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when it rains it pours? Interesting 1897 plumbing

Posted by shesaidc2 (My Page) on
Thu, Nov 22, 12 at 10:52

So after taking down the plaster in our bedroom that was failing, (and spending some family time together outside) I heard dripping in when our upstairs toilet flushed.... I touched the ceiling with a broom and it went through like going through liquid..

So we have a leak (probably for 5-15 years with how the drywall disintegrated), the plumber has been back and forth us opening up the ceiling more and more each time to give him a better clue as to what the leak actually is. I thought you guys might get a kick out of it.
The elbow bend from the toilet down to the cast iron main drain is made of copper. The hammered it up and over the flange. It is actually the copper that has cracked where it bends over the flange. I already knew the tub up there had a brass drain (could see it from the water access) but the toilet had copper!

The house was built in 1897, and the plumbing is original to that date.

Unfortunately we will need to replace a bunch of the cast iron drain just to replace the copper elbow, the cast iron actually looks like it is in good shape, no rust spots. But I thought it would be interesting to share some old techniques I had not heard about before :)


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: when it rains it pours? Interesting 1897 plumbing

Can you replace the cast with cast? It keeps flushing sounds muffled better than plastic pipes


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RE: when it rains it pours? Interesting 1897 plumbing

Can you replace the cast with cast? It keeps flushing sounds muffled better than plastic pipes


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RE: when it rains it pours? Interesting 1897 plumbing

From the description, I see no reason to replace the cast iron at all--just the copper elbow and pipe. It sounds like your plumber just wants to drum up some extra cash by using scare tactics. It is guaranteed that if you replace the cast iron, you will be plagued with the sounds of running drains for the rest of your life. Cast iron is extremely long-lasting if it is still in good shape...known to last for centuries.

Before you let the guy rip it out, tell him to just replace the copper section...it will save you money. Plumbers do not want to save sound old work when they can make bucks replacing it with new--my plumbers on the last job tried that by urging me to replace my antique toilet when the only problem was the lead drain going to the cast iron stack. They balked at just replacing the lead pipe, but they did it when I insisted on keeping the fixtures.


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RE: when it rains it pours? Interesting 1897 plumbing

I am not surprised! As I answered in my post to your initial thread, water seemed a very likely culprit. Plaster doesn't un-key to any degree otherwise.

Here's the thing with cast iron: It's hard to work with. It's very heavy, very hard to cut, and all the fittings once available are not easily available any longer. Thus, your contractor would prefer not to work with it. Normal.

There are adaptors though to enable splicing in PVC, which would allow the use of all available fittings (in pvc) likely solving your connection problems. You just cut out a couple of feet and replace with pvc.

The trick is in the cutting. A chain cutter is required, and it's not small, and needs room to be operated. This could be your problem.

As for the noise, -I think it's over-rated. When we re-did all our plumbing, we cut out all the cast iron in the stacks immediately above the highest fixture and replaced with pvc. Can't say we've ever thought one time about the noise.


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RE: when it rains it pours? Interesting 1897 plumbing

Clarion - it is actually a different ceiling that had the plumbing problem! this one is a drywall replacement on the first floor... yes confusing to have TWO different ceiling issues I know UG! :)

I think the reasons you mentioned above are exactly why we have to replace so much. His plan is to cut out the drain at some point and install a PVC splice, because the drain lines were installed nearly agains the flor, and very close to the joists we have to go back kinda far to give him the room to do that. We only really have access from below (the downstairs ceiling) as the bathroom floor has wood and then tile added, we would have to bust up perfectly good tile. I can already hear the plumbing from that drain and am not really offended. The room that can hear it is the downstairs bathroom...

columbusguy1 - I feel pretty confident he actually needs to go back that far to do the work. He suggested we remove the ceiling ourselves and kept stopping by to check on it what would be needed before actually scheduling the work. We also brought up the idea of, if we are replacing these pipes should we move them, because long term the placement of them is not what we want, and he said that is going to be a lot more money... We will see on the noise, I will take noise over leaking though :)


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RE: when it rains it pours? Interesting 1897 plumbing

I can't help wondering if PVC sewer pipe could be wrapped with sound insulation and be just as quiet as the CI. Or more?
Probly depend some on how it was suspended.


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RE: when it rains it pours? Interesting 1897 plumbing

"Plaster doesn't un-key to any degree otherwise."

Vibration of the structure does a real job on plaster keys.

Like large vehicle traffic on a less than perfectly smooth road.


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RE: when it rains it pours? Interesting 1897 plumbing

Brickeyee - That is really interesting that you mention the vibration. I have been running around testing other ceilings (obsessed I tell you!) and no other seem to have the same give, they feel pretty firm. That room shows no evidence of water damage, BUT! it is in the front of the house (the only room in the front of the house) and we are on a fairly busy street... actually one of the main in town roads and part of the parade route! Sometimes even with all of our plaster we can feel the rumble of vehicles going past even though the road is only 25. I am going to hope that is the cause and that the rest will be fine for much longer :)

Also we ended up removing a significant part of the ceiling, and replacing the cast iron back a few feet until the plumber had room. He said the cast iron looked surprisingly good (yay for the rest of the house!). Also once he got the elbow bend out it was not copper but actual lead. He had never seen that before :) It seems like that bathroom was installed when the house was built but the tub is a cast iron built in, not a claw foot (we have a claw foot down stairs that is clearly NOT in the original location... so more mysteries on how the house once looked.


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