Adventures In Plumbing

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The kitchen faucet in our house has been dripping for at least a year.  The jar for our blender has hence become a fixture in the sink.  It’s been dutifully catching the drops of life-giving H2O so that they can be poured into our Berkey Water filtration system rather than down the drain.  That solution, until yesterday accomplished the goals of A. Not “wasting” water (my California drought guilt at work), ironic since it has rained here at least every other day for the last two months, and B. Not having to fix the f’ing faucet, I mean really, time is precious right?  If you’ve ever done plumbing work on a 60 plus-year-old house (which all of my homes have been) you’ll know this logic is sound.  If you haven’t you’re in for a treat.  Why?  Wait for it…

I woke up Saturday morning to this text from my seventeen-year-old.

Chris:

Hey I don’t want to wake you up

But the bathroom sink is leaking

It wasn’t until I ran water

Underneath it is absolutely soaked

I was looking for duct tape to patch it but couldn’t find any

I cleared out the bottom of it and put a towel down

It only leaks if you run water

Sent 5:37am

He did the best he could then left for work.  Love that kid, and the fact that he has a job.  The obtaining of which I had no part in.

So… great, excellent!  The bathroom too!  Looks like it’s time to address the elephant in the pipes.  After a to the brim full cup of black coffee I surveyed the admittedly heretofore overlooked bathroom situation, assuming that the faucet had gone bad.  Wrong!  I cranked the taps, crouched to survey the outcome and discovered that the drain pipe had a leak, and was shooting a firehose-like stream of water into the vanity base.  Awesome!  Well I may as well replace the thousand-year-old faucet while I’m at it right?

As it happened my youngest and I had a date that morning to attend the premiere party for the new TBS show Final Space created by one of his youtuber faves Olan Rogers.  Great show!  Loved it, and Jackson got to meet one of his heroes; a “Mr. Rogers” for a new generation.  Olan that is.

On the way home I informed JJ that we would be stopping at Home Depot to pick up the plumbing supplies needed to deal with our “situation” at the house and that his help would be most appreciated.  I also informed him that when committing to amateur plumbing on an aging home one must expect several same day return trips back to Home Depot…I estimated a minimum of four.  He winced, and said a silent “ugh.”

Upon returning home, I went straight to it in the bathroom.  Replacing the drain was easy enough.  Then, while assessing the faucet replacement scenario, I noticed evidence of the amateur plumber’s nightmare.  No shutoff valves under the sink!  Water to the whole house would have to be shut off to pull the old faucet and place the new one.  My thought at the moment…”fuck it!”  It’s not leaking, so I’m not going to mess with it.  Jackson and I cleaned/mopped up the bathroom mess and closed that case.  On to the kitchen

“Thank god,” I thought as I worked my way through the frat house mess we’ed created under the kitchen sink, at least there are shut off valves.  But wait, new lessons in amateur plumbing lurked in the very near future.  I stood up, stretched, gave the blender jar an informal salute for its twelve months of service, then dove back in.  The stuck cold water valve resisted for a minute then reluctantly gave way.  I closed the valve and moved on to the hot water side.  My past experience informs me that things are going smoothly, too smoothly.  My cynicism was soon rewarded.

I grasped the hot water shut off valve and began wrestling it to the off position.  This house was built in 1950.  Who knows how long this demon valve had waited for its moment.  Well, the wait was over.  As I broke it free from its wide open position something miraculous happened.  I didn’t know such a thing was possible. While cranking the handle to the closed position hot water blasted from the valve in all directions.  Within two seconds I was thoroughly soaked head to toe and water was rushing across the kitchen.

“JACKSON, I NEED TOWELS PLEASE!”

“How many” he shouts.

“ALL OF THEM,” said I.

The valve was only gushing for a few moments, but in that short time, I found my drenched self sitting in a quarter inch of water.  To stop the flow I had to turn the valve back to the on position.  The physics of this solution made no sense to me, but so it goes with plumbing, a dark art to be sure.

“Damnit!”  I have to shut off all water to the house in order finish the operation.  Tools in hand I make my way to the street.  The water main valve lay is a muddy housing, a spider-filled joy box if you will.  Leaning over the edge I tried with all my might, and with all the tools I had at hand to wrench the valve closed.  The value was neither impressed nor willing.  Shit!  There must be a shutoff valve in the crawl space.  By crawl space, I mean belly crawling under HVAC ducts in the dark, dank underworld of our humble cape cod.

As I made my way to the presumed location of the sacred “shut off valve” I was greeted by the overwhelming stench of cat shit!  Really!  Simultaneously, I identified the location of the valve and realized the fact that one or more of our cats had removed the vent covers to the crawl space, and had claimed said space as their personal outhouse.  A veritable cat shit minefield presented, complete with pools of cat piss rippling in the pockets of the vapor barrier.  Had I a free hand I’d have plugged my nose, but alas… Scent notwithstanding, I dragged myself toward the shutoff.  A quick twist and it’s closed…I hope.

From the black abyss, I contacted JJ via cell phone, “Turn on a water faucet on please.”

“Nothing’s coming out!”

“Excellent!” I exclaimed.

I dragged myself, somewhat disgusted by the state of our crawl space back to the opening and marched toward the car; a new hot water valve had to be procured; Home Depot trip two.

I retured with the new valve and proceeded to remove the old one.  Some hack rig coming from the wall that had male threading at all three connections.  I bought the house from a plumber…it figured.  Of course, the valve I purchased at Le Depot is female, male, male.  So, Back to the car.

Home Depot trip three engaged!  I wait an eternity for a turn with the plumbing guy.

“We don’t have that fitting…where’d you find that?”

“Under my kitchen sink,” I said…(in my head “duh”).

“Try this Shark Bite fitting; it should grab on to the pipe and work fine.”

“Chaa, thanks.” I left…at a brisk jog.

Back at home, hours into this ‘simple task’ I affixed the fitting, tightened the new valve and put Jackson on alert.

“I’ll call you from under the house.  Let me know if it leaks.”

As Buddy, the Elf might say, “I passed through the crawl space trap door, past the sea of swirly twirly cat poops, and then I crawled to the magical water shut off valve.”

“IT’S LEAKING!” He yelled into the phone.

“SHIT!” I don’t think I said it ‘under my breath.’

Back up through the crawl space hatch to the living floors of the house; which were now steeped in the waning February afternoon light filtering through the rain-spattered windows.  Resigned I went, back to the car, back to home depot.  As I stepped out of the car, I checked for my wallet.  On a typical day this gesture would be a gift to all pickpockets in the area, (so that’s where he keeps it), but not today!  “FUCK!”  I’d left my wallet at home.  Back in the car, I raced toward the wallet.  Twenty-two minutes later I was back at the Depot. The wait was longer this time, and when I finally get advice it was:

“That valve you just brought back will do just fine, simply remove those unnecessary parts in-between and attach it.”

“But what about a dielectric union?  You know the thing you’re supposed to use when you attach galvanized plumbing to brass or copper?”

“We don’t have those.  Just use a bunch of Teflon tape.”

In my head’ “Are you fucking kidding me?”  From my mouth, “ Ok, thanks.”

Back home.

“Ok JJ, hold the faucet steady while I loosen these bolts.”  The faucet bolts don’t budge.  “Please go grab me a hammer,” I asked, in a regrettably peeved tone.

He appeared in a flash with a hammer.  After a bit of a beating the faucet fixture came free, but try as we might the sprayer socket would not budge.  I climbed from under the sink, lower back complaining all the while for plumbing is a younger man’s work, and grabbed a pair of vice grips.  As my son looked on in horror, I unwittingly released a stream of awesomely vulgar obscenities while beating the sprayer nozzle viciously with the vise grips.  When it is over, and I had returned from werewolf to human form the sprayer was loosened, but still stood defiantly in its battered socket.  Jackson appeared to have mild PTSD.

Resigned, I climbed back under the sink and asked him to cut the sprayer hose.

“Use Scissors, hacksaw, knife, whatever please.”

He dutifully grabbed our bread knife and made quick work of severing the hose.  I learned later that the following moment made all the stress of this escapade worth it for him.  As he cut the hose and it snaked back through its hole in the sink top, it sprayed me in the face with its residual water load.  addingInsulttoingury.com!  Hose sprayed face notwithstanding I was finally clear to install the new faucet.  Ten minutes later I was back in the cat shit forest, earbuds in, JJ on the line.

“Ok buddy, I’m turning it on now!”

“Nothing.”

Me, “Really?  Awesome!”

My joy at this news overshadowed the scent of feline occupation as I belly crawled my way out of that ‘shit box.’  It was now 6:30 pm. We had somewhere to be at 7:00.  Back under the sink.  On when the valves, no flood, winner, winner chicken something.  To avoid tainting the new faucet I removed the aerator, closed my eyes, and turned the handle.  Water poured through.  Clean, pure-ish, life-giving water.  Success!

We collected the multitude of saturated beach towels from the kitchen floor, washed our hands, piled into the car and made our way to the “Final Space” Premiere After Party.  On the way, Jackson told me that for him it had been a stressful day watching Dad go maniac-style on the household water service.  We had a good laugh and spirited discussion about it after which he intimated that he thought we should keep the bludgeoned sprayer in our family museum as a reminder of this ‘special’ day.  So be it!

Do you have a similar experience to relate?  Please comment.  Life is bigger and better with shared experience!