Thursday, March 1, 2012

MC Escher Is My Plumber.

One of the things I've been doing while waiting for the engineer to figure out my earthquake retrofitting problem is trying to uncouple the water supply systems.

Somehow the two units in the basement were plumbed into the same water heater (in the attic 3 floor up) as the main house. My mission, because I had no choice but to accept it, was to figure out how the plumbing was connected and un-connect them.

Here is my super accurate diagram of the existing water supply piping.
Now, there were are a couple of smart-ish things the PO did with the plumbing.
One, was to have a main water supply manifold so that water could be turned off to each unit separately.

The main manifold looks like this.
Except that if you look at my super awesome diagram above the main water line (only 1") comes in at the front corner of the house then travels ALL the way back to the opposite back corner then travels to the various units of the house.
For the main unit it travels from here ALL the way upstairs to the attic where the water heater is, then the hot water flows down from there...

Mapping The Plumbing System
I used a super high tech method to map the pipes.
I turned on a hot water tap and then waited for it to get really hot then turned off the water and starting feeling around the copper water pipes to see what was what, and where it lead.
I did the same thing with the cold water taps but let them run because I could feel the water moving in the pipe with my hand.

Using this method I figured out pretty much where everything went....which is why the map looks so screwy.

Main Manifold From The Inside.

I bought these manila tags from the super awesome Pagano's Hardware Mart. As soon as I figured out where a pipe went and what it was for, I wrote it on the tag and wired it to the pipe.
In the shot above you can see that I've figured out where a couple of the lines go.

One line goes up to the main unit, one is for the basement units (except that they are plumbed with the hot from the main unit also), one is for both studio apartments and one, one is for a hose bib...yep a fancy valve and from there it's a straight run to a hose bib....that doesn't make any sense to me...

Spaghetti Programing

Here's my fav shot. You can see the pipes that go all the way up through a chase to the water heater in the attic. Then you can see the hot water manifold splitting off. As I've said, I've figured out where everything goes except for one line in this shot. The main line for the basement units splits off and goes up this chase and I have not been able to determine to where and for what ...
Ladder To Nowhere

That's what I thought when I saw the above plumbing. This is the mess above the laundry room ceiling. The plumbing doubles back on itself like three times in this space...

The most confusing thing for me was this branch pictured below:

It was a hot and cold line that seemed to go nowhere.
I was worried that they went up to the kitchen in one of the studio apartments...which would be super lame, but par for the course.

To determine where the pipes went I had to cut open some drywall to look around.

Nope, still going.

Nope, still going.

Finally in the closet of the small bedroom

I had my answer!

They went nowhere!!! Thank you very much PO for that adventure....

I cut the pipe and removed it from the wall. The water that drained out smelled kinda moldy to that even possible? The pipes did slope downward and they were dead ends so.....

I capped the branch with some super awesome handy sharkbite fittings

Had the water back on in less than half an hour.

Here's the mess of copper pipe I removed from the walls.

This is from the pipe to nowhere and the long branch lines to the bathroom off the kitchen.

The New Water Distribution Plan
Well, I don't have one yet...

But, what I want to do is move the main water manifold to the utility room. It will take like 40' outta the length.
The hot water heater for the basement unit will also be in the utility room and I plan to do a PEX manifold there and run individual lines to the fixtures in the basement.

I also would love to put a small tankless water heater in the utility room for all the fixtures on the 1st floor of the main unit...except that the plumbing for the kitchen comes in from above not below so I can't easily tie into it.
I think it makes sense to try to do this as there will be a kitchen, two full baths and a laundry room on this circuit.
Then, the water heater in the attic would only need to supply hot water for the attic bath, attic laundry room, the master bath and the kid's bath on the second floor.

I'm not 100% positive but I think that the hot water supply for the master bath starts in the attic (one floor above) then travels down to the basement and then back up...cause it takes FOR EVER for the water to get hot...

Yay!!! Plumbing!!!


Aunt Nana said...

Your plumbing reminds me of the house I had an apartment in many moons ago. Speaking from personal experience, I'd mark those labels with permanent marker and maybe even laminate them. Someone, at some point, had marked all the pipes in the basement of my house, but over the years the ink faded and/or ran from condensation or leaks dripping down the string and they became unreadable.
Never thought of running the hot water to trace the pipes. We used the "whack 'em with a hammer and listen for the echo" method :).

The MadScientist said...

Ahhhh, that's a very good point...
I just used regular ink on those tags...if they get wet I'm sunk.