There’s a handful of jobs I’d never be interested in doing and plumbing is one of them.
First off, story time!
Our hot water heater had a slight leak. Nothing major, we just had to pump the water out of the basement weekly. Thanks to frequent flooding from rain, we have a ¼ horsepower pump on standby. It’s near an electrical outlet, placed in a low spot on the floor, all with a garden hose leading to a floor drain in another part of the basement (no one thought to put a floor drain near the water heater…). All you have to do is plug the thing in, let it run for a few minutes, and
all most of the water is gone.
After four days the situation became slightly worse. We sleep in the basement of my mother-in-law’s house (Yes. I know how terrible and pathetic that is to admit.) in the room right next to the hot water heater. There’s a door separating our “bedroom” from the “old part” of the basement, and there’s about a three inch height difference between the floors. Our floor is lower than the floor near the water heater, of course. You see where this is going…
Waking up groggy and desperately needing coffee/nicotine is bad enough (at least I’m not hungover anymore) but imagine stepping out of bed into a puddle of water in this state. Not deep water, sure, but it doesn’t take much water to ruin your day. The heater was leaking so badly that the water overflowed into our “bedroom” after a few days. Apparently the pump didn’t need to be ran weekly, more like each day, so I set on that schedule.
Tuesday I pumped the water out before I went to bed. It was probably around 2 a.m. I woke up at 11 a.m. with more water under and around our bed. Well fuck, it filled up in nine hours! Looks like the job needed to be done every few hours now…
I was pissed and rightfully so. We had just mopped up rainwater from a few days prior, and now we’re dealing with the shitty water heater? In my mother-in-law’s basement? With all of our shit getting water damaged because we’re losers and living in the basement? And despite it not being my house, and after being occasionally reminded that it’s not my house, and not having any ownership incentive at all, was this really my problem to deal with? Yes, yes to all of those and more. I could be stubborn and miserable or proactive and slightly less miserable. The choice was easy to make.
I went to shut the water heater off, but guess what? There was no shutoff valve. The water heater was hooked up to the main supply line and the only shutoff valve was the one for the entire house. Well fuck that I thought, I’ll just hook a valve to the water heater supply. The pipes are CPVC, a type of plastic, so there’d be no messing around with thread tape, metal pipes, big wrenches or anything. Cut, glue, done. Easy. 20 minutes, $20, and a trip to Farm and Fleet later I was ready to get to work!
I shut the household water off and started cutting the pipe. Hmm, water was still trickling out; maybe it was leftover water from the upstairs plumbing? Even after letting it drain for a few minutes (and getting even more water in the floor and on my clothes) it was still dribbling water from the cut pipe. Oh well. I gooped glue all over pipe, mashed the valve onto it, and proceeded to attach the other end of the pipe. But damn was there a lot of pipes and electrical wiring where I was working. Luckily CPVC is pretty flexible so if you bend the pipe just a little and OPE! It fucking snapped!
It broke right where the CPVC attaches to a metal “L” bend pipe from the main water line. Huh. Right past the threads. So….now what?
There was no “Now what?” because I was fucked. The metal “L” was so damn rusted onto the line I couldn’t get it loose at all. I had a big monkey wrench and a big hammer and nothing was working. And there was no way I could get the CPVC out of the metal pipe; there was nothing to grab onto, no lip of CPVC to vice grip or anything. Even worse, I had to go to work in an hour, and with the way the day was going I was hell bent on going to work. I wasn’t wasting a call-in to sit at home and fuck around with plumbing!
So with the household water off and a pipe on the main line opened, we were fucked. I couldn’t turn the water on without flooding the basement. What started as a quick solution to fix the hot water heater from flooding our “bedroom” had turned into a disaster. I left my wife and her mom a simple note before I went to work.
“Call a plumber. I don’t know what I’m doing.”
A few hours later my wife said the plumber would be there at 7 a.m. It was 5 p.m. So…okay…
I get home from work and the house was in utter chaos! No water for showers, hand washing, teeth brushing, or anything. No water for cooking. No water for washing dishes. No water for washing laundry. No water to drink (but that’s never a problem because these fuckers drink pop 99% of the time)! And certainly no water for taking a shit!
Luckily I have a 30 gallon rain barrel/trash can I rigged up months ago to water the garden with. We had tons of water really, just not clean, drinkable water. It was also outside so that was a minor problem. But this meant we could use the toilet! Before someone went, I’d haul in a five-gallon bucket of stagnant and musty rain water and dump the murky liquid into the back of the toilet. “You can flush, but you only have one flush so make it count!”
I also boiled some rainwater to disinfect it. Jeremy needs his coffee in the morning, more so after three or four hours of sleep, so rainwater it was. I even filtered it through a coffee filter but it still had a color similar to dead leaves in the autumn. At least boiling removed the putrid smell of it.
The plumbers, the guys who know what the fuck they’re doing, showed up on time and had our water back on around noon. While it was “fun” using rain water for a night, it really did make me appreciate how nice having water, you know, just appear when you twist a handle. And it’s clean, drinkable water too! That doesn’t smell! That is clear! That doesn’t have shit floating in it! Wow!
I asked the plumber how he handled the broken ass “L” bend pipe that I had broken. He said, “Oh, I just used a Big Fucking Wrench and a Big Fucking Hammer! Just beat on it ’til it came loose!” Oh, cool, I was on the right track at least. My wrench just wasn’t Fucking Big enough. Same with the hammer too.
(Note: I inspected their work afterwards to get some knowledge of what plumbing is supposed to look like from someone who knows what they’re doing. They installed a water heater valve — the same thing I was trying to do — downstream from the one I put in. Those bastards didn’t think mine was good enough or something! Now our water heater has two shut off vales — one too many — and all of my work to install my valve was, ultimately, utterly pointless and a waste of time.)
I hate plumbing. I hate pipes. I would never want to do that as a job. Sure you get to solve problems, fix stuff, it’s hands on, and you get to work solo, but pipes and water fucking suck. Water is messy. Water is hard to control. Water is sneaky. If there’s one tiny hole, one miniscule way for water to escape, it will. There’s zero room for error. If a pipe you install has a leak, it’ll propagate and get worse. It’s a steady downhill trajectory for any pipe that is leaking. Rust, homemade stalactites, stuck pipes, valves that don’t work: it’s all a nightmare. I’ll stick with electricity. Electricity doesn’t leak if you fuck something up — have you ever heard of a leaky wire (short circuits, okay, but still…) — and electricity only hangs out in metals. You can’t spill electricity onto your floor, it can’t leak out of a water heater, it can’t cause mold, it doesn’t damage wood, and you don’t need it to flush a fucking toilet. To those people who are plumbers, more credit to you and thanks for the job you do, but you’re all fucking maniacs. Something isn’t right in y’alls heads.
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