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Thread: Converting Tub to Shower 2" Pipe?

  1. #1

    Default Converting Tub to Shower 2" Pipe?

    We are converting a tub/shower to a doorless walk-in shower. The drain is 1 1/2". We have been told that code requires us to convert it to a 2" drain. We have a concrete slab (not post-tensioned). The 1 1/2" pipes disappear into the back wall behind the shower. We don't want to open all of the walls in the house to find out where to convert the pipes to 2".

    We have blueprints. Our plan was to move the drain about 34" from the wall so that it would look more like a standard shower drain. We used the tub for a shower and had no problems with the drain. What should we do here? If we leave the drain where it is, can we keep the 1 1/2" drain without violating the code? Will the drain work better where it is?

    DH already cut off the little elbow at the end but I guess he could put it back on. If we don't change to 2" will we have a problem when we sell the house? We aren't going to have the job inspected now. It would cost much more money than we can afford.

    I would appreciate an opinion on whether it is worth trying to convert to 2"? If so, how can we find out what is needed to do it? Thanks in advance for your help.

  2. #2
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    Very common situation and, yes, you should change things to 2". You need to break up concrete until you find that the pipe is at least 2". You cannot put a 2" drain on a 1.5" pipe in the slab.

    The problem is this...if the drain gets plugged in a shower (say you drop a washcloth or stand on the drain), there's very little leaway before it can overflow the curb in a shower...in a tub, you have probably at least 8-10", and then you have an overflow to take care of the excess water. No such thing in a shower.

    Now, could you make it work - probably, but if caught during a house inspection, they could make you tear it all out AND fine you. They'd also look at everything else in the house much more critically, which could precipitate other issues. Depending on where you live, a permit for a shower could be anywhere from $10-several hundred, but then you'd know if it was done right, and be legal.

    The trap should be right underneath the drain. All legal drains will be 2". Since the floor must be sloped to the drain, it often looks best and has less severe angles if you put the drain in the middle of the shower pan.

    For help in constructing a tiled shower, check out www.johnbridge.com.
    Jim DeBruycker
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    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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    In the Trades Gary Swart's Avatar
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    I would be amazed if an inspector approved an 1-1/2" drain in any shower, but especially a walk-in. An ordinary shower stall at least has a 4" or so basin to deal with a clogged drain, but a walk-in has virtually zero. Go the right way with a 2" all the way to where it connects with a larger pipe. BTW, you can never go from a large size drain to a smaller size. Only small to large.

  4. #4

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    Thank you for both for your advice. I think I used the wrong term when I said that the shower would be a walk-in. I meant doorless. We will have at least a 4" curb. I am not sure what you is meant by the statement "you can never go from a large size drain to a smaller size, only small to large." Does that mean that we could use an adapter to make the 1 1/2" inch drain pipe fit to a 2" drain or that it could only be done the other way around?

    We would prefer to do this job right and make the whole thing 2" but we have no idea where the pipe will change to 2". Is there any way to know when hiring a plumber is not an option? The toilet is located beside the tub drain. It is about 2 1/2 to three feet away. The sink is more like five or six feet away from the tub drain. My husband looked at the blueprints for the house but couldn't see anything that showed pipe sizes.

  5. #5
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    quote; If we don't change to 2" will we have a problem when we sell the house? We aren't going to have the job inspected now. It would cost much more money than we can afford.

    In the normal course of events the pipe will be 1 1/2" all the way to the toilet, and even there increasing it to 2" can be problematical depending how they made the original connection. IF it is being done properly the only difference between getting it inspected or not should be the cost of the builing permit, and that is usually so little that if it makes the difference between doing the job or not, then you can't really afford to do the job. If it is not being done correctly, which is why it is much less expensive, then you still cannot afford the remodel. The only time your 1 1/2" drain will cause a problem, (an inspector will not know about it or see it), will be when they start having drain problems and ask you if you knew about them.

  6. #6
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    The toilet drain will be either 3 or 4", and you could probably connect the shower drain to there . The shower needs its own vent, though. Now I was told (don't know from experience), in many places, pipes beneath a slab will be at least 2", so you may not have to go far to find 2" pipe. The only way you'll know is if you crack some concrete. If you are going to do that, you may want to relocate the shower drain to the middle of the shower pan, which will make construction of the shower easier. The gentlest slope in the shower should be 1/4"/foot. So, if the drain is at one end, say 4' away on the long side, you need the drain an inch lower than the edge along the wall. But, say that drain is only 6" from the nearest wall, you still need it down one inch, and that is really steep. It just looks better if it is centered since the slopes are more even. If the space was 5' at the longest, but the drain was in the middle, you'd have 2.5' to the drain, or 5/8" lower rather than the inch if it was offset. Doesn't seem like much difference, but it adds up and is noticeable (also, steeper is more slippery).
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  7. #7
    In the Trades Gary Swart's Avatar
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    You supposedly came to this forum seeking advice about a plumbing job, and that is what this venue is for. However, you seem to want us to give you aproval to do the job anyway you want to regardless of what is the right way and the legal way to do it. You won't get approval that here. We may be very critical of what you are proposing, and that may or may not change your mind on what you are doing. No, you can not legally reduce the size of a drain just because you don't want to do a little more work to do it right, no, the 4" threshold won't make a 1-1/2" drain OK, and no, we won't OK going with out an inspection. You will get advice here on how to do the job right so that it will pass inspection. You may be advised that you are into something too complex for your skill level and to hire a plumber. You may accept or reject this advice, it's free.

  8. #8

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    Thanks to everyone for their input. We sought advice here because we wanted to find out the best way to do this project. There is no way we want to do a shoddy job. If we didn't care about doing it right, we wouldn't have bothered to ask for help. We aren't afraid of doing extra work. We just wanted to make sure we understood how to do it before we attempted it.

    We live in southern California. It does occasionally snow in our area but temperatures are seldom below freezing even at night. The shower head and water supply pipes are placed on an outside wall as the bathroom is bumped out from the rest of the house. This is the way the house was built so I believe it is to code for our area.

    We have broken the concrete and attached a 2" tee. All joints will be soldered. (The last thing we need is a leak in a pipe that is encased in concrete with a new shower built over it.) We plan to wrap the pipes in foam that is designed to prevent pipes from freezing. My husband considered routing the new water lines through the ceiling but decided not to because he thinks it will be difficult to get around the window from the ceiling. We will also be moving the drain to the center of the shower. Here is a photo of what we have done so far. Does it look all right?

    My concern with getting an inspection is that the county will not give me a straight answer about the cost. They told me that they would check out our property and permits before they come out and the cost would be determined after they see what we are planning to do.

    Until recently, I was unaware that a permit is required to install a fence. We installed a chain link fence a couple of years ago. It is perfectly straight and correctly installed within the property line. The previous owner was a builder. He built an out-building on the property for which we could not find a permit. Presumably he didn't have one.

    The property changed hands a couple of times before we bought it without anyone requesting a permit for the outbuilding. However, I am concerned that we could be asking for trouble if we invite an inspector to our home. If the inspector is so inclined, he could decide to give us much more of an inspection than we bargained for with fees added for the fence and out-building and who knows what else.

    [Edit]

    Oops, I forgot to add the photo. Here it is. Hope this works.

    Last edited by kendog2; 03-13-2009 at 01:00 AM.

  9. #9

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    One of the copper pipes was punctured by the jackhammer. We had trouble soldering it because the pipes kept filling with water though we tried several methods to remove the water. We decided to switch to pex pipe and shark bite fittings. We have discovered that the copper pipe is still leaking at the ground level where my husband tried to solder it. Would it be all right to replace the lower section of copper piper with pex pipe too? It would be partially covered with concrete.



    In the second photo, the metal rod is pointing to the area where the pipe is leaking.


  10. #10
    In the Trades Gary Swart's Avatar
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    First of all, you can not solder a pipe when there is any water present. The pipe(s) must be completely dry. Secondly, the copper pipe in the photos is not ridged copper pipe, it is soft copper tubing which use compression fittings, not solder to connect joints. Just because some people do work without a permit does not excuse you or anyone else. Building a fence without a permit is one thing, but a major plumbing revision is another. You folks have demonstrated that you want to do this job right, but there are so many things you don't know it will be hard not to screw up. If and when you decide to sell your home, there will be an inspection. Anything found improperly done will have to be corrected before a new loan can be improved. This means you will have to go through this whole process again, this time by hiring a plumber. You won't even have the pleasure of using the shower after it is finished. I would urge you to figure how you can hire a plumber, pull permits, and do this job right.

  11. #11

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    Thank you for your reply. The copper tubing you see in the photo is the orginal copper that was installed when the house was built in 1990. My husband said that it is all soldered. Have codes changed since then to require ridged copper pipe? This is a bit confusing. Is it ok to use the pex pipe and shark bite connectors to replace the copper pipe? We don't want to do this job more than once.

  12. #12
    In the Trades Gary Swart's Avatar
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    I will defer the question about the older pipes being soldered. Perhaps it was done in days of yore, I can't say, but there are pros around here that can. I can say I have never encountered fittings for soft copper, but I've never looked either. I can say with assurance that sweating copper fittings while not rocket science, absolutely has to be done correctly. The pipes must be 100% water free, the copper must be sanded or brushed clean, flux must be applied, and the joint must be heated until the hot joint melts the solder. Fail any of those steps, and the joint will fail most likely soon than later. PEX and Sharkbite connectors are not in my realm of experience, so I'll leave that alone also.

  13. #13

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    Thank you again for your input. We ended up fixing the leak like this (too hard to make the water go away). I am a little nervous about trusting this "plastic" pex pipe to last forever. Does anyone know if it is advisable to use this where it will be buried by concrete? We will be wrapping it in foam and plastic before covering with concrete. Sorry for the blurry photo.




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