Home>Discussions>PLUMBING>Help!!! Plumbing emergency 9-1-1!!!!!!
27 posts / 0 new
Last post
fleetwood
Help!!! Plumbing emergency 9-1-1!!!!!!

HELP!!! PLUMBING EMERGENCY 9-1-1!!!!!!

We just purchased an 1896 home in Cincinnati. When the water was turned on, we discovered two leaks in the ceilings. We opened up the ceiling and found (bottom up) some type of canvas ceiling covering, a painted mural, plaster, terracotta tubes, concrete. We stopped at the concrete and did not go all the way through to the floor upstairs. It appears that there is about a foot of space between the upstairs floor and the downstairs ceiling.

We have had two plumbers out and both are at a loss as to how to locate the source of the leak. Both seemed to be nervous about working on the problem.

We need to know if it is likely that the plumbing pipes are inside the terracotta tube tiles, or if they are laying near the floor of the room upstairs, or closer to the ceiling of the room downstairs.

What do we do, short of destroying everything? How do we go about locating the leak site?

Any guidance or expertise you can give is extremely welcome. No one we spoke with so far, has ever seen this type of construction between floors before.

JLMCDANIEL
Re: Help!!! Plumbing emergency 9-1-1!!!!!!

I'm afraid your picture doesn't show much. I'm wondering if you have in ceiling radiant heat. If the house heated with a boiler?
Jack

fleetwood
Re: Help!!! Plumbing emergency 9-1-1!!!!!!

Hi Jack,

We have only owned the home for 6 days and have only had the water turned on since yesterday, so I don't know if we have radiant heat or not. How might we be able to tell?

What I do know, is that there is an ancient looking boiler in the basement, and the house has cast iron radiators and is heated (I believe) with steam heat. My husband in in Cincinnati at the house, and will be home on Thursday night. I asked him to take some photos of the ceiling after he got it opened up, so I will be able to post some pictures on Friday, if they are of decent quality. (Ryan does not always take the best pictures.)

Do you have any idea what, if anything, might be inside the terracotta tubes?

Sincerely,

Donna in Cincinnati

Ron remodeler
Re: Help!!! Plumbing emergency 9-1-1!!!!!!

Steam heat won't have anything other than 1"-1 1/4" pipes going straight to radiators.

If the house is old enough the plumbing will be brass pipe threaded with elbows and unions. Those joints can leak and they were usually plumbed in above the ceiling and then the lathe and plaster done.

I can't see it being cement other than in may be rock lathe which is the base for plaster on many a ceiling.

I can't see the tubes you mentioned.
Ceramic tubes of just a few inches long were used in Knob and tube wiring , but they would go through a beam to insulate the wire from the wood.

I don't know of any clay type plumbing pipes.

fleetwood
Re: Help!!! Plumbing emergency 9-1-1!!!!!!

Hi Ron,

When Ryan gets home on Friday, I'll post some pictures of whatever he has uncovered. We are hoping to get a city plumbing inspector to the house tomorrow; at least we are going to ask, and see if anyone will come. (I'm not above begging.) Ryan didn't open up too much of the ceiling, I don't think. He needs some advice from someone more knowledgeable, on where to start and how deep to go with the ceiling demolition.

We believe the old wiring was updated; at least partially, if not fully. Ryan had an electrician at the house, and he said the wiring didn't look too bad or need a major overhaul. I think, if he had seen any knob and tube, that he would already be working on replacing it.

I hope we don't have to do too much demolition, as that would be a nightmare. Any idea why canvas would be on the ceiling? Would that have been a very old ceiling technique, or possibly some type of more modern ceiling repair? None of the ceilings in the house are texturized, with the exception of one small tin looking ceiling in a half-bath on the main floor, which I doubt is original.

Sincerely,

Donna in Cincinnati

fleetwood
Re: Help!!! Plumbing emergency 9-1-1!!!!!!

Hi Ron,

The house was built in 1896. Some piping was replaced, as the first plumber did find some shiny copper in the closet of one of the second floor bathrooms. Somewhere under this bathroom floor is where we think the leak originated to the room downstairs. The bathroom is a dizzying, ugly nightmare, but appears to be original to the house, so we hope to preserve it, if at all possible.

Sincerely,

Donna in Cincinnati

Ron remodeler
Re: Help!!! Plumbing emergency 9-1-1!!!!!!

I have seen canvas over plaster to repair cracks and strengthen it.
It may have been done for that reason.

Painting a mural on a ceiling canvas wouldn't be necessary as plaster is a good art surface as is.

fleetwood
Re: Help!!! Plumbing emergency 9-1-1!!!!!!

Hi Ron,

I believe the mural painted on plaster is the original ceiling, and the canvas was added at a later date. We were also thinking it might have been added to repair cracks or ceiling damage. During what decade might the canvas have been added? Any idea? Is canvas still used today to repair cracked plaster?

Sincerely,

Donna

JLMCDANIEL
Re: Help!!! Plumbing emergency 9-1-1!!!!!!

Canvas or painter's cloth glued over palster was a common repair techneque.

Radiant heat was also common in well to do homes. It would be hot water rather than steam though. The terracota tubes may have been used to protect the tubes from from damage caused by chemicals in the plaster or concrete mix in the bedding

Because of the age of the house I doubt it would have rock lath. I am however wondering if you have reached a mud base put down for the bathroom tile. A heated tile floor may be what you have. If the bath room is so horrible it may have been wiser to tear into it rather than the ceiling.
Jack

fleetwood
Re: Help!!! Plumbing emergency 9-1-1!!!!!!

Hi Jack,

Only the bravest would venture into this bathroom in the morning after a long night out. The other bathroom is pink and yellow and black, but believe it or not, it's far more appealing than this one. We will investigate further, but these may be Rookwood Pottery tiles, and if so, we dare not disturb them. Many prestigious homes of this era have Rookwood tiles and fixtures in the baths, as well as Rookwood fireplace surrounds and hearths.

The house was built by Casimir Werk. The Werk family were people of wealth and standing in the community. I read an article on-line that said that Casimir's father, Michael Werk, loaned James Gamble the money to start Procter & Gamble.

If we do have radiant heat, would we also have cast iron radiators?

Sincerely,

Donna in Cincy

fleetwood
Re: Help!!! Plumbing emergency 9-1-1!!!!!!

Hi Jack and Ron,

I have a little bit of an update.

I contacted Steve, the City of Cincinnati head plumbing inspector. this morning – and what do you know? He is a neighbor who lives right around the corner from the Moneypit. He’s going over to the house at 2:30. He said he has never seen any plumbing problem or piping encased in concrete as I described. He was really nice and helpful. It is interesting that Steve said both sets of owners (before the last ones who got foreclosed upon) put hundreds of thousands of dollars into the house, and it was absolutely perfect when they lived there. The most recent owners lived there for four years, and they really seem to have neglected it.

We have a THIRD plumber coming out to take a look. Their company is supposed to have all kinds of gadgets and imaging devices to detect leaks in the ground – maybe their instruments will work on the ceiling; the lady wasn’t sure.

It could be the drain from the shower upstairs, but nobody turned on the water in the shower; it started leaking when the water was turned on by the city. Anyway, it’s a mystery, so far. Cross your fingers that it isn’t too horrible and too costly and doesn’t require too much demolition. I have contacted the historical society, but they are on vacation at the moment.

Thanks!

Donna

Pages

Sponsored Stories

TV Listings

Find TV listings for This Old House and Ask This Old House in your area.