Alpha Plumbing

A pipe-organ refrain echoes darkly from the bathroom.   Wayne,  Alpha Plumbing,  feet sticking out from the bathroom cabinet, ignores the Bach Toccata in D-minor ringtone on his phone.  He is here to replace the jammed valves under the sinks and toilets and is now installing the second of eight  new cutoff valves in my townhouse.

“If this kind valve jams and you try for force um, the plastic stem going broke, and you’re dead meat.”  The valve is stuck, jammed on to the copper pipe by the original plumbers 40 years ago when my townhouse was built, and its going to take experience, tools, and brute force to get the sucker off.  Yup, that’s why he’s here.  If I tried it, good chance I would be dead meat with water dripping from the ceiling.

Most of these valves no longer turned, or dripped if you did move them.   This made working on the house plumbing a dicey business for me. The last straw was the handle breaking off the upstairs lavatory sink faucet.  The main cutoff under the kitchen sink, the cutoff to the hot water heater, the upstairs faucet valves were frozen.   Wayne got the main cutoff (under the kitchen sink) to move.  I didn’t want to try it, having no idea what would happen but once that one moved, it could do about a 98% cutoff, the remainder allowing an irritating drip for the rest of the plumbing, but at least allowing replacement of the valves.

What about the main valve? “She no close all the way now.  ‘az because was opened too far.  You got to open the valve, then back it off one turn, or going leak.  Lucky can at least close.  Otherwise, you’re dead meat because you gotta cut open the wall for get at ‘um, shut off the water to all these buildings and then replace the valve.”  Ok, so the main thing is that it’s not too bad for now.  No action on that one.    What about the hot water heater valve?  “How often you going change the heater? Leave ‘um.”  Wayne had a few choice words about other plumbers who in repairing the dreaded “heater set to boil” syndrome who only change the bottom element, and not the top one at the same time.  “idiots!”

“You put oil on this valve?”    I said “yeah,” quoting the two who recommended WD40 to loosen the valves.   Snorting  sound comes from under the sink.  “Oil no work.”  “What you can do for maintain the valve then?” I ask.   “Nothing.  Open the valve, but then close down one turn and leave um.”   I make a note of that.  “No can eat oil…”  Extrapolating quicky, you really don’t want WD40 leaching into the drinking water.  “But not going work anyway. ”    I’m  hoping that the oil has not penetrated to the actual water flow.

I mention that I’m going to replace the faucet.  “You know get one gasket come with the faucet right?”   Yes.  “Throw ‘um away and use plumbers putty under the faucet.   The gasket going rot, and then she going leak.  You not going know, and the water going rot through the particle board and you going be dead meat.”   I make a note of that.   Later on I did replace the faucet, which to make a long story short, I now wonder why I did it instead of getting Wayne to do it while he was here. One of the plastic nuts came off easily.  The other one was frozen on by corrosion and I ended up using a Dremel to cut the nut to release it, then a hammer and chisel to get it to rotate and eventually come off.  The new one, I seated on a fat seal of plumbers putty… we’ll see how that holds up.

So for the record, new valves in the plumbing.

Other advice. “If they cut off all the water to the units, open the shower first and let um run.  Otherwise the stuff in the water going clog in your sink or toilet.”  Then long story about using bread to stop a pipe to allow soldering, and the $8000 rag that some dummy plumber used to stop a pipe then soldered into the works.  Interesting side notes on plumbing on Molokai and Lanai, and his first plane ride to Hilo in 1984, encounter with turbulence and bloody mary’s.

The next crisis I expect will be the hot water heater.  I going call Wayne, not Sears on that one.

aug2011

 

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