There might be a reason people are wary of doing their own plumbing.

The first weekend in March was dedicated to the task of revamping the plumbing in the wall of what would eventually be our guest bathroom shower.

Here’s what our shower plumbing looked like “before”:

Chet had gotten all our supplies purchased the weekend before, had read a few books (like this one that his parents had given us) and was confident he was ready to go. I was just going with the flow on this one, no pun intended. I swear!

Also very serious is my beginner status as a DIY home improver. For example, let me just say that I was super-proud of myself when I successfully unscrewed the towel bar from the wall  in our bathroom all by myself. I mean, come on, it’s just a couple screws. But that’s how much of a newbie I am to all this. Thankfully, Chet is way more advanced than I. Here’s the proof:

That’s him trying out his new soldering skills in our garage. He spent all day Saturday putting as much as he could together in the garage and here’s what he came up with:

He then had to solder with the torch really, really close to the wall, while I supervised to be sure the wall wasn’t going to get ignited. I did, in fact, have to mention when one of the studs was starting to get a bit charred. Aside from that, it went pretty well if not a teensy bit stressful!

Anyway, I was originally going to explain all the ins and outs of this project, but really, I think the most pertinent info has to do with what went wrong. Here goes:

1) Most importantly, we weren’t able to turn the water back on by Saturday night as originally planned. That wise little voice inside my head knew I would regret not showering that morning, but I didn’t listen to it. Step one of doing your own plumbing: shower immediately prior to turning off the water.

2) The directions provided with the valve showed a plastic piece (which you can see in photo below) that, as it turned out, wasn’t actually supposed to go on once you assembled the valve. Many hours were lost in just trying to figure this out, and it was the reason we didn’t get to turn the water back on.

3) The biggest problem was that we couldn’t get the valve to turn off. We ended up calling a plumber on Sunday because we thought we had done something wrong. It turned out that the valve was just stuck. When you don’t know what you’re doing, you don’t know what you’re doing wrong.The plumber was able to turn it off after messing with it a bit, and all seemed well. The nice part of having him come in was that he said Chet hadn’t done too bad for a first timer. I say, he practically performed a beginner’s miracle, since there were never any leaks, even now 3 months later.

4) By Sunday night, all was well. No leaks, water was back on in the house, and we felt all satisfied and showered. We were naively and happily watching Sandra Bullock get her Oscar, not knowing that a) Jesse James is a total ass and b) we were about to hear a large screeching sound followed by water flowing out the tub spout even though it was still TURNED OFF!!!

This was extremely disheartening and to be honest, we both had trouble sleeping that night wondering how much it was going to cost us to fix the problem and whether Chet was going to have to start over from scratch. It sounds silly, but after spending two full weekend days on this project, and then thinking it might have all been for nothing, well, it’s a really poopy feeling.

So I spent Monday morning searching online to try and figure it out. In doing so, I found this really awesome plumbing forum that was created and is moderated by a professional plumber, Terry Love. Also, I called Kohler and they told me it was probably just the “guts” of the valve that had been damaged and sent us a replacement free of charge. During the two weeks until it arrived and we had time to put it in, we kept our fingers crossed that it would work. And guess what?

It DID. So very exciting, let me tell you. It took about 10 minutes to get it put back together, and Chet said he could tell right away that it just felt right. We gave it 24 hours just to be sure it didn’t do anything funky like the other valve, and it didn’t. It stayed put and made us feel very, very pleased. Not poopy. Pleased.

So, to go back to my subject line, here’s the reason why I, the non-plumber in this situation, think others might be wary of doing their own plumbing. I don’t think it’s because it’s all that difficult (said the wife who didn’t actually solder anything). But for reals, Chet (the person who did all the putting together) said that the soldering isn’t that bad. Time consuming, yes, but not difficult. I think the really sucky part is, if you can’t figure out what you’re doing wrong, you could really screw up the rest of your house and/or not have running water. For me, not having running water = not my favorite thing in the world. I like a daily shower. And hopefully soon, I’ll be able to take one in here. But that’s a story for another post.

I’m unsure if I would recommend this project to others, but for us it turned out to be very worth it. I didn’t even know what a temperature valve was when we bought our shower fixtures a few weeks prior, and now I understand exactly what’s going on behind those walls of mine, which to me is amazing. Plus, I think we saved ourselves at least several hundred dollars. Actually, maybe way more. I have no idea the extent to which they needed plumbing, but I just read that Door Sixteen spent $1500! Cuh-razy savings.

So, again, I think the reason people are afraid (rightly so) to do their own plumbing is because it’s such a hassle (greasy hair, stinky spouses) and potentially a colossal waste of time if you screw it up. Fortunately, we got lucky and got everything taken care of with minimal problems. Also, I think my husband is a Super Duper Star for taking on this very intimidating DIY project. On that note, I leave you with this:

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  1. Posted June 11, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    “I have no idea the extent to which they needed plumbing, but I just read that Door Sixteen spent $1500!”

    The extent of the work we needed was way, WAY beyond what the average DIYer could have done. We needed massive sections of corroded 10″ cast iron waste pipe replaced (underground — HUGE undertaking), in addition to needing the entire bathroom itself re-plumbed from scratch. Our bathroom was added to our 125-year-old house in 1954, and it was done by someone who clearly didn’t know what they were doing — and “repaired” along the way by other people who didn’t know what they were doing.

    In other words, it was basically like creating an entirely new bathroom from zero. (Also, a permit was required, and the plumbing had to be inspected afterward.) $1500 is actually a GREAT price for that kind of work, considering the plumbers put in many full days of work. You also have to remember that I live in New York (not sure where you are), and stuff like plumbing tends to be more pricey here.

    Just some perspective. :) If you read my blog, you know we’re willing and able to do almost everything ourselves, but this was just too far beyond what a non-professional could to should have attempted to try.

  2. Posted June 14, 2010 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Wow! Thank you for the very unexpected and much appreciated response! After all that you described, I am quite amazed at what you got for your $1500! When I told people what we were doing, they all expressed the sentiment that they would never take on nearly any plumbing job; hence, the reason for my post. But I can definitely see why hiring the pros was absolutely necessary for your situation – it in no way sounds like a DIY job!

    I found your blog when I was googling for subway tile, and your pictures ended up being very helpful to us in determining how were going to line it up on the sides. So many thanks for that info as well!

    I am pretty brand new to the whole blogging thing and really haven’t shared my site with anyone but a handful of people at this point. So to have someone (a real live blogger who I admire!) actually read and comment is all new to me and quite a treat! I’m really still learning about all things blogging and am curious to find out how you found my link to you, if you have a minute at some point to let me know.

    Thanks again!

  3. Posted June 18, 2010 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Hi Jamie! Your post showed up in my incoming links in my WordPress admin panel. :) The more you link to other sites, the more people will find you. That’s a good thing! Don’t be shy about sharing. :)

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