Amateur Plumbers

With the tub in place we could build the wall between the toilet and tub. Originally I had drawn a slightly longer wall to give the toilet more privacy but Flannel Man was concerned about it being too dark over there. So we compromised with a shorter We also adjusted the shower tile layout a this time. Flannel Man wanted the bullnose edge tile to go in front of the tub down to the floor to protect the wall from any water that might splash out of the tub or come off the shower curtain. We also decided to take the tile all the way up to the ceiling. With those considerations in mind we made the wall just the right length to have the bullnose go to and create the corner of the wall.


We hung the cement board on two of the three walls and finally it was time to get to some finish plumbing! We are using a hand shower with a tall wall bar that allow you to use it as an overhead shower.

So there is a tub spout, the wall outlet for the hand shower hose, and a rough in valve in the wall. I saved us some space by ordering an all in one thermostatic valve from Hansgrohe, the ThermoBalance II, that would give us all of the features we wanted in one valve (temperature control, volume control, and diverter between hand shower and tub spout). Unfortunately, this model is being discontinued by Hansgrohe so I made sure to order it in advance along with the rough in valve extender just in case we needed it.


I had drawn everything up in CAD and it looked fine. What seemed pretty straight forward turned out to be a confusing mess for us amateur plumbers.

What height should the valve be at? What seemed like a natural height while showering was way too high for someone taking a bath to reach.

How many inches above your head should the hand shower be? Originally I wanted is just a few inches over my 6′ tall head but I quickly realized that it needed to be higher but I didn’t want it towering over my 5′-6″ husband.

How many inches above the tub should the tub spout be?

What height should the wall outlet be placed to keep the hose from hooking on the tub spout but yet still lay naturally?

How can we route the piping so that no two pipes have to cross in this small wall?

Which fittings work best for the tub and wall outlet?

What kind of bracing is needed behind those fittings?

How thick will the cement board, tile, and thinset be and how exact do we need to get the depth of the fittings?

When the wall outlet and tub spout are on tightly will they point the right direction? Is there any play there?

Where can the second niche fit into this busy wall?

How tall does the niche need to be and what are the thickness of the shelves?

What is the best way to line the niche up with the tile pattern?

How the heck do we solder these elbows and fittings without charring everything in sight?


There were so many things to figure out in such a short amount of time! Flannel Man was taking this project on himself being the best solderer in the house and I was just trying help with the location questions. After a week and a half of trying to figure it all out he was feeling pretty defeated.


I don’t know how professional plumbers do it. Do they just assume what you want and use some standard numbers they always use unless you tell them otherwise? With so many different styles of shower fixtures out there I would think it’s hard to make anything standard. Do they take into consideration the height of the clients? Moving plumbing around isn’t too hard but as soon as you cut that cement board that is where everything is staying unless you trash that piece and buy some more. The outlet locations are so permanent it’s scary to finalize these locations so early in the game! What if we hate the shower head/tub spout/wall outlet/niche locations after using the shower?! So much pressure to get it right the first time!

Eventually we guessed decided on all of the locations and Flannel Man got to work putting everything together. There was clamped cement board, samples of tile, foil backed insulation, a pitcher of water, and far too many copper fittings that were bought among other things.

What a mess!

Over the last couple years Flannel Man has become pretty good at soldering if I do say so myself. Installing the new water heater, adding shut off valves around the house, replacing leaking valves, and putting in the new water softener have given him plenty of practice.


It was looking pretty nice when it was all done! Didn’t he do a great job? Now let’s hope these locations work well for us! Some shims were added to correct the wavy walls.

Here is the nipple used for the handheld shower wall outlet.

The thermostatic rough in valve.

And the tub spout elbow fitting.


With the plumbing in place we finished up the cement board. We use screws that are specifically made for cement board and wet locations but we still had to countersink each screw. There are supposed to be cement board screws with small nubs on the back of the head that act as a built in countersink but those weren’t readily available at our hardware stores. Maybe next time we’ll order those ahead of time.

On the wall with the lower niche we forgot to put shims on the wavy wall before hanging the cement board. But when we sat on the edge of the tub it flexed enough to rub against the back of the cement board creating a high pitched squeaking noise. A combination of dremeling and shimming fixed this. I can’t imagine how much it would have flexed if we hadn’t cemented the tub in place.


Next up the drywall for the rest of the space went up.

The wall with the sink backsplash has a strip of cement board.

And the backside of the shower wall we’re going to keep open to create a hidden access panel there in the future.


We also worked on the wall with the two master bathroom vanities on it.


12 Responses to “Amateur Plumbers”

  1. 1 meryl January 26, 2012 at 9:25 am

    That’s looking awesome!!!! And I’m totally in favor of having the shower head a bit higher. Chris is 6’1″ and I was adament that the shower head be taller than him when we installed ours because I always think it sucks when they’re so low for you tall folks: how uncomfortable to rinse your hair when you have to bend down! Sucky sucky. And as someone who’s 5’4″, iit doesn’t bother me one bit that the shower head is a tad tall.

    • 2 Robin January 26, 2012 at 12:34 pm

      LOL you should have seen me standing next to the old showerheads. They were at eye level…EYE LEVEL! I would tip up the showerhead as much as I could to get a bit of an arc and then tip my head to get it under the water. Every shower I ever redo will have an extra tall showerhead. I was worried about making it look too tall by sticking well above the shower curtain or shorter people not being able to reach it (because it is a handheld). In the end we went with what the installation instructions suggested for a height because we figured they knew better than us.

  2. 3 Katy @ Turtle House January 26, 2012 at 10:03 am

    Totally impressed!! Nice job, guys!

    Reading this post and Meryl’s comment, made me realize that I never considered this particular advantage of Brandon and I being only 1″ different in height! 🙂 (I have thought of how nice it is that we never have to adjust the car seats depending on who’s driving!)

    • 4 Robin January 26, 2012 at 12:42 pm

      That must be nice! You should have heard the small argument we got into trying to decide the showerhead height. I was standing there holding this thing above my head while FM held the wall bar and I was coming up with a lot of “what ifs.” What if we have a kid who is 6’3″? What if we have Aunt __ stay over again? She’s only what 5’3″? What if we hate the height? We can’t change it because we’ll have already drilled into the tile! I didn’t help that is was midnight when we were having this conversation LOL.

  3. 5 Kristy January 26, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    You’ll be really happy you added that little section of wall for the bullnose tile – we did that and it looks really nice.

    I think that plumbers do have a standard height for those things but we put ours where it felt more comfortable for us. Since we’re both on the tall side we ended up putting our shower head about 6 – 8 inches higher than standard.

    Good luck with everything – can’t wait to see the finished product!

    • 6 Robin January 26, 2012 at 12:44 pm

      Good I’m glad you like that little extra section of tile outside the tub. You guys are making so much progress on your bathroom too! That’s exciting!

  4. 7 Reuben January 26, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    It’s really starting to come together! I’d love to learn to solder copper pipes sometime!

  5. 8 Larry January 26, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    Hi! I just came across your comment on my site… sometimes I miss them and need to come up with a better system!

    How neat for you with your big project! We lived and worked through years of tearing things apart and to be honest, I really didn’t know what I was doing for the most part… I just did it. When I was creating our lofts with cathedral ceiling in between, I would head outside after pulling each joist to see if the roof had sagged! If not, I’d take another one out. I then built a big 24′ truss and installed it by myself… my best advice is to be careful about overdoing/lifting correctly, etc as I ruined my back and have lost 3″‘ of height with arthritis and am in almost constant pain. .. but one just keeps on keeping on and this 150 year old Wisconsin Cheese factory hasn’t caved in yet!! The unfortunate thing is that after all these years there are things needing to be updated, but I can’t seem to get out of the stained glass studio and gardens long enough to get to it.

    We are about 60 miles south on Green Bay in the country. It’s really become pretty much zone 5 here over the past several years and I am taking bigger risks with what I plant all the time! You would be very welcome to visit anytime… I assume you’ll have our e-mail after I fill out the form at the bottom of the this comment form.

    We estimate that close to 1500 people visited the gardens ( if you count all the folks who come for prom pictures and such) last summer and we love to share what we have.

    I have tons of things planned for this summer but will have to see how I hold up… I had a major five procedure rotator cuff surgery last August and my right arm is totally destabilized but I am learning to adapt. We have been taking down trees, limbing up conifers that were shaded out, etc this fall and those areas will be redone this spring hopefully. We’re very fortunate to have a wonderful 26 year old son & wife within ten miles … he is a huge help to me when I need it.

    I’m looking very much forward to looking through your blog and seeing all that you are up to! Do get in touch and we’ll see what can be arranged when you’re in the area. I’m curious where you are located… our oldest son is in Iowa with his family so we head southwest on hywy 151 quite regularly.

    Thanks for getting in touch… now to check out your blog!
    Take care, Larry

    • 9 Robin January 26, 2012 at 11:35 pm

      Thanks for stopping by Larry!

      We’re over in the Madison area in the country as well. Up until yesterday we were a zone 4 but we’ve just been reclassified as a zone 5. I’m so excited to try all of the new plants!! Well I can see why your gardens are so popular they are stunning! I’m going to become president of our garden club later this year and we’re looking for possible places to visit. It’s a bit of a drive but a few of the ladies might be interested.

      We’re the other way around over here. We have some construction background but no gardening experience at all! We’re stumbling along as we go only loosing a few plants so far. I’ll send you an e-mail.

  6. 10 LindsB January 27, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    It is sooo nice you have someone handy around to help you do all of this plumbing!! I’ve been looking at places to buy and everytime I jsut see the plumbing bills start to pile up- you are so lucky!!

    I just went through a ton of your posts- you have come so far in that house, I cant wait to see what else you will be doing!

  7. 11 Carrie @ Hazardous Design January 28, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    You guys never cease to amaze me. I was pretty impressed with myself today for replacing the sprayer nozzle on our kitchen sink all by myself, and then I read your post and realized replacing a kitchen sprayer nozzle is just child’s play 🙂

  1. 1 Heating, Decoupling, & Waterproofing Tile Floors « 3 acres & 3000 square feet Trackback on February 6, 2012 at 12:31 pm

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This is the story of two twenty something newlyweds who are learning to adjust to life in their first house, a 1973 fixer-upper.
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