Shower faucets aren’t really finger tight

I have been having problems with the faucet in my shower for about six months now. I have neglected to fix it because I absolutely knew that I was going to encounter all kinds of problems when I tried to fix it, and of course I was right.

The problem with the shower is a bit odd, really. For reasons unknown the hot water side will gain and lose pressure seemingly at random. It could go for 2 weeks without having a problem, it could go for 2 weeks without working properly. I had tried disconnecting the hot water line and just blowing water through it without success, so I needed to try something else. The plan was to try to just pull the control lever and clean the fittings inside of that; possibly replace a couple of the rubber seats. Of course this all went to hell the second I touched it.

You can see that little bastard here. I have taken off the trim already, and started trying to take the ring that holds the faucet together off. Up to this point it hadn’t been working -which is to say that it wouldn’t move a bit- so I knew it was only a matter of time before this minor repair became a major headache. You can actually tell from the photo that the whole faucet has been moving as I have been trying to apply gentle and even force with a wrench, you can also tell by the angle it is currently at that is hasn’t been working to loosen the retaining ring at all. I already have the water off at this point, and I have no intention of stopping until I get the damn thing working again, for better or worse, so I grabbed the camera to document the demolition phase disassembley.

There are lots of instructional videos online showing just how to do this (take the ring off and replace the seats and springs, that is), and in all of the videos these fittings are barely finger tight, and the entire operation takes about two minutes. Of course in the real world you will be there with a pipe wrench -actually leaning on it for additional torque- and the fucker is going to break. You’ll know you’ve reached this point when the water starts pouring out of the handle as seen here. Pretty much as expected I broke one of the lines on the back of the faucet well before the retaining ring broke free. I want to point out the quality of the image though: you are seeing a version that is cropped pretty heavily and reduced to 20% of the original size, and still those little water droplets just hang there, as if frozen in time… It’s a good thing I had the camera handy, eh?

Another thing that all the instructional videos I saw online had in common was that there was always ready and easy access to all of the plumbing. That’s nice for making a video, but a house generally tends to have most of the plumbing fixtures hidden away in walls. They are much more difficult to get at there, but they also aren’t nearly as much of an eyesore. My house is one that has said plumbing connections hidden away, so there was much work to be done. The wall behind the shower (the one on the outside of the bathroom) is about 18 inches of solid adobe. There is an access panel that goes about halfway up the back of the bathtub, but no reasonable way to access the faucet from there. You can reach the water supply lines and that is about it. That meant I had to do all the work from the front (and theoretically finished) side. First I had to remove the sliding glass doors that I put in when I initially remodeled the bathroom a few years back. That is easy enough; the top bar is held in place only by gravity, and each end is easily pulled off by removing three screws and cutting the bead of silicone running along the edges.

The walls of my bathtub/shower are covered with a 5-piece pre-molded surround. This also went in when I did the bathroom remodel. Previously there had been 8″x8″ ceramic tiles that ran only about 30 inches up the wall. Water had gotten between and behind them and done some horrible damage to the adobe. Water is the #1 enemy of any structure, but in adobe that is tenfold: water + packed dirt = mud. The goal was now to try to remove this piece of the surround without doing extensive damage to it. I expected I was probably not going to be able to do it without getting any cracks in it, but I was hoping that I would be able to reuse it; I really don’t want to have to replace the entire surround. So with a chisel and some finesse, off to work I go.

Now having mentioned the prior problems I had with water getting behind the shower enclosure, I knew that I took extra effort to make sure that it wouldn’t happen again. I remember being pretty liberal with the liquid nails on the back of all of the panels, then going batshit with the silicone near the top and edges, but even I was surprised to see just how much glue I had holding this thing up. I mean holy mother-loving shitballs that is a lot of glue! I was taking my time here to try to do this slowly, peeling it back a little at a time, trying not to let it crease so that it wouldn’t crack. You can see one large crack near the top of the picture but thankfully that is behind an overlap when installed.

I managed to get it off in one piece, with only a minimum of damage. Near the bottom left you can see a crease which would end up cracking, but with a little bit of caulking it will be just fine. If I was doing this for someone else I would certainly replace this whole sheet (I should also point out that there is absolutely no way I would do this for someone else anyway, so that example probably doesn’t mean much), but since it is my house and I don’t mind a few imperfections this is good enough for me. I would move this out of here and lay it flat on the floor after I saw that first crease form, and that was the only visible crack that formed during the process.

Getting the plastic surround off was really the only part I was dreading. Once I got down to the lumber and plumbing I was a lot more confident that I could do this without too much of a headache. The plywood that you see in the picture here was all added when I remodeled the bathroom. There had been a couple of 1″x4″‘s behind this previously that were holding up some particle board, and it had all rotted through. Plywood is not an ideal structural material, but in this application the only thing it is actually holding up is the thin plastic shower surround, so there isn’t any real weight to it, and it needed to be smooth. This whole thing came off easily, there are about 10 screws holding it up (they can be seen as little black dots throughout). A couple of them had gotten hidden behind that ridiculous mass of glue, but I was able to get them all out pretty easily to get at the plumbing.

The cup that I had been holing all of my screws and other hardware in got knocked over into the tub. As I was picking the parts up, I snapped this picture. If you are ever working on a sink or bathtub, make sure you plug the drain. I just threw a handy washcloth in there, and as you can see there are still a couple of little red washers in there from where the cup tipped. I’m sure that the sliding glass door frame would go back up just fine without them, but the less crap you get in your drain the better. The last thing you want is to have to tear out your drain as well.

Here we see the faucet assembly. The board that it is mounted to is another addition I had to put in there, the old faucet had been simply held in by the pipes and I needed to change that. Also the little pieces of one inch lumber on the sides were added to give me a couple more screw points for the plywood front. Down at the bottom you can see a piece of lumber with a square cut out if it, that exterior access is just below that. As you can imagine it would be impossible to get a screwdriver all the way up to the faucet mounting screws from there. I am to the easy part at last!

This shot is just to get a good look at the copper and bronze fittings. You can see a lot of discoloration on them right near the tips, and the hot water side has some running the length of the pipe, but being copper and bronze these are still in pretty good condition and don’t really need to be replaced. Those bronze elbows go 5-8 bucks each (depending on the store) and sweated copper pipe can last a hundred years easy, so there is really no need to replace it.

Remember to disconnect the shower head assembly before you start trying to remove this line. I actually neglected to do that during the remodel and was forced to replace the entire line after I applied about three ass tons of force and creased the copper. This top piece is usually in a finished chrome so be careful not to damage it if you are going to reuse it. I find that you can usually stick a screwdriver inside of it and use it for leverage (the top piece that goes into the shower should be bent so this works nicely).

Disconnect the water supply. I am going to point out that this is one area where I probably went far astray from building code. I really shouldn’t have the flex lines you see there in this application. I should be using compression fittings for this (the ones with the nut that crimps down on the pipe to tighten it) and I think building code would dictate that since this is inside a wall you shouldn’t have this type of connector (I can’t swear to that) but when I put this thing in I knew I was going to have to replace it eventually, and using the flex lines meant I would be able to put just about any faucet back in here, where if I had gone with a solid line I would have had to do a lot of cutting and soldering if it didn’t all line up. I do have access to these lines from the outside (note the hole in the block in the back of the picture) and since I am replacing the faucet now I sure am glad I did it this way.

Once all the other water lines are disconnected, there are only a couple of screws holding the faucet up. These ones were rusty as hell, but they came right out.

Then to pull the spout out… Unfortunately the length of this piece of pipe wasn’t something that I had a great deal of control over. It had to be long enough that the spout would sit snugly against the wall when the whole thing is assemble, and as it turns out that is about an inch longer than the space I had available to remove it. As you can see I actually had to notch a piece of the lumber out in the back to get this thing pulled out. Again, the plan is to reuse all of this, so I didn’t want to just cut the pipe.

I wanted to take a shot of this one to show the actual end of the pipe. While it looks extremely corroded, you can see that the threads are still in excellent condition. There was clearly a leak at some point, or it could be from condensation, these lines are not in an insulated area, but there is no damage to any of the pipes or fittings beyond superficial. The flux was still clean and unbroken, there were no bends, kinks, or crimps. I’m sure your helpful hardware store attendant would probably give you the opposite advice, and equally as sure that a general contractor would point to the corrosion as evidence of a need to replace all the plumbing in the house, but in the real world there is no need to throw money at it just because the faucet was faulty.

Here are those pieces again, cleaned up just a bit. Just hit them with a wire brush to get rid of any loose debris. The only concern is anything on the threads that might keep the teflon tape from making a seal, remnants of old teflon tape doesn’t fall into that category. Also I didn’t clean the threads all the way to the nut simply because it’s not necessary to screw them any tighter than a couple of turns. Again, a contractor may offer different advice, but we are looking at real world application. Just as there is no need to waste a lot of money, there is also no need to waste a lot of time, unless you happen to be paying yourself by the hour for this repair, if that’s the case, by all means, clean those pipes up like new!

Here is the whole assembly reattached to the new faucet. You can see that the teflon tape hid all those imperfections around the threads anyway. A couple things to note if you are using a single faucet handle like this: The first is to make sure that you have the correct side up. It would be entirely possible to install this thing upside down. As I’m thinking about it, it might still work upside down, but better safe than sorry. The second is to make sure you get the pipes oriented correctly. I could probably still turn each of those pipes a quarter turn with a wrench, give or take, but since they have to line up, snug (with a wrench) is all you need; if you get stuck and are force to back it out, remove the pipe, retape it, and do it again.

It all goes back together just the way it came apart. Just hook it all back up and, with any luck, there won’t be any leaks. Make sure to test it for leaks before you put the whole wall back together. I have the wallboard only connected by three screws and the laminate cover not glued in place so that I can check again in a couple days to make sure the temperature changes don’t cause it to start leaking.

And that is about as far from the three finger-tightened screw walktrhoughs that you are going to find.


Well, it has been a while since I have thrown anything up over here, so here goes.

Being unemployed is a lot of work.

I have been taking the time to do some stuff around the house that I should have done years ago. Not little things like taking out the trash either, I am talking major construction projects. In the past week or so I have re-tiled the floor in the Arizona room, replaced the plumbing in the entire house, installed a garbage disposal, installed a new water purifier, added electrical outlets in the kitchen, replaced rotting lumber under the kitchen sink, replaced the kitchen sink, installed a new vanity, faucet and medicine cabinet in the bathroom, replaced the light fixture there as well, re-tiled the floor in half of the bathroom as well as painting it, removed the tile and old lumber from around the bathtub, put new lumber around the back of the tub, and probably a bunch of other stuff that doesn’t come to mind immediately. Oh yeah, I also had to re-route some of the plumbing so that I could put the washer and dryer together in the corner of the back room. Oh, and I serviced our evaporative cooler.

Anyway, I have found a lot of stuff to keep me busy while I anxiously wait for calls about the various jobs I have applied for. Truth be told, I didn’t even start applying for them until Monday, since I was going to take a week off anyway (not likely to get a vacation this year). I did do a resume thing on though, so I actually had an interview on Monday for a job that I never applied for.

The interview was at a place called 84 Lumber, which I had never heard of, but it is a 3.6 billion dollar a year business. The job was not what I was looking for; since I was not willing to relocate I would not have been able to get the management position. There is no way I am going to take another grunt job. I am far too experienced and getting a bit too old for that.

Well, that’s it for now. Check back another day for more riveting mundane crap.

You load sixteen tons…

The best part of my job is that no two days are ever the same. Sure everyone makes that same claim, but in my case it is totally true. I am a butcher, in theory, but I have to do all of the stocking of the milk, beer, perishables, and just whatever the hell happens to come into the store. That is just in the first couple of hours that I am there though, after that it can get interesting.

When I first started working there, back in 1994, whenever something would go wrong with plumbing/electrical/you-name-it, they would call someone to come and fix it. Now I am that someone. I have learned a lot of skills during my time at this job, skills that will likely make it a lot easier for me to find another job should I go looking for one. I never knew that I was an electrician, or a plumber, or a building contractor until, I actually had the project in front of me. My logic was pretty simple: If someone with an 8th grade education can do it, I can do it also. Because “I am good enough, I am smart enough, and dog gone it people like me” (no offense if you don’t get the humorous intent of the quote).

In my years working where I do I have taught myself the major aspects of various trades. I can now lay down tile (ranging from the do-it-yourself peel-and-stick, through the industrial grade that must be glued down, all the way to the ceramic, which is extremely expensive but a very good investment as you will never have to replace it.), I can troubleshoot electrical circuits in structures that were wired up at least a couple of decades before my birth, I have become quite proficient at finding and eliminating the sources of leaking roofs, I can replace water lines without a problem (though I only replace with PVC or CPVC since I don’t actually have a torch and the flux that copper would require. Although I did have to borrow a torch to do a copper line one time since building codes do not allow pvc connections behind walls. That is a long story though), yes, I have learned a lot while working where I do, mostly self taught.

The culmination of my self-taught abilities came a couple of weeks ago. There was a vacant rental house that the boss wanted fixed up, but he figured I could do all the work. He was right. I will skip over the minutiae of broken faucets and the such and get to the meat of this one, I had to install laminate flooring (Pergo. Google it if you care, I am not going to link to it). That is some tough shit to put down. While it is true that it just snaps together, what they don’t tell you (the installation instructions tell you but you have already committed yourself to it at that point) is that there has to be a quarter inch space between the flooring and the wall at all times, to allow for expansion and contraction of the flooring. That is probably all well and good in new homes, you know the ones, they are easily identified by their straight walls, standard door moldings and the such. In a house that is as old as the one I was working in none of those things exist.

This description will be horribly confusing, but bear with me. I had to lay the flooring down in a house that had walls and corners about as square as an overhead view of the border between the U.S. and Mexico. There was existing “trim molding” that actually went below the level of the floor (which I could not use for finish molding since it would leave the underside of the flooring completely exposed to the elements, or so the Home Depot guy told me), the existing “trim molding” stopped about an inch before every door, went back to the level of the wall, had a quarter-round molding (vertical), then hit the door jamb. The door transitions were hard.

It took me about an hour to lay 200 square feet of this flooring: It took me about 20 hours to lay the 30 square feet for the 7 doorways and two carpet transitions. I still had to leave the quarter inch gap around all of the transitions (where the doors are), but was able to cover all of the rest of the gaps with molding. Even the housing inspector (that is the guy that comes in to check out the house prior to sale to make sure that the home will be around by the time the mortgage is paid off) didn’t notice the small gaps at the doorways. It is only a quarter of an inch.

So I learned a brand new skill today: I can now haul dirt.

The basement of the place I work is quite cavernous, thousands of square feet. The foundation is extremely visible and made of nothing but huge stones and mortar. Problem is someone decided to mud over the foundation and make it into a living area (I have no idea how long ago that was, but I would guess decades). The mud that they slapped over the enormous rocks has long since turned to sand, which is now filling up the basement. It is nearly knee deep at the corners and along the wall, while being only a light dusting (say an inch and a half) near the center. I have to clean it out.

Dirt is heavy.

I spent three hours down in the basement today doing nothing other than moving out that dirt. I had a helper so that we could do double the damage in the same amount of time. We each filled two buckets, five gallon buckets, before taking them out to the street. Each bucket weighed in excess of fifty pounds, we carried them out two at a time (four at a time since there were two of us). That makes it to be 200 pounds each time we carried them out. I would guess that we only did 25 trips to get the dirt cleaned out, which sucks since I titled the post about sixteen tons and we only did about 2.5 tons. Of course the sixteen ton song is about shoveling, not what we had to do.

Every full bucket of sand has to make it to the street. That trek, from where we were in the basement, was about 200 feet to the stairs, the thirteen stairs, 30 feet to the door, and an additional 250 feet after that. Dumping the pails was taking about five minutes every time, but we were to sweeping near the end so I guess I didn’t really have to work all that hard.

On the upside, I get to do it again tomorrow! We only managed to clear one wall today, there are many more to be taken care of.

Seriously, Kids, stay in school.

I hate plumbing

I hate plumbing. I hate it with such a passion that whenever I have to actually duel with the plumbing beast only one comes out alive, and then just barely. The concept of plumbing is so simple that it seems like it should be a pretty easy task to take care of minor household issues that arise, yet, in practice, it never is.

The only times that I really wish I lived in a new, mass produced house are when I have plumbing issues in my old, one-of-a-kind pad. New homes are made of little boards, Styrofoam and drywall. My house is made of adobe, bricks and mortar. Thankfully the issue at hand didn’t require having to drill through all 18 inches of the wall again, that was damn near impossible with ordinary tools, but it still was not an easy job. I had to change a faucet in the kitchen.

The kitchen faucet has been in serious need of replacement for about (let’s see… Carry the one…) two and a half years. My father-in-law actually gave me a faucet about two years ago (nice one too. Quite heavy, all copper inside) that has been just sitting in the junk room. I decided I really better go ahead and put the new faucet on, for real this time, the other day when I went to fill the dogs’ water dish and more water was spraying out of the sides of the faucet than was getting into the bowl. On the up side, it only took half an hour to find the faucet (my previous attempts at locating it had not yielded any results. Most likely since I was only doing a half-assed job of looking for it since I hate plumbing so much).

The problem with the plumbing in my house is that it is old, really old. With the exception of the main water line (which I had to replace last year at Christmas) it is all galvanized. Really old galvanized. It looks perfectly fine on the outside, yet it is so rusted on the inside that if I touch it it is likely to break. And usually does. So I was a wee bit apprehensive about working on it today, but I was at the point where I either had to replace it or find a way to fill a glass with water shooting straight into the air.

I shut off the main water supply to the house via the valve that I added when I replaced the main line (as the shut off at the street doesn’t work and the city has ignored my repeated requests to replace it). Those little valves under the sink might look like they are intended to turn off the water supply but, in practice, the are more likely to break off in your hand than actually have any effect on water flow. I didn’t want to have to get into replacing those (heh, more on that later). I ever so gently removed the hoses from the valves under the sink (which I did first only because this was where major disaster could happen and if disaster was going to happen I didn’t want it to be when I was damn near done), no breakage, I was home free…

I would have been home free, had I replaced the faucet two and a half years ago…

The minerals in water are an odd bunch. They have the ability to corrode the stainless steel and metal parts of the faucet, while adding a huge build-up of greenish gunk to the copper parts. Two and a half years of adding greenish gunk to the copper threads that hold the faucet in place are not easily overcome.

basin wrenchI happened to have a basin wrench at my disposal. That is a wonderful little tool  that is just absolutely fucking useless in my experience. I bought the thing (well one exactly like it) shortly after I moved into the house when I had to replace the faucet in the bathroom. The nuts on the bathroom faucet were so fused to the pipes that I bent the t-bar on the basin wrench and was still not able to make them move. I eventually had to use a hacksaw on the bathroom faucet, but I did have the basin wrench for future projects. Projects like replacing the kitchen faucet where it would prove to be equally useless.

The nuts that hold the faucet to the sink are made of plastic, they even have little ridges on them so that you can tighten them with only your fingers (I suppose the manufacturer theorizes that you can loosen them in the same manner, they are sorely mistaken). Since the nuts are made of plastic they neither corrode or get chemical build up on them. They were the only part of the whole damn sink that were in perfect shape. Thing is, there is no way to turn the little plastic nuts. They were meant to be tightened by fingers, not metal tools. When I tried to loosen the little things with the aforementioned basin wrench I was able to get about a full turn out of each nut before there was nothing left for the tool to grip. Bring on the hacksaw!

There is only about a two inch space behind your average faucet before you encounter a wall. That is a real problem when trying to saw, what with the sawing action requiring some actual forward and back movement. Even with the saw turned as sideways as I could get it I was only able to make strokes of three inches or so. It took over a half an hour to cut through the first of the two water supplies (above the sink, mind you). The cold water side was the one that remained. Since I am right handed, and the cold water supply is on the right, it was requiring a weird sort of underhand saw stroke which was hurting my arm and going nowhere. The diameter of the hole that the supply goes into is about an inch, the diameter of the nut is about an inch and a half… Hmmm. I wonder if I could just rip the whole thing out of the top without destroying the sink.

I did rip the whole thing right out of the top of the sink, nut and all. The picture to the left shows what was left of the faucet, as well as that stupid nut. Keep in mind that the nasty little nut (that being the ugly black thing) came out of a hole that was much smaller than it. I was so pissed off by the time I got the thing out that I literally just threw it in the direction of the door to the outside. The damage to the sink was minimal, there was a bit of bending involved in getting the hole back to level but that was about it. It was only when I dug this old piece of shit out of the trash (to snap a photo) that I started to wonder how in the fuck I managed to get that big ass piece of plastic through such a small hole.

Unfortunately the new faucet is now in place, with no leaks, thank you, and I’ll be damned if I am gonna take it out just to snap a photo of the size of the hole it came out of. That nut has a flange on it. It is specifically designed so that you can’t rip it out from the top. It took only anger, rage, anger, superhuman strength, anger, crying, anger, and a bit of finesse to rip that sucker out. That or I managed to catch an edge of the plastic from the top of the sink and the steel cut through the plastic as I basically unscrewed it. That wouldn’t be much of a tale to tell though. Plus, I have photographic proof of my superhuman accomplishment!

The big downside to this all is that my jerry-rigged connection to the water purifier got fucked up in the process (cross threaded a brass connector into a PVC junction). I am going to have to actually replace one of the valves under the sink after all, or live without an ice maker. I doubt the wife will let me live without an ice maker (not that she will encourage me to fix it or anything, more that she will probably kill me if I don’t). When I try to replace that valve tomorrow, and it breaks (oh yeah, it is gonna break. This is my life), I will have to replace another significant portion of the plumbing for the rest of the house (since everything else will break in turn).

Did I mention that I hate plumbing?

Cheating death: my favorite sport

It seems to me that there really must be a God or something. I have recounted several stories over the last couple of years where I did something so monumentally stupid that it would and should have been ruled suicide, except I lived (thus proving the existence of God. There has to be someone out there keeping me alive even though I clearly want to die, right? Stupid God and his stupid keeping me alive all the time!). Today is more of the same.

Imagine, if you can, a ladder leaning against a wall (come on imagine it). Now imagine standing on that ladder about ten feet up. Then imagine that while you are facing one wall you have to work on a device that is not only on the left side of the ladder but, also a couple of feet behind you. I would have loved to have leaned the ladder against what I was working on, but I had to pull a portion of the thing out which required that I have at least 8 inches of space between the ladder and the device. Can’t get that kind of space when the ladder is actually leaning against what I am trying to pull out. I’ll just say that it is always an awkward position to be in (since I do have to remove the same piece several times every year).

So ten feet in the air, reaching a couple of feet behind me with my left arm, turned sideways on the ladder, the damn thing got stuck and I couldn’t break it free. I shook at it vigorously with both hands, still ten feet in the air, still on the ladder. I finally got it loose, but it weighed a lot more than it usually does; normally it goes four or five pounds, this time it was at least 35 or 40 pounds. No matter, it was removed. The problem was that while I normally leave the thing on a board near the ladder while I do the repairs, that action requires me to fully extend my left arm and lift it above shoulder level, while holding the heavy piece and actually leaning back, all while on the ladder. I didn’t sit down with a pen and paper to do any calculations, but I am pretty sure that the 40 pound weight, leaning back on the ladder, and the fact that my other hand would also not be secured to anything would have likely resulted in me falling. Instead I lowered the thing to the ground, one ladder rung at a time.

The reaper went quickly. In fact the actual repair took far less time than getting to the part that needed repaired in the first place. But I still had to put that damn piece back in…

Now I know that 35 or 40 pounds isn’t much of a burden, even as awkward and cumbersome as this one is shaped, but it is damn tough to get the thing up a ladder and back into place when that place is two feet behind you on the left. Also, the thing is over two feet wide and just under three feet tall, and it has to go in bottom first. There is simply no way to do it without letting go of the ladder completely and leaning back a little (which was fine back when the thing only weighed five pounds), which is some scary shit. It turns out that when I try to extend my left arm completely, and try to lift a 40 pound load to above the shoulder, I am just not capable of doing it. The object was resting against the wall (the wall that the ladder was leaning against) which kept me from using my right hand to help move it, since the right arm would have had to go behind the ladder to do so; one arm on each side of the ladder (straddling it) is not going to give me the distance to put the thing in place. So I used a leg instead.

Ten feet in the air, sideways, on a ladder, I used me left leg to try to help me hold the thing up, all the while using my left arm to try to get it two feet behind me (well to my left side at this point since I was actually standing sideways on the ladder). I got the left side to the correct position, but my leg couldn’t force the right side of it up, so I had let go of the ladder with my right hand to lift that side. Yeah, ten feet up a ladder, holding a load with my left and right hands, as well as my left leg, while standing sideways on that narrow rung, what could possibly go wrong?

Sure lots of things could have gone wrong, but the only thing that did go wrong was that I lost hold of the right side and it started to fall. That shouldn’t have been such a bad thing, since my leg was still holding it up and all. Problem was that the thing was no longer touching my leg. That meant that it was going to swing like a pendulum, hit my leg and knock me clean off the ladder (that damn inertia!). Second possibility was that, since it was already in place on the left side, it was going to fall straight back into me and knock me off the ladder (that damn inertia!). I had to stop it from falling, which I did. Unfortunately, since it had just slipped from my hand, and since I was on the ladder, which doesn’t lend itself to evasive movement with the legs, I had to stop it with the only thing I had available: My own flesh.

Thankfully all of this happened in a fraction of a second. I say thankfully because that meant it hadn’t picked up much momentum yet. All I could do was tense the muscles in my right arm and hope that the jagged, rusted corner didn’t cut too deep when it hit. Ouch.

It fell about four inches before I got my arm into it. This is evidenced by the wonderful cut on the inside of my right arm. The cut is only about an inch and a half long, going from barely a scratch at the beginning to fairly deep at the end. It bled like you wouldn’t believe. I immediately put alcohol on the wound, that was a rusty piece of metal that cut me after all. It took almost two hours to get the deepest part of the wound to stop bleeding, that was long after the majority of it had scabbed over. I did get the damn piece back where it went though!

Let this be a lesson to me: Quit standing ten feet up on ladders, with no hands and only one foot, turned sideways, lifting 40 pounds, and trying to place it behind you. It is probably bad news.
That was my experience, YMMV.

Bring on the juice!

My job gives me the wonderful opportunity to not have to repeat the same mundane tasks on a daily basis. No endless screwing on of toothpaste caps for me. What it also gives me is the opportunity to fuck with things that I would rather not, such as electricity.

I have a pretty good basic knowledge of electricity, which I actually learned in high school in the improperly named Introduction to Technology class. Of course since the only computers we had in my high school were in the library, and only there as a replacement to the card indexes with no other purpose whatsoever, I guess basic electricity really was technology in their eyes. That aside, I loathe electricity. It is wonderful when it is working as expected, but when I have to actually start wiggling wires I get a tad bit nervous. This is compounded when I have to do it where I work.

To say that the wiring in the building I work in is old would be like saying that Hitler was merely a bit quirky. Many of the electrical panels in the building are at least forty years old, complete with the old screw in fuses. The disconnect boxes on the outside of the building are likely every bit as old and scary as hell. Not to mention that, as I think about it, there are at least five separate breaker boxes in the building (two of which have been replaced within the last ten years, two which at least have breakers, and one that still has screw in fuses). As far as power cut off boxes, there are at least (wait while I try to count from memory) 14 of those. Most of those are for specific refrigeration units, while there are a couple that are there for no damn reason at all. The 14 number was counting only the ones that are active as well, there are at least another half dozen that are hanging on the walls but not connected to anything. It is old, it is complex, yet it works just fine for the most part. I will leave it at that for now.

Yesterday, I noticed that the fans in the dairy walk-in were not working so I went to investigate. Here I must note that there is another light outside of the walk-in that runs on the same circuit as the fans, that light was still working. I assumed that this meant that there was something wrong with the compressor for the dairy walk-in itself, when I got outside to the compressor I saw that the compressor for the wall freezer was working just fine, since it is on the same, huge, 100 amp circuit as the dairy compressor I was confident that my initial guess was correct. I pulled the fuse block from the dairy walk-in’s compressor (it is a block about three by four inches that holds three fuses. The fuses look like miniature shotgun shells but with copper on both ends) and tested the fuses, they were all fine. So up the line I went.

The next set of fuses that needed testing were the massive 100 amp ones that I so fear. They also look like shotgun shells, but they are about three inches long with an additional inch of a copper blade sticking out of each end. It is not that I fear the fuses really, but that one of them will not blow out unless the amperage across it has reached 100 amps. If the amperage across the fuse reached 100 then that means that there could be a serious short in the electrical system. Since less than one amp can be fatal I am really scared of touching 100 amp fuses. I think that fear is pretty justified.

In any electrical installation the line (power) always comes into the top of a box, while the load (the place the power is going to) always goes out the bottom, always, in every instance. I didn’t trust that in this particular case, so I traced the wires myself before trying to test the fuses. It was, astonishingly (to me anyway), actually wired correctly. I threw the lever down on the box to test the fuses (this is, I assume, why they have standardized it so. There must be a standard way to run the power into and out of the box, if the power goes in through the top it is possible to test the fuses without having to remove them. Time saving as well as standardizing, good all around). I tested the left fuse, then the right, both of which were fine (I only tested the left and right first since in a home application, like a dryer, the left and right will each be power while the middle will be ground). Then it went really bad.

Just a quick aside. I had taken the rubber mallet outside with me when I went to check those fuses. The reason why is that when you flip the switch back up the blades do not contact with the power supply very well, this has led to many a blown fuse on that system. The way that I circumvent that problem is to turn off both of the compressors, turn the switch back on, then tap the blades into place with the rubber mallet. This time, thankfully, I had used the rubber mallet to also hold the cover (it opens up) on the box open. I say thankfully since I normally just use my head to hold it up since it only takes a couple of seconds.

I touched my continuity tester to the top of the center fuse, then the bottom. I then immediately dropped to the ground with what used to be a continuity tester in my hands, and a horrible, unstoppable, muscle jerking thing going on. I really got a jolt out of that one. That was the worst shock I have ever felt in my life. I have been shocked by your standard electrical outlet many times, to me that feels more like a tickle than a shock, but this one, boy howdy, I thought I not only bought the farm outright, but possibly also a considerable amount of acreage around it. Funny thing is that it doesn’t really hurt exactly, it is more like you are just wasted of any physical energy, as if you had just done a decathlon a few times in a row. This one took me a good thirty minutes to settle down from, at least to the point that I was able to think and act coherently again. Certainly not recommends for entertainment purposes.

The reason that I got shocked (which completely destroyed the continuity tester, as I may have mentioned) is that when I threw the switch off on that box I didn’t even look to see if all of the blades were removed from power. It turns out that the center blade stayed connected because the arm that pulls that one away from the power was actually broken off. I tried to test a 100 amp fuse with a continuity tester, while it had power. I wonder how many people have ever done that and lived. Yet, I still had to test that fuse somehow.

It was at exactly this moment that I decided the store was going to pony up the ten bucks for a fuse puller. The fuse puller is just like a big set of pliers that is made all out of plastic. That in hand, I pulled the center fuse and took it to the hardware store to have it tested (since my tester was beyond repair) and found that it was also good. If that fuse had been bad, I think I might not be alive right now. That fuse runs to the compressors which are solidly grounded with copper, I only took a portion of the voltage (since the fuse was good, and the copper was a better ground than me. Love those rubber soles), and, more importantly, the amperage. If it would have been only me completing that circuit I would likely only be able to blog in a posthumous fashion.

Another aside. If you ever try to steal power from the warehouse next door, keep in mind that there is something (which I had never heard of previously) that is called a wild leg. It is used exclusively in industrial applications. I am not sure exactly what its purpose is, but it makes it so that the wires that carry power run at 120v, 120v, and 208v. None of the three are a ground or common wire. If you pick the wrong wire (while trying to steal power) and get the 208v one, you will likely destroy every electronic device in your whole house. Keep it in mind.

The problem with the walk-in was eventually resolved, quite simply, but I am gonna leave that for another post, as this one has gone a bit long already.

Plumbing; Roller Coaster Tycoon

The new year marches on. It really seems pretty hard to believe that we are already midway through the ‘aught’ decade. I can remember the eighties pretty well, even the nineties, but if you were to ask me about anything that has happened since the calendar rolled over to 2000, the only thing that I could come up with would be 9/11. At least the only thing that I could come up with quickly. Were I to sit down and think about it for a few minutes I am sure that I could start to name off a bunch of crap that has happened since then. I don’t really want to though. Not to mention the fact that doing something like that would make me think about the president, which would lead to me thinkinking about all of the presidents there have been since I was born, which would lead to me starting to think that I am getting older. Not that there is anything wrong with getting, just that it is something that you usually associate with your parents, not something that you think would ever happen to you.

On that subject, I did get a bit of satisfaction from a comment that one of my boss’ daughters made. Apparently she still has a picture of me from the time I went to the prom with a girl in 1994 (which was the fifth consecutive year that I had been to a prom, still a stat that I am kind of proud of). I was twenty at the time. She said that I haven’t aged a bit since that picture, which made me feel good. Unfortunately, I think that she was only talking about the face part of the picture. The slowing metabolism that seems to come with the late twenties/early thirties has hit me full force, I have put on a couple of dozen pounds since then. My hair is graying more and more. It takes me more time every day to get up and walk without pain in my lower back (which is based solely on the fact that my entire adult life has always involved jobs with a lot of heavy lifting). My eyes seem a bit more sunken, I have wrinkles when I smile, the list goes on and on. Still, it was a nice compliment…If only I could feel like I was still twenty…

• The plumbing issues that I have been discussing since Christmas have been mostly taken care of since last Monday. I have additional parts at the ready to replace the rest of it throughout the house, but I have yet to do so. I had put off filling back in the ditch that houses the new pipe for a week, just to make sure that there weren’t any leaks, not to mention that we have been getting a hell of a lot of rain down here which kept leaving the hole partially filled with water, and the dirt I needed to put back weighing in at double what it did dry. I did take care of that yesterday, man it was a lot of work.

Let this be a lesson to all of you; If you are going to dig a ditch at your house for the purpose of plumbing, fill it back in ASAP. For some reason, most likely the fact that it had been wetted and dried so many times, the dirt was just about the consistency of nearly dry concrete by the time I started to fill the hole back in. It was so thick and heavy that I was afraid to try to do heaping shovelfulls for fear that I would break the shovel’s handle. The dirt was only like that for the first couple of shovelfulls from the mound though, unfortunately, that meant for each section of the mound. All forty feet of it. I initially started filling in a section of the trench completely, then moving forward to the next section. Problem was it was so hard to do the first couple of of throws each section that I feared I wouldn’t be able to get it all done if I continued in that manner. When I finally decided to just do the hardest part all the way down it started to go a bit better, except that by the time I was done with the hard packed stuff my arms were like jello. Fortunately for me the rest of it went it pretty easily, I just used the shovel like a rake/hoe and scooped it in (which would have been a much easier endeavor if I owned a rake or a hoe. I do own both of those, but the rake is a ‘leaf rake’ -yes, an absolute must own in a desert, when you have nothing with leaves-, and the hoe is a children’s toy that is about three feet in length. Both of them were at the house when I bought it, I never really thought I would need real ones). I finished that by about 10:30a.m. yesterday, and that was it for me as far as any sort of physical labor.

My plan had been to fill in the hole, then go ahead and replace the copper lines in and out of the water heater, you know, baby steps. If I do a little bit of the plumbing every weekend I will have it all done over a couple of weeks instead of waiting until something else breaks. Much like any plan I ever have, it all went to hell. Each process is always way harder than anticipated and usually takes twice the time I think it will. I will say again, though, that I really think the hard part is done now. Which I am not even sure I believe. Considering that I said that after I dug the ditch, after I ran the pipe under the sidewalk, after I drilled the hole through the wall for the pipe (both times), after I had the main water line run into the shed, after my father-in-law helped me tie it back into the existing plumbing, and now that the ditch is filled back in. That makes it quite a few times that I had speculated that the hard part was over, only to find that there was more ‘hard part’. I fear that every damn thing is going to be the ‘hard part’. When you live in a house that is more than a century old, you really should expect that things are not going to be as easy as they would be if you lived in a mobile home. Funny how I can say it, but I never believe it.

Enough about plumbing.

• The rest of Sunday was pretty much consumed by the damn Roller Coaster game. I would probably have felt pretty guilty about wasting away the day in that manner were it not for the fact that my wife was sitting right next to me playing it on the other computer. I don’t know what it is about these little ‘simulation’ games that sucks me in, but they always do. The wife actually seems to be a lot better at the game than I am. She can play the scenarios through while maintaining a near perfect park rating, while I am usually struggling to keep it at the 60% or 70% that is required. I am going to attribute that to her being a girl. Girls have, it seems, a knack for design (not the rides, but in general) that makes them far more suited for this type of game. While I use the ‘throw the shit wherever you can fit it in’ method, she kind of seems to think about it a bit more logically. I am not sure if she is going for an aesthetically pleasing layout, but I am sure that she does a lot better at the park layout than I do.

I can still be proud of the fact that I make damn near the most sick, sadistic coasters available. Well, not judging by the ones that they have on exchange on the RCT website, but I am getting better.

Plumbing disaster

Well it seems that I decided to go ahead and take another week off of posting. Not that it was a conscious decision, just something that I noticed when I was uploading my last post to the archives. It seems that time goes into a bit of a warp during the holiday season. Either that or I was abducted by aliens and am actually typing this only a few hours after I last posted. The former seems more likely.

So, Happy 2005! I can honestly say that I don’t know where the last few years have gone. The last new years celebration that I can remember is the one leading into 2000. That is not due to the alcohol either. I think it is because that was the last time the wife and I actually went out to celebrate it, really celebrate it anyway. Not to mention that everyone made such a big deal out of it, being the changing of a millenia (if you choose to view it that way, since technically the next year would be the actual change). Which really doesn’t make a lot of sense when you think about it. They could have picked any arbitrary day throughout human civilization to start counting, they simply chose that one, now we celebrate it as if it is the day the universe were formed, which it clearly isn’t (except possibly to the very religious; though they don’t even seem to know exactly what year God finished the only week of work he has done is his fictional, omnipotent life). Yes, anyway, Happy New Year!

• Now on to the plumbing disasters!

A couple of weeks ago I began to talk about the plumbing disaster. Unfortunately, the situation sat in limbo until yesterday. It had to be fixed yesterday, regardless of cost in money or loss of limb, but I will get to that later.

Since this happened during the holidays, not a single one of the people that were supposed to come by to help ever did. This annoys me to no end. It is not like the people in question are really close friends, but they are people that I have done favors for in the past. Of course one doesn’t do favors for people expecting a favor to be returned, but when you are in a crisis and they are in a position to help, and choose not to, it really makes you think twice about the possibility of helping them later. Spite can be very powerfull, it seems.

The water situation had been getting progressively worse every day since the last mention of it. It was at a point where I would have to go out and turn the main water supply on and off at the meter when we needed to use it. Honestly, that wasn’t all that much of a hardship, but it was monumentally annoying. Imagine my wife trying to cook Christmas dinner, while I had to go out and turn the water on when she needed to use it. It was also pretty embarassing in that respect. I am a thirty year old man, I should be able to deal with such trifles on my own, instead I was feeling all but helpless. Especially since the water meter doesn’t shut off completely, meaning that even while it was off the situation was getting worse, and with the hardware stores opened really screwy hours due to the holidays, even if I had the knowledge to do it myself I likely wouldn’t have been able to buy the parts.

By Saturday the situation was pretty bleak. I turned on the water only long enough to jump into the shower and wash my hair. By the time I got back out to turn it off, the leaky pipe had managed to fill the 35+ foot trench that I had dug for the new line, nearly to the top. Being that the trench was fourteen inches deep, that was a lot of water. That was when I knew that there was no way I could turn the water on again, for any reason, until it was fixed. It was also that night that I once again spoke to Danny Padilla, who swore that he would come over just after church on Sunday to help me. He never showed, of course.

At 8:45am on Sunday, I went out to start the work. The first thing that I had to do was drill a second hole through the 18 inch thick brick, mortar and adobe wall. The first hole happened to come out exactly where an existing pipe was running and there was no way to get a connector on the new pipe, as it was far too close to the wall. The problem with drilling the hole is that your average drill bit isn’t 18 inches long. In fact, it isn’t even 8 inches long. They do make bits that are that long, and in the size that I needed, I priced one at the hardware store, it was 53.95, and it would not have worked with a standard 3/8″ drill anyway. What I had to do was buy a drill extension and use the largest masonry bit that I had to drill a center hole, with five more surrounding it, then find a way to clear out the rest. The cheapest, easiest way to clear out the rest was to use a spade bit, which is meant for cutting through wood, not brick and stone. It was the only option that I had to make the hole the inch and a quarter that it needed to be. There were sparks flying as the little bit chipped away the stone, smoke was coming back as it slowly made its way through the wall. It took almost ten minutes of constant drilling, with a lot of pressure on the bit, but I did get through the wall (again; the first time I drilled it through where it was wet from the leak, it was much easier, that was why I chose that location the first time…Too bad the existing plumbing was in teh way), the spade bit looks a bit more like an arrow than anything else now, I wonder If I could return it.

The hole in the wall was (what I anticipated to be) the second hardest part of the endeavor. With that behind me, I ran the PVC through the wall, slapped on some elbows and connected it to the pipe that I had already run under the sidewalk (If you have never tried to run a pipe under a sidewalk, btw, you really should give it a go sometime, best several hours of your life). Then I went ahead and laid thirty feet of pipe towards the main water hook up, leaving only a short section to make the final connections. Then I went back to the other side of the pipe in the wall and added an elbow and a ball valve, my house would finally have a water shut off! It was at this point that I realized that even though I bought way more connectors than I thought I was going to need, it would likely not be enough. I made the trip to the ACE hardware in neighboring Coolidge to buy more parts.

Funny thing really, when I got to the ACE I started to put parts into a basket. At first I was putting in just the parts that would be necessary if all went well, then I decided I better figure out the worst case scenario and make sure to have enough parts for that as well, since the worst case is usually where I always end up. Good thing I did too. (Much on a side note, I knew that PVC was cheap, but I had no idea just how cheap. While planning the worst case scenario, and buying the necessary parts for it, I went ahead and bought enough pipe, connectors and the such to replace the entire cold water line in my house. Total cost, twelve bucks, added to the twelve that I had already spent, so, 24 dollars to replace the cold water line from the meter to everything in the house. That is counting only the PVC though, the connectors that you need to actually hook into the faucets and water heater are far more expensive. In fact, I bought the connectors for the hot and cold lines in and out of the water heater today, brass nipples and copper pipe, for a total of 36 dollars. The only other expensive parts are the angle stops that let you shut off the water to the toilet, or the faucets under the sink, but those only go three or four bucks, so still not that much.) Back home I went, hoping that I hadn’t missed my plumber friend.

Mr. Plumber friend didn’t show up while I was gone, and not after I got home either. I whiled away a bit of time playing roller coaster tycoon, but by 12:30 I knew I had to get going or it wouldn’t get done. I went out to the water meter and, very apprehensively, cut the main water line. I made a major mistake on that; I had to make two cuts and I cut the higher one first. Being that the water doesn’t shut off completely at the meter I had to make the second cut underwater, as I could not pail the water out of the hole fast enough to keep it from being submersed again. Even after I had made both cuts (leaving just enough room that I could get an elbow onto the main line, completely bypassing the old one), I had to dig the hole quite a bit deeper to allow me to try to glue the connectionw while they were not underwater. With all of the connections made to the water meter, I went to check my newly installed ball valve. As hoped/expected, the water started to stream out of it within about a minute. Now, PVC glue is not meant to be used on wet pipes, so I didn’t want to actually shut off the valve and build up pressure in the line, so I loose-fitted a line to the shut off that ran ten feet away from the whole situation. I let it run like that for about an hour, just long enough that I was confident that the pvc cement would be able to hold the little bit of pressure it would be getting when I shut off the newly installed ball valve. For the first time in several weeks I had no water leaking on my property, of course I also had no way to shower or wash my hands. It was time for the hard part.

Several calls to the plumber friend had gone unanswered, and I had already cut the main water line and spliced into it, we had no running water until this was done. I decided to bite the bullet and try to make the most difficult connection myself. The problem there was that I had to try to cut through the old galvanized line, twice, to remove an elbow so that I could splice back into the indoor plumbing. The problem was worsened by the fact that 1) my hack saw blades were worn to shit, and 2) The most difficult connection was directly behind the water heater, leaving about six inches of workspace. I started sawing away with my little hacksaw, and sawing, and sawing. I spent about a half an hour trying to make just one of the cuts and I knew that it was just not going to happen. What I didn’t know then, which I do now that I have showered, is that I bloodied three out of eight exposed knuckles while trying, two on the right hand and one on the left. It was at this point that my wife suggested three things, 1) That we call her dad to see if he could help. 2) That I go to Circle K (kind of a code for buy some beer). 3) That I leave it alone for a while.

Turns out that she was right on all three counts. The father-in-law happened to have a Reciprocating Saw (most people call them sawzall, regardless of the brand), which was exactly what the operation required. I had a couple of malt beverages while awaiting his arrival, which really did soothe the anxiety a bit, and I wasn’t nearly as pissed off at the plumbing when he got here. It seems that the more angry you are, the less likely you are to deal with things rationally, or something. I am starting to believe all of those “temporary insanity” claims on murder charges might be at least partially true; I was going to kill the plumbing, and I really doubt that I was thinking that as a sane person.

The reciprocating saw couldn’t really fit in the space alloted, so we did have to pull the water heater out. It was probably better that way anyhow, as the natural gas line was actually so close as to be nearly touching the pipe I was trying to cut. Once the water heater was removed, the reciprocating saw took care of the pipe cutting in about one minute, for both cuts. As I look at my little knuckles I can only think that I really wish Mr. plumber friend would have shown up, that saw is quite the time/flesh saver. With the water heater safely outside, the worst case scenario presented itself; The “T” that I was hoping to join into was stuck fast, even though the line itself was loose all the way into the house. Thankfully, I had purchased all of the parts necessary to replace the whole damn thing. Within an hour (after the water heater was drained) we had it all hooked back up.

There are a couple of extremely minor leaks in the finished product, but I did purchase parts to fix them. I have yet to actually do that though, since I plan to replace all of the rest of the plumbing over the next couple of weekends. One drop of water per minute doesn’t really qualify as a leak in my books anyway, at least not when I think about what I was facing just a couple of weeks ago.

There are a couple of upsides to this whole thing, well at least one. Replacing that line has made it so that we have much better pressure on the hot water line, to the point that you can actually fill up a bath in less than three hours! Further upsides will come when I replace the rest of the existing water lines, but now that I have a main shut off valve, I am going to do that an hour or two at a time, on the weekends, so that I don’t stress myself out so much as I have done over this.

Finally, for plumbing related issues, it has been raining all damn day. That makes it so that I don’t want to go out and slop mud back into the water-filled trench to cover up the pipes. Is this proof that there is a GOD, and he really, really hates me?

To be fair, I really must thank my father-in-law for helping me when I really needed it. I guess they say that that is what family is all about. I wouldn’t really know. What I do know is that my wife’s father was the one that was here to help after all friends and acquaintances who said they would help didn’t. I am grateful for that, and I know that if the situations were reversed I would have done/will do the same.

The joys of owning your own home!

The joys of owning your own home!

Several days ago I noticed a small pool of water next to the bathtub. I wasn’t all that concerned, surmising that the wife possibly had neglected to close the curtain completely while showering. I mopped up the little pool and that was that. Or so I thought. The next day the pool was back. I began to think that I might have a minor plumbing problem on my hands. Given the layout of my bathroom, the toilet and bathtub are slightly elevated and separated from the actual sink (which, it turns out is pretty fortunate), I knew that the problem was centralized to that area, an area of roughly three feet in width, maybe six in length. This seemed like just a minor little problem.

Several months ago we had had a similar water pooling problem. The previous problem was from a crack in the small line that runs to the toilet. While it took me a while to find a hose of the correct size, it was eventually fixed pretty easily. I thought that this problem must also be toilet related, as the bathtub is sitting over the top of an empty hole in the foundation of the house, so if it was leaking the water would be absorbed into the ground, not leaking onto the floor. The first thing I checked was the toilet itself. There was no water coming from any of the connections, I could not find any sign of water around the bowl or the back. A visual inspection showed no cracks in the porcelain, no apparent damage to the junction between the back and the bowl, I was at a loss.

The next thought that I had was that maybe I just needed to replace the wax ring under the toilet. That is usually the place that water leaks near a toilet. However, had the wax ring been the problem, two facts would have been really hard to explain. The first is that if the wax ring is broken the toilet will only leak when flushed, which was not the case here. The second is that my wife uses a blue tablet in the toilet, so if it was leaking from the toilet, the water should be blue, the water was completely clear. This, of course, left only one possibility. Why the aliens had decided to deposit a gallon or so of water on the floor of my bathroom every morning is something that I still don’t quite understand.

Much like in my Arthur Witles story, the alien theory didn’t seem possible, well, not after I thought about it rationally anyway. Sure the water could have been placed there by aliens, but then why didn’t they abduct me? Why didn’t they mutilate my cattle (this is easily explained, as I have no cattle)? What could their motive possibly be? Is there some sinister alien race somewhere that really just wants to make people slightly uncomfortable by making them stand in a small pool of cold water while they try to pee? This all lead to me looking for a more earthly explanation for the mysterious pool of water in the bathroom (but, if you are an alien, and you have a garden hose, and I catch you in my bathroom, there is gonna be hell to pay!).

The water pipes that run behind the toilet (and later to the sink) come from behind the bathtub. The next logical step was to think that one of them was leaking. Much of the pipe is attached to the wall with mortar, and is not possible to inspect visually. However, the wall was not wet, nor was the groud right next to the wall. I mopped all of the water off of the floor and then dried it completely with a towel. I then layed squares of toilet paper over the joints in the tiles to see which one got wet the fastest. The strange part was that the one nearest the center of the room got wet a lot faster than the ones that were placed near the wall. So, while I was pretty sure that the leak was coming from somewhere in that wall, I was not able to understand why the water was able to pass to the center of the room without ever touching the other pieces of paper. I eventually dismissed that question, assuming that the water was running below the tiles. Which would all make sense, since water seeks the easiest path to the lowest point before it will begin to pool.

I put off going outside to look inside the access panel behind the bathtub for a few days. I thought that, at most, I would have to replace the hot and cold water lines from the bathtub over to the sink (about five feet total for each line). It just didn’t seem like that big of a deal. I had a couple of local contractors (the cheap kind) that were going to come and take a look at it on Saturday, but neither of them showed up. So late Saturday night I went outside to look at what I was dealing with behind the bathtub, thinking that I could go buy a couple of parts at home depot and do it myself. When I raised the door to the access panel, I knew I was in way over my head.

The access panel behind the bathtub is a small opening (roughly 2 feet square) in the side of the house. Being that the house is over a hundred years old, it is also the only access to any place where the house is not placed solidly on the rock hard foundation (which is because the plumbing was added long after the house was built. Which also means that all of my plumbing is visible [except the drain lines], and also explains why they added a new room to the house to add incoming water -you try to chisel through three feet of underground, solid stone to run a pipe and tell me how it goes-). It turns out that the little area behind the bathtub can hold damn near exactly seven gallons of water before the level gets high enough to start seepin through onto the floor. I know that since that is just about how much water I was having to bail out once ever few hours. I was still at a loss though, there was not a damn pipe there that was wet. Every line going to the toilet, sink or bathtub was bone dry. It seemed odd.

Eventually, I decided to go around and check the room with the water heater (this was the room that was added later for the sole purpose of handling the incoming water supply). I found the problem. It was about midnight at the time, and I was armed only with a flashlight, so I was only able to ascertain that the leaking was coming from the first line that came in. The first three feet (vertically, as the rest of it was buried in concrete) felt damp, and the floor was pretty clearly wet. I had finally found the damn problem! Of course it was far too dark to try to see where the leak was, so I went to bed pretty content, thinking that I would be able to replace an elbow or something and be done with it. I mean, really, these old, galvanized lines usually start to leak at the joints first, they never, ever, ever start to leak on the straight line, especially when they are buried in concrete.

Sunday morning I found out that the old, galvanized line broke on a straight stretch of line, which happened to be buried in concrete. It really sucks to be the one-in-a-million when it is not the winning the lottery.

The pipe runs under the little room with the water heater for a total of about four feet. There is one line (the very first actual water outlet in the entire system) that runs straight up just inside the shed. This runs to a simple garden hose outlet. This is where the pipe is broken. The break is at ground (concrete) level, so there is no way that I can just cap it off. Leaving me exactly two options, the first being to let it leak seven gallons of water every few hours and bail it out, the second to turn off the main water (at the meter) and turn it on when we need it. I chose the latter.

This is where most people would call in a professional. This is also where I can absolutely prove just how blindingly cheap frugal I am.

I did speak to a couple of professionals, and I came up with the conclusion that they generally charge by the hour. So, what I needed to do was to make sure that, were I to hire one, they could get in and out of here as quickly as possible. That meant, “fuck the old plumbing, lemme see if I can find a way around digging all the old shit up.” That also meant that someone was going to have to dig a trench, about forty feet long, in which to place the new pipe. I like to think that I am a pretty proud person, and I really believe that I am, I am especially proud of the forty foot long trench that I dug, with my own hands, thus saving me paying someone else to do it. It did take in excess of three and a half hours, and I developed, then broke, then developed, then broke a lot of blisters on my hands. I also got myself hit in the right eye with a chip of something that made it so that I could’t even open my right eye this morning, but I saved myself a buck or two, and that is what it is all about (the thing about the blisters and the eye are both totally serious, one of the bosses actually wanted me to take time off of work to go have my eye inspected)! Plumbing must be fixed.

None of the contractors that I had spoken to ever showed up, but, as luck would have it, I ran into a friend (of sorts) who is a retired contractor, just as I was going to lunch. I must say that he really admired the trench that I dug. That trench is a damn good piece of work, but, as it is with all trenches, it must eventually be filled in. Perhaps I will be able to get a wonderful snapshot of it before I have to bury it again (yes, I am proud of my trench). He did ask that I dig it twelve inches deeper near the water meter, other than that he had no complaints. I told him what my plan was, to circumvent the underground plumbing by running a whole new line, and he was a big fan of it. While this will still be a pretty big endeavor (as the water heater will have to be drained and removed until the lines are replaced), it seems so much more possible for me to do it basically by myself. I just want to have someone there that actually knows what they are doing, just in case I try to do something completely stupid. While I don’t think I would do something completely stupid (in relation to my house), I know that there is evidence that shows that I would do something stupid. I have tattoos, for instance, need I say more?

So the trench is dug, the plan is in place, all I need to do is dig just a bit deeper near the water meter and knock out part of a wall that has stood for over a hundred years (which sucks. But since it is behind the bathtub you will never see it anyway.). I have someone who is going to help me (someone who is not only knowledgeable, but offering his services ‘pro bono’, provided that I do all the labor (so, like a coach). He has also said that he will gift me the copper line to replace the outgoing water from the water heater (which would be nice to have, especially since he is going to show me how to install it).

This horrible broken water pipe thing is shaping up to be a pretty good learning experience for me. It would really have been nice if it was not happening on the cusp of Christmas, but what are you gonna do? The thing is that after I (do all the labor) watch him make the connections with the copper pipes, I will know how to do it, and I will know it for the rest of my life. So I will be getting the gift of knowledge, and really, is there any better gift? Well, possibly running water, but I am working on that, and the gift of knowledge comes into play there as well…

Rental repairs; Amusing news

There has been nothing at all that I felt like bitching about for the last few days, not that my life doesn’t suck every bit as badly as it always has, just that I am tired of talking about it. Life sucks, I’m used to it.

I have been doing a bit of work on one of the Owner’s rental houses over the last couple of days as well. Just hanging blinds and some general maintenance kind of stuff, but it has been taking a hell of a lot longer than it had ever taken me in the past. The reasons for this are multiple, depending on the particular window. Some of them have old screws and such that have been painted and plastered over, thus requiring me to find new ways of making window dressings be centered when there is no way to hang them in a central location. Don’t get me wrong, I did hang eleven blinds in this house, with the help of my brother-in-law on the first five, two of them were vertical, tall blinds, the other nine were simple, horizontal(venetian) blinds. Of all of the blinds that I did install there is only one blind that I has to install totally off from center, and that blind is less than a half of an inch off from center, i.e. if you weren’t looking for it, you wouldn’t find it.

The most annoying part of this project has been that I have not ever actually had a key to unlock the door of this rental house. That meant that I had to actually “break in” to the house, which was a very simple task, I mean it doesn’t have a lock on the majority of the windows, and the ones that do have locks just have simple pins that can be pushed out with an ink pen. It is not a lot of fun to have to actually “break in” to a house that you are working on though. It seems kind of shady, but that was my only option, that or drive all the way back to get another key (which I found out later also didn’t work anyway). I need now only to put up a couple of replacement pieces of glass over the light fixtures in a couple of the rooms and that will be that. At least as far as what I am being paid for.

I suppose that I should let him know that none of the electrical outlets in the kitchen work, that all of the outlets througout the house are not secured to the walls, that there is no way an electrical inspector (or a building inspector for that matter) would let a house be rented or sold without ground fault circuit interruptors in the bathroom and near the kitchen sink. I might mention this all if the opportunity presents itself, but chances are the opportunity will never be there.

Enough about that though.

I read the news over there at yahoo today and found a story that I just loved. The headline is, “Priest, Nun Convicted After ‘Sex Act’ in Car”.

My first thought was ‘since when are priests attracted to women?’ My second thought was ‘Since when are women attracted to priests?’ I guess that I should be concerned that the sanctity of the priesthood is being challenged, but, come on, he is a guy. I bet when GOD ‘calls’ people to the priesthood he doesn’t mention that there will be certain things that you will feel inside your pants that you can only alleviate in one way, that way is forbidden. I suppose that it is no wonder the priests start looking at young boys as…well…warm spots really. I suppose there comes a point where even a priest will have desires. Why he can’t take care of that desire with a local prostitute is unknown to me.

I guess that the nuns are attracted to the money, the power, all of the stuff that goes along with being a priest, but then I saw this particular quote in that news artical:

Passers by alerted police at Lilongwe International Airport after the parked Toyota Corolla, which had tinted windows, began shaking in what police described as “a funny manner.”

Damn, it only takes a Toyota Corolla to land a NUN? I am at least one step up from there with my car, still I doubt I could land a NUN! Of course, I am not going to have the Papal authority to land a NUN in the first place, but neither does your average priest. As I previously stated, I find this surprising ONLY because there was a woman involved. Had it been another priest raping pre-teen males I would have just thought it was the status quo. When that priest starts treading on my turf (you know, hetrosexual women) that is the point where the Church has overstepped their boundaries! To be fair, I guess both Priests and Nuns aren’t allowed to have sex, so to put it in simpler terms, it is like Fucking your sister if you happen to be religious.

The problem then becomes that no rational man or woman would ever sign up to be involved in a religious cult if they knew that it would cost them the freedom to use their body as they see fit. I understand that there are those that would say that any sexual temptation that a new priest feels is “the devil’s try” but, that is every priest who has ever lived! Now they have taken to having sex with anything that wiggles. Is that really how you want your little priest to grow up? No! you want him to be molesting children for the next fifty years, right? That is the only advantage of the Priesthood after all.

Bleh. Done for now.