Friday, March 11, 2011

Running water is overrated.

To my shock, the plumbing guy showed up late this afternoon. This just keeps getting better.

The pipe I thought he broke, he didn't break. When I picked it up this morning it was all shattered underneath, and it was clear that ice had done it in. Would have been nice if he'd checked for function before he left, or at least noticed that broken-off pipe two inches from where he was working, but that's life. I didn't see it, either. I was going to fix it, because Landlady left a big bag of 1 1/2" fittings right there. But then plumbing guy called all upset, having listened to my voicemail from yesterday, and said he'd be out to do it. Fine by me.

So anyway, he fixed the pipe. All's well, right? Well, not so much. At first he couldn't get any pressure at all. I checked the cistern, and while it was nearly empty it wasn't empty so water was available to the pump. He poked around, and we started getting some pressure to one side of the system. I noticed this when I saw that the interior of the barn was flooding - broken pipe, alas. I rushed and turned off the water to the barn. Then I opened a spigot on the valve enclosure going to Landlady's house, and there's not a drop of water there. Lots of water on one side (I thought) none at all on the other. This makes no sense.

Plumbing guy was still in the power shed, scratching his head. This didn't look good - why should he still be putzing with the pump if it's working? He points to a pipe, the only one I've ever messed with in there, and asks, "Is there a check valve in there?" I say no, as far as I know there's never been a check valve in there. Certainly there isn't one now.

"That's supposed to have a check valve," he says. "the pump is pressurizing both sides of the system, so the supply isn't getting drawn in right." I tell him there had never been a check valve there, and it had always worked fine before. "Well," he says, "I don't know what else it could be. It runs fine for a few seconds, but then it all gums up." We find a check valve, and he goes to work installing it. I dunno if it'll fix anything.

Meanwhile I'm wondering why there's no running water to Landlady's house, the only part I really care about. I climb in the valve enclosure; the valve coming out of the ground is open. At least it looks like it is. I grab the handle and yank it down hard; it was always hard to move. I nearly fall on my face: There's no resistance at all. Huh?

I take a closer look. The casting on the valve is broken! Broken right in half! I haven't messed with that valve for years: It was always a pain in the ass, and there's no good reason to close it, so I always just left it open. How could it be broken? And is it broken in the closed position? Because that would explain why there's no water there, but I didn't close it. If somebody else messed with it, did they not notice it broke? The handle was up, indicating open. Poltergeists? Ninjas with a sense of humor? How could a casting that's not exposed to water or ice spontaneously break?

So at the moment everything's screwed up. Plumbing guy is still banging around in the power shed, I'm gonna have to [figure out how to] take that valve apart in the morning, the barn is flooded, the sun's about down, and things are worse off than in those halcyon days three hours ago when I just assumed "it's broke."

I hate plumbing. And winter. I hate plumbing and winter.

Weather's been nice, though.


Anonymous said...

Hey Joel,

I have found a small plumbing irregularity can cause numerous major unrelated plumbing problems. The term 'collateral damage' seems to fit here.

Plumbing work sucks.

Good luck!

Stay warm!

Keep us armchair plumbers in the know.

Landlady said...

Oh. Dear. God.

I'm going to owe you a lot of coffee and gasoline for dealing with this, aren't I?

suek said...

If you have children, encourage them to become plumbers (or at least _learn_ how to do whatever it is that they do). In the messy future, they will still have work. guaranteed.

We can do without electricity - we might not want to, but we can. But the plumbing??? when it doesn't work - we call somebody...RIGHT NOW!!!

Of course, it often also involves digging ditches - they aren't going to find a "technical" no hands on solution for that one very soon either!