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zannej 06-13-2014 12:11 AM

Improper plumbing & trying to remodel bathroom/laundry
I hope that this is the right place for this since it mostly involves plumbing.

My family purchased this house in the late 1980s but we lived overseas for 9 years while we had some "friends" become tenants. The general deal was that they would pay the cost of the insurance premium (about $87 per month) and keep vagrants out of the house. They were supposed to take care of our property, keep the house and yard maintained, and take care of our livestock in exchange for living there while they built their own house on some property nearby. If they needed money to fix something, they were supposed to ask us or our lawyer. We ended up getting royally screwed over. We'd had ducks, chickens, geese, goats, guinea hens, cats, horses, cows, etc. Only one horse and one cow were left when we came back. I will not get in to the litany of complaints, but basically they robbed us blind and did well over $65k worth of damage to the place (that is not counting the loss from theft). Our lawyer screwed us over. The cops knew about all sorts of illegal things these criminals did and didn't attempt to let us know or try to stop them. So we came back to find our lumber stolen, circuit boxes missing, electrical outlets missing, plumbing totally messed up, wiring messed up, floors ruined, walls damaged, mice everywhere, roaches everywhere, septic tank lid broken (they tried to hide this with a flimsy piece of plastic and I discovered it when I nearly fell through the hole), and trash/vehicles dumped all over our yard. It was not easy to get them to move out and after they did and we changed the locks, they broke in to steal stuff again.

The wiring is a tale for another thread, but the plumbing... Every single sink has an S-trap. The plumbing vents had been completely torn out, some of the fixtures weren't hooked up at all, and it the wrong fittings were used for things...

Anyway, the house has 3 bathrooms. Two are ensuites and one is a tiny guest bathroom with the toilet jammed in to a 23" wide alcove. It's meant to be my brother's bathroom but he is wider than the alcove. He has to walk sideways through the 24" doorway. My ensuite is currently under repair (no toilet installed right now) so everyone has to traipse through my mother's room to use her ugly ensuite. All of the bathrooms need some renovation and I'm debating whether or not to make separate threads for each of them or if I should keep it all here.

First I'm going to focus on the guest bathroom and cramped laundry room.

This is an isometric sketch of the area with the laundry room and bathroom. It is pretty much oriented with North at the top. North of this area is the kitchen. To the west is my brother's small bedroom.

After reviewing pictures, here is my unscientific, not to scale, rough sketch of what I can figure out from looking at pictures of the plumbing under the house.

I *think* the toilet has a 3" drain (but it could be 4"-- I haven't measured as everytime I get near the mosquitoes decide its time for lunch). It goes in to a sanitary tee that hooks to some sort of reducer. I suspect it is a fernco fitting missing the metal straps. It reduces quite a bit-- I think that its 2" or maybe 1.5". I'm not good at judging size. The tee drops down to an elbow that connects to the main soil pipe that is sitting on the ground. There is no cleanout.

Sorry about the trash. Trash cans got knocked over and stuff got blown under the house.

I don't know for sure, but I think that the reduction in size violates code. I believe that the main vent pipe is smaller than it should be-- IIRC, it should remain at about 3" until it gets to a certain height-- perhaps in to the attic-- and then it can reduce. Am I right or wrong on this?

This 4-picture per post thing is killing me. LOL. I'm going to have to split it up into multiple posts to get the images in.

zannej 06-13-2014 12:24 AM

The shower drain does not appear to have a P-trap and it drops directly down in to the main sewer pipe. It has no sanitary tee. Instead it has this dark T fitting that someone told me was a pressure fitting (unless they were referring to something else and I was wrong). I can't quite see how it attaches to the soil pipe because of some trash that I need to clean up. I'm not eager to go crawling around under there because the last time was when I was helping my father run some ethernet lines and phone lines. I was about 50lbs lighter and I still got my fat behind stuck under a pipe-- I was literally stuck bc of my a$$. My father had a good laugh over that one. Fortunately I was near the fireplace so I was able to push myself free so I was able to laugh about it too.

Anyway, the shower drain branches in to what should be a vent to the north. It travels several feet and then appears to switch from PVC to an ABS elbow that takes it up in to the house directly in to the drain of the old lavatory (which fell off the wall so there is just a broken pipe there letting in sewer gasses). /facepalm

The pvc zigzagging around is probably a sleeve for the wiring to the washer/dryer outlet.

A friend of mine stuck his cellphone in to the space from the south and took video. I extracted some screen captures.

Here is a view of the toilet drain from the south (facing north). The pipe with the 3 elbows appears to be an old metal water supply line for the old washing machine.

Here's a picture I snagged of it from the east side.

zannej 06-13-2014 12:31 AM

Here are the shots from when my friend panned the camera westward and then southward.
The trash actually helps to identify the location somewhat. Sorry some of the pics are so fuzzy.

It's hard to see, but in the last shot, it appears that the drain for the old laundry sink drains in to a pipe that travels east. Other than in the corner, I don't really have access to the underside of the house from the southern end in order to get more pictures. I'd have to dig a hole and crawl under somewhere.

I forgot to mention that the septic tank is to the west of the house and the water well is to the southeast of the house. The water heater is sort of in the middle of the house.

zannej 06-13-2014 01:35 AM

You might be wondering what the point of this is thus far. Basically the bathroom and laundry room do not work as-is. Because of the plumbing and a shelf behind the washer and dryer, there is barely any room to deal with laundry. I constantly find myself bumping in to the southern wall and there really isn't space to fold the laundry. After getting measurements and kicking around ideas with some folks on Houzz, I finally realized that the best solution would probably be to swap the bathroom and laundry room. This would make it so that the bathroom could have more space and the laundry room would be easier to access. No more trying to squeeze through that narrow hallway with a laundry basket in tow! On paper it may look spacious, but we have some old wall panels stacked up against one of the walls and they are taking up space. The bathroom is currently serving as a storage closet for junk because there was always a foul smell in there (likely bc of the improper venting).

The washing machine currently does not appear to have P-trap nor does it seem to have a vent.

Since there is already a door arch leading in to the laundry room, we could add a frame and install a door.

Here is a sketch based on the isometric drawing of what I would like to do with the space.
Red * represents current position of light fixtures. The bathroom has an old failing light/heat/ventfan. The laundry room currently has a small ceiling fan with the fan kit installed upsidedown.

The washer/dryer could be moved over either north or south or separated with something. I would love to find a way to have a murphy table that I can use for folding laundry but then fold it back when its not in use.

Here is the rough plumbing diagram I sketched of the possible changes. (This does not include tie-ins for the kitchen sink, nor the other bathrooms)

A brief note on plumbing code in my state:

Other relevant plumbing code updates for my state:

In case images are not working very well, here is a summary of what I plan to do and why.

* Find out what permits (if any) are needed and obtain them. The health inspector told me that they were not needed in my area, but I need to be certain.
* Tear down east and most of north wall of bathroom.
* Install 30" doorway with door swinging outward (northeast) to avoid collision with walls or people using lavatory. Inward swing would violate minimum code distance of doorswing from front of lavatory. (I think about 24")
* Leave wall switch for light in place, but install GFCI outlet on west wall next to vanity (as per code requirement to have GFCI outlet available within reach of lavatory).
* Move toilet to north wall of new bathroom at least 18" from center of toilet to side of tub (minimum code requirement 15"). This way it would not be too far from the main vent stack. I considered putting it between shower and lavatory but it would be too cramped as the vanity is 26"Wx17"D.
* Install euro style vanity (already purchased) in southwest corner of new bathroom-- where the old utility sink was plumbed in. I would either have to move the plumbing inside of the wall or have a small bulkhead to bump it out to avoid having to cut a hole in the drawer. Or I could bump it forward and have a shelf behind and build out a box to hold the medicine cabinet that fits between studs- that way I could avoid having stuff go in to the exterior wall.
* Remove all wall panels and install insulation and moisture barrier.
* Rip up floor in new bathroom down to the joists because the floor is badly damaged. Add a moisture barrier in the floor.
* Install a 30"x60" tub against east wall of new bathroom.
* Install handheld showerhead 7' high on north wall of tub.
* Use wonderboard Lite 1/4" for walls of shower/tub and install a 5 piece shower tub surround. Cut the surround to fit around the window, add some sort of curtain to keep water off of window when showering, add 1/4" slope to window sill to drain water and seal things up to prevent water damage in case it gets wet.
* Make sure floor is reinforced to hold weight of tub.
* Seal up existing hole for dryer vent and move it north on the east wall. I have some spare siding to cover it on the outside.
* Move washer/dryer to the east wall in the area that used to be the bathroom. Put sliders underneath the laundry pedestals to make it easier to move them without scraping the floor.
* Use existing water supply from old lavatory for washing machine and install one of those laundry outlet box thingies (need to find the right one)
* Move power outlet for washer/dryer to a spot that both appliances can reach easily (preferably somewhere that is accessible should they need to be unplugged)
* Replace floor in hallway and new laundry room with vinyl plank.
* Install vinyl sheet flooring in new bathroom.
* Move ceiling fan to new laundry room and fix the fan kit.
* Install NuTone 70CFM vent/heat/light in new bathroom ceiling.
* Cover missing ceiling tiles over tub area with something or just replace fallen tiles.
* Make sure that all water supply lines are to code (CPVC or approved metal).
* Figure out what fittings to use for DWV system and the correct order in which to hook things in. (I'm still a bit confused about some of the rules on upstream and downstream).
* Have cleanouts in appropriate places.
* Pressure test the pipes.
* Enjoy the new setup when it is complete.

I have an electrician friend who can do the wiring for me and who can help with the plumbing if need be (he is skinny and can fit under the house-- he recently redid some plumbing at his own house). I need to find out how much of the work I can legally do myself. Since most of the work appears to not have been done to code anyway, I think whatever I do would be an improvement because it looks like the current setup was done by a monkey.

So, I guess my questions are:

1. Does anyone know if I can legally do my own plumbing so long as it is to code?
2. How do I pressure test the pipes?
3. How do I prepare the space to install a tub in a place that has never had a tub before?
4. Any ideas on good 30"x60" tub surrounds? I'm looking for a kit that has corner shelves. The more shelves the better. I suppose it can probably be wider than 30" if I add trim or something. I'm not sure what trim to get for that though.
5. I've heard of something called a "plumbing box" for routing pipes through walls, anyone know more info on those?
6. Does my plumbing diagram look ok? Should I make any changes?
7. What fittings should I use and in what orientation should they be to hook in to the main soil pipe? I'm thinking some wyes with 1/8 bends sweeping downward toward the west.
8. Where would I need the cleanouts?
9. From what you can see of the images, does it look like the main vent stack pipe is of sufficient size for the load?
10. Is this diagram actually the real code rules? Does the 24" space have to be on both ends of the tub (because most bathrooms I've seen have the toilets closer than that) or is this just a general guide?

That is all I can think of for now. I appreciate any feedback.

nealtw 06-13-2014 01:54 AM

So if you re-design the bathroom you will be changing the plumbing anyway, You can spend more time planning what you will do instead of trying to figure this crap out.
If the washer and dryer were moved to replace the bathroom door and sink facing the hallway by the back door. that wood give you a bathroom better than 8x8. You would have to remove the window in the present bathroom. Remove the wall between the toilet and washing and build a new wet wall 2X6 and the toilet can be just turned around and located with a little more space (36" min.)
You would have room for tub with suround for shower.

nealtw 06-13-2014 02:07 AM

I think the 21" min is to the center of the toilet, our rule is 18 and I put in a bigger tub so I have 16" from the tub to the center of bowl.

zannej 06-13-2014 03:33 AM


Originally Posted by nealtw (Post 106499)
So if you re-design the bathroom you will be changing the plumbing anyway, You can spend more time planning what you will do instead of trying to figure this crap out.
If the washer and dryer were moved to replace the bathroom door and sink facing the hallway by the back door. that wood give you a bathroom better than 8x8. You would have to remove the window in the present bathroom. Remove the wall between the toilet and washing and build a new wet wall 2X6 and the toilet can be just turned around and located with a little more space (36" min.)
You would have room for tub with surround for shower.

I've spent over a year off and on planning this, now its down to just the finer details.

I think I can picture what you are describing, but I'm not certain. I'm a visual person so pictures work best for me.

Removing the window is not an option. I don't have enough spare siding to cover it up. Plus when I mentioned the idea of removing a window before I received the death glare from a 63-year-old woman.

I would love to make the bathroom larger, but any plans to remove the wall between the laundry room and existing bathroom were vetoed. My earlier plans did have that option but the old lady said "NO". That wall had to stay in order for her to even consider the renovation. Don't ask me why, she doesn't exactly use logic when making decisions. LOL. The current plan and one variation with the washer and dryer just on the opposite side of the wall facing north were the only plans that she approved.

I do appreciate your suggestions though. Thank you!

zannej 07-25-2014 04:48 PM

I'm starting to consider having the toilet on the same wall as the vanity which would allow for a larger entry door. That way the toilet paper could be mounted to the side of the vanity to save some space.

Then I can just run the vents up inside the wall and then through the attic to meet with the main vent stack.

I know this is still ahead in the future since I need to finish other projects first, but I want to have things all planned out when it comes time to work on this.

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