Beware Old Plumbing Problems in Historic Homes

cast iron plumbing problemsIt’s hard to beat the charm of a historic home. However, behind the those vintage walls there may be hidden old plumbing problems that will need to be addressed, sooner or later. Recently, we had a plumbing call involving a water leak in the ceiling and walls of a joining laundry room/bathroom in an historic 2 story home in downtown Punta Gorda, FL. Here is how it went.

The Initial Interview

On the initial phone call, the customer said that water was pooling up in the center of the ceiling of the laundry room and draining down through a ceiling fan. They also said that the bathroom wall closest to the laundry room felt soft and mushy, and that the bathroom had a moldy smell. They mentioned that they had just purchased the home one month before and they didn’t think that the prior owners were using the upstairs bathroom, which was located right above the downstairs bathroom. Additionally, the homeowners complained of an occasional foul smell on the stairwell.

First Look

Arriving at the property, we could see by looking into the crawlspace that at least some of plumbing problems old homesthe plumbing had been updated on this 1930’s home. PVC drain lines and CPVC water lines were visible from the crawlspace. However, there did appear to be signs of some remodeling that had been done recently.

Initial Inspection

Upon our initial inspection, we could see that the laundry room was under a flat roof. The flat roof continued over to the second floor which began over the downstairs bathroom. We opened the drywall at the leaking area in the laundry room near the ceiling fan and did not find any water sources overhead. We did find moisture that appeared to be flowing downhill from the bathroom wall toward the ceiling fan.

Looking over toward the bathroom wall, we saw a 14”x14” box or “chase” that was attached to the wall. This chase was probably built to create a passage for the water lines and the drain pipe coming down from the second floor. As we attempted to open the drywall at the chase and bathroom wall, the drywall basically began to fall off of the studs as it was completely saturated.

Cast Iron Plumbing Problems

After removing the wet drywall (oxymoron) we could finally see what was going on. We hadplumbing chase CPVC water lines coming up through the chase that we’re in good condition. The upstairs bathroom had 2 faucets, one shower and one water closet (toilet). All of these individual PVC drains combined into one PVC drain, and this PVC drain was barely attached to a cast iron drain pipe. The PVC drain should have been at least connected to the cast iron drain with a Fernco coupling and securely strapped at each side. However, there was no Fernco. The PVC was basically shoved into the cast iron and some silicone was smeared around it for good measure. This was not a water tight drain.

Sewer Gas

On top of that, the cast iron pipe was broken, rusted, and had several pieces missing. So when water was being used or a toilet was flushed upstairs, a gush of water was exploding out of the broken cast iron pipe into the drywall cavity and the surrounding drywall. This cast iron pipe continued from this junction upward all the way to the roof vent. It was enclosed inside another “chase” on the flat roof, going up to the second story roof vent. In addition, there was another hole in the cast iron in this section that was allowing sewer gas to enter the home.

The Fix

To access the cast iron pipe, the second “chase” box on the flat roof had to be partially opened. At that point the cast iron pipe could be accessed, removed and replaced with a new PVC drain which was attached to the existing second floor PVC bathroom drain. Now all the plumbing problemssecond story drains are functional and working properly. The homeowners were planning on remodeling the downstairs bathroom in the near future, so they were glad that the problem was located and fixed before the remodel.

Do you have a plumbing problem in an historic home or do you need an experienced plumber? Call Protek Plumbing and Drain Specialists today at 941-575-7324