Plumbing Part 2: Fixtures

If installing trim felt like bounding progress with every hiss of the nail gun, installing fixtures felt like victory with every turn of the wrench.

My friend Steven and I had an aggressive goal: install the toilet, tub, and sink in one night. See my notes on the pictures below to see how we did.

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Just bringing the tub from my shop into the house was glorious. And difficult: that tub isn’t light, and it had to be turned on its side to fit through the door. I am glad that I had the foresight to measure the tub to make sure it would fit through the door before finishing the outside wall. I probably would have wept if I’d missed that and had to tear wall out to get the bathtub in the room.

Interestingly, the most difficult part of making the tub work – from paint to plumbing – was installing the feet. The parts are simple enough: grooves in the bottom of the tub, a shim, and the foot. For some reason, though, it was amazingly difficult to re-attach the feet evenly.

I did discover one interesting bit of history when researching the tub before: people used to use United States Mint – coins – to level feet. From the article:

When we used to remove claw foot tubs from old buildings we would always find coins under the feet.

We did end up trying to use quarters as shims at one point, but it didn’t work very well for us. An hour of finagling did the trick, and when we finally flipped it over we were as close to level as we were going to get.

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Next up was the sink. Older wall mounted basins are tricky to install faucets on because there’s a limited amount of space between the back of the sink and the wall. Trial and error with a handful of washers gave us the right spacing for the 90º fittings, and the sink followed on the tubs heels into the bathroom.

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Fortunately, my math was good during the framing stage, and the supports I’d tied into the studs lined up perfectly for the brackets.

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As I said before, this sink is really, really heavy. The thin cast iron wall brackets provided good support, but I didn’t like the thought of hundreds of pounds of metal crashing on to my bare feet. Wandering at Home Depot led me to some wonderful prefabricated brackets that matched the dimensions for my sink perfectly. The icing on the cake? They were already white, so installation was as easy as placing them and driving screws  into the wall.

Once the brackets were in, we finished installing the drainage for the sink. The chrome p-trap looks marvelous against the black underside of the sink.

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Steven’s advice on the type of faucet to purchase was much appreciated: buy one that you can service from the front, because you don’t want to have to unmount your sink from the wall to do routine maintenance. We heeded his instruction and purchased an industrial grade foodservice fixture from T&S Brass. Not only is it built like a thank, but their factory is about 20 miles from where we live, so parts and service will be easily accessible.

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Installing the actual pipes for the tub supply and drain wasn’t too bad. Drilling through the tile, on the other hand, was a bit nerve-racking. All-in-all the process was fairly smooth, and we were thrilled with the shiny sharpness of the chrome.

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Over time, cast iron will tend to crack ceramic tile if there is direct contact between the two. I bought porcelain ‘tub coasters’ to avoid this. With a few creative items under two of the feet, we made up the last bit of difference in leveling, and the installation was complete.

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Running water in the bathtub was euphoric. We’d come a long way since the beginning of our journey.

Moving from unfinished seams to clean lines with trim felt great, but moving from an empty room to fixtures with running water made the light at the end of the tunnel real.

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