The old busted shower had been removed, and we were ready to move forward. Step 1 had taken longer than we intended, by a lot, but riding high on our success, we felt confident. Ok, that’s another lie: I felt confident. And so, with me and YouTube as the brains, and Joshua as the brawn, we moved forward towards shower perfection.
One of the first steps we needed to undertake was in running the pipes for the extra fixtures. This required a lot of YouTube-ing and some decision making. I just figured we could run the pipe, but YouTube plumbers were tearing up the entire floor and running additional lines from the main line coming into the bathroom. That seemed excessive, and I really didn’t want to tear up the entire floor. Do they know how hard it was the first time?!
The reasoning that I kept seeing for why we should do that all had to do with the old “don’t flush the toilet” problem. You know what I’m talking about, right? The idea that if you flush the toilet while I’m in the shower, I’m going to get scalded. The reason why that happens in old houses is that the toilet was just a “T” off of the cold water line that then continued onward to the shower. So that flush essentially was stealing cold water from the shower, thus causing you to be scalded for a moment until things leveled back out. Running the pipes directly to other valves would have the same effect, so that if one person adjusted the temp of their faucet, it was going to effect every faucet down the line.
That’s when it dawned on me, why would I get temperature gauges to the other shower heads? It seems like that is the standard thing to do, but it seemed silly to me. After all, if I wandered out of my faucets spray and into your faucets spray it’s either going to feel cold or hot, either way, not super pleasant. But if they all spit out the same temperature, that wouldn’t be a problem, and most of us like our showers at roughly the same temperature anyway. How to accomplish this? “T” off of the line going upward to the shower head, above the temperature valve. This way it was just splitting the water moving up to the shower head, and removing the possibility of accidental scalding without tearing up the entire floor. It was a win-win!
To put in the new pipes, we had to cut out some spots along the studs to accommodate for the pipe because we want the concrete board to lay flush against the studs when it is attached. This took the better part of an afternoon, carefully cutting away just a little bit of the two-by-four so that this half inch pipe could nestle right in. We used the small dremel to do a lot of the cuts, and then “Move Bitch” (our extremely large flat head screw driver) to chisel out stubborn bits. But the end result worked perfectly, and we were able to lay out our pipes to fit. This was going to work great!
Next was the soldering. Back to YouTube! I watched video after video, and it all looked pretty easy. We went to the hardware store and picked up a soldering kit that included the solder, flux, and wire brushes. In theory, everything you needed to do the job, minus the blow torch. Luckily for us I had a blow torch in the garage from a project I had done years ago (I was making tombstones for a Halloween project… Yes, I know it’s weird… just roll with it). So we whipped out the torch, and settled in with two of our small pieces of pipe. We were ready to solder!
I cleaned the pipe, put on the flux, and fitted them together. A few moments of heating up the pipe and the solder melted easily, beaded, and hit the ground with a large splat. I tried it again, being careful to try to keep the solder on the pipe. It was messy looking, but there was solder fully around the pipe. I gave it a few seconds to cool off and then tested the solder job gently, just attempting to rotate the pipes apart. *Snap*! The pipes came apart with ease, as if all that had been holding them together was scotch tape. I was getting frustrated, we tried it again… same result. We went back and watched more YouTube videos, are technique seemed to be the same. We tried again, snap! What were we doing wrong?!
We started talking to friends on Facebook. Lots of people offered words of encouragement: “It takes practice.”, “I had trouble when I started.”, “You’ll get it soon, practice on some scraps!”. And so we did, with no luck. Finally, one of our friends said that his father did lots of soldering for air conditioners and that it was the same thing, and he would be willing to come teach us how to do it right.
He was a large man, although I’m not one to judge, and he was in his sixties. He suggested we do this demonstration in the garage and we set him up a chair and grabbed a couple of the smaller pieces of pipe. I was anxious to see what we were doing wrong.
Now, when watching YouTube videos, everything said “clean off the pipe well with a wire brush, and then apply a small amount of flux. You want just enough to coat the area, but no more than that.” and then you would watch them smear on the smallest amount of flux you could imagine. Other videos cautioned that if you used more flux then what was absolutely necessary, it would cause pitting in the pipes. I certainly didn’t want that!
Watching this man work, told a very different story. He did clean off the pipe, but then he slathered on the flux. Pretty much the maximum amount of flux you could put on this pipe. I mentioned to him what I had heard on YouTube and he scoffed. He turned on the torch, heated up the metal, and then touched the solder to the pipe. It melted and sucked right up into the crack. A couple small second passes, and he was done. After a moment or two of letting the pipe cool, he handed it to me and I attempted to “snap” it in the same way ours had before. It was solid as a rock. There was no budging that pipe. It was clear that if you ever wanted these separate again, you were going to have to cut them apart.
Maybe it was the look of amazement on my face, or perhaps it was the fact that the “girl” was the one taking interest in how to properly do this and not the giant cis-man in the room, but he turned and looked at me and with a tone that said “don’t you worry your pretty little head about it” told me that he should just come over later next week and do the job for me. My blood boiled at the misogyny. God damn it I’m the man of this house and I can do it myself! (not to say that Josh isn’t also the man of the house, but such handy tasks are usually more my realm, he tends to be the brute force) I reminded myself that I, not being on HRT, tended to trip peoples “that’s a girl” meter, regardless of what I wear or how I behave, and that this man came from a “different era”. So with my blood boiling, I bit my tongue, smiled politely, and told him thank you for his help. After all, he made the two pieces of damned pipe stick together, which I couldn’t do.
The next week came and went without seeing that gentleman. We called our friend to help set things up, and after some apologies and some “that’s ok, we understand” managed to set a date for the following week. A weeks reprieve from the job wasn’t so bad after all. When the next week rolled around, and this gentleman didn’t show up though, I was livid. How dare he treat me in such a patronizing way, and then not even bother to show up! Arrggh! “Fuck this”, I thought and I grabbed my blow torch. I had seen him do the job, I could do this for myself, it all had to do with how much flux you use!
And it did… I tried my best to match exactly what I had seen that guy do. I globbed on the flux, heated up the metal till I saw the flux bubble, touched the solder to the pipe and BAM! The solder melted and was sucked right up in the gap. I had done it! And it only put me about a month behind schedule by waiting on other people. A couple hours later and all of the connections had been soldered together and were in the wall.