Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sweating pipe, sweaty wiring

There's nothing like wiring and plumbing for satisfaction.  Both are discrete tasks, and both have tangible results.   

Sarah Dunham and I went to the tile store yesterday and bought tile for the bathroom - white subway tile for the shower surround, with some green accent tiles to break up the white.  Sarah offered to help with the tiling this weekend - which meant, we had to get ready for it.

So today, I took out the last of the pipes from the old shower/tub, and installed a new shower value.  The old pipes were galvanized, and so rusted that it was hard to see how any water could have gotten through them.  So I needed to replace the pipes.

The process of soldering copper water pipes is known as "sweating pipes".  The way it works is, you clean the ends of the pipe that will go into the joint, and the inside of the joints, with emery paper.  Then you put flux on the pieces, and fit them together.  Then you take a blow torch, and heat up the joint.  When it gets hot enough, you touch the solder to the seam, and the heat melts the solder, which is pulled into the joints.

This is called "sweating the pipes" because, as the joint is heated, the flux bubbles and runs, and the pipes actually appear to be sweating.  (Also, if you drip hot solder on your leg, particularly when you are wearing shorts,or onto your chest, you sweat a lot too.  Trust me on this.)

So today I sweated the pipes for the bathtub.  We bought a new Price Pfister valve, and I hooked up the supply pipes to it, as well as the pipe that leads to the spigot for the bathtub, and the pipe that goes up through the wall to the shower head.

The hardest thing about installing copper pipes is that they are rigid - you have to measure pretty exactly and cut them so they fit together and the pipes end up where you want them.  Tom tends to be better at measuring than I am - even with the special tape measure Eric gave me (The Blindman's Tape - it has large print numbers), I tend to not be too exact.  I'm more of the idea guy: I come up with the ideas, and can picture how things will work and how they fit together. Tom is the one who actually gets out the tape measure and figures out IF it will fit.

Despite this, I was successful: The new pipes are not yet hooked up to the water yet - but they're in the wall and ready for use.  

Meanwhile, Tom was in the front room, installing additional electrical boxes.  He spent the day cutting holes in the baseboard for the new boxes, and then we pulled the romex through to each box.  Tomorrow, when he finishes, I'll have 4 more outlets to install.  But we will soon have outlets in both of the front rooms, in addition to the overhead lights that now work.

Tomorrow,  Sarah and I will install the cement board ("Hardybacker") and then begin tiling the walls of the tub surround.  We hope to get it all finished tomorrow, so we can grout the tile on Monday.  I also plan to hook up all the outlets on Monday, so we can stop having extension cords running all over the house from the one working outlet we have.

Also tomorrow Ady has said she will be coming over and bringing us lunch at the house. Sabastian is home for the weekend, so he said he's going to come see the progress too (the last time he saw the house, all the windows were boarded up).  

Stay tuned - more progress tomorrow!

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