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July 27, 2018

At the end of last year, we had a deep, long freeze. Since then, the only functional plumbing has been in the apartment. Over the Memorial Day weekend, we started to install temporary replacement pipes. This was necessary at this point because we want to start getting construction trades back in the building and we really don’t want to share the apartment bathroom with them. When we’re working around the BAB, we get dirty so we also don’t want to be tracking bits of the BAB through the apartment.

We couldn’t rely on most of the old pipes because they are buried in walls and could leak. There needed to be all new runs from a shut-off to each of the fixtures: the dock fridge ice maker (we’ve been using cube trays), the dock water heater which provides hot water for upstairs, the upstairs toilet and vanity, and the upstairs utility sink (no more hauling the watering can to my upstairs window gardens!).

And the girls occasionally need a bath. Lucy needed a lot of baths toward the end.

Some planning sketches, shopping lists and to do’s:

Because there would be lot of bending and threading, we are using ‘PEX’ plastic pipe for the main runs, a first for us.

It comes in big rolls of a bendy tube.

Any connections that could be reused in the renovation were done with copper. Soldering copper is one of Tom’s favorite tasks, but PEX was better for this project because it is less expensive and faster to install.

Pile of PEX being fed thru a gap.

PEX starts at the valve in the main line that was install for the apartment plumbing.

Figuring out how to snake the pipe efficiently thru the basement and to the fixtures was a challenge. We tried, unsuccessfully, to drill holes through the basement masonry walls.

Tried to make the existing opening larger but there must be a heavy steel beam buried in the wall.

After climbing around with flashlights, we were able to find enough existing openings by removing some abandoned pipes and getting lucky to find some random openings.

This hole goes through the vault with the civil defense supplies.

Feeding the PEX thru found openings.

One of the canisters got knock over and dumped its contents- a 50+ year old ugly bag of water (who remembers that line from Star Trek?).

We haven’t cleared the vault, yet (if ever), but I guess the nuclear blast survivors would need water to wash down those nasty crackers.

Some of the old pipes that were removed to create openings for the new pipe were still full of water.

While investigating, Tom heard some odd sounds and found a bird that got stuck in one of the chimneys. He was able to grab it and release it outside. Good deed for the day!


This is the main plumbing stack that goes through the Toilet Room (former lady operators bathroom) and where we had most of our stuff stored on palettes while we built the apartment.

The plan was to drill thru the floor next to the stack.

That didn’t work. There is a second slab below this one that we couldn’t easily access.

For some reason, this room also has a dropped plaster ceiling, which had been painted at some point.

We next tried to remove a radiator pipe, which proved to be harder than expected.

All of the vertical runs of radiator pipes have a offset that requires removing a slot in the floor slab to get them out.

PEX coming up from the basement.

Then, up to the second floor.

In some places we had to use black iron pipe to make connections because the hardware store doesn’t sell galvanized pipes large enough to connect to the existing pipes, but this is a temporary fix, and not supplying drinking water.

After finishing the new supply lines, the cracked toilet had to be replaced. This turned into a frustrating project. Instead of the typical wax ring that makes the waterproof seal between the fixture and the pipe, some dumb-ass decided to use cement grout!

Had to smash the porcelain to remove the existing toilet.

And, then had to chip off the old grout to clear the connection for the ‘new’ toilet.

Here’s the cleaned up flang. Why was this necessary?

This is the wall behind that toilet. The pipes go every which way so the connections were simplified.

To learn why the wall is torn up, which wasn’t for this project, check out this old post.

New water supply for the toilet

‘New’ $20 ReStore toilet, finally installed.

Here are the parts that were removed from the old connections.

Now we have water!


We are contractor ready, at least from the plumbing angle.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 29, 2018 10:55 am

    Yay! Another ingenious project done.
    Thanks for sharing. Felt like I was there.

  2. Rick permalink
    July 28, 2018 2:09 pm

    Cement grout !!!! you have got to be kidding me !! What a tough job, But you guys are the people for ALL the tough jobs !!

  3. Deborah Grossman permalink
    July 28, 2018 9:55 am

    You two are an inspiration!

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