Improper plumbing & trying to remodel bathroom/laundry

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Jun 5, 2014
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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.
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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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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!
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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.
Even though this project is on the back burner, I've still been trying to think of ways to make it work. One of the problems was having to re-locate the dryer duct on the exterior wall. I do have extra siding, but I would still have to fill in the existing hole and cut a new one. I'm not big on cutting holes in the walls.
So, I found some alternative solutions.

The first was a window vent. There is at least one designed specifically for windows. I could place it in the window and then run the duct upward to it.
Window Dryer Vent (Adjusts 18" Inch Through 24" Inch) by Vent Works

Pros: I would not have to cut a new hole in the wall, the vent would be easily accessible, it can telescope to be larger or smaller so it can adjust to fit different windows, and it can be removed and put back in with relative ease.
Cons: It is pretty damn ugly, it would require additional insulation on it to keep it from letting cold/hot air in/out, it would require some shimming and filling in places if the window is not square, it blocks some of the light coming in, it would require the vent duct to travel upward which might cause lint to accumulate at the bottom, and it might have an easier chance of getting accidentally disconnected because its in a place the cats might climb. Also, if it is not meant to be in permanently, I would have to keep taking it in and out to use it, which would be a pain-- especially since I don't know where I would store it when not in use.

Next option is a slimmer 90 degree solid duct that is 5.1" deep.
DAF1 Skinny Duct" Telescoping Aluminum Dryer Vent (18" to 31") by Deflect-O

There is an even slimmer option.
Dryer Vent Tite Fit, 90 Degree 18" to 30" by Lambro

Pros: They are made of rigid material and thus are less likely to bend, its harder for mice to get inside, they are fairly smooth so there is less chance of accumulating lint, they are slim so the washer and dryer could be pushed closer to the wall, there might be enough room to fit them between the back side of the bathtub and the exterior wall, and they are less likely to be able to get messed up than the flexible ducts.
Cons: Its possible that adjustments might be made so they can fit between the bathtub and the exterior wall, I'm not sure how difficult they are to clean, since it is rigid, it will be less forgiving in positional allowance, it may be harder to move the dryer in to place because it will have to be moved backward and then sideways to get the metal to fit through the wall (although, I can move the extension part over and leave a bit of space between the dryer and the wall that could have fold-down ironing board or small folding shelf or something).

Additional info:
The specs for my Electrolux dryer show that the distance from the center of the opening for the duct is 13.5" from the side of the dryer.

The hole for the vent is fairly close to the north wall
(continued so pictures will fit)
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(sorry this picture sucks-- the flex venting stuff has ripped and detached and you can barely see the vent behind it-- dryer is currently not operational)

I'd say the center is no more than 3" from the wall, so the 90 bend one would not have to go very far. Only thing is, I don't know what size vent that is, it looks pretty small. Do they make vents that are 3" diameter? I'm guessing it might be a 4" but its hard to tell.

The house doesn't have drywall so most of it is covered in wall panels like this:

(yes, that is laundry all over the floor-- my brother opened his door and just shoved his laundry into the hall)

I was previously thinking of using something like this for the vent (since the stuff I have is broken and crappy). I wonder how much flex this has and if I'd be able to use a small length of it to give myself a bit more wiggle room with the dryer should I need to move it at some point.
Deflecto Am42 4-Inch Diameter by 2-Feet Semi-Rigid Flexible Aluminum Duct by Deflecto

I saw a picture that has pretty much the layout I'm thinking of going with for the bathroom (although my vanity is not so wide and I would hope to have more space in between fixtures-- tub would also be left-drain because its closer to the existing water supply for shower)

I think I'll go with adding a new vent on the exterior wall for the toilet and sink and then tying the washer and shower to the existing vent. I'm also thinking of having an access panel on the wall between the dryer and the tub so that I can reach in and fiddle with if necessary- shutoffs for the tub/shower would be a good idea there.

Edit: I just realized that the hole for the spot on the dryer where the stuff appears to be attached is not in the same place that was shown in the Electrolux diagram.. Hmm...
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You have a lot of stuff going on in this post. For me, it is almost impossible to track all the info. You can try breaking this down into bite-sized chunks for us (me).

Re the dryer vent: as a rule, the rigid smooth pipe is always the better choice. Keep in mind that you must have access to the pipe, because you will have to disconnect it to clean it periodically. So the skinny duct makes sense if the space is tight. The less turns, the better. I don't think the window duct is a portable solution. You would pick a window, and mount it with the intention of it being "permanent". I think you are right in your list of negatives for that. I hate poking holes of any size into the skin of my house, but I would make a hole for the dryer vent. You should not require any spare siding to do that.

Get yourself a sturdy landscaping rake and a hoe. I suspect you will have to redo all the plumbing under the house, so you might as well scrape out some extra space under there, or find a skinny plumber.
Yeah, sorry my thoughts are not so organized. I do need to break it down better. I just need to figure out how. I'm a stream of consciousness person and its all in one big file in my brain.

The reason I would need more siding is to cover up the old hole if I make a new one. The exterior walls have some asbestos so I wanted to avoid cutting. The plumber is fat, but his brother-in-law who does most of the gruntwork is skinny.

Here's a question, how do I pull my dryer forward to get to the ductwork if the ductwork is attached? It will pull the ducting off, right? I'm worried it will bend.

If it turns out that the vent on my dryer is up high, then I might go with a short slim 90 and a window thing. I could probably even make my own window thing if I really wanted and have it be something thicker than the metal piece I saw and then attach the stuff that would normally go in a hole in the wall. I hope that is making sense. I could use some scrap wood maybe and seal it up well and maybe use some sort of insulation on it. Or maybe they sell other kinds-- I just haven't seen them.

Maybe I can break it down into an IF, THEN, ELSE statement

IF I keep the existing hole for the vent THEN I would have to run some sort of ductwork through the wall and hope it fits behind the tub
ELSE I would have to fill in that hole (replacing the siding) and find another solution.

IF I decide to move the location THEN I would have to make a new hole in the wall
ELSE I would use a window opening for the vent.

I hope that made sense. LOL.

I think I might have to just nix the idea of the semi-rigid and flexible options and just go with slim 90 degree ductwork.
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Somehow that all made sence.
I don't like the window idea. please don't do that. For repairing the old hole, when you buy the new vent for outside by two, seal the door closed on one and install it as a dumby on the old hole, who will know?;););)
Ok. I guess I just need to abridge my thoughts more. LOL.

Ahhh! Thank you for the idea of just leaving some sort of cover on the outside but filling in the inside. That will save time and materials because the hole juts in to two pieces of siding.

I might see if they have a cover that can be closed up to limit airflow. I will have to remove or cut the metal duct piece that is sticking out.

My gut said the window thing is not the best idea so I will have to agree with you. That leaves either a hole straight back OR a slim 90 to the side. I could get a thin rigid 90.
I just need to determine whether the specs from electrolux are correct about the vent position.
On most vent covers the pipe is easily removed so it can be used as a blank
On the inside have a look at this.

Thanks. The dryer will have its back to an exterior wall, so I will have to find some way to insulate it. It would work well on an interior wall, but putting them against the exterior wall makes things less cramped. I just need to decide if I want them both crammed together tightly or if I want some space in between and whether or not to bump them over more to the left or to the right.

Are there any code issues with having the vent below the window (or near the window)? Its a window which will pretty much be used for light and probably won't be opened.
I don't know if it is a code issue, I'm in a fairly new house and it is just above the window and about three feet from a door.
I don't think it makes much difference between running the vent straight in line with the dryer pipe or displacing insulation in the wall so you can put the vent elswhere. You just want to make sure you have a good flapper in the vent.
For some reason I envisioned a 20s flapper girl... LOL.

Ok, so there is supposed to be a flapper to prevent stuff from getting back in and it opens when the air is blowing out?
My latest sketch of the layout: (there was some detail pixellated by the compression when I uploaded)

A few things to note:
* The dryer duct would go straight back, but I didn't want to mess up the window in the drawing

* I would probably add a shelf that folds down along the south wall of the laundry room.

* The lavatory is offset from the side wall by 4" per code that I read somewhere (is that really necessary? Could I have it closer to the wall? Like flush against it or 2 inches away?) Does a Euro-style sink sitting atop a cabinet have to be 4" away from the side wall?

* The center of the toilet is a little over 15" away from the edge of the lavatory and over 16" away from the edge of the tub

* I'm not quite sure to where I should move the two electrical outlets from the existing laundry room. There are currently two of them. One of the lines seems to run through a PVC pipe under the house. The circuit box is on the northeast side, so moving it closer to there would probably be doable.

* I'm not sure about the placement of the outlet for the washer since its fairly close to the water supply, so I might have to move some things around to make sure that the plug is not likely to get hit with any water.

* Since the ceiling is just some sort of wooden boards (shiplack maybe?), I might take down the ceiling tiles and just paint the ceiling after using some filler in the cracks.

* I need to figure out if I should just move the current bathroom fan over to the new bathroom or add a new one and add more ducting. Either way, I'm going to have to move some ducting. I was thinking of swapping out the ceiling fan from existing laundry with the vent fan.

* I'm thinking of having a movable piece of furniture across from the toilet to store toilet paper-- or maybe some sort of laundry hamper.

* I plan to have a caddy of some sort above the toilet (high enough that it will not interfere with opening the tank for maintenance/repair)

* I will probably attach the toilet paper holder to the side of the vanity

* I need to figure out a plumbing configuration for the DWV for the toilet and sink. I saw a few options that I will post pictures of and note the changes that would be required. I am working on some rough sketches of some possible configurations. I will upload them later, but for now, any suggestions would be greatly appreciated (note, the main soil pipe runs from east to west -- the sketch is oriented with north at the top).

(this is the vanity)
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The 2 inches from the wall is for frost protection. If you brig the plumbing thru the cabinet from the floor you save the two inches.