Friday, January 30, 2009

Because plumbers are people, too

You know that feeling of impending dread you get when you realize something in the house isn't working as it should? It's one of the worst places to be when you own a home. As you watch the [fill in failure mode here...icicle-bound furnace, leaky toilet, shattered window, backed up sink...] you begin to make a mental calculation of what all this is going to cost you.

So as I watched the drain in our kitchen sink gradually slow down over a period of weeks, I hoped, in that knowingly hopeless way that all unhandy homeowners do, that it would magically fix itself. Basic Drano delayed the inevitable, but when it completely stopped draining at 9:39 p.m. one night last week, I knew it was time to get jiggy with it.

I noodled around under the vanity and felt water on the outside of the pipes (uh oh). I looked up at the underside of the basket, where the drain joins the pipe, and saw light (double uh oh.) The threaded connector to the basket had rusted out and was leaking. Two problems in one...oh joy!

It was now 9:45. The hardware store closed at 10. I snapped a few photos of the pipes and sink and tore out of the house. Got there with a couple of minutes to spare, and a very helpful employee, Rod, talked me through everything I needed to know about replacing the basket and clearing the blockage using the little opening at the bottom of the trap. He called it something complex-sounding. I nodded like an obedient puppy before disappearing into the bitterly cold night.

Back home, I dismantled the whole enchilada and prayed to the plumbing gods that I'd somehow manage to get it all back together again. I opened the bottom thingie (scientific term, apparently) without crushing it with my pliers and rooted around with my trusty auger (so that's what it's used for!) We won't discuss what I pulled out of the trap, or how I almost gave up when, after test-draining it for the eighth time, I realized I had managed to move the blockage well downstream and virtually out of reach.

By now my hands were filthy, and my back was aching from twisting every which way under the cabinet. Yet for some reason I wasn't ticked off. I'm not sure why, but I felt like a kid playing with Lego. Adult Lego. Very expensive Lego. And the initial terror of flooding the basement and making my family homeless had been replaced with a "work the problem" mentality. I knew I could do this. It would probably be a little ugly, and any plumber worth his salt would laugh at my ineptitude. Manyana, I thought. This is what adulthood looks like. And I like it.

After a couple of hours of slow progress - using the auger, my finger and various other implements to gradually extract, um, stuff from the pipe - I finally managed to get it delightfully clear. Water flowed again. The dishwasher was no longer hobbled. My wife was happy. My kids weren't flooded out and homeless. I wasn't facing a huge plumbing bill.

It felt good to have fixed it with my own hands. For once, anyway.

Your turn: Do you DIY? Why/why not?

20 comments:

Karen said...

Good job, Carmi! After having grown up with a Dad who could fix just about anything, I (thankfully) married a man who can do the same!

Beverly said...

It all depends on how valuable your time is. I think it is wonderful to be able to be a do-it-yourselfer, but sometimes it isn't prudent economically.

My husband was an electrician. People generlaly are afraid of messing with those kinds of problems, so people gladly paid him to do it.

There must be a sense of satisfaction, though, to have fixed it yurself.

MorahMommy said...

I am very proud of you and you did an amazing job!

You weren't so calm as you let on, but you kept at it until the drain was clear!

Thanks Honey!

Tanna said...

ROTFLOL! Yes, Carmi. I DIY alot... I have come to appreciate the professionals even more! LOL. Thanks for sharing your success!

andy said...

Thanks for the giggle Carmi! I struggled with my clogged sink a few months back because I was too stubborn to request the boyfriend's help...sigh. He certainly had his work cut out for him to fix the original issue AND my attempt to do it myself. I am so proud of you for not giving up!

kenju said...

You're lucky you know how to do that, Carmi! Mr. kenju can barely find the pipes, let alone know what to do with them.

Pamela said...

I love a man who is a jack of all trades

Wendy said...

Oh yeah, I can totally relate to the "oh no" (roof leaks, toilet backing up, washing machine clunking, and the kitchen sink clogging just when you want to prepare dinner). You hope it won't cost the earth. Sometimes it does. And sometimes the story has a happy ending - like yours.
Glad it worked out!!

Cloudia said...

Isn;t that just the most satisfying thing?
I love figuring how to fix things around the boat we live on; good thing as maintanence is forever, Carmi. You made this post fun and meaningful out of something mundane. Two Good JobS, Aloha-

Jamie Dawn said...

You got jiggy with it, and the plumbing gods heard your prayers. Well done! I enjoyed your do-it-yourself journey.
:-)

Awareness said...

Well done!

We had the same issue here just before Christmas, but only discovered it when the basement was filling with water! the sink which drains the washing machine clogged up. So, as I was shop-vac-ing the floor, my partner in crime tried to figure out where the "issue" was....no such luck. At 11 pm, off he went to Walmart (was open all night for Christmas shopping!! how bizarre.) to buy a snake thingy. We rammed that wiry thing as far as we could in through the pipe with no such luck. Thank God for Mr. Rooter guy in the morning.....

I wish I was handier! All of my uncles are trades people, and every single one of them lives in Ont. Every time something happens around here, I curse that they don't live down the street from me.

bobbie said...

congratulations, Carme. You did it!

Was it really almost 50 years ago? Seems like only last week. Thanksgiving Day, company coming, and the pipes backed up. We had a cesspool to dig up. Well, I won't go into the gory details here.

Brian said...

Hi there! I'm new to your blog, but already very much enjoy it. You have a wonderful way of describing things just exactly as they are.

After spending many years on a farm where virtually everything is DIY, and manually I might add, I have developed a complete aversion to doing anything like this myself. In fact, in my current existence I'm lucky if I can get a light buld changed. Therefore, as the owner of a 112 year old home, I regularly shell out obscene amounts of money to keep from frustrating myself and getting my hands dirty.

It's not that I can't do it myself, because I've done lots of things myself, and quite well... It's just that I REALLY REALLY REALLY don't want to! :)

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Time to turn your plumbing skills into helping other people!

NetChick sent me here.

David said...

dude, you rock
dad must teach kids ONE thing
FIGURE it OUT!

i can be helpful by email or text if you like,
Loving your attitude and appreciation of life.

stefan said...

How apropos, Carmi. This week our fairly new furnace pooped the bed. It's been pretty darn cold here in the Pac NW, and as I watched the temperatures fall inside the house, the situation seemed a little dire.

Especially when the repair company called to say they in fact could not come that day, but they could come in a week. A wha? 50 degrees, 49 degrees, 48....

I don't mess with gas, but thankfully, we found a place to come out ASAP (much to the delight of my very pregnant wife), and ooohh, warmth.

A working furnace perfectly complements the new windows and attic insulation I recently installed. I do enjoy efficiency.

Mel Fraase said...

Yes, I probably DIY to a fault. As a matter of fact, the drain traps in our house are my specialty. Yuck. Even when we lived in apartments I did this. I always hoped the payoff would be a fabulous ring lost by previous tenants. Nope, fabulously gross hairballs. But as disgusting as the job is, I did feel pretty good about fixing it myself. You're right, adult Legos.

Mojo said...

I've fixed many plumbing problems over the years. But there was one time when ... well, let's just say the problem fixed me instead. I'll spare the details (because frankly it's a little embarrassing) but the short version involves taking apart a stop (the valve thingie you turn the water off with) under the kitchen sink with the water still on. Under pressure, those things pretty well fly apart once they're unscrewed and you just would not believe how fast they can turn your kitchen into a wading pool.

I've said too much.

That experience was almost enough to deter any future home improvement/repair efforts, but a shortage of cash and a 30-year-old house is usually enough to give one the courage to try again.

But I always turned the water off at the main after that.

Pearl said...

Good job. I can imagine the frustration level and the jubilance when that water flowed!

Bernie said...

Oh the joy and jubilation of know, that you (yes YOU) have fixed something totally forign to you. I know that after many DIY projects I have done in the nearly 4 years of living in our house (it is now 81 years young) that no matter how many you do, there is always another around the corner...

Note to self, must get the paint out for back of house...

Well done Carmi!