Walls + floor – toilet = closet

With the walls painted, the floor finished, and all of the trim and molding installed, the bathroom was getting much closer to being functional again, but it was still missing the components that made it a bathroom – a shower and a toilet.

When I had re-routed the plumbing using PEX instead of galvanized, I used copper stub outs for the portion of the piping entering the room from the wall, so my first step in making the bathroom functional again was adding 1/2” compression fitting shut-off valves to these. I used quarter-turn shut-offs, but if you like turning the handle 10-12 times to shut off your water, by all means, go for it. (for a full tutorial on PEX, fittings and plumbing repair, go here).

To install the shut-offs, I first turned off the water at the street. To make sure there is as little water left in the pipes as possible, I always run the lowest-positioned faucet in the house until it stops dripping – mine happens to be an exterior faucet. After the water has drained from the plumbing, I used what’s known as a “midget tubing cutter” to remove the end of the stub-out.

With water dripping on the floor (you can only do so much), I slipped the compression fitting on the exposed copper pipe. I then used Teflon tape to wrap the male part of the compression adaptor, and then screwed the two pieces of the fitting together using a pipe wrench and a pair of channel-lock pliers.

Now to install the toilet. This is a two-man job. If you’re installing a new toilet, I recommend attaching the tank to the bowl prior to installing – it will save you from laying on the likely wet floor to attach the two later. Since I was using the toilet we had in the bathroom before, this was already taken care of.

Before reinstalling the toilet, I first scraped the remnants of the old wax ring off of the bottom of the toilet. Then stuck the new wax ring in its place. I recommend wearing gloves for this task – wax seal doesn’t come off of hands, or anything for that matter, with ease.

Then, with the help of Helen guiding the bolts, I lowered the toilet and wax seal onto the flange, making sure the bolts went through the proper holes. With the toilet resting in place, I took a seat to spread the wax and get a good seal, and then tightened the bolts. Take care not to over-tighten the bolts or you’ll crack the porcelain and then you’ll be shopping for a new toilet. The bolts are made longer than they need to be, so use a hack-saw to trim them to length, and then put the caps that came with the toilet over them.

Now, connect your supply line to the newly installed shut-off valve and to the bottom of the toilet tank, using Teflon tape on the male threads. Turn the water on (both outside, and at the valve), check for leaks, and voila! The crapper is back in action.

Now for the shower faucet and enclosure. I started with the faucet. We used a Moen Banbury single-handle shower faucet and head. Since we were on a “budget” for this bathroom, I was sure to select a fitting that was shower-only (saved me about $40 over buying a full kit that also included a bathtub filler).

I installed following the directions provided by Moen (not an easy task). And turned the water back on outside. Oops. I hadn’t yet installed the shower-head, so when I rounded the corner back into the bathroom, there was a stream shooting across the room. I tried to turn it off with the faucet, but I’d done something wrong, and I couldn’t turn the water all the way off. Drenched, I ran outside and shut the water off.  I took the handle apart, reassembled, attached the shower head, and turned the water back on – perfect.

After sopping up the water, I could then install the shower walls. Thankfully, the instructions were very clear. I set the enclosure up, marked the location to drill the pilot holes, and began drilling away. When drilling through tile, it’s important to use the right tool – a diamond-tipped hollow tile bit is the best bet. You can keep them wet (dip in cool water) and they are made to cut through tile without overheating/cracking the piece.

With the holes drilled, I inserted the anchors and was able to secure the enclosure in place. A little silicone around the edges, and the shower was complete.

The next and final step… the vanity.

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