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Top Plumbing Pitfalls When Remodeling a Bathroom

Top Plumbing Pitfalls When Remodeling a Bathroom

Remodeling can be a tricky process. Your goal is the end result; to have modern, upgraded fixtures and décor. But very quickly the process can turn into a nightmare when you see what might be hidden behind your walls and under your floors.

To avoid complications, it’s important to know what can go wrong during remodeling, and discover if you are at risk for any number of common glitches that can plague a project from the beginning. Age controls many of them; the older your home, the closer you should look at the details.

Old Pipes

Is your home twenty, thirty, forty years or older? The plumbing may seem to be working just fine, until it doesn’t. Plumbing was made up of a variety of materials over the years: cast iron, galvanized pipes, copper supply lines, plastic water supply. During a remodel, old pipes are exposed and tapped into as you move appliances, add new fixtures, and upgrade existing parts. When a pipe joint is exposed and worked on, old threads can be stripped can be worn out altogether. Pipes may look okay on the outside but actually have very thin walls that could fail at any time. Anytime you expose old pipe, tapping into it for new fixtures, it’s important to assess how much life remains. It may be easier to replace during the process.


An old tub or vanity usually isn’t the problem; major trouble spots will be access to drain and supply lines. If a tub borderlines on antique and you wish to save it, work that into the plans from the beginning as it is often removed in different ways. Old cast iron tubs are very heavy; breaking it up may be the only practical way of removal. The older the fixture, the more it might not meet modern day plumbing requirements. If drain and supply lines don’t match up with modern equipment, it may require you to move them to a new location.

Sinks and Vanities

Removing existing sinks and vanities is usually one of the most straightforward parts of the remodel. Yet keep in mind that new sinks come in a variety of styles. Two holes or three? Will old basins fit into new vanities? Will supply lines fit with new designs? It’s also a good time to check all shutoff valves to make sure they aren’t frozen open and in a difficult position if water problems occur down the road. Replace all parts now while it’s an easy process.


The biggest problem is subsurface water damage. Leaks can cause a tremendous amount of damage, all of which can remain hidden until the old is removed. If a shower is going to be removed and rebuilt, talk about potential problems from the beginning, so no surprises occur during demolition. Also, be aware of standard heights used in the past compared with modern day fixtures used today. Many people prefer higher showerheads, rain features, even multiple nozzles in different locations. Steam showers are also popular. With every addition and change means the potential for movement and problems. Being aware keeps surprises to a minimal.

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