Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Plumbing the Depths

I am starting to rethink my belief that, given time, many inanimate objects that aren't working properly will fix themselves. Call it the Natural Healing Spirit of Things. I am aware that I am probably one of only a few people who actually believes this, but it has happened enough that I accept it not so much as an article of faith, but a blind trust in dumb luck.

Now I am not so sure. Before Christmas our kitchen tap started dripping. But I wasn't too worried, pretty sure that one day soon the tap would stop dripping.

So I ignored Linda when she kept complaining about the water we were wasting. (OK, let me be more precise. I never ever ignore Linda. I just didn't get around to doing anything about it.) And I kept on not doing anything until even I had to acknowledge that the drip was getting worse each day.

In this way I discovered there is a treasure trove of do-it-yourself information on the web. I knew from a handyman who had done some work around here that this was a cartridge-type tap, and you don't just replace a washer. "It's a plumber's job," he said.

Just for the fun of it, I did a little web research. There are ample sites with instructions on how to replace the cartridge. This, for example, from www.howtomendit.com


* Shut off water supply valves then drain lines by turning faucet on.
* Pry off decorative cover and remove screw cap.
* Pull spout assembly off.
* Pull retainer clip from its slot.
* Using pliers, lift cartridge out of body. Note position of cartridge ears so that when replacing, they are in identical position.
* Remove "O" rings by prying away from body and rolling new ones into place, or replace entire cartridge.
* Reverse procedure for reassembly.

But given my d-i-y skill sets, I was quite sure that prying off the decorative cover and removing the screw cap was looking way too challenging. And the rest was only marginally easier to understand than hieroglyphics.

So a quick google, a phone call to a company I had never heard of, and a plumber was on the way. And here's where I wonder if maybe - just maybe - I should have given the tap a little more time to heal itself.

First I got a call from my new friend Shane the Plumber who was at the plumbing supply store to get the cartridge prior to coming over. Unfortunately it was out of stock and apparently out of the country. Did I want to wait a couple more weeks or would I rather just replace the tap?

Having already waited so long, I decided it was time to stop the drip so a new tap it was to be.

It was also several years past the replacement date for the pressure valve on our hot water tank, so I had Shane do that. It was at this point that he told me I needed something or other that would extend the life of the heater and it only cost a little bit more. So, in for a penny. Or actually it was now starting to be quite a few pennies, but you get the idea.

Shane then pointed out that for just a few dollars more I could join their preferred customer group (which I think of as their Frequent Flusher Club). Joining it will save me heaps of money on any further service calls. OK, may as well.

Shane also offered his company's absolutely free inspection of all our plumbing. I told him we really didn't need anything else, but since it seemed to be the only free thing that was going to happen that afternoon I took him up on it.

There was good news. Everything was in good shape. Which just goes to show you that it's all in the timing. Because within 24 hours after Shane left with about three times the money I expected to spend, something happened that screwed up our water pressure.

A couple of times in the morning, there was barely a trickle coming out of the upstairs taps. Linda got quite grumpy when the washing machine took about 30 minutes longer than normal to fill up. So I did what anyone in my position would do. I did nothing, assuming it would fix itself. That was three weeks ago.

But on Sunday Linda had been out in the backyard on a very hot and sunny afternoon. When she came in to take her shower, she was not amused when absolutely no water came out of the shower head. I was pretty sure the pressure was down because the timer had just come on for the drip irrigation system. Either that or one of our neighbors had figured out how to divert our water supply - kind of like a Greenwich-based version of the movie Chinatown.

I must have been right because the water pressure eventually came back about half an hour later, even though the irrigation system never caused pressure problems in the previous seven years.

So yesterday I rang and booked my new friend Shane. He is coming back tomorrow to correct whatever it was he did. I assume he will turn some handle ten degrees and everything will be fixed. Or, just as likely, he will tell me it was nothing he caused and we need thousands of dollars of repairs. Because with my new friend, I am starting to wonder if I am going to take a bath before I can take a shower.

No comments: