Perfectly Plumb

November 10, 2016

I think this might be our most optimistic title yet!

You’re hot and you’re cold

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A big blue snake

It turns out that plumbing is kinda sorta like electric. You have to think of your water in terms of circuits – but there are some key differences of course.

In terms of bringing water into the house, we know that we are going to be hooked up to an existing water system. Campgrounds offer pressurized water intake much like a garden hose spigot.

From there we will hook up a specialized hose that will feed water into our tiny house. At this point the water is just cold, we will need to split the hose into 2 connections so it can be heated by the water heater and the other going into the house as cold water.

 

There are several options for plumbing water throughout your house. We chose Pex for it’s ease of installation, it’s a little pricier for the tools and fittings, but for as small as our house is it’s worth the time saved.

 

It turns out Pex is super bendable, which is fantastic. It still can’t make sharp 90 degree turns without a fitting which turned out to be a slight problem. We faced the decision of keeping the water piping low and running in the walls which meant quite a few 90 turns. Or we could’ve run it through the dormer ceiling and back out the bathroom wall, but it would’ve been very awkward to have pipes run
ning back and forth to and from the ceiling.

 

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A big red snake

So we decided it was worth the extra effort to run the
pipe through the wall. If there is a leak down the road, at least it will have no chance of running into live wire. I think the peace of mind is worth it.

The nice thing about pex is you just need one tool to apply the fittings. You just clamp down the connections with a circular fitting and check your connection with a special credit-card like tool. If the fitting fits in the “go” section and not the “no-go” section then you have a nice fit.

The trouble came with the 90 degree turns where it was very difficult to fit the pex wrench around the corner. In the bathroom, we had to run the pipes around the corners going into the bathroom sink/smart mirror section. This meant I had to measure each cut ahead of time and sort of work backwards to make sure each of the 90 degree fittings were accessible.

 

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Hole drilled through subfloor for the washer/dryer drain pipe

I only screwed up one connection in the end. However, we can’t test the system until we have the water heater installed and have an actual water inlet. And now that I think about it, I don’t think our water hose will reach all the way across the backyard to the tiny house anyway. We may need some more garden hose for the testing.

Life’s a drain

Draining the water out of the tiny house is a whole other setup. You cannot use Pex for the draining, it’s much too small for running your waste water through. We used PVC for our drain system, which runs underneath our trailer.

 

Here’s an example of a joint in our PVC drain system. As you can see we’ve wised up a little and marked each joint with a highly sophisticated alphabetic system. The black dashes you see is to make sure that the joints are rotated correctly just before permanently gluing them together. The green dashes are marking where the joints ended up sitting because mistakes happy accidents were made.

We know we are going to use a compost toliet for our “black water” draining. So we have a much smaller risk of screwing up our drain system and creating a very smelly tiny house. However, the drains still need to be built appropriately.

For instance, each drain needs a P-trap. You definitely have seen them before, like under your kitchen sink. They are a special fitting that traps water in the curved section. The reason for this is that no air can come back up from the sink, shower, etc. This is important because that air is coming
from your drainage, which could include black water drainage. This would make your
house smell not so great.

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Our ultra-precise matchup method for PVC connections

Another fun fact – your house has an air vent for suctioning and getting rid of the drain air. I didn’t know this until we started researching. Good thing we didn’t complete the roof! The air vent should be as far away from the house’s drain as possible.

So we have the air drain come out of the side of the house by the dormer. It has a nice cap for the top for keeping out critters.

Under the trailer

So in order to create a downward slope and combine the drains into one “exhaust pipe” we needed to build the system under the trailer. Luckily, we only had a small bit of metal flashing to drill through to bring our rough-in through.

The hard part turned out to be removing the floor boards. We had to remove the bathroom wall from the studs they were nailed to in order to remove the floor boards for the bathroom’s shower drain. We also had to remove the floor boards for the kitchen sink and washer/dryer area. Just when you think you’ve found all of the screws, you end up finding 3 more to unscrew.

 

But like all things, once you do one or two, you start to get into a groove.

Next came dry fitting our pipes to make sure we had the right measurements to fit our system. Since the whole system was super img_7833heavy, we had to do the work in segments starting from the front of the trailer.

At first we tried to attach the pieces to the trailer with some bendable steel strips. It wasn’t as taunt as we wanted, allowing the pipe to swing back and forth. Instead we found these “horse collar” type things that did the trick. We attached them every few feet to a bottom stud in our house. The result was a very tight connection.

We would make our connections each drain at a time. And this time around, we had a drawing of each of the connections well before we bought any pieces or made any cuts. We almost had the perfect amount of pipe and fittings to make the system work – but realized that we bought 2 wrong fittings and were off on pipe by a few feet. Another trip to Lowes! ( Hartville Hardware is closed on Sundays 🙁 )

However, we got the whole drain system done in just a weekend. Something we’re very proud of. The washer/dryer system and air vent are just dry fitted for now because we need to insulate the floors before we commit but it’s pretty much 90% done.

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