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_POSTEDON 2003-05-27 16:32:39 by jimmyd

FYI jimmyd _writes "

If you weren't aware of this, plumbing sucks. I’m not talking about those times when some kind, considerate chic plays plumber and cleans my pipes. And I’m not talking about the plumber’s butt-crack I seem to always be flashing every time I sit, bend-over, or crouch down. I’m talking about real plumbing: you know, fixing or replacing items that either are, or are connected to, those long, hollow, metal, cylindrical things that water and/or gas flows through.

Last Thursday the hot water heater self-destructed in the house I live in. One minute the fucking thing was working perfectly—providing hot, steamy water whenever it was needed—the next it had ruptured, flooded the garage, and needed replacement.

You know, you never know how much the simple things-- like having hot water-- means to your quality-of-life until you are deprived of them. And having no hot water in the house sucks worse than the hours of plumbing it takes to remedy the situation.

Like I said, plumbing sucks. So it was real easy to procrastinate on replacing the hot water heater for a day or two. There are two men living in the house I live in: me and my roommate. And being the real men we are, we could stand to stink for a day or two. After all, what did real men do back in the days before hot water heaters and indoor plumbing? They stank, that’s what they did. Plus we could always take cold showers. After all, real men can handle real cold water, right?

And since we’re real men, we decided we didn’t need no stinking professional plumbers to take care of this--we could take care of this little problem ourselves.


By Sunday we’d had enough of stinking and cold water and so we headed off to Home Labyrinth to buy a new hot water heater.

Buying the right hot water heater requires a degree in hydro-thermal science. There are all kinds of hot water heaters in all sizes and numbers of years of warrantee. Luckily for us, there was this guy shopping at Home Labyrinth also buying a hot water heater who had actually spoken to a real plumber about it. According to this guy’s real plumber, the number of years a hot water heater is warranted for is bullshit—they're all the same. So we bought a 40 gallon heater warranted for 6 years. We figured 40 gallons is a plenty big enough water heater for two guys. Besides, that’s the same size as the gas tank in my ’85 Suburban and if 40 gallons is good enough for the ‘Burb it oughta be good enough for our hot water heater. And six years is a pretty long time--no telling what we're doing in six years.

The heater cost $189. Interestingly, if the heater goes out before the six years are up you still pay a replacement fee even though there's a warranty. According to the pricing information, the replacement fee for this $189 hot water heater is $218. I guess they figure in for inflation.

We got the new hot water heater home and begin the messy, wet job of removing the old one. The first thing you have to do is drain the rest of the water out of the old water heater. There’s a valve on the thing that lets you do this. Unfortunately, that valve hadn’t been turned in about ten years. So rather than being able to open it (with a drain hose attached), we finally ended up beating the fucking thing off with hammers. Of course, this meant the garage gets flooded all over again, but fuck it, it wasn’t dry from the first flooding anyway.

Oh! Did I mention that you should turn the water off to the house before you disconnect the water supply line that goes to the old water heater? Well, you should. We didn’t, but if you ever have to do this, you should.

Okay, after beating the drain valve off and forgetting to turn off the water to the house, we’re now working in about ten inches of standing water. I never imagined a garage could become a wading pool, but it can. And if you have cats--which we do, two of 'em-- and the cats have their favorite pissing places in the garage, that ten inches of standing water really develops an, uhmm.... interesting aroma. I don’t even want to mention the occasional cat turd that floated by, but I guess I just did.

Okay, we finally get the ruptured hot water heater disconnected and drained. So I devise this really clever pulley system—a system that I think is similar to the one used by the Egyptians when they built the pyramids. I threw a rope over one of those two-by-fours that hold the garage together and hooked it to the top of the old hot water heater. This is so we can pull the old heater off of its pedestal. My roomie gives the old water heater a mighty shove while I hold the other end of the rope and the heater flies off its pedestal and swings like a hanged man from the two-by-four.

This is when we discovered that those two-by-fours weren’t designed to carry much weight.

Alright, forget this part; I don’t want to talk about the two-by-four that is one of the two-by-fours that holds the garage together. We’ll fix that next weekend.

So now it’s time to get the new hot water heater up on the old pedestal which we do manage to do despite the fact we both have bad backs. Actually, our backs weren’t really bad until we performed this maneuver.

Time to connect everything: This operation went pretty smoothly. In no time at all we had that water heater all hooked up. So now my roommate tells me to go outside and turn the house water back on (which we eventually did turn off after re-flooding the garage with fresh, city water). I go outside to turn it on, but when I try to do this, I can’t manage to turn the fucking thing. So I get a big monkey wrench to do the job. With one mighty pull I manage to snap the stem off the valve. Now we can’t turn the water back on in the house without replacing the main supply valve which I estimated would take a real plumber and two helpers with picks and shovels a couple of days to accomplish.

We now realize we’re going to have to shut off the water at the city’s water meter out on the street near the curb.

First, you have to pull up this concrete thing that weighs almost as much as the hot water heater. Than you need to have this special tool to turn the fucking thing off. We didn’t have the special tool, but we did manage to rig something that took about three or four wrenches hooked together, and we were able to turn off the water. I’m not 100% sure, but we also might have turned off the water to half the homes on the street. But fuck ‘em. We’d just gone three days without hot water. They could go a half-hour or so without any water.

Back to the valve that feeds the house.

I drove to the hardware store to get a replacement valve. Of course, they come in lots of sizes, so I bought one of every size they had at $8.99 per valve. When I got back we tried to disassemble the broken valve and just replace the internal parts from whichever of the new valves I bought would work. None of them matched. But we did figure a way to melt some rubbery stuff we found in the garage into this part of the old valve, and then fill it with hot-glue, then cap it off.

We have no idea how long this will hold, and we can’t turn the water off to the house unless we do it at the street which I still think deprives most of our neighbors of water.

I’ve lain awake for two nights now thinking of that melted rubber shit and hot glue, wondering if at any moment it could burst and by morning the water has soaked through the foundation of the house causing the whole two-story home to settle, which then causes every exterior and interior wall to crack and bulge, eventually bringing the whole house down.

But we do have hot water now! And when I was finally able to take a hot shower and rinse almost three days of funk off my now-ripe body, all that work and all those fuck-ups seemed worthwhile.

But like I said, plumbing sucks! So if this ever happens to you-- call a fucking plumber!

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