Inside The Plumbing Chase

by Josh on March 4, 2009 · 10 comments

in Bathroom,Journal

In my last post I described the repair I made to the shower valve in the main bath.  As part of that process I accessed the bathroom plumbing chase for the first time.  What I found there added some interesting information about the house’s past.

Plumbing access with junk 

The first thing I noticed was the bucket and plastic sheeting on the floor of the chase.  Either the faucet had been leaking for a long time and a previous owner decided an evaporation bucket was the best fix, or a previous owner put the bucket  and plastic there preventatively in case a leak ever developed.  Who knows?

According to my friend, who’s a 24 hour plumber based in Perth, there is also a lot of evidence of the bathroom remodel that added the shower to the bathtub.  Next to the tub and on the floor are big chunks of plaster that used to be on the walls surrounding the tub before it was retiled.  The blue fiberboard appears to be a solution to equalizing the thickness of the wall between the old lath and plaster that was left intact at the top of the walls, and the replacement work beneath it that accompanied the shower installation.  As I witnessed in my faucet fix, the wicking ability of fiberboard makes it a poor material choice for a bathroom.  The possibility for mold growth here–along with my deep desire to replace the inappropriate square blue tiles– is a reason I hope to restore the bathroom someday.

Shower supply chase

What didn’t I find?  After I saw the plaster I was disappointed I didn’t find any tile, or scraps of paint or wallpaper.  And unlike my old house treasure fantasy, the only secret stash I found was a few plastic poker chips amid the debris.  The search continues…

Knowing where your utility chases are and how to access them is good information for any homeowner.  It is probably worth exploring your utility chases– even without an obvious problem– just to become familiar with what is there.  Who knows what you’ll find?  Conversely, if you have plumbing or other important components that are inaccessible, now is the time to install access panels so you are ready if a problem arises.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Reuben Collins March 4, 2009 at 4:50 pm

crud. I don’t have any access panels.. and I’m planning a re-design of my bathroom right now that will also not permit any access panels. Here’s to hoping I do it right the first time!!!!


Gene March 4, 2009 at 6:09 pm

It’d be great to have an access panel, but that’s frequently not an option. I suppose I could have had one for the new bathroom if I’d put the shower head on the opposite wall, but that would have required some additional changes.

I’m guessing the faucet leaked. It’d be *really* surprising to have them put it there preemptively…


Josh March 4, 2009 at 7:08 pm

I agree about the bucket and plastic probably being there as a leak “fix”, Gene. I guess I was feeling charitable when I wrote the post.

As you and Reuben mentioned, some bath designs don’t allow for access panels. For those who can work it into their designs/redesigns, I think it’s a useful feature that is easy to overlook.


Christopher Busta-Peck March 5, 2009 at 12:57 pm

Access panels are really really nice. Oh, how I wish I had them. I just opened up the entire ceiling below my bathroom, but there isn’t a good way to make that into an access panel, alas. (Ok, so it’s drywall, which is cheap enough that it could almost be considered one, but the dust, oh the dust.)


Max April 20, 2009 at 1:58 am

Great advice thanks.


Chris B. August 18, 2009 at 2:07 pm

Maybe I won’t remodel my bathroom!


Plumbing Help August 23, 2009 at 6:56 am

Did you really find a bucket inside the wall? That’s too funny, and the reason plumbers exist.


Ivan September 23, 2009 at 12:12 am

This is why licensed professional plumbers get paid so much. If they had to take of this it would cost a bundle. Access panels are great. I loved using them on the job when I used to be out in the field plumbing. Those were the days.


Phoebe Clarke May 25, 2010 at 8:19 pm

i used to do DIY plumbing at home at my work seems to be on par with regular plumbers.`*,


Matt July 20, 2015 at 12:53 pm

That bathroom looks like an absolute nightmare! It must cost so much to repair it


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