Category Archives: Plumbing Disaster

Lettuce Pray


You know what’s been missing from this blog lately?  Another plumbing disaster story.  This time, I turn the attention towards the first visit from Chris’ parents.  We thought we’d survived the worst of it from the fiasco that ensured my family’s first visit (let me remind you here).  We were wrong.  Very, very wrong.

First mistake: I decided to make dinner that night. For those of you who haven’t experienced my many cooking/baking disasters, let me break it down for you.

Example 1: For a how-to school project my freshman year of high school, I decided to demonstrate how to bake beignets (for those Northerners reading this blog, that’s New Orleans speak for fried donuts with powdered sugar… yes, it’s essentially a funnel cake).  To help boost the morale of the class and, in turn, my grade, I baked some ahead of time to give everyone a sample.  As the class took their first few bites, I began seeing looks of horror then grabs for napkins then a horrifying site of 33 people spitting their bites out.  Well, it turns out the beignets weren’t fully cooked.  Oops.

Example 2: A few years later with uncooked beignets far from my mind, I made a batch of cookies for a friend’s birthday.  They looked a little… chunky but I chalked it up to being homemade and didn’t think anything of it.  I proudly gave them to my friend who passed them around to the group to try all the while calling them “muscular cookies” because of their bizarre shape.  I began seeing the same looks of horror as I had seen in class a few years earlier.  Not again!  At least they didn’t spit them out this time.  They just remarked how… bread-like… they tasted.  Well, apparently I forgot to add eggs.  Oops.

I think you get the idea.  I’m a little wary about cooking and baking as my success rate isn’t that high.  Don’t get me wrong.  I can usually get through a recipe just fine but when I mess something up, I really mess it up.

So anyway, Chris’ mom thankfully agrees to help and we take to making the salad while Chris and his dad tackle the more complicated items.  We’re hacking our way through various vegetables creating the ultimate mixed salad and being quite proud of ourselves.  We’re also proud of how eco-friendly we’re being- disposing of all the unwanted pieces of vegetable through the sink disposal instead of the trash can.  Suddenly, the whir of the disposal comes to a sudden halt and the sink is suddenly filled with a veggie soup of sorts.  We look at the sink, look at each other, then back to the sink before yelling, “Chrisssss.  Bernieeeee.  Something’s wroooonggg.”

It turns out by doing our good deed to the environment, we did a not-so-good deed to the kitchen plumbing.  Clogged was an understatement.  But after a few hours, several trips to Home Depot, and a whole mess of diced up veggies fished out, it was fixed!  No biggie…



The first time my parents visited us here, we proudly touted our new home and discussed our grandiose plans for renovations. We also pointed out a few minor issues that were annoying us and they offered to help us fix a few things. We spent about half a day buttoning up a few minor things before Julie and my mom decided to start making dinner. After my dad and I fixed the crooked dishwasher, my dad asked “are there any more projects I can help you with?” Little did we know that, yes, there would very soon be a project I’d need his help with.

OK, let me clarify something: Julie doesn’t cook, and neither does my mom. Don’t get me wrong, they both have a few recipes up their sleeve that are absolutely delicious, but I’m pretty much the cook at my house. So when Julie and my mom offered to make dinner, we thought that would be a great opportunity to relax and enjoy a conversation over a cold beer… We were wrong.

Julie and my mom talked in the kitchen and cut up stuff for a salad while my dad and I enjoyed our St. Arnolds (the best beer in the world, I might add) in the living room. A disconcerting sudden silence filled the house, and somehow we knew what was coming next: “Chriiiiiiiis! Bernieeeeeee! Something’s wroooooong!”

And something was wrong, indeed. The sink was completely full of what looked like vegetable soup, but was actually scraps of salad. I had remedied a similar situation in Julie’s college apartment with a plunger, so I decided to start there. Huzzah! Progress was being made- I managed to drain the right side of the sink but… wait, what? The left side was filling up! Inconceivable!

I looked under the sink and immediately found the culprit: the left side of the sink is deeper than the right side, and the right side flows into the left drain, but… the disposal is on the right side. In other words, anything that goes down the left drain can’t get ground up in the disposal.

At this point, I’d like to mention that the disposal in my parents’ house is more like a small wood chipper; you could probably shove a Mack truck down the sink and with the flip of a switch you’d have it whittled down to a pile of shavings that go smoothly down the drain. The disposal at my house is not quite that effective, so even overcooked green beans basically just bounce around for a few seconds before going on their merry way, fully intact. Long story short, I knew exactly what happened: they let everything go down the drain, and my pipes now resembled an elaborate sandwich.

The first order of business was to locate the clog. We popped the exterior drain clean-out closest to the kitchen sink and got lucky (sort of)- we barely made out the edge of a lettuce wad, so we knew where the problem was. We then removed the sink trap and drained the sink into buckets, and ran off to Home Depot to get a plumbing snake. If you don’t know what a plumbing snake is, it’s basically a wire you feed through a pipe and wiggle around to try to knock a clog loose. It’s a little like trying to flip a light switch with a dart.

We seriously must have fed that stupid snake in and out of the pipe about 50 times. First I’d try while my dad watched the clog, and then he’d try while I watched the clog. Oddly enough we could see a little water dripping through the lettuce ball, so we could monitor the effectiveness of our efforts based on whether or not the flow increased. Oh, we also stabbed at it with coat hangers from the clean-out end, but that was mostly out of frustration.

After a few hours we were ready to give up, until we finally started to get somewhere. We had a pretty good flow through the lettuce, but it wasn’t clear yet. I ran the snake through and cranked away at it like there was no tomorrow, and finally… FOOM! A huge wad of lettuce shot out of the clean-out at my dad, a phenomenon for which we still have no explanation. We closed the pipes back up, ran the water to check our work, and celebrated our victory over plumbing and lettuce with a well-deserved beer. Oh, and my mom isn’t allowed to make salads here anymore.


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We Don’t Need No Stinkin Showers


…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.


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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