Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Take me to the river. Drop me in the water. Dip into the river. Push me in the water (a.k.a Well Done Broke Part, uhhh, what 9?)

The installation of the tub in our master bathroom was a very tricky challenge indeed, which we accomplished in February of 2009. However, since that time we have come to suspect that we could maybe have done a better job of it in insuring its structural integrity.

See, part of the instructions for the tub installation called for the use of shims should the feet of our tub not quite reach the subfloor. This would be necessary to prevent bending of the tub itself during normal use. However, there was not really any good way we could see to be able to tell if the tub's feet did this due to the fact that it was not installed in a way that would allow us to actually see the feet in proximity to the subfloor. The way our instructions had suggested to compensate for such a situation was to throw down a layer of mortar in advance of tub installation, so that the tub rested in the mortar and, when cured, would have custom fitted support. We did not do this.

In the time since then, we have come to believe that perhaps we should have, not only because the grout of the tile along the lower part of the tub had begun to crack, but also because the floor of the tub itself began to feel a little soft in a specific area running the width of the tub. Turns out this is because the tub was designed with support boards that met in that area, but which were not continuous or even attached to one another, causing them to have the ability to shift when weight was put on them from above. But we didn't know that exactly either.

After consulting with a contractor friend of mine, it was decided that the best way to repair this situation was to open up a wall and spread some mortar under the tub now. And we figured we would do this when we got around to renovating our hall bathroom, because the bathrooms share a wall that we were already planning to do some new drywall work on since previous owners had crammed a vanity through part of it due to having failed to measure properly. However, that project has been on the books since 2009 and we've yet to lift a finger to accomplish it because we have no wish to repeat all the weeping and gnashing of teeth that befell us during the last bathroom renovation.

However, both bathrooms share a back wall with our living room, which happens to have some wood paneling below the chair rail on that wall that we deduced would not be difficult to remove and, more importantly, could be put back with little difficulty, too. My contractor friend had told me how to make a grout back, which he said we could put under the tub and squeeze out the amount of mortar needed. My thought was that the back of the tub was as good as the side of the tub in this regard, so that was our plan.

Meanwhile, on the well front, our water continued to be of low pressure and our reserve tank continued to be only a plan on paper. Fortunately, Dave the well guy called and we scheduled an installation for Friday morning. We didn't know how long it would take to fill a 500 gallon tank using our slow and unfaithful well, but the sooner the better before Thanksgiving. I asked Dave about the water pressure issue, noting that our existing pressure tank was sitting at what it should be pressure wise. He suggested we clean the new water filter we'd installed. But this seemed like madness, to me. After all, we'd only just installed it four weeks earlier and it was supposed to be a three month filter.

Then I asked Dave how large the tank was going to be. When he and I had first discussed it, he'd said he could put it in our garage, or perhaps even outside. He also said that some people had them installed beneath the house. The one we'd ordered, perhaps unfortunately, had a 48 inch diameter and was 78 inches tall. This not only precluded it from fitting in either crawl space opening, but was going to go a long way toward precluding it from fitting in the garage. I did some measuring and decided that if we moved the freezer from beside the water heater, and relocated a shelf, we could probably fit it there and still be able to park the wife's car in there, too. Beyond that plan, though, we were pretty much out of luck. If the tank had to be in close proximity to, say, the water filter, we were going to be in for some serious rearranging. This project was looking more and more like one with some downsides to it, but the wife's point was that we had to have a reliable supply of water and this was far cheaper than drilling a new well.

Thursday night, I removed most of the lower wall of our den and exposed the back of the tub. As expected, it was not too difficult to remove each plank of wood wall siding, though the 30 year old wood was very brittle and easy to damage. Only after I had most of the wall out did I see how difficult the mortar job was going to be. Quarters beneath the tub were extremely tight and there was no good way to get to the weak part of the tub's floor from beneath the rear of the tub. The good news was that the feet were sitting on the subfloor, at least at the rear, but getting mortar around the sides and beneath the tub to the weak spot was going to be iffy and potentially dangerous. For one thing, there was a live power outlet in the middle of it. That could be turned off at the breaker, but beyond it were hundreds of tiny, fiber-glass teeth splayed out from the underside of the tub's structure, each of which was very very sharp. There was also the matter of the fiberglass mouse nest in there, which there had not been before the tub was installed. Still, we had to try or our tub would eventually be ruined.


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