Saturday, February 18, 2012

Journal - Plumbing Woes

I guess it’s been a while since I wrote anything eh? Aside from audiobook reviews that is, I’m always writing those. I keep telling myself that I need to get in here and just jot some things down but I always end up working on something else instead. Well, I’m finally here so let me see…what’s been going on?

Ah yes! We’ve had some plumbing issues lately. Our house has two bathrooms, one up and one down. The downstairs bathroom quit working a long time ago. I can’t remember exactly when but it was at least a year ago. Since it’s below ground it has this pump that draws the water up from the drains and the toilet and that’s what quit working. Instead of the water being drawn up by the pump it just came back up in the shower or the toilet would run over. We got in touch with the landlord at the time but he wasn’t interested in doing anything about it. So we learned to get along with one bathroom.

At some time during the last year, our upstairs toilet started having problems. Nothing major, just one of those things where you have to jiggle the handle every time you flush it. Annoying! Then, a couple of weeks ago, the cold water stopped flowing to the toilet and the shower and the washing machine. It just stopped all at once. We still had cold water to the bathroom sink and the kitchen sink, and the hot water was okay throughout the house, but no cold to those three things. Those three things all happen to be on the same wall, toilet and shower on one side of the wall, and washing machine on the other side of that wall which is the back porch.

I got in touch with the landlord again right away and he said he’d get his plumber out here. We spent a couple of days not washing clothes and not showering and filling the toilet tank with buckets, but finally the plumber came. This was, I believe, on the Thursday before our big snowstorm, which was two weeks ago last night. Oh, the plumber’s name is Richard Matheson, also the name of a sci-fi/horror writer that I like quite a bit.

Anyway, Richard came at around 9 that morning and started looking at the tangle of pipes in our basement. It took him about an hour just to figure out which pipe fed cold water up into that wall, but he finally found it and cut out a section where he thought the problem was. He got it right on the first try. The section of pipe he cut out was completely filled with dirt and roots. How they got in there I’ll never know, and even the plumber who has been in the business for some 30 years said he’d never seen anything quite like it before. By then it was getting on toward 11:30 or thereabouts. Richard needed to go to his home in Shelton to get some tools and equipment and said he’d grab a bite to eat then come back and finish the job.

He got back here at around 1 or 1:30 and started in replacing the sections of pipe he had cut away. That cutting process was kind of interesting incidentally. He had this kind of long electric saw that he just held against the pipe and cut right through. It reminded me of those chain saws that are on long poles where you can stand on the ground and cut away high branches. Now that I think about it, it also reminds me a little of Grandma’s electric knife that she used to slice roast beef with. But I digress.

He had brought in a length of a sort of flexible plastic tubing that was colored blue. He said that’s what they use now-a-days as someone decided the old PVC tubing was poisoning the water. Quite a talker was Richard, explaining everything he was doing and discussing a great many other topics while he worked. It didn’t take him long at all to get the new pipe sections in and the cold water was flowing again.

The majority of the work he did was actually in the ceiling of the downstairs bathroom, which is directly below the upstairs one, so I casually mentioned our problems with that bathroom while he worked. I had been thinking that it was the pump that had quit working down there and that it might take an electrician rather than a plumber, but I thought it couldn’t hurt to ask him about it. He explained how the system works: a tall pipe running from downstairs to upstairs that has a float in it. When the float reaches a certain level, it kicks on the pump and the pump takes it from there. He theorized that it was probably just a sticky float and not a problem with the pump at all. He showed me the pipe with the float in it, it’s inside a small closet in the downstairs bathroom, and he gave it a couple of mild thumps. As soon as he did that, the pump kicked on and our downstairs bathroom was working again, just like that. Easy-peasy-rice-and-cheesy. And that’s what kept us from using the downstairs bathroom for over a year.

Richard checked upstairs to make sure the cold water was flowing again where it was supposed to and everything was fine. Then it was time to address the jiggly-handle problem, which I had also casually mentioned to him earlier. He took one look at the ancient innards of our toilet and said, “I’m going to replace that.” He took out the old ball-and-cock setup that was in there and replaced it with one of those new things they use which I don’t know the name for. That was good, but the jiggly-handle problem was being caused by the flapper in there that covers the drain hole in the tank. Richard said he normally has plenty of those, but he had just used his last three a couple of days before and didn’t have any on hand, adding that he would pick some up and return the following day to complete the job.

Well, the next day, Friday, was when the bad weather began to settle in and Richard didn’t actually make it back out until the following Monday. He came in, replaced the flapper, and we were in business. Our cold water was flowing, we didn’t have to jiggle the handle anymore, and we had our downstairs bathroom back!

Richard was a nice guy. I enjoyed watching him work and talking with him about everything under the sun: our families, the government, his army days, etc, etc. I admire men like Richard a lot, men who know how to use their hands to fix things. I’ve never been very handy myself, always having to call on someone else for every little thing that breaks down, even something so simple as a toilet flapper or a sticky float. Well, I guess that’s why God gave each of us unique abilities and talents, so we can help each other along.

That’s been on my mind a lot lately as the time for me to go back to work draws ever nearer: wondering what I want to do in my new life, or what I can do. I’d love to learn a trade like Richard’s, working with my hands and fixing things instead of sitting in an office all day pushing buttons at the computer like I used to. But new trades require training, and training requires money and yadda yadda yadda. All I know for sure is that as long as I keep my faith in God, He will lead me to the right job at the right time.

And my adventure in plumbing took a lot longer to tell than I thought it would! Before I get too much further from the topic at hand, I think I will end it here for now. There are a few other things I want to write down, so hopefully I can get back in here a bit more frequently in the future. Thanks for reading, and see you next time!

John 3:22 John answered, "A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.” ESV

1 Corinthians 12:4-6 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. ESV


  1. Richard was quite neat. Another person God planted in this world of ours. While he chattered and chattered and as you followed him up and down the stairs with each step, it reminded me of the kid watching his dad and wanting to help with every little thing.
    "C'mon dad, let me help. Can I huh, huh, huh?"

    Know what? I love watching you walk through the house again! It is truly a joy to behold.

    Now this job thing... All in Gods time, love. Patience and faith! You can do it! :D

    I love you!

  2. It's good you've found a reliable plumber to work around with like Richard. And it's too bad you can't depend on your landlord for your plumbing problems, which is necessary to deal with. That's right, some people just aren't that good with jobs like these. So it's best to let people who know what they're doing, such as professional pluming contractors, to fix and maintain your plumbing.

    Milani Plumbing, Drainage & Heating

  3. We're born uniquely, and how we develop our skills is up to us. Good to hear that you enjoyed working with Richard. It's not hard to learn how to do basic plumbing, either you search for online DIY or ask a plumber for tutorial. Just remember that when your plumbing problem gets tough, never hesitate to call your reliable plumber right away.

    -Don Bennett @ AthensPlumbing

  4. The malfunctioning bathroom downstairs was the first sign that there was a plumbing problem in the system, and it apparently got worse when the landlord neglected it. And like any other problems, it would only get worse the more you ignore it. Levi @ Capital Plumbing