Monday, January 21, 2008


Since I moved in, the shower/tub plumbing has made a horrible, intermittent noise. A screeching. A squeal. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! Back in the old days of renting, I would probably have ignored it.

But as a veteran of two condo renovations, I couldn't leave it alone. This screech happened in my last place too. It was buildup in the shower head. I replaced it and the screech went away.

I'm an all-right plumber. In my last place, I repiped the setup under the kitchen sink after it fell apart one day (carefully following Al Huckabee's e-mail instructions), then added in a ventilation valve to stop the glub glub glub. Later, I managed to replace the bathroom vanity/sink all by my lonesome. Last time we'd been in Home Depot, a shopper in the plumbing aisle had asked Kraiger for help and he'd sent them to me. "Maybe she knows."

How hard could it be to stop a little screech? I bought a home repair book for a dollar at the used book sale at the church down the street.

First I changed the shower head. Still screeching. Then I replaced the spout. It looked much newer and nicer afterwards, but still screeched. I consulted the book. It showed me how to remove the plate and handle setup in order to replace the ball cartridge inside. This ball was turned by me turning the handle. Depending on where I move the handle, the ball lets in more or less cold or hot water, or no water at all in the Off position. The picture showed how there was no external water on/off switch for the bath, the way there is for the sink or the toilet. There are screws you turn behind the plate. These cut off the water.

Maybe they do somewhere. But not here. I knew this lesson. I learned it when Turbo renovated my last place. In buildings that are over a hundred years old, nothing is ever quite as it should be.

I dismantled the whole setup and peered behind the tile. No water cutoffs. And I didn't know of one to the entire apartment. Maybe it was in the basement. Who knows? I put the whole thing back together and resolved to tolerate the screeching until I had more time to study it.

And then it started leaking. Not like dripdripdrip, but a steady stream. Crap. I couldn't just let it leak. What if it was leaking inside the wall too? Where was the water cutoff? I'd put it back together same as it was before I opened up the wall. What could be wrong?

There was a round handle in the wall under the toilet. I turned it off. The leak slowed but did not stop. I called Yancey.

"Do you know where the water shutoff to the apartment is?"


He didn't know, but he remembered turning the water off before, and it hadn't required going to the basement.

"It's by the hot water heater."

I opened the door to the hot water heater. Two pipes with two valves. 50/50. Eeny-meeny-minie... I couldn't do it.

"Turn off everything!" Yancey was helpful. "Turn them all off!"

"I can't--if there's no water and the element is still heating, it will burn out the hot water heater. Where's the switch?"

"You think I know?"

I opened the fuse box. When Al had replaced Yancey's hot water heater, he'd thoughtfully labelled the circuits. There it was. Hot water heater.

We love Al.

I switched off everything. The water stopped. I went back to the bathroom and took apart the whole contraption. I put it all in a large Zip-Loc bag to take to Home Depot.

All I had to do, according to the internet and the how-to book, was replace this.

I swore at myself for touching the plumbing on a Sunday (plumbers charge rush fees on Sundays), then got in Henry the Ford and drove six blocks to the new Home Depot (give me a break, it was cold out). ~to be continued~


TOR Hershman said...

You buy a BOOK when you have the Internet?

Next time, just google your problem for the fix.

Stay on groovin' safari,

Marie said...

Sometimes the best answer comes from a combination of a book written by an expert and 17 hours of stumbling around forums where everyone keeps asking how to stop a toilet from running.

Ed Ward said...

Hey, how are you on shelving? Come on over and help me get some up!

Marie said...

Sadly, shelving is outside of my realm of knowledge. And I bet you have a lot of them. I once put one up and it fell down overnight. I ended up with some serious butterfly clips in the wall, but was too petrified to put anything on the shelves.