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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Demo'ed typical 5x10 hall bath today in readiness for a total update. Sledge hammered the cast iron tub into two chucks for (relatively) easy removal. Expecting to find the tub sitting in a mortor bed, instead found it packed with dirt under and around it. Lots of dirt - a couple trash cans full when shoveled out.

Was installed when the house was built new 25 years ago, San Diego area, single story 3 bed / 2 bath ranch style house on a concrete slab foundation.

Is this common? Good or bad?

thx
Vince
 

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My best guess would be that someone thought it would be an insulator to help keep the water warmer longer. Cast iron tubs do not need, and are not typically installed with a mortarbed. These "beds" are only needed on fiberglass or plastic tubs that may twist or flex when weight is added. Although I have never seen a dirt enclosure, I can't say it would hurt anything.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I can't say it would hurt anything.
That was my thought too - but I was talking with my wife about the dirt later, and she showed me an area that she has always had to deal with where a small amount of dirt appers along the bottom of the opposite side of a wall from where the tub and dirt where located. She would clean it up - and some time later it would be there again. So it appears maybe the dirt over a period of years was managing to migrate through the interior wall (dirt filled stud cavities on the tub side - drywall on the other side). Not a big deal, but an annoyance.
 

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Dirt around the tub is one thing, but if it is migrating through a wall, I think I would be investigating some type of bug carrying it there. Filling a wall cavity with dirt would be really strange, but the dirt getting out of the wall is downright strange.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Dirt around the tub is one thing, but if it is migrating through a wall, I think I would be investigating some type of bug carrying it there. Filling a wall cavity with dirt would be really strange, but the dirt getting out of the wall is downright strange.
The dirt was around the tub, and in such an amount that the stud cavities around the tub had the dirt in them as well. I think dirt would manage to work it's way down on the other side between the drywall and the bottom plate. The flooring on the other side is tile, with a wood baseboard. I think there are not close fitments where the tile/drywall/baseboard all come together allowing the fine dirt to make it's way through.
 

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Well, as long as you have a reason that makes sense, your okay. My thinking was that there would be a 2x4 floor plate that the studs fasten to. Then the drywall would be connected to studs and plate. I suppose if only a couple nails/screws were used at the bottom of the drywall, it would be possible for the dirt to migrate.
 

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Dirt under the tub

I found the same thing. My wife decided to re-caulk the tub and in doing so did not create a good seal. We eventually noticed a wet spot on the outside of the house just outside of the bathroom. I took out the surround, replaced the drywall, dried everything out, put in a new surround and sealed everything up. After a while I noticed the wet spot was not going away. Then there was a musty smell in the bedroom next to the bathroom. I pulled up the carpet in the corner and the pad underneath was all wet. Once I pulled the drywall away from the corner I saw why it wasn't drying out. There was dirt inside the area under the tub. I stopped by my local home depot to ask if this was usual practice and the guy I spoke with said it is possible they may have used dirt to hold the tub in place as the older ones did not have any way of attaching to the framing.

However, when you look at the dirt, it's only on one side and it's piled up in a way that it would have been impossible to set it in that amount of dirt. It was almost to the top of the tub both front and back. I also recall finding dirt in the wall cavity behind the toilet when I replaced the wall covering there too.

My initial thought was it was something done by the original owner. His son sold us the house and there was a pretty good crack in the foundation. He mentioned that his dad tried to do a few fixes himself but didn't know exactly what. My guess was that the dirt was something he did but I didn't know how it would apply and I still don't.

I live in La Mesa just outside the San Diego city limits. From what I can tell the tub is original and my house was built in the mid 1950's.

If anyone else has had the same situation it would be good to hear from you and get more insight.
 

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Are you sure you don't have a gopher problem? I have had gophers pack dirt completely around an old floor furnace. I finally had to remove it and put in a wall unit and concrete in where the old furnace was to prevent the dirt. I had a friend that reported that gophers had completely packed dirt around his tub. He found it when doing plumbing repairs. I am also in CA and gophers present real problems for home owners out here if they have any access at all. It doesn't seem possible if you have a concrete slab our homes had crawl spaces. I can't imagine anyone using dirt below tub 25 yrs ago.
Good Luck
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Are you sure you don't have a gopher problem? I have had gophers pack dirt completely around an old floor furnace. I finally had to remove it and put in a wall unit and concrete in where the old furnace was to prevent the dirt. I had a friend that reported that gophers had completely packed dirt around his tub. He found it when doing plumbing repairs. I am also in CA and gophers present real problems for home owners out here if they have any access at all. It doesn't seem possible if you have a concrete slab our homes had crawl spaces. I can't imagine anyone using dirt below tub 25 yrs ago.
Good Luck
You know, that's a real possibility...

We do have problem with moles in the yard, and they are often at the end of the house where the bathroom is located and the tub is on an outside wall. I have seen them create some pretty huge mounds of dirt comparable in size the amount that was under the tub. And where the drain goes down there is a 10" square hole through the concrete slab.

Hmmm...
 

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If you have anywhere they can push dirt I'm confident that is your problem. I don't know what it is but they love to push dirt up against something. I even had an old mower in the backyard and they had completely packed dirt under the mower deck. I would seal the drain area completely if only with a couple inches of concrete around the drain. Would be easy to break out if the need arises.
Vern
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
If you have anywhere they can push dirt I'm confident that is your problem. I don't know what it is but they love to push dirt up against something. I even had an old mower in the backyard and they had completely packed dirt under the mower deck. I would seal the drain area completely if only with a couple inches of concrete around the drain. Would be easy to break out if the need arises.
Vern
Too late - the tub is all replaced, walls closed up and tiled, etc. It's been on my to-do list to get rid of the moles - I'll have to move it up higher on the list.
 

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My guess is that if the dirt packing was nice and tight then animals did it. Dirt instead of mortar used to install the tub would probably have fallen away and no longer made good contact.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
The critters are back...

We are hearing scratching and tapping noises from under the tub area. Our cat is camped out in the tub trying to figure out how to get to whatever it is.

Any suggestions on how to move them elsewhere? As said before, it's too late to close up the area around the drain as the walls are all closed up and tiled...
 

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Gopher very likely. How much concrete?

We have a SPA tub and the front panel started leaking a fine sand. Later my wife noticed the scratching of a critter in the area. I removed the front panel and the entire front side of the tub was filled in with dirt.

It's a tight space, but with a mirror and flashlight I can tell the tub is sitting on a concrete "pillow" but the drain hole to the sewer pipe was not well constructed with about a 12 square inch hole around the drain pipe. I imagine that was for easy adjustment when connecting the plumbing.

I vacuumed as much of the dirt up as I could to expose the entire hole in the concrete but don't see an obvious gopher hole. I'll wait a little to see if he makes any repairs to give me a clue of where the tunnel might be, just so I have that information... and maybe "reward" him with a bit of poison.

I plan to put some concrete to cover the entire hole in the concrete. As someone else suggested I won't make it too thick. However, I'm wondering how thick the concrete should be. They are strong and persistent little buggers. Also, I'm wondering if some other material would be better, such as plaster.

Any thoughts?
 
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