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DWV and Copper

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

DWV is Drain, Waste and Vent. That’s the black plastic stuff where all your poo and hair and little ends of green beans goes after they hit the drains. I’m gonna upload pictures tomorrow, so for now you’ll just have to endure my lucid but verbose descriptions. We’re going to have two bathrooms in our house that are back to back. Some may think that’s weird but that’s because they don’t have fancy architecture degrees like we do. Anyway, the back to back bathrooms share a “wet wall” where all the plumbing for both bathrooms live. So, two toilets, three sinks, a shower and a bathtub all have their water and drains and vents running through that wall. Additionally we’re putting in wall-hung toilets (because their sweet-tuh) so that means that behind the toilets, hidden in the wall, are these big metal and plastic contraptions that hold all the tricky parts of the toilets so that the only thing you see is a bowl hanging magically off the wall. Minimal, small, and easy to clean. 

As it turns out, the trickiest thing about plumbing is venting. Venting is what lets the water go down the tubes without creating a vacuum of air behind it or a big pressure bubble in front of it. There are myriad building codes concerning venting and there are lots of little issues that crop up if you are not doing very standard style plumbing (like for instance if you installed wall-hung toilets). Also, the drains need to be angled downhill (because that’s which way poo goes) at a grade of one-quarter inch to the foot. The pipe needs to fall a quarter inch for every foot it travels horizontally. There is a bit of wiggle room there – you can go as steep as one-half inch to the foot – or in some cases as shallow as one-eighth of an inch to the foot. But you can’t go flat or any steeper than that range. If you go steeper, the pee will run faster than the poo and will flow over the poo rather than lubricating its timely exit from your castle. So just imagine all these plastic pipes, ALL descending very gradually and all having to hook up precisely so that each fixture is vented properly. That was a bear. It took two days of me just standing there looking at the joists and scratching my head and thinking and thinking and rethinking before I felt confident enough to actually start gluing the pipes together. The glue makes you high. It’s basically huffing. I’m high right now actually.

I must also take a moment to profusely thank George Williams. George is a master plumber who has graciously and patiently tutored me on the fundamentals of plumbing. He ordered all the copper, plastic and metal plumbing parts for me and even laid out how the plumbing would run in the house. You really don’t have an understanding for how much work that is until I show you one of his drawings. He makes these isometric drawings that detail every fitting, every bend, every corner in
exact detail. They must be seen to be believed:

So, thanks George, and I’m sorry for calling you every day at 1:15 sharp and bugging you with my daily question. 

The DWV stuff is done and today we did copper. Reggie and I laid it out and dry-fitted it and I started to solder it together. It’s pretty easy and fun to do. That’s what I’m saying now before I’ve tested it and found a million little leaks out of all my joints. Yikes! This morning I went online and found a ton of videos of varying quality that show you how to “sweat” copper pipes. Big Tony wasn’t the most informative, but he had the best style:

At this point we’re hoping to have our subfloor delivered week after next and then we’ll build the walls and install our roof trusses. We’ll tack plywood onto the outside of everything and then stick our windows in. We’ll wrap it in Tyvek and roof it with asphalt shingles and voila – we’ll have a weatherproof house that we can spend the next nine months fiddling with. If all goes well, we should be there by the end of February. Ha.

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