Sunday, January 17, 2010

Plumbing: A cautionary tale

Once upon a time in the possible careers of mine (between Engineer, Wildland Firefighter, and Paramedic) I wanted to be a plumber. There was something about pipes and fittings and water that seemed so pleasant and easy. Gravity, right? Not so hard. BUT I only wanted to deal with new construction, not any used plumbing. The thought of working with broken drain/sewer lines was gross, even from my little idealized starry-eyed picture of plumbing.

So, why should you care? Recent experiences have totally cured me from wanting to work in the plumbing trade. (Except for the socially acceptable mooning, that's still very appealing.) We are down in CA working on my Mom's bathrooms. One is a total gut-and-replace of every dang thing in there. The origional 1960's tub was cut in half and removed and a new tub went it. In hooking up the drain to the new tub my adoration of plumbing died.

My mom had not used this tub in at least 4 years. She had not even dumped any water down the drain. This means that all the water in the P-trap had dried up and there was the potential for sewer gases to upchuck through the drain. See, the water in the P-trap acts like a plug that keeps sewer gases from entering your house and going up the vents instead. But her house did not smell like a terlet. Why was that? Well, it was because the cast iron trap had rusted shut and would pass neither water nor air. Good for the indoor air quality at my Mom's house, bad for tDF who had to replace the trap and go in the crawlspace twice. A crawlspace rife with cat crap and a dead rat. IT wasn't until we bought a shop light to see better in the crawlspace that tDF learned that he had been crawling through piles of dessicated turds. He was thrilled.
Bad, bad cast iron trap

(Aside: my mom fell over laughing at the following exchange:

tDF--is there more cardboard up there (he is in the crawlspace now)

me--How big of a piece of cardboard

tDF--Big enough to cover up this dead rat)

Also--every time I have to go in the crawlspace and I carp about it, my dear darling husband asks me if I still want to be a plumber. I should add that he says this smugly.

Back to plumbing. We have been teaching my mom about routine maintenance of her various house parts. Most importantly she should use every fixture and drain at least once per month to keep everything flowing and to make sure your p traps stay full. This is a good rule for everybody in the interwebworld.

USE YOUR DRAINS AND FAUCETS AT LEAST ONCE A MONTH TO KEEP EVERYTHING MOVING. IF YOU DON'T YOU WILL HAVE YOUR DAUGHTER MAKE YOU LOOK AT NASTY CLOGS IN YOUR DRAINS.
gross. GROSS.

So, Plumbing is not for the faint of heart. It is for only the iron-stomached among us. Although, since my sense of smell is very bad, maybe I should reconsider plumbing...except for the cat crap. No. No plumbing for me. Soil Science forever.

2 comments:

  1. Wow--I just learned something! We have a tub we keep out of season pool toys in. It always smells in that bathroom, and I was blaming it on my boys' bad aim....now I will dump some water in and see if that solves it. Unused tub drain for 2 years, probably.

    How will I know if I need to call a plumber to fix something? Is it all cool if the water drains properly?

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  2. If all the water drains like it should (i.e. no backing up) then all is well. In this climate it's pretty easy to have the p-trap dry up.

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