Thursday, October 22, 2009

I am not a plumber

If I were, things would go much faster and easier. Had quite the plumbing adventure today. Started as an easy little job - replace a cartridge in a leaky faucet, replace the wax seal on a leaky toilet. An hours work at most. Went to Canadian tire, grabbed the parts, started. Shut off water behind toilet and unhook. The shut off valve is leaking. Crap. Water is trickling onto the floor. No problem, there is another shutoff for the bathroom in the basement.

Run downstairs to turn that one off. Righty tighty, lefty loosey. Just as it is about to close tight, pssshhshhshssss, its spraying water like mad. Water is not supposed to be spraying out of a valve all over the laundry room. Its a tap in the middle of a length of copper pipe - there is no 'out'. Crap again. No problem, I'll just run over to the main shutoff at the pressure tank and shut that off. Crank, crank, crank, tight. Good. Wait... water is still spraying out of the valve in the laundry room. And what is that puddle on the basement floor over there? Isn't that right underneath the bathroom? Apparantly the main shutoff valve doesn't do off.

How do I turn off the spraying in the laundry room? I very counter intuitively turn on the tap. It works, mostly. Now only a fine spray misting the laundry room. I shut off power to the well pump, run the laundry tub sink until the pressure tank is empty, and water stops spraying and dripping onto the basement floor. Step 1 is now accomplished, water is shut off.

Then unbolt and lift the toilet off the flange. I see where the problem is, some gunk missed being cleaned off the bottom of the toilet and the old wax hadn't sealed properly. Cleaned it up with lighter fluid - an excellent solvent - shine it up nice, and apply the new wax ring. Beautiful. Lift 50 pounds of pocelain, manoever carefully over flange bolts without the bottom of the toilet touching anything... just so... not quite... oops. Knock flange bolt out of flange and down into pipe. Crap.

Well, I do need another trip to Canadian Tire for some valves to replace the broken/leaking ones. I'll get another bolt. Make list, check twice. No valves in stock. Go to Home Hardware. Get valves. Forget to check list, forget new flange bolt. Not wanting to make another drive, I head to the basement again, open cleanout below toilet. Crap. Literally this time. There is flange bolt. Reach in with screwdriver and manoever it out. Close cleanout. James is now home from school, so I get his help to put the toilet back in place. It really works better with two people. It just plops into place. Hardy har har.

Then valve time. A giant pain the butt working on our ancient plumbing system. The whole thing really needs to be redone, properly, in something bigger than 1/2" copper. I was very concerned that moving or changing anything would open up more leaks in new places. Desoldering valves, resoldering valves, replacing lengths of pipe, resealing unions, yet another trip to Canadian Tire for another union. Burn hand with drop of molten solder. Turn pump back on. Turn water back on. Forget that the bathtub hot water tap is on because I had just replaced the leaking cartridge. Spray water all over the multitude of paper towels I had temporarily put there after cleaning toilet wax and other nastyness under the toilet. Turned it into a nice soggy mess. Brown in colour, since much of the crap lining the water pipes was flushed out.

Gah. Sigh. Why is it that a simple job always leads to more problems? Oh, well, at least we now have a working main water shutoff. That could come in handy one day. I think the gate valves were just really, really old. We're on a sand point well, so no doubt some sand has got into over the years and messed up the seals. Changed to ball valves. Better flow, quicker and easier to shut off, and less susceptible to seal failure.

Good time with James, showed him how to solder copper pipes. Told him never to forget to put the union nut on the pipe before soldering. Of course I then forgot to put the union nut on the pipe, but he reminded me before I soldered! He learned to use a tube cutter, a propane torch, and desoldered and soldered a joint. My one hour job had turned into an all afternoon thing. Can't wait for my next fixit project.

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