Yokel Plumbing: Solvent Abuse

Buying a house it at times somewhat tricky here in the UK. For some reason, things that you’d imagine would be standard – like supplying a floor plan with property details – actually only occur occasionally. This means that in a property market like London, where you might only get a single visit to decide whether to make a bid for a property, you have to make sure you take in as much you can in that 15 minutes you’re on site.

This place had a further level of complication; it was a repossessed property. This mean that it was being sold by a 3rd party on behalf of a finance company, and for reasons that still seem somewhat sketchy, they would not allow access back into the place even after the exchange of contracts (where the process becomes virtually final).

In the almost 3 months between seeing the property and getting the keys, we were relying on our memories and a few photographs provided by the agents on which to base our plans. There were no hard-and-fast measurements to work from and those critical details (such as placement of sockets, water pipes etc) were utterly absent. In retrospect it’s amazing we remembered as much as we did to any degree of accuracy).

The Plans

We realized that the critical rooms that we needed to get up-and-running were the

The kitchen as was on Day 1 of the project. Just be glad you couldn't smell it.

The kitchen as was on Day 1 of the project. Just be glad you couldn’t smell it.

bathroom and the kitchen, especially so for me as the moment there was running water in the property, I was due to start camping there (haven given notice on my rental as soon as we’d completed the purchase).

The bathroom, which had its own issues, was to remain more-or-less as it was in terms of layout. In the house of this era – just Edwardian, circa 1905 – the bathroom was sited in what had been originally one of the box bedrooms and there wasn’t really much scope to change layout. Plenty of work to be done, but no changes to the basic plumbing set-up.

The kitchen however was a different matter. The layout had been changed from its original

The original sink location. The existing waste was mid wall and was capped off and filled up.

The original sink location. The existing waste was mid wall and was capped off and filled up.

layout at some stage, with the original walk-through galley kitchen, being knocked into the dining room and the previous entry from the hall blocked off, creating a kitchen “box” in a sizeable alcove, with access to the outhouse and garden.

The changes we wanted to make were to allow for a larger sink and service area (to house a dishwasher) to move it from the original location to the other side of the alcove. This mean running not only mains water, but also a new waste water pipe to the other side of the room; both jobs that I’d never attempted before. The existing gas pipe also needed shifting (obviously not by me) in the process as the vast scale of the 2nd-hand range cooker we had bought meant that it could only fit on the longer wall.

The Work

Due to that aforementioned gas work – which took place alongside a partial re-wire of the kitchen to allow for the cooker and cooker hood to be safely added to the ring main on their own circuits -enough of the floor had to be lifted to give decent access to the sub floor, where the new waste pipes could be laid. Which was great in theory.

Aside from the slightly precarious nature of having huge holes in the floor in a room that pretty much relied on natural light (so plenty of scope for falling into the hole at night and busting the gas supply pipe for instance), the actual practice of getting pipe from A to B in such a way as to get waste water from the proposed sink to the existing solid waste pipe in the outhouse was not especially straightforward.

  • The subfloor was already pretty packed with water supply pipes (both mains from meter and radiator pipes)
  • The direction of the floor joists meant having to cut quite a few channels 40mm+ wide to run pipe across
  • The house – like all old houses – is slightly pissed and sadly, water without pressure will not run up hill, so lots of attention had to be given the the gradient
  • The outhouse wall is 9″ thick and the wall is crisscrossed with existing water pipes

The Build

As I mentioned last time dealing with Solvent Weld pipe is pretty simple. You need two

The pipe run; from sink location left, through to outhouse on top right (wrench is being used to keep pipe square during cementing)

The pipe run; from sink location left, through to outhouse on top right (wrench is being used to keep pipe square during cementing)

tools; a hacksaw and a pot of adhesive (usually referred to as “cement”). You can buy special pipe cutters should you choose, but it is really not necessary in the way it is with copper pipe which we will return to soon.

The first task was to lay out the pipe above the floor to ensure that all the right connectors were in place to make it fit together. As only some of the floor was up and due to the fact that Solvent Weld is rigid, this meant that the maximum straight run achievable was round 50cm. This meant that some parts had to be broken up above floor to be re-assembled sub-floor later.

The first section, from sink location through the first right angle was straightforward. Cut pipe, brush on cement onto pipe and connector and hold tight for a few seconds (you need to leave it for a number of hours to properly go off, but unless you’re the world’s fastest amateur plumber, it’ll take you that long to finish the entire run ready for testing). For complex angles, you a marker pen on each side of your joint to make the location, so when you take it apart to cement it, you can getting back just as you had planned.

The first plan had been to run the next section via a complicated “Helter Skelter” design that I had built, to allow the second section to run below the floor joists entirely, saving having to cut even more notches. As proud as I was of the that marginally insane bit of engineering, when the next section was laid out sub-floor, it just wouldn’t level enough for me to be satisfied that you wouldn’t get potential “wash back” from the pipes beyond. This could have lead to some water that sat below the gradient remaining in the pipe until the next load of gravity-fed waste washed it along. Not the worst problem in the world, but not one that I was happy with.

The next problem was the wall between the kitchen and the outhouse, which was double

The outhouse run; emerging through the wall and twisting to meet washing machine trap and solid waste pipe (note marker pen line-up marks!)

brick skinned and around 9″ thick. None of our power tools meant even a dent, which meant it had to be knocked through carefully by hand. About 3 hours later – over several sessions – using a electrician’s bolster chisel and a hammer – there was an opening wide enough to take the pipe.

With the second attempted solution now notched out in the remaining joists, it was possible to finish laying all the pipe, cementing it in place and repairing the floor with a few new boards to replace those that were split/rotten. Out in the outhouse, which houses both the central heading boiler and the washing machine, another circular set of connections had to be created to take the waste pipe down to the lower level of that floor so that it would meet the existing solid waste pipe perfectly in line (with additional access for the washing machine waste outlet to join too).

The Result

Well, it worked. Once water had been run to the sink – more on that process soon – it drained perfectly. In order to test this, we used a measuring jug at both ends to make sure it was draining entirely. Once the washing machine and dishwasher were added, they were tested too to ensure that they could pump waster into the system without it falling apart. Again, the system works – for now at least – perfectly. Result!


About Matt Hero

Thinking global, acting yokel
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One Response to Yokel Plumbing: Solvent Abuse

  1. Pingback: Yokel Plumbing; Copper Pipe and Compression Fittings | Yokel Hero

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