. It's great to have both for sure.

One thing we discovered while doing this project was that the on-demand heater for our pool house was set a smidge high - like scalding. Hot water almost came out like steam, at least that's what it felt like.

It took a while to figure out how to set the unit properly (Chinese instructions and all). At last we got it set right, and just in time for the shower project to get done upstairs too.

Thanks again.