We’d had the new clawfoot (also called a lion’s paw) bathtub sitting in my bathroom awaiting installation for months. Finally, though, the time had come to finish the job.
The under-floor piping for both bathrooms, mine and Pam’s, was in place and ready to go. The holes in the box floor had been drilled to take the 5/16″ bolt “leg pegs” that would keep the lightweight resin beast from skittering sideways at the slightest nudge. I’d even set the tub in place, connected the drainpipe, and found out that worked with no leaks.
But there was a problem which came in two parts.
1. The pretty chrome water inlet standpipes that came with the tub were going to be a challenge when it came to making the final connections. No flex to them at all, and thus no margin for error. Unforgiving to the max.
2. In order to make the maximum use of available space, the tub was being installed crosswise near the far end of the bathroom. The faucet-end edge would be sitting just 1/2″ away from the wall. There was not enough room to get all of me down on the far side, so that (hot water) hookup would have to be made in extremely tight circumstances.
Naturally, I promptly skyrocketed the whole deal from “minor hassle” to “major oopsie” by grabbing the hacksaw and cutting one of the stiff chrome pipes an inch too short. No idea how I managed that, then or now, but I was not particularly upset.
Now I could go to town and find flex-pipe connectors. That really made more sense anyway.
Besides, I needed to pick up a batch of 3/8″ steel washers to stack as “leg lifters” under the tub. The bathroom floor is not exactly level, and the drain test had showed that, without a bit of leg height adjustment, a bit of water would tend to pool at the wrong end.
All righty then. Off we go.
First stop: Home Depot. They had a whole bag of the right sized leg-lifting steel washers for $3.95. Good enough.
No flexy pipe to replace the stiff chrome thingies, though.
Correction: Knowing what I know now, they probably do have what I needed…but neither I nor my favorite “plumber’s helper” in the place made the mental connection. No harm done, though. My wife, stepson, and the Home Depot dude all agreed that the plumbing supply house which shall be Nameless would have just the thing.
Off I went, toodling yonder to Nameless Plumbing Supply.
Not that I’ve ever had much use for Nameless, which is why their official name does not appear on this page. Not once have I found a needed part in that place.
So naturally I drove right by the joint. Selective vision. Ended up nearby, at a store that has helped me on occasion. But the only person visible on the premises was one dude in the back room, leaning on a counter and talking on the phone. After a few minutes of this, enough already. Out the door, retrace route, zip–well, trudge–on in to Nameless.
The young bushy haired fellow behind the counter…Clueless. He seemed to get it at first, zipped right back down his parts aisles, retruned hippety-hop with a pair of very nice flex pipes. One problem, though. The nuts on the ends of the pipes weren’t even close to being the right size.
Not unless you know how to screw a half-inch nut onto a 3/4″ set of threads, they weren’t. That was at one end.
Things went downhill from there. Before we were done, Clueless says to me, “Don’t ever think you know near as much as I do about these things.”
There was more added on the end of that, but I wasn’t listening.
Then Mother Clueless showed up from some side office. Took one look at the smaller nut at the bottom end of the pipe. Said loudly to the fellow who was once again fetching parts that wouldn’t fit, “That’s a 7/16, son!”
“It’s not a 7/16,” I put in, but without much heat to it. These yahoos were already one big ol’ lost cause.
When (at Mama’s urging) young Clueless came up with a couple of monster steel elbows that would no more solve the problem than Obama’s election solved the healthcare crisis in this country, I’d finally had enough. Snagged my unforgiving chrome pipe and booked on outa there.
Though not before YC (Young Clueless) managed to add yet another ignorant sentence to his daily production.
“Those flex pipes can only hook up to steel pipes!”
Held my peace on that one. Never mind that stainless steel connectors have been successfully bonded to steel, brass, PVC, whatever. I’ve seen it. Heck, I’ve done it. But like the old movie line says, “What we have here…is a failure to communicate.”
Didn’t peel out of the parking lot. I’m not nineteen. But my war flags were flying, my blood was up, and that’s a good thing. When I get just about so ticked at having to deal with experts who are nothing but drips under pressure, I know success is just around the corner.
Headed for Lowe’s. I’d bought the tub there in the first place, special order.
Muscle memory wheeled the Subaru right into the Wal-Mart parking lot along the way, but hey. Zip through, out the back, across the street, and Lowe’s is right there.
Wanted to talk to Tim. Turned out he wasn’t working that day.
So, John helped me. Another somewhat bushy haired young man, but far from clueless. Showed him what I needed.
“Hm,” says John, “that looks lite a three quarter.”
We walk over to a section in Lowe’s I’d never visited before. John reaches into a parts bin, hands me an 18″ flexible stainless steel hot water connector pipe.
“That’ll do it!” I wasn’t salivating, but close enough. “Gimme two!”
All we needed now were a couple of double male connector pieces, threads at both ends.
Not a problem. At Lowe’s, they had options in that category. I took the pretty brass thingies, ’cause they were pretty. Steel only goes to steel, my a**.
Back home, the process was now–at last!–simplicity itself.
1. Connect those awesome flexible steel pipes (that don’t exist, at least according to Nameless Plumbing Supply) to the tub’s faucet stand.
2. Hacksaw the stiff chrome pipes off short, leaving just 3″ of length.
3. Connect the 3″ stub pipes to the shutoff valves.
4. Add the brass double-male connectors to the chrome stubs.
5. Set the tub in place, adding little piles of steel washers to three of the four legs to achieve the desirable leveling.
6. Attach the farside (most difficult to reach) flex pipe to the brass connector (hot water inlet). This worked best with two wide-jaw Stanley brand adjustable wrenches.
7. Cinch down the drainpipe no-leak nut with monster pipe pliers.
8. Connect the nearside (cold water inlet) pipe.
From there, it was a matter of getting Pam to come watch the water test. It was “cold water only” (since at this point the only hot water we have is heated on the camp stove), as well as gravity feed only. But as far as it went, everything worked perfectly.
After twenty minutes or so, a slight seep (one drop of water every whole bunch of minutes) was detected at the transition connection from cold water PVC to stainless steel shutoff valve. While no leak can be considered a good thing, this was no big deal. Had to wrap a towel around the standpipe (flex pipe) to catch the water, then disconnect things, cinch the shutoff valve down another half turn and…done.
That did the trick.
Moral of the story: Yea, verily, though the Nameless and Clueless walk among us, creativity and determination go on forever. Where there’s a will there’s a way. And, last but not least, refusing to listen to idiots is by far the best way to finish installing a clawfoot bathtub after the plumbing supply guy says there’s no way you can do it.