Monday, April 24, 2006

"H" is for Cold

It leaks.

I turned the water on the other day, partly to test my plumbing work and partly because we needed the water in the greenhouse. The joint where the new pipe joins the old began the familiar shimmer around the edge, and then formed a droplet which eventually fell onto the floor in front of the clothes washer. It was soon followed by another, and another; little shimmering dribbles growing, then falling, growing, the falling. It would have been rather hypnotic had it not been so maddening. Of course, I do not have the parts, which will necessitate a fourth trip to Lowe's.

I fixed it temporarily with an empty paint can, hanging it below the pipe to catch the dribbles.

We're big into life skills for the boys and this would have been another opportunity for life skills training. But we've done quite a bit of plumbing and are to the point where perhaps plumbing training is becoming counterproductive. I had David help me put the faucet back on the bathroom sink after we had it re-glazed several weeks ago. I showed him which hoses to hook up where under the sink and he worked at it for a while, looking like a plumber. Only the bottom half of him was visible, sticking out from under the sink and I could hear the clanking of wrenches and pliers.

When he emerged, I asked him if he trusted his work enough to turn the water on. He just grinned.

I ducked under the sink to make sure the drain was all tightened down and noticed something amiss.

"David!" I exclaimed, "Did you realize that you got the hot and cold water pipes backwards?"

His grin just got a little bigger. "Rats!" he said, with a twinkle in his eye. "You weren't supposed to notice this soon!" He was hoping it would go unnoticed until someone (usually Deb) turned on the hot water, waiting for it to warm up. It would have been a long wait.

When your son starts sabotaging the plumbing, then it's time to end the training. He can learn in the school of hard knocks once he gets his own home. Then we'll see what kind of water comes out when you turn the handle marked "H".

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Purple and Happy

"Use only in a well-ventilated area."

Yeah, right. The instructions on the can don't take into account that most plumbing is in basements, or close crawl spaces. This latest plumbing job was to replace a faucet that I temporarily repaired last fall by simply screwing another valve onto the end of it. My makeshift fix froze over the winter and split. This was another one of those I-Hate-Plumbing jobs.

This time, I was going to do it right. I paid the big bucks for one of those freeze proof faucets. Armed with my newest purchase, a flashlight, and a hack saw, I wormed into the crawl space under the family room to where last year's twisted pipe was. It took some pretty good bodily twisting to actually get the saw onto the section of pipe that needed to be cut, but I managed to start the cut... and got water and copper shavings dribbled onto my face.

This is part of the job, I told myself, and kept going. Eventually, the pipe was free. I wormed out of the crawl space, pulled the old faucet out from the outside, and inserted the new one into the hole in the wall. Back into the crawl space, back into the contorted position so I could reach the tail end of the faucet so I could wrap it with plumber's tape.

I picked up the plastic pipe fitting that mated with the tail of the faucet and saw that it was the wrong size. How typical. This meant another trip to Lowe's to replace a 35 cent part. And it was one of the few parts I didn't have in my large bag of leftover plastic pipe fittings. It seems that every plumbing job requires at least two trips to the hardware store, so this would get the obligatory second trip over with.

I checked out with the same cashier that I had just an hour before. She appeared surprised that I was back so soon, buying another part for 35 cents. Out of my frustration, I didn't offer any explanation.

Back in the crawl space, I now had to thread the new part onto the faucet. This is rather hard to do when both arms are extended over one's head into the floor boards while the rest of the body resembles the fetal position. I managed to get another section of pipe glued into the fitting, and an elbow onto the pipe so now it extended below the floorboards, making the next sections much easier to put on. I only dribbled a little of the purple primer onto my hands and managed to sniff just a little of the Tetrahydrofuran and Methyl Ethyl Ketone and Cyclohexanone contained in the pipe glue. It makes for a rather odiferous crawl space and a rather light-headed plumber.

Only a short section of pipe and a coupling remained between me and another completed plumbing job. The short section of pipe was glued in quickly, but I then discovered that the old section of pipe was just very slightly larger than the fittings allowed. It seems that pipe this old was no longer compatible with today's version.

Oh, the joys of owning an older home. Now I was not only replacing a faucet, I was going to have to replace 40 feet of pipe as well. This resulted in trip number three to Lowe's to get the necessary pipe and fittings. A 1-hour job was now spreading out into 2 complete evenings.

Now, instead of just a couple fittings needing to be glued together, there were more. Elbows, couplings, pipe sections, hangars; all needing to be assembled over my head in close quarters and worked around the other infrastructure: heating ducts, wires, other pipes, etc. And the daubers in the cans of purple primer and glue are really meant for larger parts and so hold far too much for little fittings. My hands were stained purple from the dribbling primer. At least the glue, although it smelleD strongly, wAs thiCker, sO it DIdn't dRip as bAdLY. i tHnk i actUAly fIniishedthe joBbefore i ppasSEdout.. maYbee i'LL turNIton neXtYeartoSeEif itActuaallllly lEAksssssssss.