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Thread: Copper toilet flange into cast iron pipe issue

  1. #1
    DIY Member spta97's Avatar
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    Default Copper toilet flange into cast iron pipe issue

    Hi everyone! I'm new to the forum and was hoping to get some advice on what appears to be a unique setup.

    I have a cast iron waste pipe but the flange is copper (house is built in the 1950's). I recently put down the new tile floor and the underlayment was thinner than the old mud floor that was there so I have too much pipe sticking out of the floor now:



    I had a plumber (it was actually two guys) over today to cut the pipe and solder on the new flange but they said it was too much work. Instead, they suggested cutting the pipe below the floor and using a Fernco fitting to PVC (and quoted me $650). I've never been crazy about using them because I was told that eventually they will leak.

    They also said that it looked like I had a leak at the joint where the copper pipe meets the cast iron stack. To resolve that (if it did leak) they said they would use a 4" to 3" doughnut and then do PVC all the way up to the flange at a cost of $1000

    I did not have any water damage on the drywall that was covering it and I just ran about 10 gallons of water from a hose down it and it was dry, although it looks like there is some serious corrosion (dissimilar metals perhaps?):



    I had sugguested to the plumbers that they use an inside pipe cutter but they said that they always fall off the drill and into the pipe.
    So my questions:

    1) Should I be worried about a leak at the joint on the cast iron?
    2) Can I just use an inside pipe cutter and cut the pipe sticking out of the floor? I was thinking of duct taping the bit to the drill so if it comes loose out of the chuck it won't fall in the pipe.

    Any advice you can offer is greatly appreciated as I don't think I can bring myself to spend that kind of money on this as it greatly exceeds my budget. I can solder pipes (I plumbed the rest of the bathroom) but I figured this job was best left to the pros but after getting the sticker shock I'm thinking I should take a crack at it.


    Here is a picture of the copper flange I got for $40. As you can see it just needs a couple of inches trimmed off the top:



    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    I'm not a pro, but my first thought is it will take quite a bit of heat to melt solder on that thing! I'd be worried about too much heat, and you probably don't have a torch big enough.

    I think if I was going to do it, I'd remove the copper and do as they indicated - use a donut and replace the stuff with pvc. If you cut the copper off near the cast iron hub, you could probably rip that joint out of there. The pros may have some suggestions. With cast iron, (I've only done a couple), I used a drill to make swiss cheese out of the lead, then pryed out the lead. With the copper, you could probably use a hack saw or sawsall to cut through the copper from the inside and some of the lead, and fairly easily remove the whole thing, especially if you made two cuts and pryed out a chunk. The lead will stick to the copper, but it will come right off the CI. Then, a wire brush to clean it off and maybe a little dish soap on the donut, and you press in the pvc stub, and glue up the elbow, and riser, and you're ready to install the flange. Get one with a SS ring, and you will need to drill some holes in the tile to anchor it to the subfloor. This may require a diamond bit. Lowes carries some. Get one the right size for the anchor you use, or if you can catch the plywood, ensure the hole is big enough so the screw doesn't catch or you'll crack a tile.

    You could probably have the whole thing out of there in 1/2-hour, and, new stuff inserted in another 1/2-hour, depending on access and the skill of the operator. It'll probably take longer to drill holes through the tile to anchor the flange.

    Again, I'm not a pro, but my guess is it shouldn't take more than 2-hours labor, so at $1000, unless they're doing other things or you live way out in the boonies, seems a little high. Could be normal, different locales have different rates to account for different cost of living.

    Parts to do this are probably less than $25 - less than you paid for the copper flange. And, you could recycle the copper you take out. It's proably at least a couple $/pound.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  3. #3
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default flange

    I would just solder a new brass flange to the copper, (it would only take a few minutes), and the cut the pipe to fit with a SawZall. I am not sure what is under that mass of cement, or whatever it is, but if there is any lead there, then it should be able to be resealed. Anything else, and it is a bad installation and should have been fixed BEFORE the floor was tiled.

  4. #4
    DIY Member spta97's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jadnashua View Post
    I'm not a pro, but my first thought is it will take quite a bit of heat to melt solder on that thing! I'd be worried about too much heat, and you probably don't have a torch big enough.

    I think if I was going to do it, I'd remove the copper and do as they indicated - use a donut and replace the stuff with pvc. If you cut the copper off near the cast iron hub, you could probably rip that joint out of there. The pros may have some suggestions. With cast iron, (I've only done a couple), I used a drill to make swiss cheese out of the lead, then pryed out the lead. With the copper, you could probably use a hack saw or sawsall to cut through the copper from the inside and some of the lead, and fairly easily remove the whole thing, especially if you made two cuts and pryed out a chunk. The lead will stick to the copper, but it will come right off the CI. Then, a wire brush to clean it off and maybe a little dish soap on the donut, and you press in the pvc stub, and glue up the elbow, and riser, and you're ready to install the flange. Get one with a SS ring, and you will need to drill some holes in the tile to anchor it to the subfloor. This may require a diamond bit. Lowes carries some. Get one the right size for the anchor you use, or if you can catch the plywood, ensure the hole is big enough so the screw doesn't catch or you'll crack a tile.

    You could probably have the whole thing out of there in 1/2-hour, and, new stuff inserted in another 1/2-hour, depending on access and the skill of the operator. It'll probably take longer to drill holes through the tile to anchor the flange.

    Again, I'm not a pro, but my guess is it shouldn't take more than 2-hours labor, so at $1000, unless they're doing other things or you live way out in the boonies, seems a little high. Could be normal, different locales have different rates to account for different cost of living.

    Parts to do this are probably less than $25 - less than you paid for the copper flange. And, you could recycle the copper you take out. It's proably at least a couple $/pound.

    jadnashua - Thanks for your reply. You can't see it in the picture because the flange is not aligned as it would be at install but I do have the holes drilled in the tile for the screws already there. I'm aprehensive to mess with the the joint to the cast iron stack if it is not leaking. I ran gallons of water through it last night without an issue but I will poke around the lead this weekend to see if it is strong. I am tempted to replace the whole thing with PVC but my only concern is a doughnut may have an issue. I am fairly confident I can get the pipe out with a sawsall and my mapp torch but I am less confident in my ability to get the doughnut in there making a proper seal.

    My friend said I should not be afraid of the rubber failing and said his house has all his PVC connected via a rubber boot to a cast iron pipe. He went on to say that the plumbers used some kind of liquid rubber that hardend to make a nice seal.

    I am tempted to try and cut the pipe and solder on the copper flange...

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    DIY Member spta97's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hj View Post
    I would just solder a new brass flange to the copper, (it would only take a few minutes), and the cut the pipe to fit with a SawZall. I am not sure what is under that mass of cement, or whatever it is, but if there is any lead there, then it should be able to be resealed. Anything else, and it is a bad installation and should have been fixed BEFORE the floor was tiled.
    hj - Thanks for the reply. The issue with cutting the pipe is that it is hard to get a sawsall at that angle as I would have to have the blade almost flush with the floor. If they made a pull saw for copper that would do the trick. Also, they have brass flanges? Is that better than the copper one I have?

    So do you think that the joint to the cast iron is leaking? I would have addressed it but there has been no leaks and the drywall that was covering it was dry so I figured it was just a result of the copper to cast iron joint.


    Thanks..

  6. #6
    Plumbing Designer FloridaOrange's Avatar
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    You could use a dremmel or rotary cutter with a wheel.
    Matt
    Semi-professional plumbing designer
    Enjoying life in SW Florida

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    DIY Member spta97's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FloridaOrange View Post
    You could use a dremmel or rotary cutter with a wheel.
    The plumber borrowed my Rotozip with the cutting wheel but we realized that it would not sit low enough. I will take a look at it too see if I can take the guard off so I can get it flush. Although I could perhaps do that from the bottom and rest the Rotozip on the bottom of the floor....

    Thanks for the idea.

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    Plumbing Designer FloridaOrange's Avatar
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    Cut from inside the pipe....unless I'm missing something or maybe the Rotozip won't fit. My dremmel would fit
    Matt
    Semi-professional plumbing designer
    Enjoying life in SW Florida

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    DIY Member spta97's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FloridaOrange View Post
    Cut from inside the pipe....unless I'm missing something or maybe the Rotozip won't fit. My dremmel would fit
    I'm pretty sure that I won't be able to get a strait cut using a dremmel and one of the cut off wheels. Any tricks to doing so?

    Thanks..

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    Plumbing Designer FloridaOrange's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spta97 View Post
    I'm pretty sure that I won't be able to get a strait cut using a dremmel and one of the cut off wheels. Any tricks to doing so?

    Thanks..
    Go slow. I haven't had to cut off pipe yet so no tricks, sorry. I have cut alot of other stuff, even thick mounting brackets (much harder than copper) just not pipe from the inside.
    Matt
    Semi-professional plumbing designer
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  11. #11
    DIY Member spta97's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FloridaOrange View Post
    Go slow. I haven't had to cut off pipe yet so no tricks, sorry. I have cut alot of other stuff, even thick mounting brackets (much harder than copper) just not pipe from the inside.
    The problem with the Dremmel is that it really gets away from you. Not to mention you go through a billion cut off wheels per job

    Although I may be able to cut it from the outside that way if I just wanted to get the pipe lower than the floor level. Ideally I want to cut it to the right height so it is sitting at the bottom of the flange.

    I figure I will take a crack at cutting the pipe from below (if that's even possible) or from above before I replace the whole thing.

  12. #12
    Plumbing Designer FloridaOrange's Avatar
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    I've had decent results with scoring the cut first, then if the dremmel does jump it has a guide.
    Matt
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    Enjoying life in SW Florida

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    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    You DO NOT cut "through" the pipe. You cut off the top of it by moving the saw around the pipe as you cut it off.

  14. #14
    DIY Member spta97's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jakeru View Post
    I just used a dremel size cutoff wheel with a 1/8" arbor (on a micro air die grinder though) to cut off a 1/2" copper pipe that was too close to a piece of drywall to fit the compact tubing cutter in between. It was slow, but I was surprised how well the abraisive cutoff wheel did work on the copper material.

    To get a straight cut, mark a straight line with a sharpie where to cut, and always hold the cutter so the axis it spins is the same as the axis of the pipe. That way if it does jump of the cut groove, it will continue along the path you are going to cut anyway.

    A 3" or 4" cutoff wheel would make much quicker work of it though, if you happen to have one of those laying around. I would ditch the safety shield, as they seem to get in the way. A thinner cutting wheel will also work more quickly than a thicker cutting wheel.

    But the first thing I would do if I were you is bring a hand held wire brush into your crawlspace/basement and go to town scrubbing off that corrosion in the copper to cast joint. Check out the integrity of the material underneath.
    Thanks for the input. I am going to do exactly that - take the guard off my 3" cut off wheel for the flange pipe and poke around the corosion at the joint first. My friend said that he does the "ice pick test". Meaning if you are able to poke a hole through the lead it would eventualy leak.

  15. #15
    DIY Member spta97's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hj View Post
    You DO NOT cut "through" the pipe. You cut off the top of it by moving the saw around the pipe as you cut it off.
    hj - I think I know what you are saying but can you clarify? My intent would be to run the cutter around the outside of the pipe to create a slit and then move the cutter around the outside to cut the top off. Is that what you are referring to?

    The other option I am going to explore is seeing how low the flange sits in the floor and seeing if I can get a blade flush with the sub floor and cut it from underneath- provided that is where the pipe should be cut. The flange I have is a few inches deep and appears to sit below the sub floor when installed (1/4" tile, 1/4" thinset, 1/8" Ditra, 3/4" plywood = 1 3/8" total).
    Last edited by spta97; 12-03-2009 at 01:20 PM.

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