Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Need a book on rehab plumbing and electrical

There are many fine books out there on plumbing and electrical work. There are even some good ones on how to do things properly when you remodel - I'm especially fond of the ones from the Taunton Press. However, there is a third type of book that I really hope exists.

I'm looking for a book (or any other source) that illustrates how to take the plumbing that is already there and make it work properly. I want to know how to fix the worst of my plumbing and electrical without redoing it all. I want pictures that show electrical situations like mine and how they are resolved.

Any ideas?`


NP said...

Making older plumbing and electrical work properly is hard to do. If you have galvanized steel pipes, most plumbers that are doing repair work will fit a steel to copper transition or union, then do the repair in copper. It's cheaper, and far easier than trying to undo threaded connections that are so old. We've had a lot of work done on our old rads and the pipe work is done this way.

As for electrical, if you have knob-and-tube, it can't really be brought up to code unless it's replaced. And as soon as you touch knob-and-tube wiring, you are required (at least in our area) to replace it. Splicing in newer Romex is not acceptable, because you end up disturbing the really old insulation on the knob-and-tube wiring, which can result in exposed wire. In addition, when you do things like cover oldwiring with insulation (something that is a common task when doing work on older houses), you can end up risking a fire, as the older insulation on the wiring wasn't intended to be covered up with insulation. This is especially a problem in attic spaces where you want 15-17" of blown insulation. Not a good idea for that to be sitting on top of knob-and-tube.

I do have a really good book on older wiring, how to identify and repair older wiring systems with new up-to-code work. It's still packed, but I'll try to find the book for you. I don't have a good book on working with old plumbing, as it really is easier to just transition to copper, then back to older piping for supplies, and the same with ABS/PVC and older cast iron for drains.

As an aside, I do have an really good book on fixing old windows. Pictures are sparse, but the guy really knows what he's talking about. It's called 'Working Windows' by Terry Meany.

dynochick (Jan) said...

I found some older plumbing and electrical books from the 30's and 40's on eBay. Our house was built in 1937 and we were hoping to at least get an idea of what, why, and how they did things back then.

Good luck.

Gene said...

NP is unfortunately right. With galvanized pipes, the best thing to do is replace them. With knob and tube or other aged wiring, the best thing to do is replace it.

I replaced plumbing here and there over the years, but sweating a dielectric union is harder than sweating a plain copper to copper fitting, and the problem (corroded pipes) still exists on the galvanized side. Things didn't really get better until I replaced all the galvanized in the house with copper. We got better water pressure, no occasional blasts of rusty oog, etc., and making changes (I'm remodeling the kitchen now) is much, much easier.

NP covers the whys of wiring pretty well.

NP said...

As Gene says, replacing galvanized pipe completely is the best way to go. The reason I mention the transition unions is that it's not always feasible to open all your walls to do a complete replace. We did have that done on our new place but the bathrooms on the upper floors were stacked on top of each other, so it made it quite easy. The kitchen plumbing was located under those bathrooms and the powder room plumbing (for the most part) was accessible from the basement.

Our old lead drains were removed (except for the 3rd floor) for the same reasons (accessibility).

If you do end up replacing large runs of old supply with copper, I recommend starting in the basement, and doing as much as you can in 3/4" pipe. If you do the major runs in 3/4", then when you redo your bathrooms you have the option of continuing to use 3/4" (gives good supply for body jets or filling a large tub), or dropping to 1/2". It will help with flow and if you ever upgrade your water main (our's is 1/2" lead but is being upgraded to 1" copper to the city main in the spring), you'll have the better flow/pressure throughout your house.

Christopher Busta-Peck said...

Thank you all. I guess my problem is that I don't have the background or experience to really understand plumbing and electrical systems. I'm good enough with my hands that I can follow the directions given in most repair manuals and achieve satisfactory results. I run into trouble when I get to the point where things aren't covered in the manual, or where I have to make a judgement call about which of several paths to choose.

The issues with my stove illustrate this problem well. There are several parts on my old stove that need to either be replaced or rebuilt. I feel completely comfortable disassembling the stove and sending the parts off to be rebuilt and then replacing them. I'm worried that there will be other parts I didn't realize were broken that only become appearent when the first group of parts are fixed. It's one thing to be able to replace parts - it's another to understand why.

I'll be interested to see Terry Meany's book. I'm not sure how much in it will be useful for me (my windows are steel) but it at least sounds like a useful title, one worth sharing on this blog.

Neighmond said...

Try "The Complete Home Handyman's Guide" by Hubbard Cobb.

It was written in 1948, when a lot of or 1900-1920 homes were "getting old" and starting to need a little work. I think you can get a copy for less than $15 if you look around.

artemis said...

Another book I found recently and love, though again not so helpful on the plumbing front, is "Rehab Right: How to Realize the Full Value of Your Old House." It was published by, of all places, the City of Oakland's Planning Department back in the 70s, but was updated and printed nationally in the 80s so it seems to be floating around. Has phenomenal illustrations of everything from flooring to exteriors to walls, and explains how they were likely put together based on the age of your house (covers homes built from 1890-1940, with notes for each major architectural style within those years) and how to fix problems. For me, the diagrams were key---I literally spend a lot of time with the book in hand doing side-by-sides to figure out what it is I'm looking at in the house.

Some of the illustrations from the sequel ("Retrofit Right," which apparently addresses making your home energy efficient, but which I haven't been able to find) are included on this guy's page---http://www.remodelguidance.com/newsletter/greenbldg/efficiency/vintagegreenwindows.html---to give a taste of the author's style, though I haven't seen the second book itself so I'm not sure if it includes electrical or plumbing in its definition of "efficient systems."