The one consistent thing about remodeling your home is that it’s disruptive. There’s dust, disorganization and even periods without electricity. But perhaps the most disruptive element of all is being without water.

Prior to the start of any remodeling project, especially a large one, you need to stop and consider what your plumbing needs will be during the course of the project, and then devise a plan on how to meet those needs. Three of the most common disruptions include: permanently or temporarily moving the water heater; disconnecting sinks; and disconnecting toilets.


If your plans include moving the water heater to a completely new location, that work should be completed first. This would include relocation of the water lines, relocation of the electrical circuit, and, in the case of a gas water heater, installation of a new gas line and vent. If possible, complete all the required building inspections on the new lines, then immediately complete the drywall, painting and even floor covering in the area where the water heater will go, even if that’s out of sequence with the rest of the project. That will allow you to install the water heater in its new location and discontinue the old location with a minimum of disruption.

If the water heater will remain in its current location but needs to be moved out of the way temporarily while work in that area is completed, your best bet is to set the water heater up temporarily in a new location. Choose a spot that is as close to the existing location as possible, then extend temporary water lines to that location using copper or plastic pipe, and extend any gas lines using a length of black pipe and/or flex lines that are approved for gas. Electrical circuits can be connected by extending a length of wire from the end of the existing circuit to the temporary location — remember to use the proper gauge of wire and approved wire connectors.

In the case of a natural gas or propane water heater, remember that the water heater MUST be vented to the outside — failure to do so can cause potentially deadly concentrations of carbon monoxide to build up in the house. Use pipe that is approved for gas appliance venting, and route it to a location that is well away from operable windows, vents or any opening that could potentially bring exhaust gasses back into the house.


If you’ve had to remove a bathroom or kitchen sink in order to reroute plumbing or install new cabinets, you can often rig up a sink installation to serve your basic needs on a temporary basis.

First, you need something to support the sink. If you have torn out your old cabinets, you can often simply reuse your sink cabinet, or you can use another old cabinet or construct a simple framework out of 2x4s. For a top, attach a piece of 3/4-inch plywood to the cabinet or the wood framework, and then cut out a hole that matches the sink. As with the water heater, you can use copper or plastic pipe to temporarily extend the water lines.

For drain lines, if the temporary sink is near the drain location from the original sink, you can use plastic pipe and extend a temporary drain from the sink — just make sure it flows downhill from the sink to the drain connection. You can also simply place a large bucket under the sink outlet to catch the drain water, then dispose of it as needed. Remember that the water you collect in the bucket will still need to be poured out into a drain that leads to your sewer or septic tank — don’t just dump it on the ground.


The easiest plumbing inconvenience to overcome is the loss of a toilet — just go rent one. Portable toilets are available on a weekly or monthly rental basis, and include delivery, pickup, and, in the case of longer-term rentals, regular cleaning, emptying and other maintenance. The units are weatherproof and self-contained, and can be placed just about anywhere. For an additional cost, portable toilet units are also available with completely self-contained cold-water sinks as well. Check your Yellow Pages under “Toilets-Temporary.”

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at

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