Upgrading a bathroom is one of the more popular home improvement projects. Handling the plumbing for draining your shower can be exceedingly simple unless you go overboard.
Whether you are a bathtub or shower person, most people look for shower only options when buying a home. This simple fact means more than a few homeowners spend a weekend upgrading or installing showers in their bathrooms. Fortunately for you, it is a fairly simple process.
A collector or pan refers to the horizontal surface located at the bottom of the shower. The collector typically consists of a non-slip surface slightly banked towards the center or wherever the drain is located. Combined with three to four inch walls around the side, the goal of your shower drainage plumbing is to get the water to flow to and down the drain.
You can physically build a collector for your new shower, but you really need to think about it. Do you really want to get into the complications of getting the sloping correct, not to mention making sure every aspect of it is waterproof? And I mean every aspect! It is much easier to simply buy a pre-cast collector online or at your local Lowes, Home Depot or hardware store. Building one might sound like a great idea, but you will probably feel differently after a couple of hours.
Regardless of how you go about getting a pan, you should make every effort to use one that has the drain located in the same spot as the original pan. Moving the drain pipes can be a task, particularly if the builder used a unique framing structure. If you are determined to move the drain, you are going to have to cut back the pipe or lengthen it, which may mean ripping up large chunks of the floor. Put another way, you are going to be looking at a multiple weekend project.
Assuming we have our drain lined up, the actual hook up is fairly simple. The drainage pipe should be facing vertical up to the collector. It will often look like a “U”, which means it acts as a cleanout to keep nasty smells from coming back up from the drain. To connect the drain, you are going to create a water tight connection between a drain cap on the top of the pan and the drainage pipe. Systems vary, but you are typically going to do this by putting a coupling piece on the top of the drainage pipe. This is then covered with gaskets and literally screwed into the drain cap. The drain cap should act as a locknut, to wit, it screws directly onto the coupling.
The tricky part of this process is getting your drain cap to fit into a watertight position in the pan. This is accomplished by backing off the drain cap once you are sure everything fits together. At that point, you put plumbers putty around the underside of the cap and then screw it back on. The putty should form a tight seal between the cap and the shower pan, which keeps water from trickling under it and into the framing under the shower.
Obviously, bathroom showers come in a wide variety of styles these days. If you purchase a collector, they almost always come with plumbing instructions or the store can note anything unusual you should know. It sounds complex, but is typically pretty straight forward. Have fun!