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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Corpus Christi metro area
    Posts
    28

    Exclamation Rusted solid pipe nipple

    My house is 40 years old and all the plumbing in it is original. I recently discovered a constant leak in a bathroom that had been out of use for well over a year. I've only owned the house for 18 months but it was clear once I moved in that no maintenance had ever been done on anything in the house. I closed off 3 rooms including the bathroom to save on HVAC costs and until I was ready to put them right.

    The leak was coming thru the single lever mixing valve and going to the tub spout. The tub spout was not tight against the wall and when I unscrewed it saw that a plastic threaded insert in the spout had broken and that some metal threads were missing on the nipple. Closer inspection of the nipple showed that there was significant corrosion on the out side and the inside as well. It seemed obvious to me that replacement was needed.

    I enlarged the hole for the nipple so I could see where the nipple screwed into the the feed pipe fitting. At this point I applied penetrant to eat the rust and hopefully make removal easy. I banged on the nipple in all directions hoping to create a crack in the rusted threads so penetrant could get in and do its work. This process went on for 3 hours before I started to try to turn it with a pipe wrench. 2 more hours went by with alternately sparaying penetrant, banging the nipple and applying torque with the pipe wrench all to no avail.

    The pipe started to deform where the pipe wrench was gripping it (only a half inch sticking out from the tub liner) and quite soon after it was obvious just how corroded the nipple had become as the metal gave way.

    I purchased a new nipple and an easy out sized for the stubborn nipple (1/2"). Sawed off the end of the nipple that had given way and proceeded with more penetrant and banging the easy out in the sawed off nipple. Another 2 hours later (7 hours all together), I decided to write this post and ask if anyone here had faced a similar problem and if so, how they solved it.

    When I considered possibly using heat I realized that heating the nipple would only expand it and that to heat the fitting it was screwed into would require removing the drywall behind the plumbing to be able to heat that fitting. I also considered trying to freeze the nipple but don't have anything that can do that like liquid nitrogen.

    I figured that 7 hours was more than enough time for the penetrant to work and to be able to back the nipple out with the easy out. I obviously don't want to destroy the fitting the nipple is threaded into or the line feeding it, but I just might have to open the wall up from behind and cut the fitting off and put in new.

    Should I give the penetrant over night to work or just plan on cutting the dry wall out and replacing the fitting that the nipple is threaded into?

    Ken

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Posts
    11

    Default Re: Rusted solid pipe nipple

    I would plan on cutting the drywall. This would be the best time to just bite the bullet and replace the entire shower valve. Next thing you know after replacing that nipple, the shower arm will begin to leak. Do it right and suck it up. You won't regret it. I hope I helped. I see way to many of this same exact problem.
    Plumbers protect the health of the Nation

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Corpus Christi metro area
    Posts
    28

    Default Re: Rusted solid pipe nipple

    @ Deadshort: Appreciate your humor, same here.

    @ Tom: Thanks for the reply. I left the nipple alone except for one more squirt of penetrant after I wrote the post.

    I already purchased and installed all new parts for the mixing valve, including the ball, springs, seals , cover plate and valve body cover, so I could turn the water back on in the house. The valve body showed no corrosion, so I felt all new guts would cure it's problem. To be honest, I didn't really think about the shower head fitting for the shower neck, and you may well be right about it.

    The mixing valve is definitely repaired and no longer leaking thru to the tub spout, so for the moment, the leak problem is solved since that bathroom never gets used at this time.

    The thought occurred to me this morning that because of the poor condition of the 1 piece fiberglass tub & shower enclosure (stains, deep scratches, etc), I'll have to replace the entire enclosure anyhow. That will require cutting it up in place to get it out and then I can open the wall from the inside to get at the piping without putting a hole in the adjoining room's wall. Since that project is not time critical and the leak is now fixed, I can afford to wait to do it right later. I agree it's better to do it all the right way instead of having to repair it more than once.

    None of that occurred to me yesterday after fighting with it for 7 hours. I was so focused on completing the entire fix and didn't take the time to use my noggin to break the problem down to it's component parts.

    Unfortunately, there are so many things in this house to fix that I'll probably be Methuselah's age by the time I'm done.

    Thanks again,

    Ken

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Posts
    11

    Default Re: Rusted solid pipe nipple

    I'm glad you got it all fixed. I appreciate the reply as well!
    Plumbers protect the health of the Nation

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Posts
    163

    Default Re: Rusted solid pipe nipple

    An internal pipe wrench is what you need to reach inside the nipple to remove it without crushing it.

    There are two types, and the one you want is the cam-type--it has a toothed cam on the shaft that you insert into the pipe. The cam rotates to grab the inside of the pipe in the same way that a pipe wrench grabs the outside.

    The Home Depot here sells them in the plumbing tools section.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Corpus Christi metro area
    Posts
    28

    Default Re: Rusted solid pipe nipple

    Well, you learn something new every day! I had never heard of an internal pipe wrench. Thanks for pointing that out I'll definitely get one.

    Here's another question related to this job. Since I have made the decision to cut the 1 piece tub/shower unit out would I be better off to use a sawzall or a jig saw?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Posts
    163

    Default Re: Rusted solid pipe nipple

    Quote Originally Posted by kenackr View Post
    Well, you learn something new every day! I had never heard of an internal pipe wrench. Thanks for pointing that out I'll definitely get one.

    Here's another question related to this job. Since I have made the decision to cut the 1 piece tub/shower unit out would I be better off to use a sawzall or a jig saw?
    Sawzall, no contest.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Corpus Christi metro area
    Posts
    28

    Default Re: Rusted solid pipe nipple

    Thanks, that was my first thought.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Corpus Christi metro area
    Posts
    28

    Talking Re: Rusted solid pipe nipple

    For those who might enjoy a good chuckle here's a little status report.The nipple is finally out but so is the fitting that it is still threaded into and of course, the copper tube that ran from the mixing valve body to that fitting.

    The copper tube was soldered into a another fitting on the mixing valve body. The joint came apart when the 6d box nails holding the fitting to the backing 2x came loose and let the fitting dance around as I manhandled it with an impact driver and the internal pipe wrench from Home Depot or was it the $30 sliding T handle to hold the socket that held the internal pipe wrench? Who knows?

    Of course, none of that would have happened if there were some other restraint on either the shower head or the source Hot & Cold pipes. I have never seen a poorer job of shoddy workmanship when the house was built. There aren't ANY framing members at the head of the tub & shower enclosure at all, just the crappy flexible fiberglass enclosure nailed in the corners.

    The good news is at least there was no insulation in the wall which T's into an exterior wall that would make me itchy.
    I think the homes in Haiti that fell down were built better than my house.

    Oh yeah, it only took me 2 trips to Home depot to get the internal pipe wrench because some idiot stole the 1/2 inch nipple wrench out of the set. I didn't find out until I got home that the one they gave me in exchange had been previously used too.

    I've made good progress since I fired up the old Sawzall and started cutting up the old enclosure and tub to see what I have to deal with. It looks like rebuilding the entire house from the inside out.

    Oh well, it keeps me off the street and out of trouble (I think). I think I'll start video taping all the rest of the plumbing work on the house so I can enter it at the Sundance film festival as "The lone plumbing stooge rides again!".

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Posts
    163

    Default Re: Rusted solid pipe nipple

    Ain't that the way it goes?

    Seems like the hardest part of remodelling work is trying to find the real starting point--the deeper you look, the farther away it gets.

    I have a little quote from Mark Twain hanging on my wall, a quote from "The McWilliamses and the Burglar Alarm" it says:

    "When we were finishing our house, we found we had a little cash left over, on account of the plumber not knowing it."

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