Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ding Dong, the stack is gone!

After happily discovering the original pocket doors inside the walls of the living room it was only fair that we would find something not quite so fun in the walls somewhere else, I guess.

Enter the stage: the drain-waste-vent system, short DWVS, also called "The Stack". This is the center pipe of your house's plumbing system connecting your vent at the top of the roof with the sewer at the bottom. This is the way your waste (grey water and unmentionables from your toilet) drains down and gases vent out the top.

[source: Wikipedia]

Despite a decent amount of visible new-ish PVC piping we discovered during the demolition phase that the Ugly Duckling still had its original cast iron stack. Its original 95 year old cast iron stack. Now, there's nothing wrong with having a cast-iron stack per se. In fact, it's well-known for its reliability, sustainability and longevity but 95 years are 95 years and a quick googling around showed that the estimated lifespan averages about 80 years. That put us at 15 years past the expiration date and a little frown on our contractor's face.

[Meet our stack]

See, the problem is, it's hard to tell from the outside whether your cast-iron stack is in ship-shape or not. Unless an issue is staring you right in the face (cracks, corrosion or Lord have mercy, a very obvious leak) your stack could look great on the outside and be brewing trouble on the inside. The mental image of having our ...ahem, waste burst through a pipe -within- our house's walls was enough for us to bite the bullet and sign away a couple of hundred dollars to remove this original feature of our house and replace it with something younger and fresher.

We are blessed with a great contractor team, though, and they decided to check the stack out after all. Maybe it was still in great shape and we could use the saved money on something else? Something fun, like a restored staircase? So we played whack-a-mole upstairs were shorter sections made it easier to open up one part for a quick peek and easy replacement.

[Here're Mr P and the stack after hacking a hole in it]

Yeaaah, see that stack? Notice how the center appears to be solid? Solid as in "nothing can go down" (or up)? Basically our stack was filled with corrosion on the inside and some parts of the walls were worn down card-board-thin. It -really- needed to be replaced.

[Come a little closer: a rusty corroded mess]

[Oh, and this? This is the lead from between the joints of the stack.]

[Ding, dong, the stack is gone: looking up from the first floor all the way to the roof]

Until the plumber gets to the Ugly Duckling to re-plumb our house we're left with a gaping hole where the stack once was but at least we're well on our way to a DWVS that won't explode inside our walls the moment we flush the toilet for the first time. You know, if it would have taken that long for us to notice that there is something seriously wrong with our plumbing.

[Yes, that is a big crack in the stack]

So far that's the scariest surprise our Ugly Ducking has thrown at us. Not bad for a 95 year old house that hasn't been your average well-loved family residence for most of its lifespan.

There's one scary spot to explore left: What's hiding underneath all those layers of linoleum in the hallway and on the landing of the stairs upstairs?

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