Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Old Business

I’m coming up on my One Year Anniversary of Blogging about my house. There have been several digressions but for the most part the story has been the on going saga of the year long kitchen restoration. Hmmm, as I write that I couldn’t help but wonder what that would look like if it were condensed down in to a 6 episode HGTV show. The edits would have to be so quick it would probably end up looking like a music video.

Episode One: And now were going to strip pai….a few nails here…once we get the new wat….now that the walls are fini.

And there you have its folks. It’s just that easy.

On the next episode we’ll put in…mark off…run some more… and then we’ll be ready for… So be sure to tune in.

Although the kitchen is not finished I am in a holding pattern waiting for the kitchen island sink. Yesterday I went and picked up the garbage disposal and everything is primed for installation. I am close enough to being finished that I can really start to think about the next project. The next project will actually be fixing a problem from the last project: The bathroom restoration. That was in my pre-Blogger days.

I spent over a year re-wiring the whole house, running all new copper for water, and all new black pipe for natural gas. While that was going on in the main house I was using a rental kitchen and bath in the 2 Story addition. After all the upgrades were completed in the main house I dismantled the addition. It worked out well but it was a very chaotic time at the old Petch House. Before I made the cut-over I did most of the work on the original upstairs bathroom to the house. If I didn’t have a kitchen I could eat take-out till the end of time but I’m not going to run down to Burger King every time I need to go to the bathroom. Nor am I going to go in a bucket for 3 months. The bathroom had to be done before I abandoned the addition.

The bathroom was a lot of work but it went well for the most part. It was very surprising that it was largely intact from 1895. It had the original 6.5-foot long claw foot tub, plaster walls and redwood wainscoting, redwood floor, and the original marble corner sink. The drain on the sink was very interesting. It was a one-piece lead drain, P-trap, and apron that covered the entire floor area under the sink. The apron would collect any water that sloshed out of the under-mount sink (the days before caulk) and had a secondary drain that emptied out the side of the house. It was in bad shape but it was just amazing that it was still there since 1895.

1895 Tub
I think they built the house around it

1895 Marble Sink W/ Redwood Skirting

Lead Drain
Notice how the apron matches the shape and size of the sink. It covered the floor behind the wood skirting. On the left you can see the supplemental drain that emptied out the side of the house to drain the apron.

The real problem with the drain was under the floor. Once under the floor the drain switched from lead to cast iron. It traveled 18-inches or so and then went down through the wall to meet up with the other drains under the house. Right as it turned to go in to the wall there was a broken cast iron 90-degree elbow. The bell that the elbow fed in to was so close to the wall and header for the first story wall that I couldn’t cut it off and switch to ABS. I had 2 choices. I could rip open the whole wall downstairs and take the entire drain out of the wall and replace it, or I could chisel the remaining part of the elbow out of the bell and switch to ABS by connecting a new piece in to the cast iron bell. They make a rubber donut to do this. First I had to get the broken cast iron and lead out of the bell. That is no easy task.

Getting the remainder of the cast iron and lead out is a lot of grunt work with a hammer and chisel working down in the floor between the joists. If you loose any part of it down in the drain you risk ending up with the permanently slow draining drain. Inevitably the piece that you loose down in the drain will get hung up on some elbow or transition between two fittings. It will be the place where hair and soap coagulates and the drain will just never be the same.

I lost a piece of lead down in the drain. Grrrr!

I couldn’t believe I lost a piece. I was so careful. I had a rag stuffed down the drain and at the very end when I ever-so-slowly pulled the rag out there was a twisted piece of lead that slipped by. I put everything back together and hoped for the best. No such luck. The drain never worked right. I tried snaking it until the end of time but never dislodged the chunk of lead. As it turned this wall that the drain was in was also a common wall to the addition I was getting ready to remove. I had already determined where the chunk was from when I tried to snake it out. I opened the wall, cut out a 1-foot section of pipe, and removed the chunk of lead. The drain worked for a few weeks but then it started running slow again. This time the problem was with a faulty in-line vent I had used. It was stuck closed. When I tried to remove the vent to replace it the vent crumbled in my hand and wouldn’t you know it a piece fell down the drain and got lodged again. Once again I had a slow running drain. Unbelievable!

At this point I was completely fed up with the whole stupid drain. I decided I’m not going to screw with it again because if I did my tool of choice will be an 8-pound sledge hammer. I decided I would just wait until I worked on the butler’s pantry and replace the whole drain then. The drain runs through the wall in the butler’s pantry. So for more than a year I’ve had a sink in the bathroom with a drain that runs slower and slower and slower. Every few months I pour a half gallon of bleach down it to break up the hair and soap that has coagulated on the small piece of crap that I dropped down there. Right now, if I don’t run the water constantly, I can shave and brush my teeth before I have standing water in the sink. It really sucks so I’ve got to fix it. I hate re-doing work but that is the next project. Grrr!


Ms. P in Jackson said...

Why is it plumbing is such a nightmare?

I wish had been here when you started so we could see the plumbing and wiring as you completed it.

The bathroom is very nice.

Jocelyn said...

Hey Greg

It's been a good year on the blog I'd say :)

So funny, it seems like alot of times you and I post at the same time. I guess great minds....

Real life is way better than tv even if it's slower. That tub is awesome.

Anonymous said...

Greg, congrats on your one year anniversary. I'm sure I'm not the only one that would say that your writing is among the best of those of us blogging our renovations. I've enjoyed watching your progress.

Looking forward to another year... :-)

- Aaron

John said...

Congratulation on your first year and thank you. More than a few of your posts have saved me from some serious grief (I hate learning things the hard way).

Your corner sink is fascinating. I've never seen or heard of a sink like that. Pretty cool.

And, thank you for proving once again that plumbing is the work of the Devil. Good luck with it.

K said...

Bathroom. So. Pretty. Me. So. Jealous.

Oh, and happy anniversary!

Greg said...

Thanks all. I think I’m still a few weeks out from the actual anniversary but it is close. It’s hard the believe another year has gone by. Scary.

And Jocelyn, I have noticed how our entries usually end up right next to each other’s on HouseBlogs. We both must be creatures of habit and we seem I to be in sync with the blog writing. I usually write after work is finished but before I eat diner.