This last weekend I went down to LA to help some friends of mine move into their newly remodeled home. I had worked with them to select the new plumbing products so this was a chance to see products installed and working in someone’s home.
This was a very extensive remodel; actually all that remains of the original house is one bathroom and the living room. The original house was old with arched doorways, coved ceilings and period lighting. The kitchen was pretty small and included an antique gas stove with four burners so close together that pan handles crossed each other when all burners were in use. The bathrooms had antique fixtures including old, old toilets and faucets that just couldn’t be repaired again. The tile was beautifully done but had been damaged and cracked over the years.
A new Master bath and a second children’s bath were built upstairs. They selected
Grohe products for both bathrooms. For the Master bath they selected Grohe Kensington in Brushed Nickel with twin lavatory sinks, deck tub set with hand shower and a custom shower with body sprays, hand shower and rain head from the ceiling. Their daughters bath used Grohe Europlus in chrome and included a ceiling mount rain head and hand shower on a bar.
I started in the children’s bath. I turned on the water and set the diverter to hand shower. At first it worked fine then quickly the flow decreased until it was just a weak spray. Not good, but after a moment I realized what the problem might be. I removed the hand
shower from the hose and found a thick layer of debris lodged in the filter screen on the hand shower. I cleaned it off and ran the water for a minute with just the hose to clear the line of remaining construction debris before replacing the hand shower, which then worked fine. This is a common problem in a remodel or new construction project. All sorts of fine debris gets into the new water lines and if the plumber does not run the lines open to clear this stuff it will clog or damage the new faucets. The result is that a home owner, not realizing what has happened, now thinks that they have defective product!
I moved on to the Master Bath shower. Something struck me as odd but I couldn’t put my finger on it at first. This shower had both a ceiling mount shower head and a hand shower.
Code typically requires a vacuum breaker be installed with a hand shower to prevent grey water from getting into the water supply. These vacuum breakers are small with male/female threads on opposite ends. The problem here is that the plumber had installed the vacuum breaker on the ceiling shower arm instead of the hand shower! I turned the water on and water came spraying out of the top of the shower head at the connection between it and this mis-installed vacuum breaker. I was astonished. How could he leave this as a finished installation when water was spraying everywhere?
This shower is set-up with a thermostatic valve and volume controls. This allows the bather to use any combination of outlets they wish. Because thermostatic valves respond to water temperature rather than incoming volume of the hot and cold lines it is necessary to calibrate the valve before it is used. If the calibration is not done the thermostat is unable to control temperature. It is specified in the directions but inexperienced installers often miss this step. So it was not surprising to find that the calibration had been missed and this valve was producing only lukewarm water.
Fortunately, none of these problems are difficult to fix and the vast majority of work done in this remodel is beautiful. It is a good example of the importance of working with experienced professionals who are right for your job. The plumbers on this job were experienced at installing rough plumbing and basic finish work. But they had very little experience with high quality product and didn’t understand many of the details involved. They made errors that finish plumbers would not make and now have to fix things that should never have been wrong in the first place.
It also helps to work with a professional when you purchase material. It can save a lot of time and money to have someone knowledgeable to call when an unexpected problem pops up. A plumber who does not know that a thermostatic valve must be calibrated won’t have any idea why it isn’t working right. But a showroom associate will.
Even with these few mistakes the installation was beautiful. The overhead shower was luxurious (although I was glad there was an additional hand shower to use when I didn’t
want to get my hair wet). The arched spout on the Grohe Kensington lavatory faucets are a perfect reach for the under mount sinks. In the kitchen they installed Grohe Ladylux Pro faucets paired with under mount stainless sinks by Oliveri. The Ladylux Pro is a new style dual spray with a smaller spray head. I was curious to see if this smaller spray was functional and I found it performed very well. All in all a very successful remodel.