Help....Broken Shower Pipe Thingie

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum' started by TJ Carr, Sep 2, 2010.

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  1. Sep 2, 2010 #1

    TJ Carr

    TJ Carr

    TJ Carr

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    Youngest girl child was taking a shower and the shower head/arm broke....

    How in the world can I fix this...the pipe was plastic & is stuck inside the elbow behind the back of the shower...the pipe itself seems to be free standing, it's not attached to anything..and only a small closet/pantry behind that wall..

    Tried backing it out with a screwdriver & that just chunked it, have been thinking about trying to dremmel it out...

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  2. Sep 2, 2010 #2

    Nestor_Kelebay

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    Well, you've come to the right place.

    Go to the store and buy an ordinary steel file.

    Files will be slightly tapered so you want to get one that's about the ID of the pipe at it's end so that it will wedge into the plastic pipe fairly snug.

    Then use a Crescent wrench to turn the file counter clockwise. As you do that, the hardened teeth of the file will dig into the plastic pipe and grip it, thereby unscrewing what's left of the plastic pipe.

    If you say the shower elbow is free standing in the wall, then you're going to have to sneak a loop of copper wire over it so that you can pull the shower elbow forward while you jam the file into it.

    But, if you can't get a file that fits well, you can use something called an "internal pipe wrench" which are made specifically for situations like you have:

    [​IMG]

    The above three piece set is sold in Canada by Home Depot and is made by Brasscraft, the same company that makes the compression stops. I expect Home Depot in the US sells the same set, but I don't know for sure. They're fairly common, so you should be able to buy them in any city or town. I bought a set, and if I recall, they're about $15 or so. (Not expensive.) You just insert it into the pipe and twist counter clockwise and the eccentric wheel grips the ID of the pipe. You turn the pipe wrench and it turns the pipe.

    In my case I was using it to remove the seats from a Crane T&S faucet. I found it was a bit hard to get the wrench to grip the inside diameter of the brass seat, but once it did, the tool worked well. You should have an easier time getting the wrench to grip the ID of a softer material like plastic.

    Proto also makes an internal pipe wrench for about $5 called the "J142", and you can order it from whomever sells Proto tools in your area. This tool has a second threaded bolt sticking out the end, and I suspect the purpose of that bolt is to cause the eccentric wheel to stick out laterally to grip the ID of the pipe. I'd contact Proto and confirm. If that's what the bolt is for, then that's the internal pipe wrench I'd buy.

    http://www.thefind.com/hardware/browse-stanley-proto-pipe-wrenches
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2010
  3. Sep 2, 2010 #3

    TJ Carr

    TJ Carr

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    Thanks Nestor, the pipe is free standing & bounces around, will take your advice and snake a coat hanger over it to pull/hold it tight :beer:

    Have the thing soaking in PB blaster now...hopefully that will help loosen things up a tad.

    Found these on line @ home depo & was thinking about trying them out as the elbow is rather short & I'm afraid something much longer wont get in deep enough to grab the plastic...Looking at it I'm thinking a steel files tale would also be to long.

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  4. Sep 2, 2010 #4

    Nestor_Kelebay

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    Duh. Yes, doing that wouldn't work at all.

    [​IMG]

    But, jamming the OTHER END of the file into the plastic pipe would work. That is, looking at the file pictured above, you'd jam the slightly tapered LEFT end of the file tightly into the plastic pipe. It's that slight taper at the END of the file (the left end) that allows you to jam the file in tight, and it's the teeth on the end of the file that grip the ID of the pipe so that when you turn the file, it turns the pipe. Maybe take the piece of shower arm that broke off to the tool department of your local home center and pick out a file that fits well.

    And, you turn the file with one of these:

    [​IMG]

    I'd be concerned that the teeth on those "easy outs" you found would just cut through the plastic cuz they're made for cutting into steel. I'd try them, but as a last resort. I expect an internal pipe wrench would be successful without mucking up the ID of the plastic pipe so as to limit your options.

    Here's a picture of the Proto J142 internal pipe wrench:

    [​IMG]

    For $5, if that bolt sticking out the end allows you to move the eccentric wheel outward to grip the pipe, then this is the tool I'd order and have the most confidence in.

    If push comes to shove, you can (wearing a glove) hold a metal funnel over the end of a heat gun (or maybe even a hair dryer) and heat the back of the brass shower elbow. Once the shower elbow is toasty, the comparatively light plastic pipe stub screwed into it will stay soft and easily deformable for a long time. Pry opposite sides of the pipe inward with a long thin screw driver until you can grab the pipe stub with a pair of needle nose pliers, and then just twist it out. You can buy a cheap heat gun for about $30, and you'll find that they're a very handy tool to have for removing paint and adhesives.
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2010
  5. Sep 2, 2010 #5

    Nestor_Kelebay

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    Some nomenclature:

    The brass fitting inside the wall is called the "shower elbow".

    The pipe that comes out of it is called the "shower arm". Your shower arm is broken.

    The shower head screws onto the other end of the shower arm.
     
  6. Sep 2, 2010 #6

    TJ Carr

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    Thanks for setting me straight as you can tell I'm a total klutz when it comes to home repair.:help: :p

    Never realized you were talking about the head of the file instead of the handle, that makes more sense to me now :beer: Heating the back of the elbow via a funnel is also a novel idea, was thinking about just taking a hair dryer and having at the face of the elbow hopping to soften up the plastic enough to get under it with a screwdriver...:hide:
     
  7. Sep 2, 2010 #7

    TJ Carr

    TJ Carr

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    Well, managed to try the file trick....all it did was chunk up the plastic to the point the file hit the threads of the elbow & buggered them up a tad. Does not look like there is anything left of the plastic pipe to get a good bite of...and the threads look really fine in the elbow..

    Don't know what's left other than to try a hair dryer & hopefully peal out the plastic...:(


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    Last edited: Sep 2, 2010
  8. Sep 2, 2010 #8

    Redwood

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    Oh boy wish I had seen this sooner...
    I do hope that you haven't boogered up the threads on the elbow so bad that they leak.

    Take a cheap screwdriver heat it up red hot (I say cheap because heating a good one red hot will ruin the temper of the metal) and use it to cut the plastic into pieces to remove it. Then install a new shower arm.

    If it leaks you will have to open up the wall and install a backing board between the studs then sweat on a new drop ear elbow and screw it to the backing board. Ideally it would have already been installed like this.
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2010
  9. Sep 2, 2010 #9

    TJ Carr

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    This is crazy, don't seem to be getting anywhere fast trying to clear it out, I'm starting to wonder if whoever put this thing in glued the shower arm in....:mad::mad::mad:
     
  10. Sep 2, 2010 #10

    Nestor_Kelebay

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    You should find pipe dope or teflon tape around the threads, but not glue. I expect that whomever put that shower arm in wanted to tighten it that extra 7/8 of a turn to get the shower arm straight and pointed in the right direction, and that's why it's so tight.

    Did you try Redwood's suggestion of cutting through the elbow with hot metal? I was thinking that if you have a small electronics soldering iron, you could melt through the plastic with that, too.

    Thank goodness you had the good judgement not to keep jamming that file into the elbow and twisting it once it was already hitting the brass threads of the elbow.

    I doubt that anyone would have glued the shower arm in, tho. In the unlikely event that you have to start looking for a Plan "B", may I suggest the following:

    1. Go to:
    http://www.kissler.com
    Kissler is a plumbing wholesaler in New Jersey who carries a lot of stuff that is no longer available from the original manufacturers. They contact the offshore companies that made the parts for the original manufacturers and have them make those same parts for Kissler. In many cases, they fabricate the parts themselves, such as brass spindles for cartridges or seats for faucets that have been obsolete for years.

    2. On the Kissler home page, click on the "Escutcheons, Sleeves and Trim" catalogue to download that PDF file. It's a 1.2 MB file that contains pages 293 to 314 of the Kissler Catalogue. The page numbers are found in the bottom right corner of each page.

    3. At the top of page 303 in that PDF file, the middle escutcheon is 5 inches tall and has a 3/4 inch hole toward the top of it. It was originally made for American Standard.

    You could enlarge the hole in your wall from the tub side. Simply buy a coping saw blade and slip it into the wall at the shower elbow. From what I can see, there's plenty of room to get a coping saw blade into that gap. Draw the hole you want to make on the wall and insert the blade so the teeth face toward you and cut on the pull stroke. Use a small pair of Vice Grips to hold the blade.

    Now, just hire a plumber to unsolder the old shower elbow and solder a new one on. (I'm presuming you don't solder.)

    You could then slip this escutcheon (part # 42-4155) over the new shower arm, and the escutcheon would cover the enlarged hole in the wall. Then just use silicone caulk to seal around the perimeter of the new escutcheon. I'd leave the bottom of the escutcheon un-caulked to allow any water that might get into the escutcheon to leak out.

    Kissler has a $250 minimum order, but they have lots of companies that order from them regularily, including Handyman's Inc. close to Minneapolis, Minnesota.
    http://handymansinc.com/
    Kissler's Customer Service should be able to tell you of someone closer to you that orders from them on a regular basis. You might have to wait a few weeks for that company to put together an order of $250 or more in goods, but when I've ordered from Kissler through Handyman's, it didn't take longer than 2 weeks. You could just tape a plastic bag over the hole for the interim.

    Hopefully, it won't come to this, but it's good to have a back up plan in case you don't make any progress removing that plastic.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2010
  11. Sep 3, 2010 #11

    Redwood

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    Once you have made several cuts with the hot screwdriver pry the pieces towards the center to break them out and remove them.
     
  12. Sep 3, 2010 #12

    TJ Carr

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    Nestor, you are my hero :trophy: We are in Wyoming, (see you are in Winnipeg, the wife is from Regina) don't know if anybody round here deals with Kissler but you never know. Would never have thought of cutting out the front of the shower instead of ripping apart the closet wall & going in from the back. Guess a plumber is accustomed to soldering in tight places & would have no problem removing & replacing the shower elbow from the front.

    Picked up a propane torch to heat the screwdriver & also got a few small picks & a 4" piece of 1/2 inch pipe with pipe thread to try and help clean out the threads...will give this a shot either Fri or Sat as I'm grouting & getting the primary bath up and running 1st (hopefully as I've never replaced shower/tub tiles before, but it's a straight forward job) since we had a few loose tiles & I started that job a hour or 2 before the downstairs shower took a dump :eek:
     
  13. Sep 4, 2010 #13

    Nestor_Kelebay

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    You might want to hire a tile setter to remove the loose tiles. This job can be a land mine. Not only can a chunk of the tile backer board come off with the tile, but the reason why the tiles are loose may be because the drywall they're stuck to has gotten wet and deteriorated, so that it's not sturdy enough to support the tiles properly any more.

    If it turns out that you find wet tile backer behind those loose tiles, and you don't know where the water is leaking in, you might have to install a cheap tub surround over that tiling to prevent further water penetration into the wall.

    I've done more than my share of ceramic wall tiling, and I expected that removing some tiles would be a fairly straight forward job, too. What I didn't expect was that the thin set I had used to set the tiles would be stronger than the backer board (Wonderboard) I set the tiles on.

    If your tiles are set on plaster, you're probably OK. If the tiles are set on drywall, I'm not sure what to expect. However, if they're set on either Wonderboard (or a similar cement board) or DenShield, then I'd be very concerned that you're going to take the surface off the tile backer board off, and potentially wreck the tile backer behind the tile when you take that tile out. For this reason, I'd pay the $60 or whatever to have someone cut the tiles to pieces and remove them so that you can then remove the thin set or mastic and set new replacement tiles yourself.

    In my case, when I went to chisel the old tile out, it took a chunk of the Wonderboard tile backer with it. As you may know, Wonderboard gets it's strength from the fiberglass mesh on both the front and back sides of it, and with that fiberglass mesh missing on the front, the Wonderboard had no strength to speak of where I wanted to set the new tile. I ended up painting the wonderboard there with a liquid epoxy (the same kind you use on rotted wood) to be absorbed into the cement, and cure there, thereby strengthening that cement. Then I allowed time for that to cure and applied a paste epoxy over that to build the surface back out to where the original Wonderboard surface had been. Once that was hard, I used mastic to set a new tile onto that epoxy.

    However, next time I have to replace a wall tile, I'll pay someone to remove the old tile(s) for me so that I don't turn what seems like a small job into a great big one. Tile setters have done this job enough to know how to do it without creating a new problem by wrecking the tile backer, and it's worth paying them to remove the old tiles so that the rest of the job goes off without a problem.

    Maybe I just had a bad experience, and maybe things will go completely differently for you. I just wanted to let you know that taking wall tiles off CAN result in big problems too, and you don't want to have both bathrooms out of commission.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2010
  14. Sep 7, 2010 #14

    TJ Carr

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    The tiles were more than expected & ended up cleaning em & just packing in a little "extra" mud :p

    Grout will be dry tomorrow & will then seal it...have covered the tiles with a blue tarp & have been using the shower, keeping it cool as to not get much steam on the grout.

    This bathroom will need a 100% makeover in the future, but can't afford it right now, thus the redneck tile job needs to last a while :p

    Have been playing with the downstairs shower, but not to the extent needed. when off work later this week, will give it a good try and see what happens with a hot screwdriver & picks....
     

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