For the last couple of months, with the exception of renting a trailer and picking up the windows when they came in, we’ve been working on the mechanical room in the basement. The first step was running new gas line, then we ordered the water heater and whole-house water filter, prepped and framed the first wall panel section, spray foamed it, and covered it with plywood. We also ran a new electrical conduit from the circuit panel to the mechanical room and installed a light and gfci outlets.

Panel framing and spray foam

Panel framing and spray foam

Once we had the panel and parts ready, the next step was to start assembly. The water filter consists of a pre-filter, main filter, and post filter, that are all connected in series, with a bypass around the whole thing. There is a valve before, after, and in the bypass to allow for filter changes without leaving the water shutoff. The challenge was fitting this long chain onto the half of the panel, since the other half is reserved for the boiler. The plumber initially had a setup where half the filter was sticking off one side, but I was really hoping to put a wall there so that I had room for a little workshop in the basement. I also wasn’t thrilled with how it was all mounted. I decided to redo it, even though it was already soldered together.

Initial filter install

Initial filter install

This past Saturday, with help from my brother-in-law, Rob, and my father-in-law, Mike, we got the water filter re-configured with the valves vertical rather than inline with the filter. We also got the venting installed for the water heater and the water heater connected to the filter. Sunday, with Dean’s help, we connected the panel to the existing water supply and plumbing, replacing the incoming water line, the spigot and starting the new runs up to the second floor. After checking all the solder joints for leaks and adding more nylon tape the pre- and post-filter housings, we turned on the water heater. I took a shower in hot, clean water and we drank several glasses of the best tasting tap water I’ve ever had.

Revised filter plumbing

Revised filter plumbing

Like all projects, it wasn’t without its share of frustrations. Just for the plumbing install (not counting the panel build) there were nine trips to the hardware store. In the future I’m going to stock up on ¾” 45° elbows since they seemed to be in perpetual short supply. Drilling through the wall to install the vents was a challenge. I had expected the plumber to bring his hole saw, but when he forgot it I wound up buying bits and even a new drill, since my rotary hammer is SDS-plus and the local stores don’t sell hole bits or a chuck for it.

New water heater

New water heater

As is often the case, I’m grateful to the friends and family that made the project possible. A big thanks to Mike, Rob, and Dean for all their help! With the new water heater installed I can finally get the old one out of the way and put in the second panel section. That will make way for the boiler installation so we can have heat this winter.

4 Responses to Mechanical Room Plumbing

  1. Matt Lamothe says:

    Hi Matt,
    I also have a two-flat in Logan Square and I’m working on refinishing a 2nd floor bathroom, but I’m realizing that while I’ve got the walls open it would make sense to convert the 2nd floor (and maybe the whole house) to copper pipe water supply lines. It’s currently all galvanized steel that’s been rotting away nicely. Anyway I wanted to ask how you’re going about having the pluming redone in your house. Do you use a plumber for all the work, or do you do some of it yourself? I’ve sweat copper pipes before but I’m finding doing the whole house a bit daunting. Any advice on books or resources for planning house plumbing systems?

    Thanks and great work on the house and blog, the project is an inspiration for me and my girlfriend. We’ve been fixing up our home for years, and anytime she baulks at doing a project I say “look what they’re doing over at twoflatremade! Our project is small potatoes compared to them”

  2. Matt says:

    Congrats on your own project! As for plumbing, we did a bit ourselves. I should mention that Chicago code requires the work to be done by a licensed plumber, and if you want the work inspected it needs to be done by a licensed plumbing contractor (not necessarily the same thing). We have galvanized pipe too, and plan to replace it all with copper. You can do it in sections as long as you use a dielectric connection between the copper and galvanized to prevent corrosion from the reaction of the two metals, though keep in mind pipe sizes, since the old stuff is 3/4 max and the new stuff may be bigger. As far as resources, I have a couple books, but nothing especially in-depth. I mostly use the Illinois and Chicago online code references. Even if you wind up hiring someone, it’s good to be familiar with the code, since it’s easy for people (even pros) to make mistakes.

    Chicago Building Code
    Illinois Plumbing Code

    Best of luck on your project!

  3. Matt Lamothe says:

    Funny I spoke to 2 plumbers last week who had completely different ideas about the proper way to set up the plumbing system for a 2-flat. By the way, are you having any issues with water pressure loss using this whole house filter? One plumber said “they’ll destroy your pressha!” and the other said “it won’t change it a bit”

  4. Matt says:

    Well we have crappy water pressure to begin with since we have a 3/4″ supply line and corroded galvanized pipes. They decrease pressure a bit, but not by much. If you have good pressure to begin with, you won’t notice. Once we’re upgraded to a new 1.5″ copper supply line and we get rid of the galvanized, I’m pretty sure we’ll be fine.

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