Saturday, February 08, 2014

Pandora's Box

"Be careful what you wish for."..........."Nothing is as simple as it seems"............."Snowball out of control" ........"Ignorance is Bliss", and last but not least, "If it ain't broke don't fix it".

All of these slogans, sayings, warnings have at different times floated through my brain over the last couple of days.

Okay, so after a decade or two of walking around the failing infrastructure of my 60 year old home, I found home repair ambition again.  If it's a wood problem or outside leaking in problem, I actually have the skill set to fix it.  Or at least understand instructions I might find while researching the problem.  I did pound nails for a living there for awhile.  Electrical, well, don't have paid experience, but I am not afraid of electricity.  I respect it.  Once you have reduced it to the basics, it is fairly straight forward.

And so far since I caught the fixer upper bug, everything I have done in the last six months has yielded positive results for the house.  No quick fixes.  Everything I did I did with the notion that this is the last time I will have to deal with that.

The one classic home owner problem I still try to avoid is the plumbing.  I have done what I had to to keep it functional, but every time I messed with it, it became a much bigger patch job than I had bargained for.

Plumbing is not mysterious.  But it is evil.  Especially plumbing in and around toilets.  As long as it functions well enough to flush down the nasty stuff, I ignore it.  Should it screw up, even a little, I get psyched out.  Psyched out because every time I have had to deal with it, the solution was always way more convoluted and knuckle busting than, "Oh look the valve is weeping a tad, I'll just tighten this with my speed wrench and.........FUCK."

And the repair turns into Nightmare on Sam Page Rd.

I have learned a few things over the years though.  Always, and I mean Always, find a shut off somewhere to cut off the water supply to the misbehaving plumbing part before approaching it with any tool of destruction.  Yeah, yeah yeah.  I know all the fix it yourself primers tell you to do this, but some of us need a demonstration before we catch on.  I learned this lesson back in the 1970s during my college years.  My rookie attempt to fix the bathroom sink in the townhouse I shared with two other loser college students went south and I flooded the living room downstairs.  That's when I bought my first plumbing book.

All the toilets in the house have been in place since at least the early 1960s.  I have changed seals, tank guts, etc.  But the toilets themselves are definitely old school.  The one up in the bedroom area has never flushed right.  It moves the waste, but you never get that satisfying gurgle that tells you everything made it safely to the septic tank.  It hardly every backed up.  We learned to live with it.

The feed valve supplying water to the toilet was leaking a tad.  I figured it only needed to have some tightening with a wrench.  I was right.  That is all it needed.  But since I was hard into this "Fix it For Good" mentality, I decided that what we need is a new toilet along with the new shower/bath I plan on installing when I redo the bathroom.  I told my wife and she reminded me that if we do that we ought to straighten out the drain system.

She could tell from my blank look, I had no clue what she was referring to.  Damn women never forget anything.  "Remember back in the 80s the plumber told us our drains running to the septic were wrong and the toilet would never flush right if we didn't straighten that out first."

"Uh no, guess I forgot."  I knew better than to question her memory.  Women have nasty accurate memories and husbands are well advised to not question them.  Instead I went right down to the garage where the drains headed out to the yard.  I took a level and damned if the toilet drain and the sink drain didn't lean the wrong direction.  Not by much, but it was definitely against the ideal downhill flow one would want coming out of their bathroom.  Amazing we did not have serious problems.  Amazing.

Like I said Plumbing is evil.



jadedj said...

Oh yeaaaaaah...I mean, OH, exactly my experience. And after 40 years of denial, I have FINALLY learned this: the numero uno rule about plumbing i...MURPHY'S LAW. You know the one I mean. And rule numero dos? CALL THE FUCKING PLUMBER...ALWAYS!

Tom Harper said...

My only plumbing experience was about 20 years ago when our outdoor pipes burst from the cold. (In the wee hours of the morning, of course.) California was having an unusual cold snap; I had always thought burst pipes only happened in cold parts of the country like the midwest and northeast.

I went out there in the pitch black, frantically disconnecting the broken pieces and then reconnecting. I didn't have any choice; no time to dither and wait for a plumber.

The rest of the time, I just call a plumber. Ditto for the electrician.

Kulkuri said...

There's only three things you need to know to do plumbing: Hot on the Left, Cold on the Right, and shit don't flow uphill!! I have run across places where the first two were reversed.

BBC said...

For plumbing jobs I usually plan on three trips to the hardware store.

The picture reminds of my uncle John's basement in S.L.C. He raised four kids and died in that house.


billy pilgrim said...

a very wise man once told me:

water never sleeps.

MRMacrum said...

jadedj- I used to call the plumber. And one may yet be called.

Tom Harper - The electrical I actually enjoy. Plumbing, well, I hope to develop a liking for it.

Kulkiri - The fact that my toilet and bath sink have been functioning with the drain slightly off horizontal the wrong way for I guess since the drain was put in..... that part of the house must be in another dimension.

BBC - Three trips? sounds about right for the average plumbing fix. However, I am facing a bathroom renovation in both the full bath and the half bath. Bet I make more than three trips to the hardware store.

billy pilgrim - I was going to be a smart ass and say, "Oh yeah, what about when it is frozen?"

Then I remembered what water does to pipes and cracks in rocks when it freezes. Water does indeed never sleep.

Paddy Wright said...

I agree. With a 60 year old house, renovation or repairing job is highly needed to strengthen its structure. Plumbing-related repair is a good place to start with. It is a messy job and can be complicated sometimes, but once it’s done it’s a huge relief for all of you. It’s an advantage that you have knowledge on the matter. Other people would probably prefer to call a pro to fix it for them.

Paddy @

Evon Brow said...

I agree with you. It's really hard and exhausting to do plumbing-related chores, especially if your 60 years is already old house. Doing so will really eat a lot of your time, effort and money. At least you have the knowledge about the matter, and that's a very big advantage. It's really hard, but since you know the ins and outs of the process, I'm sure you're faring great. In any way, thanks for that! Kudos and all the best to you!

Evon Brow @ Athens Plumbing

Lovella Cushman said...

I agree with you. It can be really difficult and exhausting to do "plumbing" chores in a house as old as 60 years. Repairing alone is enough to consume time and money. Well, at least, you were aware of that matter and can actually use that as an advantage since you can estimate the cost and labor ahead of time. Anyway, it’s good to know that you fared well during this ordeal. It must have been a total relief for you to get all the works done. In any ways, thank you for sharing this experience to us. Kudos, Mr. Macrum!

Lovella Cushman @ Perfection Plumbing