Installing the New Shower / Bath Hardware

I just finished installing the new scald-free (thank God!) shower valve, so I can finally finish the project by trimming out the fixtures. I'm starting this post where I left off last time, with the new valve installed and the house water on.

Check out the post on replacing the valve. It's chock full of awesome, with modern plumbing materials that really made the installation easy.

Replacing the more cosmetic parts of the shower and bath fixtures is actually a very easy project*
*"easy" if the stars align and you don't live in a mutant house like I do. Around here, "easy" means "it could have been worse".

With our hard water, we went with a chrome finish for easy cleaning. I'd picked up a Price Pfister "Pasadena" Single Handle Tub and Shower (8P8-PDCC) which came with the valve, the trim, the tub faucet, and the shower head. Let's take it from the top!

Installing a new shower head

The first step is to remove the God-awful, hard water corroded head that came with the house. I put a pair of pliers on the neck and gave it some counter-clockwise, heavy persuasion. It was pretty snug; I was afraid I'd break something in the wall. But, just before heading out to the garage, for a can of trusty WD-40, it broke free and started un-screwing easily enough to turn it by hand.

Replacing a shower head
Yeah, I'm precariously perched on the tub without a fall-support harness. I live on the edge.
It slid out of the wall easily.

Replacing a shower head
That plate was pretty rusted up and I could see the deep gouges from the 
original installer's wrench on the pipe. What a putz. 
With the threads wrapped with Teflon tape, I inserted the new neck into the wall. Then I immediately pulled it back out, when I remembered the escutcheon plate. It's the shiny disk that covers the jagged hole in the wall around the pipe. It has some one-way metal barbs that make it difficult to slide on from the front, so after sliding it on from the back, I re-threaded the neck into the wall. I tightened it as much as I could by hand.

Replacing a shower head

I wrapped a thick, protective bundle of paper towels around the new chrome tube and put the mighty Channel Lock slip jaw pliers back to it, to tighten it up. A couple pair of these pliers around the house is a DIY requirement in my opinion. My favorites are the 12" Channellock # 440. They're long enough to get some good leverage, but not too big to be unwieldy. 


Another wrap of Teflon tape to the outer threads, and I could thread the shower head on, using the protective paper towel trick. It only works if you get a grip once and don't do a bunch of gripping and re-gripping which would tear up the towels and let the jaws of the pliers gouge up the finish. Done!

Replacing a shower head

Installing Shower / Tub Valve Trim

The large escutcheon (not "crustacean ") plate covers the hole around the valve. It has a foam gasket that compresses and keeps water out of the wall. It's important to line it up correctly because there's an opening in the gasket on the bottom, to let any moisture that does get in drip out. 

A threaded collar with an o-ring got threaded on next. I tightened it snugly by hand.


The style of this particular valve and handle needed an extension which threaded into the tip of the valve with a screwdriver.


The valve handle slipped easily on the valve stem and got tightened up by a hex head screw and the included Allen wrench. Done!


Installing the bathtub faucet

I wrapped the tub feed with Teflon tape and threaded the spigot into place. I was able to get it to spin tightly into the correct position by hand, but there is a slot in the rear that you can stick a screwdriver for leverage (also good for removal)  Done!


Actually, I wasn't so done. For some reason, the original spigot was shallower than standard. When I screwed the new one on, snug to the shower wall, it pulled the valve forward off the wall by about 3/4". So much for a quick project eh? I removed the entire spigot pipe from the valve, by releasing the  SharkBitepush-in connector on the other side of the wall. 

This is not cool
Luckily, my habit of buying a couple extra parts saved me. I had everything I needed to solder up a new feed elbow. Fire and molten metal again, my friends. If you want to read how to solder "sweat" copper pipe and fittings, check out this post where I did the original in-wall repair. 


I used the rigid copper tubing this time instead of the flexible plastic PEX that I used to feed the valve, because the spigot gets mounted solely to this water line. Flexible plastic just won't do. When I finished the new elbow assembly, I wrapped the threaded connector with Teflon tape and mounted the spigot, cranking it tight to a perfect 90 degrees, at least as perfect as my dead-eye aim would allow.

Sniper Mode (The facial expression is absolutely critical for success)
It was easy to slip the entire assembly in, simply popping the new pipe into the  SharkBite connector on the valve. For now, I have the pluming tied in place with a piece of electrical cable to keep it in place. I'll get it strapped down properly as I begin repairing the damage from the leak

With the project complete, the final step is a twist of the handle to send a request to the new water heater and...

Temperature and flow: One Handle to Rule them All!
It's a gusher!

I love the adjustable spray. My favorite setting is "laser beam blast"
(or whatever it's really called)

Done with no leaks! It came with stickers to show hot and cold direction, but ehhhhhhhh. I'm not going to install them. I like the cleaner look. It's not really rocket science, just turn the handle and it gets hotter the further you go; I don't think we need a poly-chromatic diagram to explain it.

If you have solid plumbing and already have the pressure-balanced / anti-scald valves in place, this is an easy project that can be done in less than an hour with basic hand tools. Give me a shout if you have any questions, I'm happy to help.

Replacing a Tub / Shower Valve - Scald free after all these years

After repairing the emergency water leak in our wall, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to replace the bath tub valve in our guest bathroom. Ours was an old-school classic, a 1979 "flush-the-toilet-and-scald-the-hell-out-of-you" style valve.

It was also in positively horrendous shape. In addition to the nice flush-n-scald  feature, the old valve's temperature selector was a dicey affair, requiring constant fiddling to get it just right. The knob fell off regularly, and the built up hard water stains made for an ugly mess.  I'd never replaced it, because the guts were hidden back in the wall, behind a one-piece fiberglass tub / shower enclosure (which we'd like to replace someday too).

As luck would have it, I just happened to have a handy new access hatch on the other side of the wall, in our master bath. It was in the form of a jagged hole that looked like the after effect of a disastrous frat party. I'd ripped out all the soaked drywall during the leak repair and cleanup. For multiple reasons (other disasters, a vacation, and small projects), I'd let it dry out for,... ahem... three months.  It should be dry now.


With the laundry for the week still running, I couldn't turn the water to the house off yet, so I went out to the garage for some prep work. I'd picked up this sweet Price Pfister Shower Faucet Set months ago, so it was pretty much acclimated to the temperature and humidity of the house. (It works for wood flooring right?).


As shared in several plumbing repair posts, I'm a recent fan of the new-fangled, push-in plumbing fittings. I'm using them again for this project.

I started the prep work by neatly wrapping all four of the valve's threaded inlets with teflon tape. (IN: hot (left) and cold (right) OUT: Tub (down) and Shower(up))


Next, I threaded the four SharkBite connectors onto the valve. I had to put a some muscle to it, to make sure they were on good and tight. 


The next trick was to figure out exactly how much space the new valve would take up in the existing plumbing since it was substantially larger than the original one. They make a gauge for this sort of thing, but I MacGvyer'd it by sticking scrap piece of copper pipe into one of the connectors to see how deep it would go.


With the pipe fully inserted, I used a hack saw blade to score a line on the pipe at the furthest point of the connector. I didn't want a pencil or marker line to rub off. 


As easy as it is to stick a pipe in, the SharkBite connectors grip super tight when you want to pull it back out. You have to use this special little plastic horseshoe looking widget to get it to release it's mighty hold. It takes a bit of muscle and dexterity, but it sure beats hack-sawing and re-soldering any day.


I measured across the valve from the furthest points. Then, using the line I'd scored on the scrap pipe, I measured the depth the 1/2" connector eats up, 7/8".

Quick tip: Don't measure from the tip of a tape measure if you need 
accuracy. That hook thing often has 1/8" or so of wiggle. 
I deducted 7/8 of an inch for each connector leaving me with the opening needed in the existing four pipes horizontally and vertically.

I like to sketch my stuff out, partially because I'm a dork, partially because I tend to get sidetracked with a house full of kids and places to take them on the weekends. When I've been distracted, I like to be able to grab my notes and diagrams and jump back into the project without too much head scratching. Seriously, get one of these Moleskine notebooks. They're make a great archive of all your project notes and are fun to flip through occasionally (a mini personal blog, just for you).

Old School Tablet Computer
Cleared for for action with the laundry done, I headed to the job-site with my tools and parts. The original valve was still exposed and easy to get to. The fresh repair I had done was holding strong, with out a drip (on the left). That black thing, which looks like the cancerous lung photos they showed us in Jr. High, is the fiberglass back of the shower enclosure. 

Do you see the problem ("challenge for today") I didn't see yet?
I transferred the measurements from my notebook to the vertical pipe leading to the shower head to the bath spigot, making sure to work from the exact center of the valve. To double check, I measured between my two marks to ensure the total distance was correct.


I made the two cuts with a mini-tubing cutter. At this point, the water to the house was still on. I like to shut it of for the briefest possible time. As long as the valve was closed (tub water wasn't running) there was only a little dribble of water in the pipes to contend with.

BTW: The weekend stubble isn't required, but it really helps. Sorry Ladies.
Back on the other side of the wall, in the tub, I removed the screw holding the knob in order to pull it and the selector lever off. The big, round escutcheon plate (flange thingie) was attached with a small set screw from the bottom, into the valve shaft. With that loosened, the plate slid right off. Now, I'd be able to pull the valve out from the other bathroom behind it.


I turned the water off to the house and opened up the valve and a nearby sink to bleed the water from the line. As I measured for my cuts, I finally, I noticed my challenge for the day. At the location I'd need to cut the hot water line, there was a soldered  90 degree elbow blocking my tubing cutter, plus the corrosion on the pipe was so cruddy, there was no way I'd be able to clean it up smooth enough to slip a SharkBite fitting onto it and feel safe that it wouldn't leak. Crap. I'd need to cut the whole hot-side section of pipe back and rebuild it, lots of soldering. 

Crud-tastic
Since the whole thing looked cruddy, even the lowest elbow, I cut it back about 8 inches to the right. It was not a comfortable maneuver for a middle-aged dude that needs to loose a few pounds.


I released the SharkBite connectors from my original repair on the cold side, so I could pull the whole valve out of the wall. Should I host a giveaway? Don't you think some lucky reader will want a piece of AZ DIY Guy history? I think a twisted piece of heavily-patinated copper with the corrosive crust of 30+ years would look gorgeous on your fireplace mantle!

Ohhhhh yeah. This would look great  in your house!
With that mess out of the way, I cleaned up the pipe with my little Four-in-One Copper Pipe Brush . It's an important step to clean it, using the push-in SharkBite style fittings or soldering. 


I popped the valve in quick, attaching it to the shower and tub spigot. I love these push in fittings. 


Thinking it over while I worked, I recalled a comment I'd gotten on an earlier plumbing post suggesting I try "Pex" tubing. I did some quick research and decided to try this plastic, flexible tubing. It gets good ratings, it's easy to install, and does not require a bunch elbows and couplings that could fail.


I ran out and picked up 5 foot pieces of red and blue 1/2" Pex for $1.89 each. By comparison, a 10 foot stick of copper pipe was priced over $13.  You can buy 100 feet of Pex for less than $30! That savings really helps makes up for the cost of the push-in fittings I've been using. I also grabbed some 90 degree reinforcing elbows to ensure I bent the tubing to the proper 3" radius and also allow me to fasten it later.

This stuff is easy to bend by hand.
The Pex works with the exact same push in fittings and cuts easily with a sharp knife. I admit I actually enjoy the flame and molten metal approach to soldering pipes together, but I always hate the mad dash from the water valve to the location of the repair, fearing a leak. 

I had the new hot and cold lines installed in just a few seconds, turned the water on and dashed back to see how it held. Perfect.


The valve is done, all that's left is to install the trim and control handle.A new shower head and faucet spigot came with the kit so I'll install those as well. 

Since this is such a gargantuan post already, I'm going to hold off and bring you the next phase of the adventure soon. Although, it's an easy project, there are always some unusual challenges around here to share with you.


Installing a Humidity-Controlled Switch for a Bathroom Fan

Leviton Humidity Sensor / Fan Control # IPHS5-1LW
Humidity Sensor / Fan Control
I absolutely love easy, home-automating gadgets. I'm drawn to devices that offer convenience, energy-savings, affordability, and a simple cool factor. So when I saw a switch to control a bathroom fan, activated by humidity, I jumped at it.

Leviton Manufacturing liked my Ultimate Workshop Power Strip post where I had used their devices, so they sent me their Humidity Sensor and Fan Control to try out. I've always liked their stuff and really looked forward to this one.

Why? Here's my reasoning. Humidity is never a good thing in the house, right? Mold. Mildew. Bacteria. Fogged mirrors. Turning on a bathroom exhaust fan during a shower (especially a lobster-boiling, steaming-hot one like I enjoy) is a good way to control it. Unfortunately, I'm often mid-shower when I remember to turn it on, leading to the classic soapy-headed, slip-'n-slide stumble to the switch (kids never turn it on). Later, when leaving the room, turning the fan off immediately leaves residual humidity in the room. Leaving it on for a few more minutes does the trick, but "a few minutes" generally means forget and let it run all day.


Fan-tastic
I installed a new bathroom exhaust fan last year, so thank goodness I didn't have to venture into the attic for this project. Trust me, attic work in Phoenix, in July, is not a pleasurable endeavor. Luckily, this project takes place in sweet, air conditioned goodness, at the switch location.


Our existing 4 gang set-up included a light switch, a fan switch, a GFCI receptacle, and a spare receptacle (with slaved GFCI protection). The humidity sensor switch can control the lights as well, but I can't imagine wanting lights to turn on and off based on humidity. If there had been an existing switch controlling both, I would have had to make some modifications.

The gang of four.


Before we start, remember to visit

I removed the 8 tiny screws to get the cover plate off. Of course, those got safely set aside where they wouldn't get lost.*

*Disclaimer: I actually set them in a loose pile on the back of the sink.

Life's the same, I'm moving in stereo
With the cover off, I carefully pulled out the existing fan switch.   


With the power on, I only handled the device by the yoke, the outer metal part with the mounting ears. The terminal screws were taped over, but I made sure not to bump them against anything.  I wanted to positively identify which wire was the hot, or "line" side of the switch and which was the "switch-leg". With the switch off, only one wire sets off a Non-Contact Voltage Tester; with the switch on, they both set it off. We want the one that is always live.


I marked the live wire with some red electrical tape. No point in getting confused later. 

The old red, white, and blue,... and black.

With that done, you know what's next right? Boom boom, Out go the Lights. Grab the flashlight.

Power off at the breaker.
Unlike a basic, toggle switch, the Humidity Sensor and Fan Control requires a neutral wire. There's a bundle of neutrals, tucked way in the back of the wall box. Normally this is white wire, but you can quickly verify it is indeed the neutral by the fact that it's landed on the silver screws of a receptacle, if there's one in the box. There are occasions where a white wire can be a hot. I fished it out with a pair of needle nose pliers.


Since the original switch didn't use a neutral, I removed the wire nut and added a piece, or a "pigtail" of white wire to the existing twisted joint.  


After a fresh wire nut and making sure no bare copper was sticking out behind it, I gave each of the individual wires a good tug, to make sure everything was tight.


An AZ DIY Guy project just wouldn't be complete without at least one bone-headed mistake would it? The first sentence in The DIY Guy Code, Book One, Chapter 1, Paragraph 1, clearly states: 

"When working with small parts over a sink,you will take one second to close the damn drain, or you are a pea-wit dumb-ass.

I'd skipped this excessively difficult step, so when I set a tool down on my pile of cover plate screws, I scattered them everywhere including launching one down the drain. Idiot.

Yeah. That really happened, knucklehead.
Finally, it was time for the guest of honor. Since I hadn't installed one of these rascals before and I know how miswiring can cause irreversible damage to electronics, I actually read the instructions. I know, crazy-crazy stuff, right?

I guess I could have moved into another room, with actual light. Nah!
I started with the grounding wire (bare copper) on the green screw and wrapped clockwise so it tightened along with the screw.

Installing the Leviton Humidity Sensor / Fan Control # IPHS5-1LW

The black screw got the hot wire, the (new) neutral landed on the silver, and the switch leg landed on the "red". It was actually more purple in color, but that was neat. I'd hadn't seen one that color before.

Installing the Leviton Humidity Sensor / Fan Control # IPHS5-1LW

With all the wires landed and the screws tightened. I got a chance to try out a new roll of electrical tape, from the box of rolled goodies EchoTape had sent me a while back. 

EchoTape Electrical Tape
EchoTape Electrical Tape
I like to put a couple wraps of electrical tape around a device, to insulate and protect the termination screws that carry current. It's not required, but I like to do it, as an added layer of protection. I really liked the tape, it has a real quality feel to it, compared to the cheap-o stuff I'm used to.

EchoTape Electrical Tape
EchoTape Electrical Tape
I always leave a folded over tape, "courtesy tab", for next time if it ever needs to be worked on. No sense trying to find the end and pick at tape in the dark.

EchoTape Electrical Tape - Courtesy Tab
With a nice "S" fold in the wires behind it, I gently slid the new control into the box, without kinking or pinching the wires. I screwed it in with the supplied, 6/32 screws. 


I ventured back outside, blinking in the blinding afternoon sun to flip the breaker back on. With the power on, I hit the manual side of the switch. It worked! The manual button allows you to turn the fan on and off for those delicate times when humidity isn't the reason to run an exhaust fan. 

Installing the Leviton Humidity Sensor / Fan Control # IPHS5-1LW

A nice thing about the new Leviton controller is that it fits in the common, rectangular "decorator" style wall plate.When I have a ganged group of devices like this, I like to leave them, ever so slightly, loose. It's easy to shift and slide them a bit to get the cover plate on. The plate keeps them pinned tight. To finish, I always put my Mini Bubble Level to it and align the screw slots vertically for a neater look.

Installing the Leviton Humidity Sensor / Fan Control # IPHS5-1LW

The Humidity Sensor and Fan Control has a bunch of available dial settings (sensitivity, time, and humidistat) behind the front, pop-off face. It allows for all sorts of customization. Since we have super low humidity here, I dialed it down a bit to make it more sensitive. I'll see how that goes for a while and adjust to dial it in. 

There's only one way to test this properly. 

I'll bet you've never read another DIY blogger's post where they were dedicated enough to take all their clothes off to test a newfangled device. No? Well then, here's a first.

Let's get to this. 

     I'm going in. 

          Shower time. 

               No clothes.

                  Last warning.

                        Here we go!


The things I'm willing to do for you, dear readers.

Steam simulated graphically due to lack of photographic evidence
Within a few moments, the fan kicked on. Perfect! 


After a good long shower, with the bathroom door open and a rush of cool air conditioning, the fan kept running. It hummed along for a while before shutting off, when the air felt dry. Success. 

There are several ways to configure the switch, depending on what application is desired. According to Leviton:
Features and Benefits:
  • Built-in timer sets the “minimum ON time” for the ventilation fan. 
  • The sensor time settings can be custom set to 10, 20, 30 or 45 minute intervals. 
  • The sensor will continue to operate the fan for the minimum time set or until there is a reduction in room humidity level.
  • A sensitivity level adjustment allows users to adjust the sensor’s sensitivity to ambient air to prevent false cycling.
  • Features an Air Cycle mode which automatically turns ON the ventilation fan for a set period of time and repeats the cycle hourly (eg. 20 minutes ON/40 minutes OFF each hour)
  • The device’s built-in humidistat control meets CALGREEN requirements for Indoor Air Quality and Exhaust.
I've seen the Leviton Humidity Sensor and Fan Control for sale on Amazon.com and Home Depot for about $35.00.


This neat smart-device joins a growing list of energy saving items we have installed in the house. Over the past few years, our bills have dropped measurably.  I'm addicted to these gadgets.



Non-Sponsored Post - Device supplied by Manufacturer for review
Opinion and experience is 100% my own.