Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The State Of The Bathroom

The state of the bathroom is good, but there are some problems.

One of the immutable laws of The Universe states that no matter how many copper joints I solder in one day one of them will have a pin hole leak. If I solder two joints, one will leak. If I solder three joints, one will leak. If I solder 500 joints, one will leak. This law is written just for me and today it played out exactly as it was written, but that wasn’t the worst part.

Before I get to the dumb mistake I made (not the leaky solder) I want to say that I really don’t care for working with copper. In my opinion the PEX method, even though I’ve never used it, is much better. It’s not available around here, so it wasn’t an option for me. Of all of the mechanical things in the house like plumbing, electrical, and gas lines, the copper joint seems the least accurate. I can attach two wires together with a wire nut and pull on them as hard as I can. If they come apart I didn’t do it right. I tighten down a pipe and you can feel it tighten. With the copper solder you prep the pipe ends, you heat it, and then put on the solder. It looks fine. You can pull on it and twist it and it seems secure, but you don’t know it’s a good solder until you turn on the water and see if there is a leak. It’s very frustrating.

To make matters worse, once there is water in the pipe it makes it even harder to repair the leak. As you heat the pipe any water, even a very small amount near the joint you are trying to fix, will boil and turn to steam from the heat of the torch. If you are soldering near an open valve the steam can escape out the valve. If not, the steam tries to escape out the joint you are trying to repair. There are a few tricks to employ, but this mostly means cutting the pipe some place to release the steam. Now you have another repair to make. It’s all very frustrating.

My leak today was, oddly enough, the very first solder I made. It was just a tiny, tiny pin-hole leak. Now though, once I’ve discovered it, I now have the pipes filled with water under pressure. It’s 5:30 at night, I’m hungry, and tired and I’m in no mood to drain the pipes and try to make the repair. Instead, I wrapped a towel around the leak, filled up the tub, shaved, brushed my teeth, and then went and shut off the water. I’ll fix it tomorrow.

Aside from the leak, the rest went well, except for the one minor mistake I mentioned earlier. The last thing I do is cap off the pipes above the floor where the valves will eventually go. I leave the pipes uncapped so as I solder pipes under the floor any steam that accumulates in the pipes from residual water will have a place to escape. The very last thing I do is cap the pipes and then turn the water back on and check for leaks. Well, I forgot to cap the pipe for the toilet. When I turned on the water I had a major geyser in the bathroom. It’s just sub floor, so it’s not the end of the world. The only real problems is that the water drained down through the floor and soaked the ground under the bathroom. This is where I have to go tomorrow to repair the pin-hole leak. Bummer.


donutboy said...

Have you called your local Ferguson to find PEX?

donutboy said...

have you tried to get PEX from your local Ferguson Supply?

mike & rachel said...

Trust me... that just ain't a Greg Law of plumbing... water flows down, you're always a fitting short, and that last joint will always leak (2nd repair success rate inverse to lateness of time of day).

And don't forget, if laying out hot and cold lines from opposite side of wall - hot on RIGHT, cold on LEFT. This will only be discovered AFTER the soldering is done and you turn on the faucet - and yes this will be the time your solder joints held the first time.

Have fun!

Dave said...

Greg, I feel for ya. Get some rest. It'll be there for ya in the mornin'

Mark said...

I had a bad run when running the copper for my upstairs bathroom. Friend told me that you always need to clean every connection well. I focused on that and on making good solders. Turned on the water pressure and near all the joints had failed and there was some 15 or so. So I turned off the water and capped the lines for the night. Next day tried it again with different FLUX. Not single leak. Turned out the flux can be a big factor too.