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Thread: cast iron shower drain

  1. #1
    DIY Member Henry Ramsey's Avatar
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    Question cast iron shower drain

    I am remodelling an upstairs shower in a 30+ year old condo. I was originally just going to re-tile the walls and curb, but that plan fell through when the curb fell apart with the tiles. It was made from mortar with clay bricks as a base. The showerpan liner was over the top of the curb and it disintegrated with the removal of the tiles. There was no salvaging it and it was just a mess.

    So I have ripped out the walls and mudbed to bare studs and concrete floor(yes, concrete is what the upstairs floor is made of). I removed the showerpan liner, but the drain assembly is presenting a problem. There are three pieces, the top part which held the drain cover. That is screwed into a cast iron nipple which is screwed or cemented to a cast iron flange. The latter two pieces held the showerpan sandwiched between them to make a watertight seal. There is ample rust in all of this, but even with liquid wrench I cannot get the treaded part apart.

    I have been trying to use a wrench on the nipple piece but it's either cemented or just too rusted to let go. I cannot buy a wrench big enough to go around the top portion. It measures roughly 3.5" and none of the wrenches at either Home Depot or Lowes can go around it.

    I want to remove this as easily as possible since I think this cast iron is over PVC. Inside the drain looking down the pipe is white plastic. I'd like to preserve this if possible.

    I do not have any access from below so all of this must be done from the top.

    My ultimate goal is to switch to the Kerdi drain system and use the kerdi shower tray kit.


    Any help or comments will be appreciated.

    I have attached photos of the drain.
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  2. #2
    Master Plumber master plumber mark's Avatar
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    Talking get a new one--dont save 6 bucks..

    its not a big deal at all.....

    either you got to attack it from underneath or cut a large hole
    through the floor and get to it that way....



    its most likely tied into the PVC with a no-hub coupling

    and all you got to do it take it apart with a socket wrench...

    or cut the pvc off shorter and build it back up


    dont shake up the pvc pipe too much---or you might crack a
    jiont somewhere back whee you cant reach it...

    I have done that before...so be careful...


    cut it out and then just get a new drain made out of PVC

    be sure to get EXACTLY the same type with the clamping

    ring for the pan and you will be in very good shape...


    to install the new pvc pan floor...to yournew drain
    Last edited by master plumber mark; 06-04-2006 at 07:27 AM.

  3. #3
    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
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    You may have to cut out some flooring to get to the lower end, if there is no access from below.

    Wood can always be put back.
    That's what lumber stores are for.

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    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    The best place to discuss a Kerdi shower is over at www.johnbridge.com. Building a drypack mud base isn't that hard if the Kerdi tray doesn't fit. There are some really good articles in their library. John also has an e-book based on his long-term experience installing Kerdi showers.
    Jim DeBruycker
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    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  5. #5
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default drain

    I am not sure what kind of drain you have, but I have never seen a two piece cast iron one that screws together. In fact I would have concerns about the liner if the only way it was clamped was by screwing the upper piect in. Most cast iron drains are held together with three bolts, but they may be concealed in the mortar still stuck to the drain.

  6. #6
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    A kerdi drain is glued to the pvc or abs riser (it comes in both configurations) and then the Kerdi membrane is applied with thinset to the flange of the drain, no screws, clamps, or weepholes, since the membrane is tileable. The only critical things about installing it are that it is fully supported under the edges, and it is level. Well, getting the membrane fully stuck on the drain is critical as well.
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    Jim DeBruycker
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  7. #7
    DIY Member Henry Ramsey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by master plumber mark
    its not a big deal at all.....

    either you got to attack it from underneath or cut a large hole
    through the floor and get to it that way....
    Oh, wonderful. The drain is right over my living room ceiling. And I have a textured ceiling that's original. I hope to not have to cut a hole in that ceiling unless it's a last resort.

    Quote Originally Posted by master plumber mark
    its most likely tied into the PVC with a no-hub coupling and all you got to do it take it apart with a socket wrench...
    or cut the pvc off shorter and build it back up
    No, no bolts for a wrench, this is 40 year old construction.
    The condo was apartment in the 60s then converted to the condo I no reside in in the 70s. There are three pieces as I said. I have now further dug into the flange assembly. I used an angle grider with a cutoff wheel and have cut off most of the top part. It was brass I think, and as I said threaded into a cast iron nipple. The nipple is also threaded into another piece, a flange. I can now confirm this from visual inspection of the cross-section of the metal. The bottom cast iron is around a piece of PVC pipe. And the CI is packed with okum or something else that melts when heated as the grinder is making liquid goo as I cut the bottom apart.

    Quote Originally Posted by master plumber mark
    dont shake up the pvc pipe too much---or you might crack a joint somewhere back whee you cant reach it...
    I have done that before...so be careful...
    Yeah, I'm aware of that. I've already moved it up and down a bit so if I've done any damage it's happened already.

    Quote Originally Posted by master plumber mark
    cut it out and then just get a new drain made out of PVC be sure to get EXACTLY the same type with the clamping
    ring for the pan and you will be in very good shape...
    to install the new pvc pan floor...to yournew drain
    I'm going to switch to the Kerdi drain so I need to get at the PVC pipe and cut it off low enough to attach the drain.

    Here are more pictures of the drain. You can see there is the part around the middle PVC pipe then two more rings which are the threaded parts of the CI pipe. Sorry, the pics are so blurry. The pipe is reflective and it whites out the image.
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    DIY Member Henry Ramsey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Terry
    You may have to cut out some flooring to get to the lower end, if there is no access from below.

    Wood can always be put back.
    That's what lumber stores are for.
    The floor around the pipe is concrete. But this is an upstairs bathroom. I do not know how much the floor bears load of the rest of the building.
    The building is formerly an apartment that was converted into condos.
    It is at least 40 years old.

    I actually *can* access it from below, but that would mean cutting a hole in my livingroom ceiling. That is not an option unless it become do-or-die.
    Money Talks? All it ever says to me is "Goodbye!"

  9. #9
    DIY Member Henry Ramsey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jadnashua
    The best place to discuss a Kerdi shower is over at www.johnbridge.com. Building a drypack mud base isn't that hard if the Kerdi tray doesn't fit. There are some really good articles in their library. John also has an e-book based on his long-term experience installing Kerdi showers.

    Yeah, I've tried there but they're just as perplexed as I about the drain I have so I tried here. I have already bought John's Kerdi shower ebook. It's really great.

    If I could just get the stupid shower drain I have off I'd be up and starting on the rebuild with Kerdi. I'm not sure whcih method I'm going to use yet, the shower tray or the mud method. I might have to do the mudbed though, since the shower area is 33"x33" plus 3" for the curb.
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  10. #10
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    If the drain is exactly centered, you can cut down the 48x48 pan. It is cheaper to do a mud pack. Either way, you've got to cut some stuff out and make the last part either abs or pvc so you can glue on their drain. If you go conventional construction, you have other options of the drain type.

    You might want to consult a structural engineer to help you decide how to solve your problem. Cutting concrete structural floors can be intimidating, especially if it has tensioned cables (it might not). My guess, though, is you'd probably be able to break out some concrete around the drain to see what is going on. You might end up biting the bullet and cutting into your ceiling, though. I think it would be safer, but think about that consult.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  11. #11
    DIY Member Henry Ramsey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hj
    I am not sure what kind of drain you have, but I have never seen a two piece cast iron one that screws together. In fact I would have concerns about the liner if the only way it was clamped was by screwing the upper piect in. Most cast iron drains are held together with three bolts, but they may be concealed in the mortar still stuck to the drain.
    Well, it worked the way it was for over 30 years and as long as 40.
    The condo is as I said 30+ years old, but the building goes back to 1965 or so. It was apartments back then.

    When I removed the showerpan liner the concrete was bone dry. Not even a single spot of mold or even sign of water. And to top it off, the floor is flat and a desert. No preslope at all. The mudbed though was in two layers, with the second one sloped toward the drain.

    I have since begun to cut up the flange assembly with a cutting wheel in a grinder. Looking at the way it was put together I think there's lead and okum as a packing in there around a PVC stem pipe.

    See my post above to master plumber mike for more pictures of the drain.

    As I've gotten further down to the bottom something gooey is coming out as the grinder heats up the CI. I'm going to try and cut the CI up as much as I can without disturbing the PVC pipe held within.
    If I can just cut the PVC off to the right height when I get the CI off I'll be good to go with the Kerdi shower drain.
    Money Talks? All it ever says to me is "Goodbye!"

  12. #12
    DIY Member Henry Ramsey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jadnashua
    If the drain is exactly centered, you can cut down the 48x48 pan. It is cheaper to do a mud pack. Either way, you've got to cut some stuff out and make the last part either abs or pvc so you can glue on their drain. If you go conventional construction, you have other options of the drain type.

    You might want to consult a structural engineer to help you decide how to solve your problem. Cutting concrete structural floors can be intimidating, especially if it has tensioned cables (it might not). My guess, though, is you'd probably be able to break out some concrete around the drain to see what is going on. You might end up biting the bullet and cutting into your ceiling, though. I think it would be safer, but think about that consult.
    Yeah, that has occured to me. The drain is in the middle, but the area is 39"x36". The 36" is front to back the 39" is side-to-side. And 3" of the 36" is where the curb would be so it's actually 33".

    So I need to shave 4-1/2" off two sides, and 7-1/2" off the other two to make it fit. I think I'll end up with a mud bed, but still use the Kerdi membrane over it. I can't cut a straight line to save my life and that's too many critical cuts.

    Well, I don't know for sure the floor *is* structural, that's my reason for not wanting to cut into the concrete.
    It's a double layer too so I don't know how thick it really is. The term 'double layer' came from a security company who tore up their carbide drill bit that was 12" long when the drill the floor in the bedroom adjacent to the shower. They coined the term, but I don't know for sure how thick it is or, as I said, if it even is structual.

    Like I a said if it comes to that I'll have to do the ceiling. But how do I make the ceiling look the same when I repair it? It's has an applied texture. I want to be able to sell the unit sometime soon without having to be worried the ceiling will attact unwanted attention.
    Money Talks? All it ever says to me is "Goodbye!"

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    Master Plumber master plumber mark's Avatar
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    Talking dont get too upset.....

    honestly , all you probably are going to have to do is simply cut a good
    sized hole in the shower floor and just do the work from up above....

    I know its a pain in the ass, but its best to do it right



    make the hole as big as needed.... then to repair the floor

    cut a new piece of thin plywood or louon for the WHOLE FLOOR and then
    cut that in half.....makeing a circle in the middle where the drain is.

    install the one side of the floor then place your drain into the hole
    and glue it all up makeing it flush to the NEW FLOOR LEVEL.

    take the other side of the floor and slide her into place and
    nail it all down ....

    -----------------------------------------------------------
    the toughest part I got into with one I did recently
    was cutting the pipe with a hack saw blade
    and not having gloves on when I did it...

    I did not make the hole big enough and cut up my wrists and fore arms
    against the sides of the plywoood while cutting the pipe...


    when the going gets tough... the tough get going ...I guess lol
    --------------------------------------------------------------------

    option #2

    another route you can go is just tack down a piece of sheet metal over the hole you have cut through the floor if you dont want to tack down a
    new floor......


    HAVE FUN!!!!!!
    Last edited by master plumber mark; 06-06-2006 at 03:59 AM.

  14. #14
    DIY Member Henry Ramsey's Avatar
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    Question Shower nearly complete except...

    It's been almost 6 months since I first posted here and I have nearly completed my shower. I ended up removing the cast iron drain and the trap too. I used the Kerdi method to rebuild the shower and it's practically complete. I have a 600+ post thread ongoing at the John Bridge forum: http://johnbridge.com/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=40017 in case anyone is interested.

    I have put up the walls and the shower floor is done with the Kerdi method but a problem has come from the shower valves. When I had the walls removed, due to costs, I did not change the valve body. I intended to replace only the stop valves and shower stems and seats. It is a price pfister valve body with integrated stop valves. I've attached a picture.

    I intended to replace the stops and then the stems. And like and idiot I waited until I had the wall up and Kerdi in place before I attempted to change the stops. I contacted price-pfister to be told the item is obsolete and unavailable. But before I got that reply, I went with a picture of the stop valve(same as attached), to Stanco Plumbing Supply (www.stancousa.com) and they sold me what on the surface, looked to be the correct valves. I put them in however, and the new valves are threaded finer than the old ones and so leaked and did not work. I was told by Stanco that they will take them back and perhaps I can still get the correct ones.

    Right now, I'm at an impasse. If I cannot get the correct stops then I need to replace the valve body from behind. Luckily the wall adjoining the shower is another bath with a mirror covering the wall so any holes I need to make will not show afterwards.

    My question after this long winded post is how do I change from galvanized pipe to copper for a new valve union? This is the primary reason I've waiting this long to think of changing the valve union.
    The water lines here are galvanized steel pipes threaded onto the valve body. Can I solder copper to galvanized pipe or are there fittings to go from one to the other?

    If it comes to doing this I'd like to put in shut off valves as well so I could cut off the water at the shower if ever the need arrises. The house is a condo and the only way to do this work is to cut off the water to 14 other units besides mine. So a local cutoff is a good thing. What's the best way of adding the valves?
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  15. #15
    Member breplum's Avatar
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    If you find a plumbing repair shop that has a Crest/Good account, they can order what should be the correct ones. All Price Pfister Contempra-Contessa-Marquis and Verve with integral stops use same parts. If your handles date from that era, then PP parts should work. The PP Beau Art series did not have integral stops.

    As far as how to do the conversion from galv. pipe to copper...I don't recommend that project as a beginner's prospect in a building where so many others are involved. Spend a little and save a lot by hiring a licensed plumbing contractor in this case.

    Good luck.

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