Oh shut off

Matt the Plumber paid me a visit last week in my solitary quest to help the economy. I normally don’t call in “the experts” unless something really bad happens. And something bad did happen.

Pretty awesome, ain't they?

It all started innocently enough with a shut off valve replacement and ended with Matt the Plumber and an $$$$ bill. When I purchased this little slice of the American Dream, it came with the added treasure of what they call an antiquey: a genuine Montgomery Ward washer and dryer. It’s OK to be jealous that I was sitting on this goldmine. They can be yours for the low, low price of I’ll pay you to take them away. Sadly the washer didn’t actually work. Water went in alright. And water drained out alright. It’s just that the two actions occurred simultaneously.

Since I’m sitting on piles of money a la Scrooge McDuck, I went down to the local Home Depot and purchased me a Maytag washer and dryer. On December 5. They were supposed to be installed on December 17 but ended up being back ordered so the install was rescheduled until December 28. When Bob and Bob showed up to take away my priceless antiques and leave the shiny Maytags in their place, my perfect plan was thwarted by a faulty cold water shut off valve.  Bob 1 explained that they could not install the new one with the shut off valve being nonoperational and left me with a number to call to reschedule once this was fixed.

OK, simple enough. Plumbing and I have always gotten along. Sure, we’ve had our rough patches, like the time I remodeled the bathroom and couldn’t get the 3/8″ compression fitting 90º galvanized elbows off the hot and cold supply lines to install, oh, what was it? Yes, shut off valves. (A post for another time, when I need a virtual victory dance.) But we worked out way through it and I thought we’d gotten to a good place in our relationship.

So back to the HD to talk to Dave—the master plumbing specialist—I went. Dave set me up with two new valves (cus why not do the hot and the cold while I’m at it) and I thought I was in business. Down into the creepy crawl space to turn off the main supply and I was on track to knocking this out in less than an hour. Oh boy. Why did I say that?

Two HD visits later, I had a special plumbers wrench and was vehemently attacking the pipes whilst adding in a healthy dose of colorful language. (Swearing is required during any respectable do-it-yourself project.) As I was turning the cattywompus fourth 1/2″ 90º elbow, the pipe broke off. As in, the whole pipe that leads to the part that goes into the floor. Made of concrete.

Between the gas line and the lead pipe for the drain lies a black hole that now leads to no where.

Those of you playing along at home are asking, “are they supposed to set a pipe in concrete subfloors like that?” And the answer would be: not so much. At this point half of the male end of the pipe threads was still firmly entrenched in the female end of the pipe that lead to some unknown location. Back to HD I went and Dave sold me a pipe nipple extractor kit. (You can giggle at the name. I did. OK, I still do.) It’s supposed to be put in the hole and using a crescent wrench, undo the stuck broken off male threads. Just. Like. That.

Alas, the male threads really liked that part in the floor. Some would say that those two crazy lovebirds would not be torn apart. So I got me some PB Blaster and shot the heck out of it. Let it sit overnight and everything. Stunk up the place to high heaven, too. In the morning I tried the nipple extractor once again. (giggle) Nope. No movement. At HD, my dedicated plumbing advisors suggested cutting it out. Tried that. Nada. Two days into the one hour shut off valve replacement and I had no water and no shut off valve. I was even further away from installing my pretty new Maytags now taking up space in the garage.

This is where Matt the Plumber comes in. After a quick Google search, I managed to find the most, aka quickest and pricyist, responsive plumber possible. Matt the Plumber was there in less than an hour. He took one look at the hole in the concrete and said what I dreaded him saying: “I’m going to have to install all new lines.”

Into the crawl space he went and a few minutes later he popped out to tell me the damage. The water line that is in the floor also services the water line to the hot water heater. You can’t have one fixed without fixing them both. I choked down the estimate and for one brief moment thought about calling another plumber. But I was tired. And smelly. And really tired. But mostly smelly. So I told Matt the Plumber to get going on it. He could get me water going in less than an hour and fix the whole shebang in five. In my head I calculated the professional to do-it-yourself time ratio and think I came out the winner. If it took Matt the Plumber five hours to re-do a quarter of my plumbing, it would take me 127 hours just to get the old pipes out of the crawl space.

By the end of the day he had shiny new copper pipes supplying both my water heater and the new hot and cold shut off valves for the washer. He also left a big hole in the wall that will need some drywall repair but thankfully drywall and I are still on speaking terms so I don’t foresee that to be an issue. (Knock on particle board wood.)

Then… yes, there’s more… I decided to fix the leaking kitchen faucet. I thought this would be an easy enough fix. I thought I could just take the faucet off, get a few new O-rings and end the leaks. Ta-da! Of course not. Plumbing and I weren’t getting along at this point. I shouldn’t have pressed my luck. But I was hopeful as I took out the old faucet and installed the new one in less than an hour. When I turned on the water, the shut off valves started squirting water in places that you don’t want water to squirt. Of course. So back to HD for two new shut off valves and new supply lines whilst I’m at it. Main water off once again, old valves removed, new ones put on and the Moen quick connector connected to the spray hose. Water turned on, shut off valves opened and large amounts of very fast, very cold water squirts out the quick connect connector and all over the place. (Insert a string of curses here. Imagine something rather negative said about the Moen engineer team’s lack of intellect and grooming habits.)

But wait, I’m not done yet. What else did I find? Two 1/2″ pipes filled with gunk. So much gunk of unknown origin that water barely passes through them. (Makes one marvel at how so much of it could squirt out the quick connector, eh?) Now I’ve learned my lesson. I’m not touching those pipes. I’m calling the home warranty people and making them touch them. If they break them maybe they have to pay Matt the Plumber to fix them.

And I’m done with shut off valves. I’m not talking to plumbing anymore. It’s going to have to send me boatloads of flowers to woo me back.


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