Saturday, October 12, 2019

Construction - Plumbing Rough-In Completed - A Challenge for This DIYer

The plumbing rough-in was started in late summer
The original rough-in under the slab floor showing the PEX
 lines emerging from PVC conduits; the black gas pipe was
inserted between the PEX and the PVC to protect the PEX
while shortening the conduits (see photo below).
of 2015 when the waste system and supply lines were installed before the concrete floor was poured.  (Curiously, the
 blog post describing it is by far the most visited post in the blog -- by a factor of 5 to 1 over the next most visited post (rice hull insulation).)  

The supply lines were encased in PVC pipes for protection while slinging the crushed rock base for the concrete and pouring the concrete itself.  Both the waste and supply lines were stubbed up high enough to avoid accidental clogging by concrete.  The present post takes the rough-in from there.  (Clicking on the photos enlarges them for a closer look.)

Waste Lines
The red circles enclose the shortened PVC conduits; the 
green circles enclose PEX stub-outs for two bathroom
 sinks; the OSB is left-over roof sheathing that will provide
 secure anchorage for cabinetry and mirrors
The layout of the waste lines followed standard protocol but was definitely a stretch for this DIYer even after plenty of research ahead of time.  My thanks go out to my stepson, Keith, who, by virtue of owning and managing a host of rental properties, could add his expertise to the project.  And I am almost embarrassed to admit to the amount of pipe we wasted getting to an workmanlike result.   

Despite being so challenging, the waste system is sufficiently standard that it merits little description here.  There were two minor complications though -- a last-minute addition of a full bath adjacent to the second floor bedroom that required a long waste run to the central stack.  And the vent from the auxiliary kitchen sink located on the south wall had to travel quite a distance to avoid protruding through the roof in view of the public or close to a window.  The lack of partitions on the second floor in which to conceal the central stack vent made for a longer run as well.

Supply Lines
The PEX supply lines were far more interesting than the waste system.  It took some online research and a few new and borrowed tools (like a crimper for the crimp rings that secure tubing to fittings) to bring the task into the realm of this DIYer. 

Each supply line originates from a manifold located next to the incoming water main in the "vertical basement" and terminates at a single faucet or appliance -- a "home-run" system.  The cold water passes directly through the manifold from the main into the cold water (blue) PEX lines.  Hot water takes a bypass through the water heater before traversing the manifold to the (red) PEX lines.  Cut-offs are located on the manifold rather than under faucets or next to appliances such as the dishwasher or washing machine.  This means that, in the future, when a line needs to be closed for some reason, like changing a faucet, it will be shut off at the manifold, sort of like flipping a circuit breaker at the service panel for working on an electrical circuit.  
Notice PEX lines entering the PVC
conduits that protrude from the floor;

also notice above the PEX the race-
way containing Romex cables on their
 way to the service panel and,above
 them, the gas line to the water heater
and kitchen range.

As described in the post mentioned in the first paragraph, all the PEX lines were run below the floor inside PVC pipes.  In addition to protecting the PEX until the floor was poured, the PVC also affords the opportunity to use an existing PEX line to pull a new line in place in the unlikely event of a leak below the floor or some other unexpected problem crops up. The nearby photo shows the blue cold water lines taking circuitous routes from the manifold to the PVC pipes while the red hot water lines emanate from the bottom of the manifold and enter the PVC pipes immediately thereby minimizing the time it takes for hot water to reach its destination.

Tankless (on demand) Water Heater
The ubiquitous tank-type water heater heats water ahead of time, then, if it isn't used right away, it keeps heating it anytime the temperature in the tank falls below a certain mark.  A tankless heater is much more energy efficient because water is heated only once when it is actually being used.  Also, the amount of energy needed to heat a given amount of water the first time is much less for the tankless heater than for the tank type.  Still another energy-saving feature of tankless heating is that heaters come in many sizes for matching hot
Tankless water heater before the
  gas line and vent were connected.
water demand with, say, number of bathrooms.  And it seemed to me while researching water heaters that there are more Energy Star models available among tankless vs. tank type.

Flood Protection
Red arrow points to the master cut-off valve;
the green arrow points to the automatic emergency
cut-off valve.
As is typical, the water line from the street has a master cut-off valve that controls the flow to the entire house.  What is not typical is a secondary emergency-activated cut-off such as the Water Cop System that automatically closes an auxiliary valve just upstream from the master cutoff should any of its wireless senors on the floors of the bathrooms, kitchen and laundry room detect excessive water on the floor from a leak or overflow.  This backup system will give us peace of mind, especially when no one is at home.

Gas Lines
The gas lines to the water heater and kitchen range were also a challenge.  My prior experience had been with black pipe so using flexible tubing required considerable prior research and new-found familiarity with unique fittings.  It helped to have, a phone call or email away, a plumber acquaintance in a distant state who didn't mind sharing his expertise.  My fears that the system would not pass pressure testing were realized at first but, the only leak was finally found and fixed and air pressure was maintained for the requisite 20 minutes.


  1. Damn Jerry, Just read most of your blog. I have a house building project coming up. I'm going to be building a 1100 sq. ft. 2 bedroom and I need to bring it in for under 25K and in 6 months. What you've done is impressive but, for me, an exercise in frustration.

    First...why ever go underground? They almost always leak somewhere and the benefits don't justify the added expenses of excavation, added structural requirements, added waterproofing requirements, etc. Did you ever read Mike Oehler's book? That would have been a lot easier.

    Did you ever consider building like Frank Lloyd Wright? Rubble trench? Would have saved a ton of money and time. For me, I'm going to build above ground but with only a live roof. I will have very little insulation and 10K of solar. I'm at elevation in Arkansas so I won't have to worry too much about heating and cooling. I'd much rather install a few more KW of solar than go through all the trouble you have.

    It's and impressive self-build but as the old saying goes, time is money. I absolutely can't believe you've been at it this long. Any regrets about your design choices? I'll be 60 in June of 2020. By the time I was done with a build like that I'd probably be dead.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to familiarize yourself with our project before commenting and good luck with your project.

    Most people do not realize how slow it is to build working alone. It takes, not twice as long as two people or three times as long a three people, it take four or five times as long respectively. As to time and cost, I estimated going in that the project would take a max of two years and a cost of $72,000 which both underestimate reality by at least a half to a third.

    FYI: Since completion of the insulation/waterproof umbrella 18 months ago, the walls and floors have remain bone dry which validates the effort going into laying French drains and being meticulous with the umbrella, all despite the fact that the earth contact walls are not insulated as was done in the early days of earth sheltering. My research lead to the conclusion that a cathedral roof 18" thick with a "mini-attic" insulates much better than a live roof without the potential for water leaks.

    Our 3.8 KW solar array is the smallest available through our vendor and is probably three times larger than we will ever need. Doing without it entirely would have been the best economic option if it weren't for the rebate from the Illinois Shines incentive program and the federal tax credit that brought the $12,000 cost down to +/-$3,000. With our electrical needs limited to LED lighting and power to Energy Star washer, frig, freezer and garage door openers, the ROI will be so slow that, at 86, I may never live long enough to witness its payoff. Meanwhile, we have stayed true to our mission to be off-the-grid passive solar and perhaps will live long enough for the cost of electricity to rise enough to shorten the ROI.

    There some minor design things that I would change that I plan to detail in a blog post after the project is done. Instead of getting bored or frustrated, even after 5 1/2 years, I worry more about being bored after it is completed. I stay motivated by focusing on the journey and not on the destination whereby time is the variable, not quality. While I know that it is not everyone's cup of tea, I have always embraced challenging ideas and tasks and enjoy the fulfillment that success brings, e.g., having never sat in a track loader until mine was delivered.

  3. Thanks for this amazing article on Do-It-Yourself Green Building with Jerry Young was Just searching for Roofing Services - Affording Your Home's Full Functionality and Comfort and found this amazing website of yours.

  4. DIY are really fun doing, I really appreciat a friend working on construction supply philippines. They helped me in every DIY projects of mine.

  5. This is an amazing story and I'm so glad you're sharing it with us! I'm excited to see the final design and to follow along with the construction. This will be a great resource for anyone considering a passive solar home. Thanks for sharing! supply lines


As a do-it-selfer-in-training, I welcome your comments.