Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Plumbing Debacle

I was taking a shower last Thursday when I heard a pipe-like clunk, the the water pressure dropped. A long string of swear words flew out of my mouth as hot water scalded my back.

I didn't think much of it. It's not unusual in this town for an errant car to take out a fire hydrant and plunge the water pressure. I didn't hear any running water, so I didn't think much about it until the next night. I went to take a shower, and the water pressure sucked. So, I went to the Internet.

One of the great things about the 'net, besides blogs, is that I can find information about anything. So, I read up on low water pressure and decided I needed to take my shower head apart and reseat the washers, and, for a night, at least, that worked.

The next day, Saturday, I was brushing my teeth when I noticed an odd noise. I couldn't figure out what it was; actually, I thought it was my imagination. Until later in the day, that is, and on Sunday, when the noise escalated into a low hum. Every cold water pipe in my house was vibrating, and the noise sounded similar to a small wind tunnel.

I called a plumber on Monday, left a message, and didn't get a call back. So, I called another plumber on Tuesday, Mr. Lindsey. He worked on the water heater before I moved into the house. His wife is his assistant, and she's a nice person.

Mr. Lindsey came out, turned off the water, and proceeded to take the shower faucets off. Except he couldn't completely take the faucets off because whoever put the faucets in used non-standard washers and fittings. Mr. Lindsey didn't have sockets that fit. He put the faucets back on, turned on the water, and told me he'd come back Wednesday with some other sockets to try.

He came back Wednesday with three new sockets. One worked--on the first washer he had to take off--but not on the second. His opinion? They don't make a socket that size. My question--how the hell did the person who built the shower put the washer on in the first place? He didn't have an answer.

"What are my options?" I asked, innocently. Try to find the right socket (which he was pretty sure didn't exist) or rip out the tile wall on the toilet side of the shower so he could get to the faucets from the back. Or live with the drip in the shower (I was mighty tempted).

"And how much will ripping out the wall cost?" I asked again, innocently. Well, if he had to rip out the tile and the drywall, I would be looking at $250, minimum. I choked. And begged him to try to find a socket that would fit. We scheduled our third plumbing session for Friday.

I was supposed to go to a QM seminar for online teaching today. As I was pulling out of my driveway at 7:30am this morning, a backhoe met me in my driveway. The driver pulled off into my yard. "What's going on?" I asked. "Oh, there's a water leak in the ditch; it's on the city side, so I'm going to fix it."

I hadn't noticed any leaking water, but we've had some rain lately. I found out today that my plumber noticed the leak on Tuesday and called the city to fix it. But he didn't tell me he did that.

So, I cancelled my attendance at the seminar. I'm not about to go off for an entire day while some guy with a backhoe digs up my yard. I could come home and find the water turned off with an ominous note about a leak that might cost $1,000 to fix.

The city guys fixed the leak in 40 minutes. Why can't my shower leak be fixed as quickly?

So, the plumber and I played phone tag today. When we finally spoke, I asked him if he had found the socket. "No," he said. My only option was to rip out the wall.

I did. All by myself. I took off all of the tile on the backside of the shower. I chipped off cement and ripped out the metal mesh. I ripped out the sheet rock. Guess what? A 2' x 4' sits almost right on top of the pipes. I still don't think he'll be able to get to what he needs unless he cuts out the board. And so much cement is gunked up in there that we'll probably have to chip it out to get a clear shot at the pipes. Mr. Lindsey is going to sit on the floor and cry. I almost did. After two hours of chiseling and chipping and ripping, I faced a bloody mess.

But I did it. That will, at least, decrease the labor costs. And I think that Mr. Lindsey didn't think I'd be able to do it. His voice held a trace of skepticism when I told him I would do it. He may still not be happy about what he sees, but at least he didn't have to do it.

One of the best things, though, is that I've increased my tool count. I bought grinding wheels to use with my drill, safety goggles, masks, and a drywall saw. I used the pitchfork I bought the other day to help pry the wire and concrete off the wall (I don't have a crowbar--yet).

But the BEST thing is--I did it ALL BY MYSELF! And I'm going to repair the drywall ALL BY MYSELF, too. The more I can do for myself, the better I feel.

Now to tackle cleaning out the gutters!

P.S. Mr. Lester's produce stand has opened! You should come and check it out--south on Highway 1 from Shreveport; turn left at the blinking light at Armistead. His stand is on the right side of the road before you get to the Red River Bridge.


Kathryn Usher said...

You are Brave Tool Woman! Please start a account and upload those digital pictures so we can see them.

dotsmom said...


I don't know about, but I'll check it out. I haven't taken any pictures, yet, and I didn't take any pictures of the "before," so you won't have a comparison. I'm about to update my blog re: the plumbing debacle!