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Plumbing
Tub and Shower Q's & A's

Showerhead | Drains | Water Diverter | Tub/Shower Surround
Floors | Leaks | Tubs | Faucets | Caulking | Tile Board | Other Problems
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Showerhead

Elevating shower pipe and nozzle

Have just purchased a home with short showers! Will have to stoop over to wash/rinse hair etc. The wall is tiled, and is in good shape. Is there an economical way to raise the shower head up a couple of feet without redoing all of the tiles?

Do you have access to the other side of the wall where the shower is? Is it a closet? Without messing up the tile, you can extend it inside the wall and just make a new hole for the new shower head. The old hole can be covered with new tile, or a chrome cover plate.

Or

You can use chrome fittings, a 90 deg elbow and short length of chrome pipe to the new shower height.

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Or

You can use an extender such as "Hi-Lo" shower head check http//www.Tjader.com 

Or

you could always just hook up a hand held shower nozzle.

 


Shower head installation

I need to install one of those "water-saving" shower heads. My problem is, I have
ABSOLUTELY no clue how to start. The shower head didn't have any instructions, so it's not like I'm a bimbo. I just haven't had any experience with fixing stuff (except the A/C, but that's another story).


You will need two pairs of pliers or two wrenches. First, grip the gooseneck that comes from the wall with one, then grasp the fitting at the base of the old shower head. Then turn the shower head off.
(Reason you want to hold the gooseneck is so it does not turn out of the fitting behind the wall. Its usually screwed in there.) Next, take a roll of teflon tape and wrap it around the threads at the end of the gooseneck about 4 times. Wrap it CLOCKWISE. Then simply screw the near head on and hand tighten. Then use the pliers and give it about 1/2 turn and viola.



Drains

Shower drain pan

I have taken a bathtub out of my bathroom and would like to install a shower instead.. the problem is I have been given several suggestions that don't make sense when it comes to the drain going into the floor.. I was told to use a drain that has tiny holes on the side and to use a plastic liner and to pour concrete on top of the liner and that when I poured concrete it would go over the liner... however, I don't understand this process.

You have a few problems to deal with. The tub had the drain on one end; a shower drain should be near the middle of the pan. This can be easy or difficult to deal with, depending on how the drain runs and how the floor joists are laid. Tub drains are usually 1 1/2" I.D. pipe, though, and a shower should be 2" I.D.; can you make that change? Also, it sounds as though you want a tiled shower. Proper preparation of the pan (liner) and drain is not a good DIY project. You might be better off with a precast base if you have room for it; otherwise, it's time to call a pro. It's better to have it done right and do it once than to save a few bucks on the shower now only to spend two or three times as much later to redo that plus patch ceilings, walls, and floors below it when it leaks.

The Process of making a mud Shower pan is more involved than can be explained here is this short limited space. Sorry, but you can find that information in a good tile book, the older the better as most of the men that used to make those pans are retired. The plastic liner must be 6 to 8 inches above the thresh hold (step in) and provides a membrane to make the shower water tight. The base must slope to the weep holes in the drain, and provides gravel or broken tile to keep the holes open. Fold the membrane and don't nail or penetrate below the 6 to 8 inches above the thresh hold. The old liners were made of lead sheet and is very hard to get now and is very expensive when you can find it. Use the membrane material, and set the membrane between the clamping rings of the drain adapter. Make sure that the drain is tight to the floor and doesn't move.




 

Tub not draining 

I have a 40 year old house with a very slow draining bath tub. I have had several plumbers out to try to improve the draining. Each one ran their auger down for about 5 to 6 feet.Each time it would hang up. After putting a kink in the augers the plumbers gave up. The last to try felt like it was the stopper disk from the old stopper. We have had one crew improve on the flow but now it takes about 30 to 45 min to empty the tub. Can anyone tell me what my options are.

Unless these plumbers had a power auger that can actually cut through tree roots and such, you did not get your money's worth.  Call a rooter service, instead.  They should be able to cut through a rubber stopper like a hot knife through butter if in fact this is the problem.

another:

We just recently had the same type of problem. What I did was cut the drain line (under the house of course) and try to use a snake. When this failed we used a piece of pipe (1/2 galv.) that would reach the clog and then knocked it through with a hammer. Everything works great now and no problems.

more

If that is not the problem, and the rooter company is unable to get through, might want to read further.

Most 40 year old homes had cast iron and galvanized drain lines. They may be hitting a galvanized "T" fitting which is not allowing the snake to pass through. The clog might just be past a fitting, which is not reached by an ordinary snake. Since there is a vent line near the tub, the other method used for cleaning snakes, which utilizes water pressure and an expandable balloon, will not work. You basically have two options left.

The first one can be rather dangerous, although inexpensive. You need a chemical that can cut through soap scum. This chemical needs to be highly acidic, such as muriatic acid. Muriatic acid will quickly eat away at soap scum, but will also destroy any brass/chrome plating on the drain parts, so you need to take care to remove the stopper and use a funnel to divert the acid directly down the drain.

If this fails to work, your last resort will be to open up the ceiling below the tub, and replace the piping. This is a much safer alternative to the one above, but also much more costly. If you get to this stage, and have already used the acid in the drain, make sure you run as much water as possible through the drain to be sure not to have any acid residual on the pipes when they get removed. This will help prevent the person removing the piping from getting any chemical burns. Make sure they are aware that acid was used, so they may take any necessary cautions to protect themselves from the possibility of an acid burn.

 

Leaking shower drain

I have a 3'x3' one piece fiberglass shower over my first floor living room that leaks after using it. I have cut a hole in the wall behind the supply valve and there is no signs of leakage there. The P trap holds water and I have caulked the joints on the inside of the drain above the P trap. I suspect the drain pipe after the P trap is cracked. How can I remove the shower unit to fix this leak? Will I be able to re-install it afterwards?

Removing the shower unit will require extensive remodeling of the bathroom, since it was installed before any sheetrock work was installed. It is a job you really don't want to undertake unless you have to.

I would suggest that you open the ceiling in the living room. This will expose all the piping, as well as the drain connection on the bottom of the shower. At that point you can run the water in the shower and check for leaks. If you don't see any, then have someone take a shower above, while you check for leaks below. Don't laugh, remember that most people weigh between 120-200 pounds, and that makes a difference in these fiberglass showers.

These steps should help you to discover where the leakage is coming from. Before you do that, you might first want to check the outside of the shower after someone gets done using it. I have known the water to come outside, and then sneak through the crack in the sealant between the shower base and the floor.

 

Replacing bathtub drain

Like a complete idiot, I used toilet bowl cleaner on the inside of a bathtub in a new home. Some of the cleaner got on the silver-plated drain, and it has deteriorated badly. Is there an easy way to replace the drain? It functions properly but looks terrible, and it doesn't seem easy to remove.

The piece you are looking at threads into the piece below it, under the tub. The installer may have used sealant under the outer rim, so it may take some forcing to get it started. I'm sure there's a tool for it, but find a pair of pliers you can fit the jaws of down into the drain vertically, spread the handles and turn.
The pipe below may drop away a little. There is a gasket that sits on top of that. Make sure you don't lose it. Apply some sealant to the new one before re-installing.

Showerstall drain

I'm in the process of finishing my basement, and I bought a showerstall for the bathroom. My question is this, ... the drain that's in the floor that I'm using looks like a shallow bowl about 6" wide with a 2"hole in the center. How does the shower stall drain adapt to this type of drain, do I have to bust up the floor and replace this drain? Is there a kit of some sort?

The drain you describe is nothing more than a simple floor drain. It is not designed to be used as a shower drain, which must be connected to your outgoing sewer line. The floor drain at best simply goes to a modified French drain under your slab which is nothing more than a hole filled with stone...Not designed to handle wastewater, nor is it legal for you to put wastewater down there. Depending on the location of your sewer line, i.e. if it is above floor height or below the floor, you may have to a) Break out the concrete to tie into the line under the floor. b) Install a sewer ejector to pump up the wastewater to a sewer line above the floor. Should you not understand how to do either properly, you should consult a professional.

Water Diverter

Shower faucet water diverter

I have a water diverter in the shower that when I switch from faucet to shower does not allow all the water to flow to the shower head and some , part, of the water flows out the faucet. I've checked the diverter and its ok. I've been told I might have a piece of plastic or piece of welded/soldered metal in the manifold that is causing the obstruction. Could that be so and how can I get it out? The shower head is ok.

What make of faucet do you have? If it is Price Pfister there is a white plastic washer that goes between the stem and the stem body that may need to be replaced . It may not even be there but it should be . Any hardware store will have it.

If the valve was originally a tub & shower valve , the diverter could be clogged. You'll have to get into the top under the shower riser and remove it, GOOD LUCK!  

 

Shower diverter

When I use the shower, water also comes out of the spout lessening the water to the show head. Have replaced the bathtub spout but it has not prevented the water from still coming out. Any suggestions?

If the diverter is in the spout, then replacing it should have fixed the problem(??). If the diverter is a separate item (e.g. a knob you twist), then replacing the spout just gives you a new spout - the problem is in the diverter.

 

Tub/Shower Surround

Shower-tub surround

How do you suggest removing a tub/shower surround without ruining the sheetrock underneath. We recently redid our bathroom only to have the tub surround crack. How can we remove the surround without ruining the sheetrock?

You should be able to remove it and not ruin the wallboard behind. How is it attached now? Is it screwed in and caulked in place? Or was it glued on. If it was glued on, you can gently pry it off. Cut and caulking seals with a knife. Any areas that get damaged can be fixed with a layer of joint compound smoothed even with the rest of the wall. If you are covering it with a new surround, you needn't be too fussy.

 

Tub surround


I have purchased tub surround to replace some loose ceramic towels in the bathroom. All ads seem to indicate the tub surround may be placed overtop of the tiles. However recently a friend told me to tear out the old tiles because they could become loose later and would create some problems later. Help, should I put over top of the tile or remove.
Also, what is an average price for installation.


As long as the tiles are not loose, they can be left in place. The shouldn't get loose once they are out of the water/humidity etc.



Bathroom tile

I am currently removing old plastic tile and a shower surround from an existing bath. My problem
is; does the glue from the surround and the mastic from the tile need to be completely gone before I
can put new ceramic tile up.

No.. not completely. The new mastic will stick.. but just makes sure there is nothing at all loose left. Also make sure the surface is relatively smooth and flat such that any bumps can be handled by the thickness of the mastic and not cause the tiles to be uneven.


Tub surround for Jacuzzi/shower combo

We are completely remodeling the bathroom in a 70 year old stucco house. We are putting in a standard size jetted bath tub and want it to be a shower too. I'm looking for advice on what to do with the walls inside the shower/tub. Do we buy a surround from a discount store and build the walls to fit it, or can we just buy vinyl and mount it to the water proof wall board using lots of caulk? We talked about tile but we're not thrilled about the grout and possible leaks.

You have many solutions for tub walls. Ceramic tile, tile board, mosaic tiles, vinyl tub surround, natural surrounds like stone/slate and some of the newer ones which are one piece laminate like Corian products.
Visiting your nearest home center will educate you in what is available and they will be able to show you the many many options available to you.

Floors

Shower stall pan replacement

The procedure to reinstall a shower floor pan sounds rather involved and this web page has convinced me not to do it myself.   Is the installation of a poured concrete shower pan done by a plumber or is it performed by another craftsman. Plus, any advise on choosing a qualified individual would help.

I just went through a master bath remodel and debated the same point myself. I wanted the custom look of a poured shower pan (didn't at all care for the pre-fab pans). I debated whether I'd do the show pan myself and got all the necessary tools and materials to do the job.  At the last minute, I chickened out and went with a tile craftsman to pour the pan (and subsequently set the tile, etc.). In retrospect, this is something I would have definitely done myself.

The following were the steps observed, which all seemed quite straight-forward.

Frame in the pan. Using 2x4s, frame in area for the shower. The drain should roughly be in the center to allow proper drainage, etc.

Remove drywall / durarock around shower area up to about 2 feet from the floor. This is done so the polyurethane line is installed behind the wall.

Install liner on the floor. Inset liner into the drain coupling (see manufacturers instructions - very simple). Fold liner at corners and tack into walls at least 6 inches above floor level. Resulting installation should be a wrinkle-free liner that covers floor area of the shower.

Re-install dura-rock on walls to about 1 - 2" above floor level so the cement poured into the pan will cover bottom of dura-rock. Use appropriate screws to secure to wall studs.

Pour the pan. Using standard cement (wouldn't suggest fast-drying), pour into the liner area and work from the walls - corners towards the drain. Ensure enough space is left at the drain so the tile (and mud beneath) that is installed will be even with the top of the drain cover. This should be about 1/4" below the top of the drain cover to accommodate the tile coming up to the drain from the cement. The pitch from the walls to the drain need only be fairly slight, I'd guess about 1/4" or slightly more per foot.

Again, bottom line, this is not that complicated and should take less than 4 hours. Most work involved preparation, like mixing cement, etc.

 

Leaks

Tub Leaking 

I have a sunken tub- 17 years old. My kitchen nook is below it and that ceiling has water spotting. I recaulked the tub and that seemed to work for several months but now I see a small water spot again. The tub probably does need to be replaced, it has 2 spots of porcelain that are wearing down to metal. What can I expect to pay for a job like that and what should I anticipate as a response to the leak problem?

If caulking worked before, then you probably need a plumber and a carpenter. The plumber will get in and do the tear out, and install the new tub and necessary plumbing. Then the carpenter will install whatever type of waterproof material i.e.tile etc. you picked out for around the tub deck and walls. You should be prepared for a 3 to 4 day job total. Get both company's hourly rate and multiply it by 8hrs per day. Make sure your contractors are licensed and pull permits. This request helps you get a reputable contractor. Check your local building dept. Good Luck!

 

Tubs

Bathtub Restoration

I have an old claw foot tub that needs to be refinished. What are my options and how is the quality of a refinished tub? The cast iron is only slightly rusted but the enamel has a lot of large chips and cracks.

In case anyone is wondering, here's what I found out so far. For $795.00 I can have the old tub sand blasted and painted on the outside and the inside re-enameled in a kiln fired operation. As good as new the man says! Seems awfully expensive, but I'm still researching.

 

Glazing a bathtub

I would like any tips that you may have for glazing a bathtub.

Once before I attempted to refinish a bathtub. I bought an extremely good "epoxy" paint (2 parts, had to mix before applying). I cleaned the tub by the instructions, roughed up the surface and then used a "tack cloth (sticky cloth)" to get rid of any dust particles prior to applying the paint. I then applied the paint (brush) and let is sit for 5 days prior to using it.

I will tell you that the job looked nice. Other than a few brush marks, and the fact that it had no shine, I was satisfied, and it sure looked better than the original tub. All was fine and dandy until my daughter was born. As a baby, we would bath her in the tub with one of these special devices which held to the bottom of the tub with "suction cups". Needless to say, the suction cups pulled all my hard work off the original tub surface -(.

One process which has been proven to work, but not available as a DIY, is known as "perma-ceram". It is a process where a professional comes in and applies a ceramic coating to the tub, and can also do the walls (but you loose the extra coloring of the grout when it is done). I have known it to be quite successful when done properly by a reputable dealer, and gives years of satisfaction.

 

Tub not draining 

I have a 40 year old house with a very slow draining bath tub. I have had several plumbers out to try to improve the draining. Each one ran their auger down for about 5 to 6 feet.Each time it would hang up. After putting a kink in the augers the plumbers gave up. The last to try felt like it was the stopper disk from the old stopper. We have had one crew improve on the flow but now it takes about 30 to 45 min to empty the tub. Can anyone tell me what my options are.

Unless these plumbers had a power auger that can actually cut through tree roots and such, you did not get your money's worth.  Call a rooter service, instead.  They should be able to cut through a rubber stopper like a hot knife through butter if in fact this is the problem.

another:

We just recently had the same type of problem. What I did was cut the drain line (under the house of course) and try to use a snake. When this failed we used a piece of pipe (1/2 galv.) that would reach the clog and then knocked it through with a hammer. Everything works great now and no problems.

more

If that is not the problem, and the rooter company is unable to get through, might want to read further.

Most 40 year old homes had cast iron and galvanized drain lines. They may be hitting a galvanized "T" fitting which is not allowing the snake to pass through. The clog might just be past a fitting, which is not reached by an ordinary snake. Since there is a vent line near the tub, the other method used for cleaning snakes, which utilizes water pressure and an expandable balloon, will not work. You basically have two options left.

The first one can be rather dangerous, although inexpensive. You need a chemical that can cut through soap scum. This chemical needs to be highly acidic, such as muriatic acid. Muriatic acid will quickly eat away at soap scum, but will also destroy any brass/chrome plating on the drain parts, so you need to take care to remove the stopper and use a funnel to divert the acid directly down the drain.

If this fails to work, your last resort will be to open up the ceiling below the tub, and replace the piping. This is a much safer alternative to the one above, but also much more costly. If you get to this stage, and have already used the acid in the drain, make sure you run as much water as possible through the drain to be sure not to have any acid residual on the pipes when they get removed. This will help prevent the person removing the piping from getting any chemical burns. Make sure they are aware that acid was used, so they may take any necessary cautions to protect themselves from the possibility of an acid burn.

 

Bathtub and Shower

How do I even start to remove a cracked tub/shower combo when the bathroom is just as wide as the combo? The tub is cracked because the subfloor underneath it was always weak when standing on it. 

Are you planning on keeping the walls and tile in the bathroom? If not, you should have a little wiggle room behind the head of the tub. Check to see if there's any drywall or cement board behind the tub itself. If not, you should be able to disconnect the plumbing and drain, then lift the tub from that end. The open wall should allow you to get the sides of the tub between the studs. Let me know how this works.

 

Hole in tub and motion feeling in bottom of tub 

I have a fiber glass tub with a hole the size of a dime. Around the hole I can see where it can become bigger if not fix.   Second bath tub has a swaying, moving sensation when I get in. It feels as if it will fall through the floor.

When a fiberglass tub/surround is installed, it helps to build a box below around where it is going to be placed but inside the 60" x 30" area, just tall enough ( maybe 1x4's?) and fill this with SAND!! When the tub is set in, there should be enough sand to support the bottom of the tub and squish up against the box but not go over it. This makes a WORLD of difference!!

Cracked bathtub

How do I repair a crack in the bottom of a bathtub which is made of fiberglass or plastic(it is a one piece tub/shower unit)? How could it ever be replaced with a new one, considering the size of the
unit, size of the bathroom, doors, etc.

Call the tub manufacturer and have them send out a certified repair rep. If you are fortunate to be under
warranty it may cost you nothing, If not, you get a professional job from someone who will guarantee their work.

1) Wash the tub with TSP solution, especially around the crack. If the crack is big or if you need to paint the whole thing you must also etch the tub. If you're just filling in the crack, after the TSP cleaner just put in the epoxy and you're done.


Faucets

Replacing bathtub faucet

I need to replace my bathroom faucet. It has dual handles, one for the cold and one for the hot. It seems to me that the entire wall may need to be torn down to replace this. Can anyone tell me if this will be necessary and just how do I do this.

When you changed the washers did you also change the seats? They are back in the faucet and you need a seat tool or allen wrench to take them out. Whenever you change the washers in your faucet always change the seats. Put pipe dope on the threads of the seat. Also, if the end of the stem is worn you can get seat cups to hold the washer.don't give up it might be repairable.

However, if you do replace the valves, there shouldn't be a need to take out the entire wall. Symmons makes a retro-fit kit for dual handle tub faucets like you described. You only have to cut out an area around the tub faucet, then disconnect and remove the handles and repipe the supplies into a single shower valve. The kit comes with a cover plate sized to fit the opening you must cut away.

 

Shower Faucet

Just the cold water handle broke off my shower , but the center of the handle is still attached. The handle has been there for about 20 years and is pretty stuck on because of the hard water. How would I go about getting it off?

They may a special tool for removing the handles (and would work on just the part that broke off). You could also try to soak the part in a strong vinegar solution (actually, pure vinegar works best). Do this by soaking a rag, and then hanging the rag from this part. The third option is by using heat (from a propane torch), but be careful that you don't overdo it.

 

Replacing bathtub faucet 

I need to replace a dual handled bathtub faucet. I've tried replacing rubber gaskets and there is just too much wear, it has not stopped the leaking.  How do I go about doing this job? It looks to me like the entire shower stall (and perhaps the wall) would have to be removed...tell me this is not true!

When you changed the washers did you also change the seats? They are back in the faucet and you need a seat tool or allen wrench to take them out. Whenever you change the washers in your faucet always change the seats. Put pipe dope on the threads of the seat. Also, if the end of the stem is worn you can get seat cups to hold the washer.don't give up it might be repairable.

However, if you do replace the valves, there shouldn't be a need to take out the entire wall. Symmons makes a retro-fit kit for dual handle tub faucets like you described. You only have to cut out an area around the tub faucet, then disconnect and remove the handles and repipe the supplies into a single shower valve. The kit comes with a cover plate sized to fit the opening you must cut away.

 

Caulking

Mildew on Caulking 

I just recaulked my bathtub with a good acrylic sealant about 3 months ago, and it is already starting to turn black. What could cause this? I have also been using that cleaner called tilex on the tub, is this a cause?

I believe it is mildew which is turning it black. I don't think it is the tilex. Clean the area with a mildew killer and then dry it daily to keep the mildew from growing.

 

Removal of silicone caulking from ceramic tiles

I am trying to remove silicone caulking around the bathtub where it is joining with ceramic tiled wall. The caulking is worn in areas and I would like to redo.

Take a razor knife and cut along the top and bottom of the joint, then lift out the largest part. Then take a single edged razor scraper and remove the rest. Any remaining silicone can be removed with 3M-silicone caulk remover.

Tile Board

Paint

Trying to paint the inside shower area. What can I use? The shower area to be painted is over some kind of wood board material with a smooth glossy coat with the classic white with gold speckled look. I have no idea what that material is called. Would like to paint instead of installing a new surround, any suggestions?

Stuff is called 'tile board'...Go to major paint dealer and ask them for epoxy paint for this application....Depending on the condition of the board, it may not be the solution you are looking for.

Other Problems

Soap Dispenser Removal

We purchased those soap/shampoo dispensers that you hang on the wall in the shower or bathtub. The dispenser is held in place with a bonding agent similar to clear caulk. The dispensers did not hold up very well and we ended up removing them. However, we can not find a way to remove the bonding agent without damaging the shower surface. Any ideas?

You didn't say what type of surface it is adhered to, i.e. ceramic tile, fiberglass, and porcelain. If it is an adhesive, WD-40 is excellent at removing them. Just spray it on and let it sit for 15 or 20 minutes to work, then carefully scrape off.

If it is more like caulk, GENTLY and SLOWLY, scrape it with a straight razor blade or stiff putty knife. This all depends though on what type of surface it is on. Ceramic and porcelain will hold up better to a little scraping, but fiberglass can scratch easily. No matter what method you use you will need good old elbow grease and patience.



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