This plumbing problem had me stumped. It was supposed to be the culmination of weeks of work. I had learned how to tile, hooked up the sink, leveled concrete, I even installed a toilet (first one ever). Now it was time to put on the finishing touches, to bask in the glory of a job well done.
But the journey was only just beginning. I turned on the water to the tub. No problem. I am almost to the finish line. I just need to pull up this tiny shower stopper to test the shower head and I'll be done with the basement bathroom.
I should have been Ralph Machio at the end of Karate Kid 1. Limping and hurt, but winner of the "All Valley Karate Tournament" who had just kicked some Cobra Kai ass!
Except… I wasn't. The water from the shower head only trickled out and water was still coming out from the tub spout. My basement bathroom project was NOT finished. It would take me 4 more weeks to figure it out. What in the name of all that is holy is the problem???
Plumbing Problem Symptoms
Excuse the excessive narrative there in the beginning but just thinking about this "episode" in my basement finishing project has me amped up!
I was almost done with the basement bathroom and even the basement as a whole. I was installing the shower faucet, thinking that I'd be done in an hour. But something wasn't right.
With the shower thingy (I believe that's the technical name) pulled up the water should stop coming out of the tub faucet and only come out of the shower head. But it wasn't. The water was sort of half way coming out of the shower head and half way coming out of the tub faucet.
The 5 Steps of Problem Resolution
- Blame Other People - This seems to be a natural response. Surely I did everything correctly. Someone else screwed up. In this case, I blamed, in order, the faucet company (Delta) for making a faulty unit. My brother-in-law (sorry Brandon) for improper pipe installation. Finally, I blamed the plumbing trade in general for not making this easier.
- Ignore the Problem - After a few different attempts at reinstalling the faucet and testing some theories on the rough-in plumbing I decided to just forget about that issue for a while. I went for about 3 to 4 weeks working on other parts of the basement. Each time I went into the bathroom though, the problem haunted me, I knew it had to be fixed.
- Search for the Easy Answer - I start to do some Google searches. Maybe this is a common problem. Maybe I'm not the only one. Frustratingly, nothing obvious comes up. In fact, the symptoms I describe are close the some common problems but are not MY problem. These dead ends are even more frustrating. Alas, my problem appears to be totally unique to me. At least, unique enough that no one has posted it on the internet… until now!
- Start Learning- If only you could skip straight to this step. Once you've blamed and ignored and looked for easy answers it's time to acknowledge that you are going to have to buckle down and figure it out yourself. You will have to learn something new! At this point I was actually getting excited again. I determined that I would teach myself how to sweat copper pipes. I was going to rebuild some of the rough-in plumbing to see if I could determine the problem. Besides, this was an easy excuse to buy a blow-torch! (Are you ready to Learn ? You can check out the books I read during my basement project )
- Resolution - Exhilaration - Problem Solved Once you do solve the problem (and you almost always will if you don’t give up) it's extremely rewording. Almost better than if the problem had never existed in the first place. Once I started step 4 I found the problem almost instantly. I began to take apart the existing rough-in plumbing and there it was. My problem. Staring straight back at me. Right in the face.
Plumbing Problem and Resolution
So the problem was this bit of dried glue that had dislodged and stuck itself right in the middle of the pipe.
When the shower stopper was engaged the water pressure was just enough to force it up the pipe and out of the shower head. But if there's resistance, then there isn't enough pressure. Some water can make it up but not all of it. The dried glue was creating just enough resistance to impede the full flow.
It was another 10 days until I knew for sure that was the problem. I had cut into the plumbing to see what the issue might be. Now I had to rebuild it in order to test my theory.
I decided to switch to copper pipe because I read (in some sites online) that pvc pipe would not work. This turned out to be bad information. Either material is fine. It took me a few days but I finally get the copper elbow installed correctly. I go to turn on the water... and... it was like a thousand Angels singing the most glorious song in the history of the world. It worked. It finally worked.
It's difficult to explain the euphoria you get when you finally solve a problem that's been taking up shop in your head day-in and day-out for several weeks. But my guess is that 50% of it is caused by the problem itself being fixed and the other 50% is knowing everything that you now know because you had to fix it yourself.
Who knows - maybe someone is on Google right now searching for an answer and you will be it!
Cheers - Jason