This Old Erie House
By Linda Martin Community Blogger
Owners of old houses have so much in common that house talk comes easy between us. Please join in the conversation as we try to fix, restore and update our old Erie houses.  Read more about this blog.
Archive for the ‘plumbing’ category
Posted: December 12th, 2010

About a month ago our bathtub hot water faucet started to leak.  By the end of the month it was a dribble.  Hot water down the drain, 24/7.  We put off fixing it until we returned from California.   On Sunday we decided it had to be fixed.  So while everyone else was at the movies, out shopping for those bargains, we were on the internet  looking up instructions to fix the faucet.

I had fixed the leaky sink faucets a while back which was a pretty easy fix once you see how it is put together.  The bathtub wasn’t as easy.  I thought I was all set.  I knew what to do.

First we attempted to shut the hot water off at the hot-water heater in the basement.  It was shut off but the hot water still ran through the faucets.  Then we tried to shut the main water valve off that supplies all the water in the house.  It wasn’t going to budge. I even hit it with a hammer to try and loosen it but, no.   I was horrified to think if a pipe upstairs sprung a leak somewhere, we wouldn’t be able to shut the water off!  Well, that has to wait a while and we will have to seriously get that fixed….later.  Right now it was the hot water we needed to fix.  Since there wasn’t a turn-off valve in the wall behind the shower (which I want to have) we figured there has to be one somewhere between the hot-water heater in the basement and where the pipes head up to the second-story bathroom.  We found it.  It was frozen open.  We carefully tapped it with a hammer and tried to use leverage with a long screw driver wedged into the handle but it wasn’t going to budge.  I got the channel locks out and put all I had into it and it started to move.  My husband turned it the rest of the way off.  Then that turn-off valve faucet started to drip.  Not as bad as the faucet in the bathroom but still it was dripping. We checked the water upstairs and it was shut off.

Back upstairs, I unscrewed the screw holding the handle on the bathtub faucet and tried to remove it just like we saw on the internet.  It wasn’t going to budge, either.  I started my rant about how nothing ever goes smoothly with old houses.  Anyway, we kept trying because we just couldn’t see how anything else would be holding the handle on.  I got a large screwdriver for some leverage and started working it around the handle and it finally came off.  That handle must have been on there since 1957 which is the date the bathroom was remodeled by the former owner.

Problem.  What we were looking at with the handle removed didn’t match anything we saw on the internet.  We twisted and worked a threaded collar off to reveal a brass piece which we took off with a crescent wrench.  That revealed a valve stem that we tried to unscrew but it wouldn’t come loose no matter which way I turned it.  Turns out you just pull it out.  Excited, I held the piece in my hand.  What did we have here?  There was no rubber washer left at all, just a screw on the end.  A broken O ring fell off.  We didn’t see where it came from.

We drove up Peach Street to Lowes.  We didn’t find a part that was exactly like ours but it looked really, really close.  We bought it and one for the cold side of the faucet while we were at it and returned home.  We learned at the store that you’d use a different part for the hot than you would the cold because of the way the handle turns.  We also bought some silicone to replace the stuff I had to dig out around the pipe coming out of the wall to keep water from leaking into the wall. After replacing the part into the hot side of the faucet we discovered it stuck out a little too far because the handle wouldn’t fit on far enough to let us get the screw threaded back on. The stem where the handle fits on has a different amount of those tiny threads on it than the handle had.  It would have worked if it wasn’t for that. We drove back to the store and returned it. We then went to Home Depot and they didn’t have one like ours, either. We also checked the internet before we left and couldn’t find one.   Even though I wanted to replace the whole worn piece , which is apparently a dinosaur, we had no choice but to replace the O-ring and washers.  I bought a box of assorted O-rings, a box of assorted flat washers and just in case, a box of beveled washers that looked the size that would fit.  Back home we went.

I unscrewed the screw on the end of the stem valve and dug out the tiny partial bit of rubber that was there and replaced it with the beveled washer, beveled side up. I stretched a little O-ring around the stem in a groove on the stem. It went back together perfectly. However, when we took this apart there was another larger O ring that we don’t know where it came from.  So for good measure I just added another one around the outside of the stem before I put it back.  At some point when we do the cold-water side of the faucet maybe we will see how it is suppose to be put together.

We turned the faucet back on in the basement and the bathtub faucet no longer leaked.

We still have a small drip in the basement on the hot-water shut-off valve that feeds the second story, we have a shut-off valve at the hot-water heater that doesn’t completely shut off the water and we have a main water valve that is frozen open but the bathtub leak is fixed!  I’m thinking I should take a plumbing course (online?) so I can learn to solder new shut-off valves in our house. I would love those lever kind instead of the round handles with stem valves and washers.  We were lucky no pipe broke while we tried to open or shut the valves with such force or we’d have been in real trouble. We did save a lot not having to have a plumber come out and now we know how to fix the bathtub faucet which will make it easier next time.  We’ll do the cold-water side of the faucet when we get the main shut-off valve fixed. And then there is all the valves on the radiators that won’t turn…..

Posted in: plumbing
Posted: July 31st, 2009

(Please read prior posts about the ABS to PVC plumbing problem)

I drove up the Star Mobile Home Supply and they did have the ABS 2″ pipe and 90 degree elbow couplings but not the 45 degree.  I looked at the 90 degree and thought that maybe they would still work and be able to make it around the main floor joist.  I was wrong.  I drove to Home Depot to see if they had the couplings for ABS (they don’t have the 2″ pipe.)  They had some couplings but not the 2″-45 degrees I needed.

So where did that leave me?  It left me with ABS pipe and two couplings that I can’t use.  While I was at Home Depot I noticed the Fernco couplings and thought I’d use those and attach PVC 45 degree street elbows to them and run a straight piece of PVC between them.  I wasn’t keen on having the white pipe mixed between 2 black pipes because it would look out of place but it was kind of hidden above the beam. I found out a street elbow has only one side flared (female) so that the Fernco coupling could fit over it and of course for other applications that need only one flared end. I’m glad the Home Depot worker pointed out that I needed the street elbow if I was using the Fernco or I would have had to make another trip back to the store to get the right ones.


See all the photos by clicking “read the rest of the entry.”

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Posted in: diy, plumbing
Posted: July 28th, 2009

Please read the previous 2 posts regarding the plumbing repair I’m talking about.

After buying the PVC pipe which was recommended to me by one of the big box stores, I found online sites saying you can NOT join the ABS to PVC using multi purpose PVC/ABS cement but you can with a shielded-transition coupler or a Fernco coupler.

I called code enforcement at City Hall here in Erie (814-860-8044) to find out the real answer.  The plumbing inspector’s name is Terry Heath.  He said it is a violation of city code to join ABS and PVC using cements.  He did say you can use the threaded-transition couplers or a Fernco coupler.  Below is a photo to show you what a Fernco coupler looks like (it’s flexible.)


Terry Heath also said that Star Mobil Homes Supply at 8161 Peach  carried the ABS.  I called them and sure enough they do.  They also carry the Fernco couplers if you need them.  Their number is 868-8900 and are open 8-5 Monday through Friday and 8-12 on Saturday.  I called Kraus store (I’ve found they usually have what I’m looking for) at 810 Parade Street, but they didn’t carry the ABS pipe. They do carry the Fernco couplers.  I called Lowes back and they carry the Fernco couplers, too. The Fernco couplers, depending on size, run about $6 and up.

So lesson learned.  Don’t take the word of the ones working at the big box stores as gospel.  In the end you are responsible for the repairs done on your home.  You don’t save anything not following code because you will have to fix it in the end if you ever sell. This may be a good reason to go with the professional plumber if you aren’t willing to do the homework.

The bottom line for me is that I can use the PVC I bought if I purchase two Fernco couplers, one for each end.  But it wouldn’t look good to have that white pipe segment between the black ABS drain lines.  I’ll return my purchase to Lowes and just get the ABS pipe at Star Mobile Home Supply.

Posted in: plumbing
Posted: July 28th, 2009

I did go to the store yesterday looking for the 2″ ABS black pipe so I can repair my drain pipe that leads from the kitchen to the drain pipe in the basement.  It leaks at a coupler joint just as it leaves the subflooring.  I searched Lowes over and over and couldn’t find ABS pipe.  I finally asked and the guy told me they don’t carry ABS.  I asked how I was suppose to fix the drain pipe and he told me you could just by the PVC and use a primer on the PVC side and the multi purpose cement on both sides and they can be joined together.

I questioned that because I didn’t think you could do that, mix the two kinds of pipe.  I asked him if that would be code and he said yes.  He said some areas sell the ABS at Lowes but not in this area.  So perhaps we have a different code here.  Anyway, I left with the 2″ schedule 40 PVC and felt good about it that I was going to fix my pipe for under $20.

Then I got online and decided to check to see if that was true before I started on my project.  I came across some plumbing sites that say you can NOT join the two without a shielded transition clamp. There really isn’t room for anything but the one 45 degree coupler before it comes to a cross beam so there wouldn’t be room for a transition clamp.

I called Home Depot and after 3 tries with different people that couldn’t find it on the shelves I’m assuming they don’t carry the 2″ ABS, either.

It will take some more research to find out if I need to return the repair stuff I bought.  How could it be code if they are incompatible?  I will be contacting the city hall and will try and find out what the code says about this issue. It would be much easier if I could just find the ABS pipe in our area so I don’t have to deal with the coupler and joining issue.

Posted in: plumbing