Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Due to the cramped space, the only way to get a decent photograph was to use the panoramic feature on my phone so that explains the distorted nature. The subject matter is of the now plumbed master bathroom shower.
When doing projects like this on a house, especially one that I hope to sell someday, I tend to try and follow at least some of the current trends where it makes sense. Nobody wants to buy a house that is run down and hasn't been updated for forty years, I guess except me, and so doing small upgrades like this helps bring a price premium when you go to see the place. In this example, we wanted to expand our shower to a more comfortable three feet by four and a half feet instead of the three by three (not counting the plastic surround that took up probably eight of those inches on each side) feet shower we had before. The current trend angle was installing a thermostatic control valve and two body sprays. They probably increased the shower hardware budget by 25% but could bring many times their value in return when we sell the place.
When researching this project, I wasn't able to find much help in how to do this yourself. Almost every place just specified the parts and assumed you would have a plumber install them. Even the showrooms I visited would just have a shower with them installed to show you how they worked but the backside was all dry walled up so you couldn't see how they were plumbed up. After hours of research online and squinting at various videos, I thought I knew how to plumb them but I wasn't very sure and because I was going to enclose this wall with cement board and a lot of tile, I wanted to be 100% sure. So in the end, I hired a plumber to do the rough in part of this project.
The price was right but I still have mixed feelings about hiring this project done. As it turned out, the plumber had only installed similar systems as one piece console units and not individual components. He also seemed confused until I told him how I thought it was to work and then he seemed to understand how things worked. The work he did was pretty straight forward and all something I have the skills to do. On the other side of the coin, he needed quite a few special fittings and couplings to get everything hooked together which would have meant many trips to the local big box store and trying to figure things out by myself since nobody there in the plumbing department knows squat about plumbing. So at the end of the day, I mark it down as experience gained for me and something else I will be able to do with confidence the next time a project like this comes my way. The plumber used PEX which is something I haven't worked with but have heard a lot about it. I was glad to see that he used this kind and not the other kind with memory recall which I've heard can leak with time. He says he spends a significant part of his job repairing leaking memory recall PEX with this stuff which doesn't have the memory recall and instead relies upon crimped clamps to hold things together permanently.
Before closing, I should explain how it works. The valve on the right is the thermostatic control valve. You can set it to a range of temperatures that suit your needs and it balances water pressure and flowrates to give you that same temperature time after time and within seconds of opening the valve. It will also maintain that temperature when someone else uses the bathroom downstairs or starts up the dishwasher in the kitchen. Living in a house with three bathrooms and extended family, that comes in quite handy unless you are fond of taking showers after everyone is asleep.
From the thermostatic valve, the now precisely monitored temperature water goes over to the two valves on the left side of the picture. The top valve controls the flow to the shower head which will go top center. The bottom valve controls the flow to the two body sprays which will be those two white circles in the center. You can have either/or on both at the same time as suits your desires. The body sprays have some ability to swivel so you can adjust the direction a bit. That's about it. We tested the system as much as we could and it appears to work as what I had imagined but in the end, I won't know for sure until I get the wall and tile up and then finish out the fixtures.
I put two small ball valves down near the floor which are just barely visible in this picture. Behind them I cut a hole in the floor which I can reach up through from the linen closet in the downstairs bathroom and hopefully shut off the valves if something catastrophic ever happens. Behind this setup is the shower in our upstairs hall bathroom that is dated and needed replaced sometime. When I go to do that project, I will leave some more room on that side to access all this stuff if the need should arise.
My next steps are to grout the cement board down to the floor of the bathroom and shower floor in preparation for tiling. Before I tile though I plan to install the rubber membrane for the shower pan and then mortar to create the fall to the drain along with the cement board on the shower walls. Once all that is put on and sealed, I will probably paint and then do the tiling last before finishing up with the fixtures and vanities. Still a lot of work but fortunately I still have plenty of time to do it all in.