Kitchen Remodel: Day 156
So…we tore out half our new plumbing and re-did it. Two steps forward, seventeen steps back. Here’s the story of why we embarked on the most frustrating day of this remodel so far. (And we’re 5 months in, so there are a lot of days to choose from.)
When you do things on-the-record, you have to pass inspections. Part of a plumbing inspection is a pressure test. Now the rule of renovations, when it comes to permits and inspections, is that if you don’t touch it, you don’t have to fix it. So imagine the head scratching that took place when we realized that we had to do a pressure test on our new plumbing, but were concerned that our old plumbing couldn’t stand up to it.
Chris called the plumbing inspector last week and asked, “How does this pressure test work?” and explained the situation. And the inspector said that he could answer our questions better if he just came over and looked at it. So he kindly came over and explained how to separate the new plumbing from the old and do the pressure test on only the new parts (thank God).
And in the process, even though this wasn’t an official inspection, he was also nice enough to point out a few things we would have to change before the real inspection.
I. Hate. Plumbing.
But I’m sure I don’t hate it nearly as much as Chris does, since he had to do all the work to figure out plumbing code and plan our new kitchen and half bath, only to be told that a bunch of it had to be torn out.
Here’s what we did wrong, as I understand it:
Number 1: Both of these fittings are rubber gaskets with a metal sleeve and band clamps. One of them is not legal.
What’s the big difference? Well, the rubber is slightly thicker on the legal one. Oh, and price. The non-code compliant ones are cheaper. So given that they look so similar and appear to accomplish exactly the same thing, we picked the cheaper ones. And now we have to replace them. My question to the world in general: if the cheap ones are not legal, why sell them?
Number 2: My understanding of the plumbing code is this. On one page: “A vent must be at least half of the diameter as the drain that it serves.” Ok, cool. So we’ll just use 1.5-inch vent from the second-floor bathroom all the way down through the new half-bath and into the basement, where it will meet with the 3-inch toilet drain from the new toilet. Right? 1.5 is half of 3. Oh wait. A few pages later, there’s this: “A toilet vent must be 2 inches in diameter.” You’d think they’d put an asterisk in there or something. Or just mush the two sentences together: “A vent must be at least half the diameter of the drain it serves, except in the case of toilets, when the vent must be at least 2 inches.” I know, compound sentences are hard, right? So we have to replace an awful lot of 1.5-inch pipe with 2-inch pipe.
Number 3: Again, my understanding of the plumbing code (and I apologize, my understanding is limited, and I haven’t read it myself, so I’m going off of Chris’s explanations): “You can’t have more than 6 feet of pipe between the toilet and a connecting vent.” That is, until the plumbing inspector comes over and says “you can’t have more than 4 feet between the two.”
And those three reasons are why we spent the last two days tearing out and rebuilding a day-and-a half’s worth of work that I thought we finished back in February. Work that we were extremely proud of, by the way. Work that’s been functioning just fine since then.
But I ain’t mad. Noooo. Just because half of our hard work ended up first on the basement floor:
And then in the plumbing graveyard that is our kitchen:
And Chris DROPPED A SOCKET WRENCH DOWN THE NEW 2-INCH VENT…
…AND WE STILL HAVE YET TO FIND IT.
What? Yeah. That was the crowning moment of the day. All I know is that Chris was working in the ceiling above the looong run of pipe we had just finished gluing together, and it was late afternoon of Day 2 of this little pain-in-the-ass project. He was working right above this stuff:
See how the 2-inch pipe is open at the top? I was on the other side of the kitchen, and I heard the familiar sound of a tool being dropped, bouncing down one of the many holes in the floor, and eventually landing in the basement. Or so I thought.
I walked over to Chris and asked what he dropped, so I could go down to the basement to retrieve it. He just stood there on the ladder with his jaw hanging open for about 8 seconds. Then he looked at me and said, “I can’t believe that just happened.” He had lost his grip on the socket wrench and somehow managed to make a one-in-a-million shot…and an 8-inch long wrench slid right down a 2-inch pipe.
I’d like to tell you we tried really hard to find it. We didn’t. Chris was super frustrated already, and I was about to leave for work. I freaked out a little bit and tried to fish some electrical wire down the tube, thinking I could push the wrench to where the new drain met up with the cast-iron stack and was only connected with a rubber gasket (the only spot where we wouldn’t have to cut open our new new plumbing to retrieve the wrench). The wire couldn’t make the turns. Chris alternately assured me that it would be totally fine (drains are made to carry stuff away, right?) and that there was nothing we could do about it. So I went to work.
Then I came home and was still freaked out. After finishing the plumbing (yay! right?) Chris agreed to try to flush it out with water. We disconnected the rubber gasket again and put a bucket underneath it to catch the water, and hopefully the wrench. I turned the bathtub on and let the water flow, but after two and a half buckets…no wrench.
I was slightly mollified. I guess the wrench traveled far enough to be out of our reach. Which means that we could either call a plumber to retrieve it, or we could save some money for now and wait until it caused a problem, and then call a plumber to retrieve it.
But I woke up this morning and logic got the best of me. See, there’s a good seven feet of almost-horizontal run in the basement, with three 90-degree turns. Sure, it’s designed so that stuff flows through it without stopping, but a wrench in a dry pipe is not the usual “stuff.” It should have slowed down before getting to the final drop-off.
So I went to Menard’sand bought this bad boy.
An 80-lb capacity should be able to pull a socket wrench, right? So I headed down to the basement and ran the magnet along that horizontal run.
Still no wrench.
I was satisfied for about three seconds. Come on, did you see that horizontal run of pipe? How fast do you think a wrench would have to travel to not stop in there? Could it get up to that speed over the course of a single story of a house, and maintain it through not one, but two 90-degree turns?
So I took my magnet back up to the kitchen and made up a little test. I got a scrap of 3-inch PVC. I got another wrench. And I tried to make the wrench move along inside the pipe, using the magnet on the outside.
Nothing. The 80-lb-capacity magnet is completely neutralized by PVC. Either that, or it can only pick up things that are within 1/4-inch of the magnet. In which case, they really shouldn’t label it as a “retrieving magnet.”
So. There’s a socket wrench somewhere in our plumbing. And that’s where it will stay. And most likely, the first person to flush a poop in our new half-bathroom (if we ever get to the point where we can install a toilet) will cause a nasty backup in our basement.
You know what the irony of this whole situation is? Now our plumbing is up to code.