Venting My Frustration

For the most part, our bathroom has been surprisingly painless (knocking on every piece of wood I can find).  We’ve not found any water damage other than what we repaired on the subfloor, no termite damage, nothing, really, that we couldn’t handle 100% ourselves… that is until we unearthed the tub’s vent stack and thought we had to call a plumber.

Little House Big Heart How to Repair a Cast Iron Vent Stack 1

When our house was built in 1940, cast iron was a very common piping material.  However, at some point in the Little House history, there was a transition from cast iron to galvanized pipes…  not everywhere though; that would be too easy.  Someone decided to transition from cast iron to galvanized inside the wall between the kitchen and bathroom.  It required a coupling that looks like it should be on an episode of Doctor Who, not inside a wall.  However, the biggest problem with this coupling was that is stuck 2 inches past the wall stud, making it impossible to put our Hardibacker cement board up.

Little House Big Heart How to Repair a Cast Iron Vent Stack 2

So what is a vent stack anyway? A vent stack is a pipe that usually exits through your roof that allows for there always to be neutral (or atmospheric, if you like) air pressure behind the water in your drains, preventing it from backing up (which is a bad thing, I promise). They are completely necessary (have you ever seen Mike Holmes go crazy when he opens up a bathroom and doesn’t find a vent stack?!), so there was no way we could just rip that sucker out of the wall. The only solution was the flange/coupling had to be replaced by something a little slimmer and trimmer.

Unsure of what to do next, we turned to our dads (via text, of course).  Both came back with the same general consensus: we could do this ourselves. All we needed to do was to use our reciprocating saw to cut out the coupling and galvanized pipe, then replace them with new couplings and PVC.  We weren’t sure what type of coupling to use either – Should we put steel brackets on them?  Use a galvanized coupling? Use a black Fernco coupling? – but our dads had a solution for that one, too.  My dad let us know that black Fernco couplings would offer us the most flexibility, while still being strong enough to hold both pipes.  It also had the advantage of being the easiest of the three options to install… which is always a plus.

Once we had all our supplies, we headed home to cut the old pipe out of the wall. I personally enjoyed this because I got to put my reciprocating saw to the test.  Cutting through cast iron isn’t easy, and we went through three $7 blades on that one pipe.

Little House Big Heart How to Repair a Cast Iron Vent Stack 3

Things to remember if you have to cut cast iron:

1, Go full speed.  You won’t get through it if you don’t.

2. Have someone hold the pipe so it doesn’t shake.  Fortunately Jess did this for me.

3.  Don’t put a hole in the other side of the wall…more to come on that when we repair the kitchen wall.

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After cutting through the cast iron just below the bell flange, I went up in the attic and cut the galvanized pipe just below where it exited our roof. Then I replaced it with PVC and a Fernco coupling.  Jess had the fun job of removing the galvanized steel pipe through the bathroom and feeding the PVC back up to me  [WIFE EDIT: That sucker was HEAVY], then seating the PVC in the new 2”x1.5” Fernco reducing coupling.

Little House Big Heart How to Repair a Cast Iron Vent Stack 5

Little House Big Heart How to Repair a Cast Iron Vent Stack 6

It worked like a charm. The vent stack tucked perfectly into it’s spot in the wall and we were able to install our Hardiebacker over it (but that’s another post).

Little House Big Heart How to Repair a Cast Iron Vent Stack 7

In the end, the cost of what we used was:

2” to 1.5” Flexible PVC Coupling – $4.93

1.5” to 1.5” Flexible PVC Coupling – $3.84

Fernco2

10’ of 1.5” PVC – $5.13

1 and 1 half in pvc pipe

 

Total Cost: $14… much less than calling in a plumber!

 

Doing your own plumbing is not for everyone (and not all cities allow homeowners to do their own plumbing, so check that before you start), but if you’re willing (and allowed) to give it a go, it can really save you a lot of time and money spent on a plumber!
Have you had any plumbing surprises in a renovation?Is a pessimist’s blood type B-negative? Why does the Easter bunny carry eggs? Rabbits don’t lay eggs. Why does caregiver and caretaker mean the same thing?

 

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