Help us get our shower back!
December 4, 2009 2:20 PM   Subscribe

I live in a mobile home, and I went to change out the shower arm and head in our bathroom, and I ran into some trouble.

Instead of finding a fixed, metal pipe coming through a relatively small hole in the wall - what I've found when I've done this previously in apartments and the like - there's a plastic fitting attached to some flexible plastic tubing coming out of a hole that's larger than the flange that came with my new shower arm.

Because the fitting is not fixed to anything (I actually had to fish it out from in the wall with a bent coat hanger because once I detached it from the original shower it kind of just sprung back down into there), it won't hold up my shower arm, as you can see in the second picture here. (That goopy-looking stuff is residue from some Great Stuff I sprayed in the hole to try and at least stabilize the fitting in one place on the advice of a guy at my local hardware store. It didn't work.)

I'm not attached to this shower arm or head - at this point, really we just want a fully functioning shower again. We've talked about removing that piece of drywall and replacing it with a new piece (or cutting out that part of the drywall and putting a new "patch" piece in its place (so the hole can at least be closer to the correct size), but a) it seems really labor-intensive, and b) it doesn't solve the fundamental problem that the pipe the water is coming out of is just kind of flopping around in there.

Putting the original shower arm and head back on isn't an option, though we're fine with changing to some different style of shower arm and head if it will give us back a fully functioning shower.

posted by joshuaconner to Home & Garden (8 answers total)
I think I'm going to try to answer this in stages. First, mobile home manufacturers are not required to adhere to typical building codes for stick-built housing. There is a lot about your home that is different from what you might expect. It appears that you have a layer of hardboard shower material on the shower side over the drywall. If at all possible, you do not want to make any (more) holes in it.

So, to start with, what is on the other side of that wall?
posted by Old Geezer at 2:33 PM on December 4, 2009

That gray tubing looks similar to stuff I've seen in an RV, but I'm not very familiar with how that system works. What supported the weight of the old shower head?

If you want to use a standard shower head (as opposed to whatever specialized contraption was there originally), you'd probably need to switch the existing elbow for a brass drop-ear elbow and fasten that elbow to some wood framing. Sadly, it doesn't look like there's any wood there to fasten to, so we're back to tearing out and fixing drywall.

Another possibility is that you get one of those shower heads on the end of a hose, where the head can be mounted on a holder that's screwed to the wall. That type doesn't depend on a rigidly mounted pipe for support.
posted by jon1270 at 2:36 PM on December 4, 2009

Old Geezer: The shower shares a wall with a our spare room closet. In the past, we've been able to take the drywall pieces on the closet side off in order to be able to get at the plumbing in there.

(I have to run to work - will be back in about 8 hours. Sorry!)
posted by joshuaconner at 2:49 PM on December 4, 2009

Thanks for letting me know that you will be away. This will be waiting for you when you get home.

Here's what I would do: I would take enough of the closet wall off as I would need to see what the wall studs are made of. Depending upon where and when the home was made, it either has wooden or metal studs in the wall. From the photo, it doesn't look like the thickness of a 2x4 wall. Let's assume it is. If this is the case you should cut a piece of 2x4 the length of the distance between the studs on either side of the shower plastic tube. (If the wall is made of thinner studs, use a piece of 1x4.) Working from inside the closet, slip this piece of wood in between the studs edge up. Slide it up or down until it has at least one inch of wood showing below the bottom of the plastic elbow in the wall. Go around to the bath side of the wall and make a pencil mark on the piece of wood on either side of the plastic tubing when the tubing is centered in the opening.

Now, take the piece of wood back out, attach one side of a 1/2" conduit clip to the wood, screwing it in loosely enough that it dangles from the wood when you hold the wood up. Put the wood back in place and flip the conduit clip up around the tubing. The clip should be around the plastic elbow and snug up under the part of the elbow that points out into the shower.

If the studs are made of wood, nail your new backing board in place. If the studs are metal, screw through the studs into the backing board.

Go around to the shower side and place a screw in the second screw hole of the conduit clip. It will be a tight fit, but you should be able to tighten both screws from this side. If you've done it right, you should have a fairly rigid backing for a light-weight shower solution.

Next, go to the store and by a new chrome shower arm, an oversized flange and a hand-held "telephone shower." Install the arm and flange. Go back into the closet and measure from the center of the tubing to the stud to the left of it. Go back to the shower and measure from the shower arm to a point to the right of it the same distance you just measured. This should give you backing to install the holder for the shower. Install the holder according to the manufacturers directions, hook up the flexible shower to the shower arm and check for leaks.

I'll leave the wall patch in the closet up to you.
posted by Old Geezer at 3:48 PM on December 4, 2009

Sugru might help you. I ordered some because of this boingboing post.
posted by knowles at 4:01 PM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Looks like poly butyl pipe or something similar. T'was me I'd open a hole in the wall, cut the pipe about 6-10 inches below the elbow, and install a piece of copper pipe with a plastic pipe barb at one end and a standard threaded shower head pipe socket at the other. This is dependent on the wall having enough space to attach the shower head socket to either plywood or dimension lumber blocking as Old Geezer outlined. You can then attach the copper pipe to the blocking and install any kind of shower head/arm you desire.

In a few tight situations I've even let the socket stand proud of the wall such that the supply pipe was right up against the back side of the wallboard/gyproc.
posted by Mitheral at 4:08 PM on December 4, 2009

The parts/fixtures/fittings used by mobile home manufacturers are entirely different from those used in stick house construction. You don't go to your local home building supply store, you go to an RV parts supply store. What they don't carry in stock, they can show you in a catalog and order for you. Take your old parts with you to show them. Hopefully they have somebody around who knows about what you need and can tell you how to go about it.
posted by exphysicist345 at 9:30 PM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't know if this is true of your mobile home, but mine was as exphysicist said: all fittings were non-standard. I had to go to a hardware store that specialized in mobile home supplies.

Also, your "studs" might be 2x2s (mine were), and that might not be normal drywall. My mobile home had hardboard of some sort that was thinner than drywall, and yours looks similar. It's not strong enough to support much weight.

Frankly, if that were my bathroom, I'd buy myself a sheet of rigid plastic in a dimension that would reach the studs on either side of the hole in the wall. I'd cut a slot just big enough to accommodate the shower arm pipe and slide it up from below on the shower side of the wall. Then I'd screw the thing into the studs, caulk the screw holes and edges of the plastic (and especially the top of the shower flange) and call it done. But then I lived in a really old trailer and didn't care much.
posted by PatoPata at 12:30 AM on December 5, 2009

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