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Unread 10-28-2020, 09:48 AM   #1
gcc
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Greg's New Shower Project

Hi all,

Just finished a bathroom at a friend’s house and the wife wants me to start one at our house. It’s a typical guest bath setup. I haven’t measured but it’s probably 5’ wide and 10 feet long? Anyway, it’s a slab on grade house. We will be replacing tub, toilet, vanity, existing tiles on wall and floor. (Just to give you the scope) I’ll be using Kerdi board. You’ve all been so helpful in the past

Seems like the choices for tubs are acrylic or porcelain I’ve steel. Here are my questions as I prepare:

1) Any recommendations for quality tubs- both brand and type? We have already bought a kohler toilet. We want a white, right hand drain tub. Is there anything I need to be looking for when it comes to tubs?

2) Access to drain is going to be a pain. Not sure how that all works but I assume I will have to keep taking it in and out to line things up, but It is difficult to dry fit pvc accurately. Any tips on this process?

I’ll have a bunch more questions later. Wife wants to go shopping for the tub this weekend....

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Unread 10-31-2020, 08:09 AM   #2
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Glutton for punishment, Greg? lol. I'm about to embark on a very similar project, and also have to find a tub.

I think the biggest draw back of an acrylic or steel tub is they don't hold heat like a cast iron tub does. The steel tub, the Americast brand comes to mind, won't scratch as easily as the acrylic tub, and will probably be less sensitive to cleaners and staining. The acrylic's will offer way more design and color choices. Both steel and acrylic will be noisier than cast iron.

Due to my own design choice (a tiled front apron) I'm pretty much forced into an acrylic, likely a Kohler. I will probably apply some sound deadening material (Dynamat for instance) to the whole thing which might marginally help with heat retention.

If there's an existing tub installed the existing drain should line up; the spacing is standardized. But, if it doesn't, and given the SoG, I'd guess you might be forced to temp install the tub once to get the measurements you need. Not a big deal with a steel or plastic tub, but zero fun with cast iron.
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Unread 11-01-2020, 06:15 AM   #3
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Lol - yes. Gotta say though, I love these projects. They are a really good distraction from the day job.

I’m not so worried about heat retention as it will be used as a shower most of the time. We just don’t want to get rid of the tub in this bathroom - figure it might be good to have at least one tub in the house. We have another bathroom with a tub that will probably be removed so this bathroom would have the only tub in it.

The wife likes to go crazy with cleaning so I am worried about cleaning products damaging acrylic. The tubs we currently have are porcelain over steel and both have been damaged over the last 17 years - small nicks or scratches that have rusted or look bad.

Is it safe to say that while installation will be a giant pain, cast iron would be better for resistance to scratching and damage?


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Unread 11-01-2020, 08:50 AM   #4
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Agreed. I've found it a bit of a challenge to pull off a substantial home improvement project, in a timely fashion, while maintaining a day job but doing so is rewarding. Saving a crap load of money is also, literally, rewarding.

For longevity, ease of maintenance, sound attenuation, and heat retention I can't think of any other material that beats enameled cast iron for a tub. If you can live with the design limitations, reduced interior dimensions, and the installation hassles CI would be the way to go I think.

The steel tubs don't offer much over a CI tub in the design department. I think their only real benefit is (relative) ease of installation and, probably, price. I've installed exactly 1 of them, and that was a long time ago in a different house.

From what I've read acrylics hold up fine to common bathroom cleaning products. Just don't hit them with a scrubby sponge. Banning bar soap from the premise, and its attendant drippy soap dish, will definitely reduce the impulse to scrub the hell outta the wall and tub where the liquefied bar soap dripped and then solidified.

Yeah, I hate that stuff. lol
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Unread 11-01-2020, 01:25 PM   #5
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I am currently in the middle of the same project you are embarking on. We chose an Americast Steel tub by American Standard. Very happy with the quality of the tub for the price. Basic plane design, but very nice finish and feel. Have not used it due to ongoing project, but stepped in and on it 1000 times while tiling and wall prep and seems quite sturdy under my 240lb frame.
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Unread 11-01-2020, 02:07 PM   #6
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I like the Americast like Brian mentioned for its reduced weight. But I’d suggest going out of your way to protect the tub until after tiling. I once made a nickel-sized chip from dropping a wall tile on the tub’s shoulder.
If you’re looking for a regular white tub, I think it’s hard to beat a Kohler “Villager” cast iron tub. In white, they are $399 at Home Burrito. I’ve installed a ton of these. Well, no...a lot more than a ton of them, as they are 316 pounds each. Very durable. Not that every drop will result in the same damage. But I once dropped a big pair of Vice Grips (heavier than that tile piece) on a cast iron tub and only I could see where the microscopic damage was, as I saw where it hit.

If you buy one of these, I highly recommend strapping it to a dolly to move it around and keep it packed inside it’s banded crate until you’re in the bathroom and ready to tilt down into position. If you have to tilt the tub down into position like most installations require, make sure the drain side is down at the floor when you strap it to the dolly.

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Unread 11-01-2020, 07:04 PM   #7
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Thanks guys! As we were looking at tile and tubs today we were discussing it decided to eliminate the tub in this bathroom. We were going to eliminate it in the other one, but decided to switch it. So now I get to move the drain in a slab to center and do the mortar bed. Glad that last project was similar enough to help with this one.

Since I am doing the mortar bed, I remember reading years ago about a bucket mortar mixer. Seemed much easier using that than mixing in a mud tray. Are those still around?

Thanks,
Greg


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Unread 11-01-2020, 08:33 PM   #8
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Contractors Direct still carries those Bucket Mortar Mixers, Greg. I haven't shopped for one for years, but CD's price was usually competitive if not lowest.

Really good tool for your application and many others.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 11-01-2020, 09:54 PM   #9
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I think that tool is one of the best inventions for working with mud indoors.

CX is right....it’s cheaper than Midwest Trade Tools by 4 cents. The price seemed a little pricey to me at first glance...but it’s extremely heavy duty and totally worth the price.

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Unread 11-02-2020, 08:02 AM   #10
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Thanks guys. I’ll order one from there. I think it would be easier than mixing in a pan, placing it in the shower, trying to slope, then going out and mixing in a pan again, rinse and repeat. I like the idea of having buckets ready to go.

I will probably use the mapei 4-1 mix. If I use the mud calculator I get 188 lbs of needed material but please check my thought process:

Tub to shower conversion - so about 30” x 60”. Going to use schluter drain and Kerdi board for the walls. Schluter drain should be about 3/4” above the floor, right? (Slab foundation) Using 1/4” per foot to furthest wall would mean the perimeter line would be 3/4” above the drain? So that means the 3/4” under the drain to the 3/4” inch above the drain is 1.5”. I put that in the calculator and came out with 188 lbs of material (cement/sand). So four 55 lb bags of the mapei 4-1 mix should be enough, right?

Thanks,
Greg


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Unread 11-02-2020, 08:50 AM   #11
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Greg, you really wanna look at the cubic area you need to fill and the cubic contents of those bags. I've never used the MAPEI 4:1 outside a training class and have no clue as to what they claim for cubic content of those bags. If it's actually a sand/cement mixture, I'd expect something less than half a cubic foot per bag. Given that you should actually need a bit less than a foot and a quarter, three bags would theoretically do the job. I'd want 4 bags on hand when I started.

Keep in mind also that the 1/4" per foot slope is the minimum requirement to the farthest corner from the drain.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 11-02-2020, 09:48 AM   #12
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Thanks! Yes, I was thinking of those corners. I’m not sure what the sweet spot between really good slope for drainage and too much slope from the shorter distances to the drain might be. I’ll use the spacers that come with the drain to set that height and I believe those are 3/4”. I may go a full inch above the drain at the perimeter instead of just 3/4” just to ensure it is ok. That would make the total thickness 1 3/4”. If you think there would be a benefit to being any thicker - or if that is too thick for the short distances - let me know. Those bags say 2.5 to 3 sq ft of coverage at 2” thick. 5-6 sq ft at 1 inch think. At $9 per bag, I don’t mind buy a bag or two extra just to be safe. Buying 5 bags of that is still less than than half the cost of the tray.I’ll probably be able to return one of unopened but better to have it there in the middle of it.


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Unread 11-03-2020, 09:14 AM   #13
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New project - bathroom tub to tub

Well, looks like I’ll be mixing deck mud by hand. I can’t find the bucket mortar mixer in stock anywhere. Bummer!! I called contractor’s direct but they said it’s at least 1-2 months out. Other places look sold out as well. I’m disappointed / was looking forward to using it. I’ll keep looking but I think I’ve run out of places to check.

I will have some plumbing decisions to make. I’m going to move the valve to the opposite wall. It’s currently on the right side wall of the alcove and it makes sense to move it to the left side wall so you can reach in and turn it on as the toilet blocks the right side. The shower head will stay on the right wall - so that is 2 pipes going to the other side and one returning for the shower head- which means running 3 pipes up and over through the attic. I also want to add a valve for a hand held shower head at a lower spot. That can be on the right wall as well. Do they make a valve that can control two outputs? Could I just use a tub divertor valve and pipe it to the handheld?

My house is all CPVC - all run under the slab. The only places there is copper is about 8-10 inches before the shower valve. At least, that is the way the other showers were plumbed before I redid them. I switched one all to cpvc and the other was a tub spout so I left it alone and just replaced the cartridge snd I was afraid to solder back then. I’m braver now ....or dumber...

So a few questions in addition to the one about the shower valve options:

1) is there a reason they changed the plumbing at the valves to copper? Is there an advantage to that? I don’t remember what the valve looked like as it was a while ago but I suppose it could have been the only connection available at the valve was a soldered connection. I’ll have to look when I demo this wall.

2)It probably makes sense to use pex to run through the attic to avoid any fittings up there. Either way, the shower is located close to the attic access, so any fittings would be easily accessible if there are issues - fittings wouldn’t be terrible if necessary, but pex would be easier. Any reason to avoid pex in a hotter than Hades attic in Florida?

3) Cheapest option is to just stick with cpvc for everything, including the runs across the attic. Does that fare worse in an always hellish attic temperature?

4) If I go pex, does pex A make more sense with an expansion connection or are those crimp connections really ok? Seems like over time pex is engineered to go back to its original form. A manual expansion tool costs a little more than a crimping tool. I’ve also read pex can decreases water pressure due to a smaller I.d. than copper, but since I have cpvc anyway, would it even matter? Has anyone experience that?


I realize everyone has their favorite pipe- and most people avoid cpvc, but my whole house is cpvc. I don’t mind switching to something different for this - I just don’t know the best way. I’m even willing to convert to all copper from the supply line up if any of you more experienced guys snd gals say it is a substantially better option in this case. Were this your house, what would you do?

Thanks all.

Greg


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Unread 11-04-2020, 09:57 AM   #14
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Finding a suitable valve + diverter shouldn't be too difficult, Greg, many manufacturers make them, from manual to electronic. I'd want one that also allows for adjustment of water volume, but that's me.

PEX has its place, and its pros and cons. While it does ease installation in many cases it does NOT make tight bends. Think of it like this; you come straight up from your valve in one wall, through through the top plate and into the attic, you then need to go horizontal across the top, then vertical down into the opposite wall. Because of the gentle radius needed the horizontal run can't be tight and secured to the attic framing above the ceiling. Only way to achieve that is with connectors. Many of those connectors are plastic and I'd not want hard plastic in a space that sees a lot of temp swings. But that's me.

I'd plumb it all with copper, but that's what I'm comfortable with. Tried and true, proven to last. Easy to work with, no specialty tools.

I did my master with mostly copper, but did use PEX for the shower valve. See pic. Notice the necessarily gentle bends of the PEX.
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Unread 11-05-2020, 07:31 AM   #15
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That’s neat work!!

Yeah, I’ve been going back and forth with ideas. I’ll have a better idea of what to do once I demo the wall. Maybe there is a way to run it around the shower through the back wall instead of up and over in the attic? I’d rather have connectors lower and not in the attic if I can. Cheapest and easiest would be cpvc just like the rest of the house. I want to do copper or pex more for the experience than anything else. We’ll see.

If I decide to run it around in the wall I’ll have to figure out how to make connections in corners where there are tight spaces. I’d also have to either notch the studs and lay the pipe in the notch and cover with a nail plate or drill through the middle each stud, which might require shorter pieces of pipe to get through, which means more connections. I’ll share a pic once the demo begins and I can see.

Thanks for the advice!

Greg


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