We Don’t Need No Stinkin Showers

Hers.

…is apparently what Chris thought one excruciatingly hot day in June last year.  The group, however, would have outvoted him 4 to 1.  But, let me start from the beginning.

One hot, hot day in June, my mom, dad, and brother were in town to see our house for the first time.  They had also volunteered to help us re-landscape our backyard (maybe an unwise decision considering the 100 degree heat index but I wasn’t going to argue with free labor).  While my family and I got started on my mom’s master landscaping plan (her green thumb helps make up for my black one), Chris decided to tackle the annoying drip we had seemed to acquire in the non-functioning master bathtub… I know, it doesn’t make sense to me either.  How would a non-functioning bathtub drip…?  Gotta love these older houses.

After a long day of unplanting, replanting, weeding, and grooming our lawn to perfection, we were ready to scrub away the newly acquired layer of dirt and grime coating our skin.  As we all began to make a run into the house to claim the first shower, we heard an unpleasant shout from the front yard.  Upon running outside to see what had happened, I encountered Chris kneeling over what seems to be a river spouting in our front yard.  As I continue to survey the scene, I see that he is holding a valve in one hand.  Hm… I don’t know a lot about plumbing but I was pretty sure the valve was supposed to be on the pipe, not in Chris’ hand.  The look on Chris’ face proved my theory right.

So… what to do, what to do.  It’s now 10 pm, we are hosting 3 visitors, oh and it’s Saturday meaning all plumbers on-call will demand a service fee only an oil tycoon could afford.  We have two choices:

a) Find the shut-off to the shut-off valve (who knew?) to cut water to the house eliminating all possibilities of finishing the night squeaky clean.

b) Give the lawn a good soak and keep the water flowing long enough for us to shower.

It doesn’t take a genius to guess that we went with option b.  Let’s just say that Chris and I were super excited to get that month’s water bill.

So, the water stayed on for 25 minutes (for those of you with math skills as bad as mine, that’s a 5 minute shower per person, even the girls, ugh) then the water was shut off before the lawn floated away.  The next morning, Chris and I (Chris especially) bit the bullet and called a plumber who had to rebuild our whole shut-off valve piping.  No biggie… right?

Well, just another day with the Webers.  Needless to say, it took my family 10 months to visit the house again.  I wish I could say the plumbing problems ended here.  But, alas, there are many many more.  But we’ll save those for another blogging day.  Lucky you.

His.

Unfortunately, this is only the first installment in what is destined to be a series on plumbing disasters. It’s also a lesson on why you shouldn’t cheap out on valves. Oh, and as you’ll soon find out, Julie and I’s stories are completely different.  Interesting how that happens.

When we moved in, the master bathtub worked (sort of) but the faucet dripped like crazy. Not only was this incredibly annoying, but it also wasted a ton of water- dozens of gallons a day. I knew exactly what the problem was, and it was a simple fix- the valve for the bathtub faucet was worn out and needed to be replaced. I had successfully replaced a few in the past so I knew it would be no big deal. Well, what I didn’t account for is that cheap fixtures aren’t as easy to fix as the nice stuff.

I found the part I needed at Lowe’s and headed home, thinking I’d just pop it in and be done. Wrong again, Chris! I found the shutoff valve at the house (not to be confused with the shutoff at the main… thank God there’s a difference), and of course it was a multi-turn valve. I should mention here that I HATE multi-turn vavles- why would I need to regulate flow through the lines when I can regulate flow at the outlet point (i.e. the faucet). Stupid. Anyway, I started cranking on the valve and noticed the flow didn’t seem to be decreasing. A few twists later and I was holding the valve handle in my hand and being sprayed in the face by water shooting out of a hole that once held the handle’s spindle.

I generally try to stay calm in these situations and don’t want to alarm people, but pulling your valves apart is disconcerting. I also didn’t really know how to announce to the room that I had just broken the valve and no one could take showers, so I just walked in and said “hey I broke a valve and we can’t take showers.” This wasn’t well received and, of course, everyone thought they had a solution. Trust me, when you’re carrying the valve handle around, there’s no solution to be had. Fortunately, the water company had a separate shutoff valve at the meter, so the house didn’t float away.

After a night of worry, we called around looking for plumbers. When you have a plumbing emergency on a Sunday, they call the shots. Fortunately, we found a guy that wanted to work more than he wanted to make a point, and they started digging up the old valves. When it came time to solder in the new ones, I insisted on quarter-turn, and it’s paid off a few times since then. I also insist on spending the extra money to get the good valves.

This experience taught us a few things. First, always expect plumbing problems when family is visiting. Second, Julie has learned that when I say “we have a problem,” we really have a problem. And third, I learned that plumbing problems aren’t cheap, especially when you get the water bill.

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