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The Joy of Plumbing

Today was dedicated to replacing a shut-off valve to an apartment. The thrill is that the 60-year-old galvanized pipe and connections tend to be a bit fragile. Too much torque and pipes snap, usually in very inconvenient locations, like in a concrete slab.

I don’t deal with those operations any more as I tend to use too much force as I get older, i.e. I have over compensated by increasing the amount of leverage to excess. I let the professionals break the pipes – they have a truck full of them so it takes them less time.

13 comments

1 JuanitaM { 11.04.15 at 3:30 pm }

Oh yes, broken pipes. I’ve had that kind of week myself. The POA for my nursing home client decided to turn off the power last year because they didn’t want to have to pay for the electric. They neglected to tell me that they didn’t winterize…

Actually, it’s probably my fault because I didn’t inquire. But I ask you, would you have thought anyone would have been that dumb, on top of the mountain, no less?

Anyway, $1000 of plumbing repairs later, we may get this thing closed by mid November.

2 Shirt { 11.04.15 at 4:50 pm }

In Willow Glen, I bought a 1913 Craftsman home. Lots of wood. Along came the Loma Prieta quake and I didn’t like it anymore. I rebuilt the kitchen (because it had almost disassembled itself) and had to deal with very old galvanized plumbing. I used a lot of liquid wrench and undersize pipe wrenches (Tried to avoid your gorilla-fist problem). I still broke off pipes and fittings in walls I wasn’t planning to open up. I even broke a fitting where I was driving in a plug!

I’ve been spooked by plumbing ever since. I now call plumbers because they got all the fittings and they don’t have to go to the hardware store 12 different times for each replaced connection.

I’ve found a new aversion though while finishing the remodel of my north county kitchen: The vented hood did not align with the existing exhaust pipe; I went to the hardware store a dozen times before I figured out a way. But neither Lowes or Home Depot carried the 7 inch female/female ductwork splice. So, plan B: lotsa duct tape and make-do adaptors until the splice comes in.

3 Bryan { 11.04.15 at 11:11 pm }

Juanita, anyone who lives where there is a winter should know if your house isn’t heated you have to drain your pipes and flush the toilet to avoid breaks. We do that down here, so it is certainly necessary up where you live. Actually most insurance policies will refused to pay out if you don’t drain the pipes or have someone stop by when you are out of your house in winter and there is damage.

You touched an ‘open wound’ for me, Shirt. Before Lowest and Home Despot showed up down here we had a couple of local places that carried the parts to fix the housing stock that was built down here. Their prices were fine and they a lot of different inventory, not just a larger number of fewer things. The ‘big boxes’ forced them out by undercutting prices until there was no competition left, and then the prices went up.

4 JuanitaM { 11.05.15 at 9:52 am }

Yes, Bryan, you would think so, wouldn’t you? I often get a “well, everyone knows that” look from people when I ask questions about the most basic things, but experience has shown me that there’s always someone out there that has no clue. And it can cost a lot of time and money. Yep, I should have asked…sigh.

(because it had almost disassembled itself)

Good one, Shirt. I’m going to use that one on the next housewreck I come across. It disassembled itself. Like that.

5 Bryan { 11.05.15 at 3:55 pm }

In education and and consulting it is called ‘assumed knowledge’ as in you expect high school graduates to be familiar with algebra, but that ‘ain’t necessarily so’. It also occurs in interviews at crime scenes where it slips peoples’ minds that they had seen someone at the scene covered in blood spatters and carrying a baseball bat.

6 Badtux { 11.05.15 at 4:20 pm }

The big box stores drove the local hardware stores out of business here too, but that opened up a market for a new business that sold only the stuff needed for our antiquated housing stock that the big box stores don’t stock. But that requires an entrepreneurial spirit and access to capital, both of which apparently are in short supply in your area….

Regarding galvanized pipe, I’m surprised you still have any. It had a rated lifespan of twenty years, meaning that all the galvanized pipe around here long since rotted away and has been replaced with copper. That said, there’s plenty of plumbing issues where I would also say “let the plumber do it”. Either for safety’s sake (I am *not* getting up on the roof and running a plumbing snake down the main stack at my age!) or because the fitting I’m looking at looks more fragile than I’m interested in messing with.

7 Bryan { 11.05.15 at 9:38 pm }

These pipes are from the Truman era, so 60+ years old and showing their age, so you can understand why I don’t want to put a wrench on them.

I get a lot of parts from the local Ace Hardware, the one local place willing to order parts they don’t have in stock, and parts that fit old houses.

8 oldwhitelady { 11.07.15 at 11:51 am }

Leaving it to the professionals is the smart choice… but now you reminded me I need to call the plumber. I’ve had a slow sink, in the kitchen, for a couple years. It started right before I decided to move the home. I decided that this is the year to get it fixed!

9 Bryan { 11.07.15 at 8:58 pm }

I will work on the drains, it’s the galvanized supply lines that I don’t want to touch.

I try a couple of doses of Draino before going to a wire snake, and if that doesn’t work I go with new pipes. Of course if it requires crawling more than 50 feet under a house, it’s time for a plumber.

10 Badtux { 11.08.15 at 10:49 pm }

Crawling under a house?

My father made me crawl under a house and do plumbing when I was a teenager. I hate spiders. Me and spiders don’t coexist peacefully. We did not get along, not at all, both of us trying to occupy the same space where the plumbing existed. Ever since then, if anything requires crawling under a house, I call a professional.

Spiders. Ick.

11 Bryan { 11.08.15 at 11:40 pm }

My biggest concern is the fact nothing grows under the house, and all of the sand makes a wonderful litter box. The other problem is banging my head while crawling. When you’re bald, it’s easy to get a scalp wound and they bleed like crazy. People tend to freak out when when you crawl out from under the house with blood running down your face into your beard.

12 Badtux { 11.09.15 at 9:41 pm }

For the head issue, wear either a hard hat or a nice thick cap. Of course you’d need a hard hat with a chin strap to keep it from falling off.

Cat crap didn’t phase me at all, even though we had cats and they were well known to spend time under the house. Spiders, on the other hand… [shudder].

13 Bryan { 11.10.15 at 12:13 pm }

I have the hard hat, but lack the chin strap.

Cat crap contains various diseases which can be transmitted to humans. Most of them are just annoying, but a brother got an infection in his hands while gardening that caused major swelling in his hands. It was a good deal more than annoying.