View Full Version : Converted Dormer into Killer Shower - Cool Idea... maybe not smart.....

01-31-2008, 07:27 PM
Hi all,

Sorry for the book... but...

We just completed a master bath remodel on our two story home. The bath is in the center of the second story of our home and had the middle of the three dormer windows. The space in the original bath was so chopped up, we thought it would awesome to convert the entire dormer into a "power" shower....Rainhead in ceiling, 4 body jets, handshower... (11gpm if all on at once... hot water is another story...). Anyway..in 30 years this was the first home improvement I've actually contracted out, (I've remodeled 3 baths myself over the years.. the wife just wanted this one done in our lifetime). After a series of "issue", I ended up firing my contractor end of Dec and finished it myself (most of that was fixing his screw ups). ...again another story.

The specific issue I have now has to do with pipes freezing. I raised the concern during construction, but completely underestimated the risk (and my contractor assured me there were no worries). The remodel was completed about the 10th of January, the wife and I went to San Antonio last week (we live in No Virginia) to visit the grandson... and when we return were told by my son who stayed home that one day the "shower didn't work". Temps got into the teens one night while we were gone. Well, it doesn't appear that any pipes burst, but clearly there was damage to the valve that controls the rainhead because it leaks/runs now and I have ordered a replacement core for it.

I have included pictures - the only area I was concerned with during construction was that pipe to the rainhead that runs next to the siding (you can see that in the picture. (Its not shown in this pic, but the plumber did wrap that pipe in foam insulation before the wall was closed up.. not good enough apparently).

What I think happened was the freezing occured to the pipes on the left side of the shower..(as you look into it). The supply lines come up the left side, into the temp valve then then distribute to all the fixtures.. including going back down to the floor and coming up on the right side for the right body jets and hand showers (I should mention my son said that NONE of the the fixtures worked properly.. but the left side was dry and the right "dribbled" during the freeze). On the right side - the supplys and the volume controls for the body jets and the hand shower are actually in a wall that is in heated space. The left side all the plumbing is in the unheated crawl space.

So....(again - sorry for the length of this) -- here is what I am thinking to do to hopefully not have to tear out any tile.....

I can cut out some drywall in the bedroom on the left side of the shower and get access to the left side crawlspace and left side plumbing. There is also a heat duct for the bedroom right next to where I can cut the wall. What I was thinking of doing was to close off/box-in an area behind the plumbing in that wall with drywall. Insulate the outside of that area. The insert a "T" into the heat duct in the bedroom and run a 4inch heat duct into the boxed-in space enclosing the pipes, effectively making that area heated space.

I think this will take care of most of the problem.. but I think I need to figure out a way to cut and re-route that rainhead feeder line away from the siding, and I'm hoping to open it up so I can get warm air in there too.

My questions are...

- is there a better way to fix this?
- should I install a damper or return to let the warm air pass through the pipe area or is ok to just let it pump into that space? (its probably a waste of good air conditioned air in the summer....)
- on the right side... I was just going to force some foam insulation into the wall through the valve openings.. good enough?
- on the ceiling.. I am going to have to cut a hole from the attic into the roof area of the dormer.... to be able to get access to that overhead rainhead feeder... and then was going to blow-in some insulation.

Any advice is appreciated. Before you say it... yes...this would have been so easy to fix before that tile went up.......

Bob Saunders.

02-02-2008, 07:31 AM
1. Insulation does not prevent freezing, it only delays the process. If there is no heat added to the space, or the water is not used so its temperature is raised, it WILL eventually freeze.
2. Depending on the type of valve, if it was damaged by freezing, a new core may not cure it.

Gary Swart
02-02-2008, 08:23 AM
As HJ points out, insulation does not prevent freezing in the winter and it doesn't keep your home cool in the summer. Insulation slows heat transfer. The better the insulation, the slower the transfer will be, but it will transfer which means in extremely cold weather, the pipes will freeze if no heat is supplied. In an exterior wall, the pipes should be on the inside of the insulation, but there still needs to be some heat getting to them. If the interior of the room is not heated, the pipes behind the wall will still freeze.

02-02-2008, 10:46 AM
Thanks for the responses. It kinda confirms my plan which is to get behind the wall and box-in the area around the pipes. I will then run a (I'm thinking 3 or 4"?) round duct into the box branched of the bedroom wall register.

Re: valve. I just got back from Home Expo with a new Kohler valve...I'm going to remove the core and try replacing it. Fortunately, the area behind the left side (where the damaged valve is) is completely accessible and I will be getting back there anyway to box-in the pipes, so if the new core doesn't do it, I can cut out and replace the whole valve.

My next challenge is how to re-route the supply to the rain-head. My two options are
1) go into the attic, locate the roof-line of the dormer (where it meets the house roof). The cut out a large enough section of the house roof inside/under the dormer so I can squeeze my fat a__ in there to cut and re-route the copper in the dormer "attic". (I'm not keen on cutting through the roof, even if it is under the dormer roof) or

2) bite the bullet and cut out the tile/backerboard from the about a 1x2 section of the shower wall and some of the ceiling. I've no problem with doing the tile repair, done a bunch of it and I have the material in the garage.....just a mental-block about ripping out what just got finished.

thanks again for the feedback!


02-02-2008, 11:03 AM
The last two comments got me thinking that I probably have an issue on the right side of the shower as well. These two pictures show whats behind there. The two valves and handheld outlet are in a wall that is in the heated part of the bathroom. (The little alcove behind it has a small cabinet and the toilet).
But the two body jets and pressure loop to the left are in the unheated crawl space.

I think the pipes on the right (in the heated section of wall) should be ok, but is there a danger with the body jets supply and pressure loop (top pic)? Since there are two outlets, wouldn't this allow air to enter through the top body jet and pretty much drain this section of pipe?

Holly Cross Was Stimpson
05-31-2011, 03:37 PM
I am planning to put a shower in my dormer window (only way I can get the height in the loft conversion), similar to yours. How did it go, how did you protect the window? Any top tips?


05-31-2011, 05:24 PM
Since this is a Kohler valve, the only thing you may have to replace is the pressure balancing unit below the mechanism.