I Could Have Been Showering Upstairs Sooner If Not For….

During my plumbing rough-in inspections the City inspector told my father we had installed the fittings for some of the shower fixtures wrong.  He said when I got ready to install after the tiling they’d stick out way too far.  My father studied the installation instructions for my Signature Hardware Exira Shower System in great detail.  After accounting for the tile, cement board, and thinset he felt this elbow would fall about 1/2″ short from the desired location.  We bought extension to make it longer and had that in place.  We took the inspector’s advice, removed the extensions and reinstalled the drop ear elbow fitting by itself per his suggestion.

Move forward a year, tile is in and none of the body spray fixtures can attach because all the fittings were recessed too far back.  My father was right, the inspector wrong.  Now what to do.  Believe it or not I’m not mad at the inspector and he’s not the reason I’m not showering upstairs.  He was very helpful throughout the rough-in process and if not for his suggestion to create a crawl space behind my master shower, so I could access the plumbing if needed, I’d be tearing out drywall and/or tile right now.

The true blame lies with Signature Hardware.  When the connections didn’t meet I called them immediately to see what suggestions they had.  They had none, stating that is why they give specific instructions on where to mount fittings.  I was told my only recourse was to reset the plumbing once I shared I had access to it from behind.  She pointed out that if the body sprays weren’t in the proper location that the diverter probably wasn’t either.  The inspector didn’t have any issue with it’s location, just the body sprays, so as soon as I hung up the phone I raced upstairs to install the diverter.  The face plate fit perfect.  I thought I had dodged a bullet until I placed the last handle.  It stuck out by about a 1/2″.

Once again I had been given another defective part.  Clearly the stem for the top knob and bottom were two different lengths.  I sent these pictures to Signature Hardware and they accepted blame, AGAIN, and provided me with a free replacement cartridge and instructions on how to replace the part.  For those that have not followed this journey this was not the first defective part from them.  This was actually the second diverter.  The first was mis-threaded and leaked during the rough-in testing.  They replaced it.  I got bad aerators in both master bath sink faucets (get to the video at the bottom of Blue Is My Favorite Color post), a defective toilet with missing parts, defective porcelain sink, and mis-threaded tub drain for the 1st floor bath and master sink.  They are super friendly in replacing the defective parts, but enough is enough.  Their stuff cost too much to have such a poor quality control check.

20190929_194105It was a relatively easy fix, although I had to buy a deep socket to remove the defective piece which clearly was too long.  With that repair done I turned my attention to the body sprays.  I crawled into the crawl space and was able to feel with my hand that there was a gap between the cement board and wood that the fitting was screwed to.  I thought, easy, peasy…..free the wood, push the fitting forward, anchor the wood again, done.

With the pex attached the fitting still wouldn’t meet the fixture.  Per my father’s calculation over a year ago it was about 1/2″ short of the their required set back.  I called Ferguson Plumbing (owner of Signature Hardware), went to Keidel Plumbing, and my father scoured the Internet trying to find a pex 1/2″ elbow with a longer head.  It doesn’t exist.  So I put fault back on Signature Hardware.  Why design a fixture with such a short thread length.  They could easily have made the length a 1/2″ longer.  If the industry fitting only extends 5/8″ and cement board is 1/2″ and tile is 3/8″ minimum plus your thinset, clearly there is not enough margin to successfully attach directly to the fixture.

I racked my brain trying to come up with options.  I purchased straight 1/2″ pex fitting, which allowed for the fixture to be attached, but because it couldn’t be anchored I couldn’t acheive a tight fit and the knob moved around.  In the end I resorted to purchasing the same20190925_114454 fittings we installed a year ago (not the piece in center).  It added almost 3″ in length to capture the 1/2″ needed, but also created two new possible leak points due to the added connections.  Unfortunately I didn’t reach this conclusion before the shower glass door was installed.  I didn’t have access to the inside of the shower for two days.

Friday, Oct 11 was the first day I regained access.  I was determined to have all the fixtures connected , but I still had one big obstacle and that was this was a two person job.  I needed someone on the outside to tell me when the fitting was at the right location.  Thankfully my neighbor Paul took a break from his own house project to come over and help.  I got the body sprays set, so he can return home and then spent the rest of the evening reconnecting the pex pipes.  About 10 pm I reached the moment of truth, ready to turn on the water.

The two bottom body sprays leak.  I cry uncle and will call a plumber at this point.  But before doing so I will contact Signature Hardware because even if they didn’t leak, I don’t like the force of the stream they project, it’s weak, nothing like the force of water the body sprays I had at my old house.  The wall shower head is weak too, very disappointing.  Remembering the bad aerators from the sink faucets I decided to to remove the aerator from the shower head and the difference is night and day.  So if the aerator wasn’t bad and a weak stream is their expectation, I will operate mine without the aerator or replace the unit altogether.

I did officially take my first shower Saturday night.  Despite all the issues with the fixtures the space is the sanctuary I thought it would be.  The texture of the tile under my feet is exactly how I hoped it would feel, almost massage-like, and not remotely slippery.  The position of the rain shower head is spot on as I can sit on the bench and have the water hit the back of my neck and cascade down my shoulders feeling the stresses of the day wash down the drain.  Not planned, but I love the halo affect created by the shower light reflecting off the fixture too.  The wall shower, with the stronger force, is at the perfect height.   The original 6″ shower nipple that came with the unit I replaced with a shorter, 3″, nipple to gain more height.   The hand sprayer will be perfect for washing the dogs and I’ll be able to sit comfortably while doing so.

I truly regret not putting in a steam shower unit (cost overruns, so I gave that up), but once the last two pieces of glass are installed by Ryan’s All Glass the shower will be completely enclosed to keep the steam from the water inside.  It got pretty steamy without, so I can’t wait to share the post of their completed work and my shower experience with it fully enclosed. 

Ryan’s has been awesome to work with thus far even giving me stainless still screws and a drill bit I used for mounting the hand held spray rod and eventual heated towel warmer.  When their work is complete I will be able to install the tub and I’m hopeful I will have no issues with the final uninstalled Signature Hardware fixture.  With the tub installed my master suite and an entire floor of my house will be complete.  Let the final inspections commence.