2 Questions - Copper Pipe and Bathtub

matt_rNovember 19, 2006

1) If redoing a bathroom (gutting), is it necessary to replace all the copper plumbing? My drains and supply lines are all copper. The house was built in 1963. Does copper last forever, or should everything be replaced. The drains seem to be in fine shape when I look inside them, so is the toilet copper drain.

2) Is there a standard center point for a bathtub drain hole. I heard it is 15" from the wall (stud). If a joist is in the way, can it be notched out an inch or so to accomdate the drain connection on the bottom? When measuring 15" from the stud, I come next to the joist. My joists run parallel (the long way) with the tub. And can the drain run off to the side of the tub instead of straight down the middle?

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If your copper plumbing is in good repair, it is likely to serve you well for at least another generation. The only wrong with copper is that it as had its day in the world economy. For residential installations, copper is no longer a cost-effective option.

Yet, for those systems still operating, it is hard to beat. Then again, PVC is a fine product that supplies many advantages to DWV plumbing, including noise reduction. I would consider replacing the copper without a cause for attention.

The tub drain is ordinarily in the center of the tub. For a Âstandard 30" tub, that would be 15". However, that standard is being challenged every day with products that are deeper. And be aware that the depth of plasticized products does not follow the rule. A tub that is 32" front-to-back can still have the drain at 15 ½".

"Â can the drain run off to the side of the tub instead of straight down the middle?" Heck, yah. But you might find that the drain/overflow kits are not equally agreeable. A small incline or angularity in the overflow pipe will not prevent it from proper functionality.

However, the normal overflow fitting will appear to be on the same angle in the tub as it is behind the tub. This can be accommodated with flex fittings.


    Bookmark   November 19, 2006 at 11:06PM
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If it were me, I would replace the copper drain lines with PVC. I've seen many copper drain lines "rot out" - that is, the walls of the pipe corrode and thin to the point of being paper thin. Leaks are then inevitable.

This "rot" occurs where the pipe is perhaps not pitched enough to allow proper drainage, or perhaps where sludge and debris have accumulated. Those portions of the pipe walls that remain in constant contact with water and debris will fail.

If you are certain that your pipes are pitched well and that there is no debris accumulation, then I agree with Pinoke: it is hard to beat.

But again, if it were me, I would choose to mitigate the risk of future failures and replace the old copper with new, properly sized and installed PVC.

If you decide to run your tub drain off to the side, you'll have to forego the overflow portion of the drain kit and fabricate your own in order to mate it with the drain. Just be sure to assemble it in such a way as to allow easy snaking of the overflow in the future.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2006 at 12:20AM
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Interesting..in a similar situation. Do copper supply lines wear out? What is an alternative to copper supply lines? I saw a home time show in which they used flexible supply lines with a special crimping tool, are these better than copper? How do these come out the wall to sink valves, etc? Do they somehow anchor behind the wall and use female threaded connectors to screw in chrome nipples? Is this system considered better than copper? The whole process seemed very easy and allowed much flexibiltiy around obstacles. But it goes against my gut feel...how can plastic supply lines be better than copper?

    Bookmark   November 20, 2006 at 8:16AM
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(Readers will notice I failed to use negatives in the earlier thread, Please interpret the faulty language.)

Here, too, it is hard to beat copper. Copper does wear out. But its life is so great that you may never see any signs of it. Again, I would not consider replacing the copper without a cause for attention.

Copper is so expensive now, that thieves are breaking into houses and stealing it, sometimes while the residents sleep. Imagine waking up to no-water because there are no pipes!!!

To research the plastic in this forum, where there are many references, put PEX in the search box.

You make a good point, though. PEX tubing is only good for distribution lines. Terminals need to be the old standards: Copper or Iron Pipe sizes. And the fittings are all adapted to the PEX.


    Bookmark   November 20, 2006 at 9:06AM
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I am sure that copper water lines will wear out in time, but not in any time soon. In my region almost all homes built since 1950 have copper water pipes and after over 50 years of service they are still performing as good as the day they were installed.

Copper or brass drain lines is an entirely different problem. One of the principal gasses found in sewer gas is Hydrogen Sulfide (SO2). When Hydrogen Sulfide (SO2) combines with Water (H2O) it makes a weak solution of Sulfuric Acid (H2SO4). This weak acid solution combined with a number of other acids that are produced by bacterial action of decomposing organic matter causes sever corrosion on the inner walls of copper or brass DWV pipe and tubing.

Anyone who has ever done much home repair has seen evidence of this in the form of chrome plated traps or sink tailpieces that are crumbly.

Whenever possible the best solution is to remove the brass or copper DWV pipes and replace them with ABS or PVC pipe which is impervious to the acid.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2006 at 3:55PM
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I happen to agree with the nostrum, "If it ainÂt broke, donÂt fix it." Of course, there are many times  if not most  when there are Âbrokens that are unknown. I would think that replacing a good drain system only because of time is a thoughtless move. If you see signs of deterioration and believe that others are about to surface, it is time to act.

People who throw out good systems in favor of others for no better reason than that it is new are not using reason. The removal and disposal of a copper drain system is now more significant than ever. If one could install such a system new, it would be an excellent choice. To discard one is a decision that should include decision-making parameters.

If you ended up with one of the plastics, you would be in like Flynn (I never knew Flynn, but I under he was Âhuge.Â) But the question was about abandoning copper to get plastic. I am in this mode where I live. I wouldnÂt consider it.

Worst thing that could happen is it might need fixing. IÂll let you know when that happens.

BTW, has anybody heard of "Gorilla Tape?"



    Bookmark   November 20, 2006 at 8:34PM
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"I am sure that copper water lines will wear out in time, but not in any time soon. "

The EPA is working this problem.
By making the water even cleaner it becomes aggresive to copper piping. Orthophosphate can be added back into the water to allow the protective coating to form on the copper that has been damaged. This also reduces the leaching of lead into water from solder or lead pipes.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2006 at 9:00PM
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I did not know clean water is worse on pipes. I have well water. Is this considered "clean." What tests can I do to see it my pipes are being prematurely eroded away from clean water? PH test?

    Bookmark   November 20, 2006 at 10:21PM
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