Friday, January 30, 2015

Grampy CAN'T fix anything!

Part 3 of a series.

This has turned out to be an ongoing saga of frustrations. Instead of posting another dozen entries about it, I created a document and have been updating it every few days. The project is now complete…at least for the moment, so here’s the rest of the story.

Tuesday: Called the Guy at Deuce Hardware in the afternoon. Same excuse as last Thursday, the truck just came in and hasn’t been unloaded yet. I told him I would call again on Wednesday.

Wednesday: By now it was no surprise that the part didn’t come in (again), but he said he ordered it again. I told him not to bother. I looked around online and found several places that stock Spice Fister, so I ordered a new diverter valve and valve seat from A2Z Plumbing. The online price was much less than what Deuce wanted, but shipping was more than the price of the parts. I ended up spending about the same as what Deuce Hardware wanted, but (fingers crossed) I should have the part in seven to ten business days.
Meanwhile I’ve continued thinking about how to turn off the main water supply. I think I have a workable solution, I’ll probably get busy working on that in the next day or two.

Friday: I picked up a short 1x2 and a small metal U bracket at Blowe’s and constructed a rough tool to turn off the main water valve. Not a perfect solution, but it works. I’m amazed. I also picked up a new PVC valve and couplings to replace the hot water shutoff valve…the butterfly handle on the old valve broke off because we used it so much to keep the hot water from dripping. I think I still have a length of PVC pipe left over from when I had the toilet repaired (see my post from May 3, 2014). An email from the USPS says the diverter valve is scheduled to be delivered Monday. How ironic is it that the USPS uses email to communicate with their customers?
By the way, I notice I never did an update on that old post in May about the toilet repair. I got on Facebook and asked if anyone knew a good plumber. To my great surprise, my supervisor from my last job came over and did the repair for me. Thanks, Bill.

Saturday: This month’s water bill arrived. Highest bill in the last 12 months, but not astronomically high. Actually only about $6 more than last month…but the water has been dripping for quite a while. I’ll be curious to see how much it drops if I ever get the leak fixed.

Monday: We had the first major snow of the season this morning…USPS tracking showed the diverter valve out for delivery, but as of 9:30 P.M., it hasn’t been delivered. The roads are clear now, but I don’t think it’s going to make it today. Couldn’t find the PVC pipe…looks like I’m going to have to buy another 5’ length of the stuff since the hardware store doesn’t seem to sell little short pieces. Just as well, I need some solvent/glue for it anyway. It’s about four weeks now since I started this project and I still haven’t done any actual work. Meanwhile the water continues to drip at an ever faster pace.

Tuesday: 10 P.M. and no diverter valve (again). Snow is gone but USPS tracking still shows it “out for delivery” as of Monday morning. We don’t live THAT far away from the post office. I decided to test fit the replacement valve, couplers, etc. for the hot water shut off on the pipe I purchased yesterday. Surprise! I bought the wrong size pipe. Duh! I need to get out tomorrow morning and do some other shopping anyway, I’ll stop at Blowe’s and exchange it for the correct size.

Wednesday: 3:45 P.M.  I received a note in my mailbox to pick up a package at the post office. The post office closes in fifteen minutes. Looks like it will be another day before I can get started. How big a package does a valve stem need? Surely it would have fit in the mail box…and our mail carrier has always put packages on our porch that won’t fit in the mailbox. Why change now? I’m thinking about buying an extra large mailbox this spring.
I returned the PVC pipe this morning to get the correct size and discovered that the correct sized pipe is made of CPVC not PVC. Because of differences in their chemical makeup, CPVC and PVC require different primers and solvents. There are some universal products, but the one I had purchased was for PVC only. I picked up a can of the correct solvent, but I didn’t have the original can of solvent with me. I’ll have to return that one to Blowe’s tomorrow when I go to the post office.

Thursday: I picked up the diverter valve at the post office but had a lot of other things to do scattered throughout the day. Two visits to doctors, one a followup with my family physician about the cyst I had drained and the other was taking my brother-in-law to his cardiologist. Throw in trips to the grocery store and Blowe’s to exchange the pipe solvent and the day was pretty much shot. I’ll get started on it tomorrow.

Friday: I have all the parts I think I need, so I can finally get started on the project! I should have known there would be more problems. Just getting the faucet handles off was a major task. They were badly corroded and solidly stuck to the stems. I had to beat them without mercy before they would come off.
I decided to tackle the diverter valve first. The stem came out pretty easy…it was somewhat similar to the new one I had purchased, but they didn’t look EXACTLY alike. Cue the dramatic background music. I tried to get the wrench in to take out the valve seat but couldn’t get it to work. Went and grabbed a flashlight…something was in the hole that didn’t look like a valve seat. Went and got a small drill bit to fish out whatever it was. Looks like a part of the original valve stem. The original had apparently broken apart. With the obstruction out of the way I was able to take out the valve seat. Increase the volume of the dramatic music…the old seat was not even similar to the new one. They had completely different sized threads. The old one didn’t look that bad so I put it back in. Next I tried to put the new valve stem in…wrong size threads. Realization sets in. I bought the wrong stem. Spice Fister makes two different diverter valves…50-50 chance I’d get the wrong one. Bingo. Okay…I put the old stem back in minus the broken part. We both shower, so we don’t need the diverter valve to close anyway.
Move to the hot water faucet. First problem, the body of the valve stem is recessed into the wall and I can’t get a wrench on it. After working with it for a while I found that I could pull on the spout and the whole assembly would move out just far enough to get a grip on the stem. I took the old stem out and…to no surprise by this time, it looked completely different. No similarities whatever. Totally defeated by this time, I screwed the old stem back in and turned the water back on.

Surprise! No drip…or at least a significantly less drippy drip.

Put the handles back on. My job is done. Total cost of the entire project…probably around $70. Total cost of parts actually needed, about $10 for the tool to turn the main water valve on and off.

I think I’ll wait a while before I try to replace the ball valve on the hot water heater.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Grampy Can Fix ANYTHING! (Part 2)

Thursday. The diverter valve stem was due to arrive at the hardware store, so I went down in the afternoon to pick it up. It wasn’t on the shelf so I tracked down the clerk that said he would order it. Yes, it was ordered but the truck just came in about an hour earlier and hadn’t been unloaded yet. Come back on Friday and it’ll be in stock. 

Friday. The part was still not on the shelf. I tracked down the clerk again. Oops! Whoever was in charge of placing orders decided they didn’t need to stock any Spice Fister diverter valves and crossed it off the order list. The clerk said he’d reorder it and make sure it stayed on the list. Monday is a holiday, so come back on Tuesday. I got his name and said I’d call first since it’s a 14 mile drive to the store.

Sunday. It’s now going on about four weeks since I decided the leak needed to be fixed. I have the valve stems for the cold and hot water and most of the tools I think I’ll need (more about that later), I’m just waiting on that one last part. I suppose I could fix just the water valves, but then I’d have to do it all over again when the diverter valve stem comes in. That seems like over complicating the process, so I guess I’ll just have to wait a little while longer.

One thing I’m a bit nervous about when I get started on the actual work is getting the water turned off. The main water valve is in the cellar. Down a flight of rotten steps into a dark, wet, spider infested hole. I’d rather put up with the leak than go down there. From the cellar, the water line comes through a hole in the corner of our kitchen floor, up the wall, across the ceiling, and back down the opposite wall, through that and into the bathroom. It originally went under the kitchen floor, but was re-engineered a few years back because the pipes kept freezing and busting in the winter. The person that installed it thoughtfully put a shut-off valve where it goes into the bathroom…but it’s behind the water heater. Very difficult to reach and you can’t get enough torque on it with just your hand to get the handle to turn. I’m going to have to improvise some sort of tool to reach in there and turn the knob. I’m still trying to work out the exact logistics of that in my head, but I think there’s a simple solution.

Update: I just checked the Deuce Hardware online store. The regular valve stems (that I already have) are listed but the diverter valve isn't. What do you want to bet that they no longer carry it? Crossing my fingers for Tuesday...

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Grampy Can Fix ANYTHING! (Part 1)

I’m not Mister Fix-it. I never was. I’m all thumbs when it comes to home repairs. I normally botch up the job royally and anything I “fix” looks like crap when I’m done with it. That withstanding, I decided this week to fix our tub shower. Yeah, I know, disaster waiting to happen.

We live in my wife’s family homestead, an old two-story farm house. By “old,” I mean really old. I’m told the house was built in 1906, which makes it 109 years old. That’s back when bathrooms were uncommon in this part of the world. As I understand it, people took baths in a free-standing tub in the kitchen with water heated on a wood burning stove. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s what I believe. Anyway, my wife says that the house was built without a bathroom. They added a bathroom in the 1960’s. In the late ‘70’s they moved the tub to put a washer and dryer in that spot and enlarged the room to put in a new tub with a shower. That’s what we’re using now. That makes the tub and fixtures approximately 40 years old…and showing their age.

The faucet has been leaky since we moved in about 7 years ago. I’ve replaced the valve washers several times and the valve seats a couple. They’re leaking again. I’d like to just pull the whole thing out and put in a new walk-in shower, but that would cost more than I can afford. I didn’t want to fix them myself, so I tried calling a local contractor who advertises that they do plumbing work and left a message on their machine. That was on a Saturday. I called again on Monday afternoon and left another message. When I still didn’t get a reply, I called another plumber on Tuesday…disconnected number. I tried a third guy whose wife said he was busy with folks who had frozen pipes but might be able to work me in on Thursday. I called Thursday morning when I hadn’t heard back from him, now she said he might be able to work me in on Monday.

Throw in a 3 day unexpected stay in the hospital here.

Still no callback by Monday, so I called one of the few numbers left in the phone book, a septic service.  Sorry, we only do drains, we don’t do plumbing. Last number in the book…Moto-Tooter. Yes, we do plumbing, we can get you tomorrow. YES! The next morning I get a call for details on what I needed done. Oops, sorry, we don’t work on Spice Fister brand faucets. What?

I considered calling one of the three local handymen I know (not Bubba…he’s upset with me over the last post I mentioned him in), but the other guy is known for cutting corners. I really don’t trust him to fix it right. I called the third, but changed my mind. I’ve reluctantly decided to do it myself…again. From the few “ball-park” estimates I had gotten from the plumbers that would even talk to me, a full replacement of the entire faucet assembly would cost anywhere from $250 to $500, depending on the brand and quality of the parts. Plus they would have to replace the wall panel for additional expense. I checked Spice Fister’s website and, of course, repair parts for my faucet are not available. Cost of the entire fixture was a little over $100. Replacing the entire valve means soldering would be involved…too much for me, it’s going to have to be parts only if I’m going to tackle the job.

A trip to the closest plumbing supply store was next. Nope, we don’t carry Spice Fister products…try the Deuce hardware store. Imagine my happiness when I discovered Deuce had repair kits with all the parts and they were only $13 each including tax. A special valve wrench was another $10 (I’ve got two of the things, but I couldn’t find them). Unfortunately they didn’t have the diverter valve kit, but could order it. Come back in two days. It’s now getting close to 3 weeks, I’m $36 in the hole, and I haven’t even started work on the project yet.

The diverter valve is supposed to be in tomorrow…and the faucet is still leaking. I can't wait to see our water bill.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Home Again, Home Again

I returned home yesterday after an unexpected 3 ½ day stay in the hospital. A little more than two weeks ago, I noticed a small swollen spot on my chest. I wasn’t overly concerned about it because I’ve noticed the same thing in the past in the same spot and it always went away after a week or so. This time it didn’t go away. As the days passed, it gradually got bigger and more uncomfortable. I had a regularly scheduled appointment with my family doctor coming up, so I waited until then to talk with him about it. By the time I saw him, it had grown to about the size of a small egg in my opinion. He thought it was closer to a baseball…I think his estimate was somewhat exaggerated, but I won’t argue about it. I expected him to send me to urgent care or the ER to have it lanced and drained or maybe even get ‘r done in his office. Nope, no such luck. Go to the hospital immediately. Do not pass Go. Do not collect any of your belongings to pass the time while you are incarcerated. Luckily, I did have a book with me to read, so I wasn’t forced to consider watching daytime TV.

I was given a choice of three different surgeons to perform the procedure. I didn’t recognize any of the names, so I just went with whoever was available. I was admitted, stripped to my skivvies, and provided with the requisite backless gown. After a few hours, the surgeon’s assistant showed up and drained the lump right there in the room. They kept me for another 3 days. I never did see the surgeon who will undoubtedly bill my insurance provider for an enormous amount.

I am now required to make a few comments about hospital food. I think there’s an unwritten law that says you can’t stay more than 24 hours in a hospital without complaining about the food. Forty years ago you got whatever the hospital kitchen wanted to send you. Occasionally you got a choice between two or three items which usually included meatloaf or macaroni and cheese, but the choice was always quite limited. I must admit that things have changed over the last few decades. Today you get a three page brochure of “Seasonal Selections” to order your meal from a wide variety of choices. They still have meatloaf and macaroni and cheese, but there are other appetizing main dishes and side orders, all of which are preceded by adjectives like “savory” and “succulent.” And, of course, there’s the prerequisite Jello in orange or lime. Just make your selection from the menu at the time of your choosing, call the kitchen on your bedside phone, and in 45 minutes you get whatever the hospital kitchen wants to send you. Perhaps I do exaggerate just a bit, the food that arrived usually matched what I ordered except for the “savory” and “succulent” descriptions. I did, however, determine that “green tea” actually means “apple juice” and that both chocolate and strawberry ice cream devolve into vanilla by the time they reach your room.

Since my stay was unexpected, I didn’t have a list of my current medications with me when I registered. The hospital called my pharmacy to get a list of medications. As I have mentioned in previous posts, the doctors have been tinkering with my meds over the last few months, so they got everything wrong and I had to keep telling them “I don’t take that now.” I received the medications on a random schedule which I never did figure out, but the middle of the night seemed to be at the top of the bell curve. I was also visited by folks from  the hospital lab quite frequently. They didn’t sparkle, but I’m pretty sure they owed their allegiance to Team Edward.

The day for my discharge arrived and my family doctor made his rounds at around 7 a.m.. I told him that the surgeon’s assistant had said he would probably let me go that day. My family doctor said if the surgeon said okay, he’d sign me out. The surgeon’s assistant showed up at about 11 a.m. and released me, but my family doctor still needed to be contacted to sign off on it. That’s where the chain of communication broke down. Repeated pages to my family doctor and calls to his office went unanswered. They finally contacted his partner around 5 p.m. who let me come home.

Upon getting home, I reviewed the release papers the hospital gave me and discovered half of them were for a different patient. Why was I not surprised?