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Building a Bathroom: Plumbing After a Disastrous Water Leak

Updated on June 1, 2014
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Bathroom Recovery

As I began to recover from the shock of hiring, firing and being sued by an incompetent and downright fraudulent contractor, I realized that I needed a plan. I'm not one to shrink from a little work and once I started thinking about it, I realized this was my chance! I would never have another opportunity as good as this to fix all the little things my home needed fixing. I measured every inch of space and drew it out on graph paper. My ultimate vision included not just fixing the damage that had occurred, but also improving nearly every aspect of my home.

When I purchased the house, I had a loose sort of 5 year plan to add, upgrade and generally improve the ambiance and make it my home. Indeed, I had already started by pulling out the carpet in the living room. I spent many evenings pulling staples out of the beautiful (to me) hardwood floors.The crew my insurance company hired to remediate the mold tore out most of the wood flooring in every room of the house. There was only a small square left in the "big" bedroom. It was unfortunate that I began in the room farthest from the water leak, but then again at least my work wasn't wasted.

Some people would have banked the money and walked, no ran away. I pretty much owned a gutted house at that point. But all I could see was potential. I had a pretty small budget but I was planning big changes. I wanted to move walls, install a second bathroom, move the kitchen - hey it was already torn out, right?

I called a couple of plumbers to get quotes to repair and move my plumbing. One came back over $10,000 and the other was a gentler $6,500. That was a major part of my budget but that didn't stop me. I bought a book and started learning how to do plumbing to code. I learned in the required certification class that PEX tubing was very easy to use, durable and resistant to freezing. It gets cold where I live, so I was on board. I got out the graph paper and drew out my plans. I noted where every single line went, washer, dryer, bathrooms, kitchen; I even added an ice maker line.

When it came to the hot water I had a bit of a dilemma. I had been surfing Craigslist one day and found a LARGE soaker tub for only $200. Yes, I managed to get it home, with some help from my friends. I would need a bigger hot water heater. I started looking and found a tankless heater on eBay for $400. Brand New. They bought the natural gas model, then moved and couldn't use it. I happened to have natural gas. How hard could it be to run a gas line and install a tankless water heater?

It turns out, it was much harder to remove the OLD plumbing that to install the new plumbing. I was laying under my house one day, trying to remove the old kitchen drain pipe. It was a 3" galvanized, heavy pipe. I couldn't hardly even lift the pipe wrench, let alone get the coupler loose to get the pipe out of there. I started bawling in frustration. I had it out with myself, why was I doing this, blah blah blah. Then I looked over to my right and saw about 4 feet down that the dang galvanized pipe was attached to ABS. One short sawing session later, I was free.

Free being relative, of course. I was free to crawl over to try to run the drain for the new kitchen area. In this part of the crawl space it was only about 18" deep, so much harder to work. Suffice it to say, lots of cussing and bawling went on. I did not enjoy getting dirty at ALL. I did not enjoy spending just about every free moment crawling around under my house, and getting just about every cut, scrape and bruise imaginable.

They say what doesn't kill us makes us stronger, and that it did! I have never been so gratified as when I filled my bathtub the first time. The bathroom wasn't finished, but the tub was in place and I was in heaven. I reflected on the lessons of strength, courage and patience I had learned. I thought about how nice it would be when the house was done. I started thinking about my plan...and realized the house really should be rewired too! Stay tuned.


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