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The P-trap in our master shower has apparently broken. We were getting a sewer gas smell coming out of it when we used the guest shower so we had a plumber come out and have a look. He did a "smoke test" where they pump some smokey gas in through cleanout and see which P-traps it makes it through. Here is what the master shower looked like:

enter image description here

Kind of cool.

The house is almost 60 years old so it could be due to normal wear and tear. We've also had foundation problems which were corrected but I suppose that could have also contributed.

The plumber told me that fixing the broken P-trap involves removing the shower tiles (at least on the bottom, but I doubt we'd find matching tile so we'd probably have to replace it all), chipping up the foundation to expose the P-trap, replacing it, repouring the foundation, and retiling the shower. All that and more can be mine for the high high price of somewhere between $7,500 and $10,000.

Soooo that's kind of a lot of money. I guess my question is do I have any other cheaper options here? To be clear I'm not questioning whether or not that's a fair price. He's been a good plumber and I'm sure it's a reasonable price for the work. I'm mainly looking for other, inherently less expensive, means of addressing the issue.

  • Does the "master shower" get used often? In other words, is this just a simple case of the shower not being used frequently, allowing the water in the trap to evaporate, allowing gas to vent out that drain? If so, simply re-fill the trap periodically. – stevieb Nov 14 '19 at 15:01
  • Pou a plug in the drain when you are not using it – Wayne May 21 at 18:32
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The procedure described is accurate.

My advice:

Hire your plumber (or a different plumber, if yours doesn't have the equipment) to inspect the drain with a camera to confirm that the trap is the only part of the drain that is damaged. You don't want to dig up the trap only to find later that there are additional issues and you don't want to do "exploratory surgery".

If you wanted custom candlesticks you would not hire a butcher or baker, you would hire a candlestick maker. Have a tile professional give you a bid on the job, for re-tiling and repairing (or replacing) the shower pan and tile, explain the reason and have him/her include excavation and replacement of the trap and drain assembly in the bid.

Done correctly you can just replace the floor and lower wall tiles (the "pan"); most folks choose a contrasting or complementary color and tile style and it looks ok. Be advised that this involves some waterproofing steps and it is not a simple job. Tile pros are usually very competent with the plumbing associated with the shower; they know best how to set the trap and drain assembly to ensure that it is at the correct height for the finished tile surface. Have them include everything in the bid.

Alternatively, have your plumber give a bid on just repairing/replacing the trap with it already chipped out for him/her by the tile contractor. The plumber should work with the tile contractor to ensure the drain and stuff will be correct.

Note: prices for services are off topic here. Always hire through personal references, always hire reputable licensed contractors, always get multiple bids (it's ok to be honest and tell potential service providers that you are getting multiple bids).

P.S.- I live in So Cal and had my entire sewer main dug up and replaced (6' deep X 50' long) for $6,000...

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  • Good advice. I concur. This is a job for two different tradespersons; a plumber and a tiler with expertise in shower construction. Get detailed quotes with labor scopes. To make it a cheaper job, you could do the demo of the tiled showerpan and underpayment yourself. It would shave off some of the cost. – M.Mat Nov 14 '19 at 18:39
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Sure there's a less expensive option: excavate the trap yourself. This might be a sledgehammer or jackhammer, but you can bust the floor up yourself. You might save some money doing it too. Maybe.

The house is almost 60 years old

There's a decent chance this will be cast iron, then. You'll want to switch to PVC, but cutting cast iron will make the excavation seem easy. It's solid metal and heavy. Now you want to support the cast iron (I hope it's in better shape than the trap) while attaching PVC pipe with a rubber tension connector.

It's probably better to get a plumber to price the whole job, however. This is taxing work, and you don't want to have to re-excavate things.

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