Saturday, December 24, 2016

Better -- And Worse: The Plumber Is Merry

     Yesterday afternoon, I was feeling sufficiently better to head to the basement and find a fresh nightgown and robe.  There was a trickle of water on the floor -- well, the temperature had climbed way up and it's been raining.  I wasn't as much better as I thought and the activity ended with my fleeing back upstairs.

     Later, early evening, I was definitely better.  So, what about that water--

     What about it?  I went back downstairs to check. There was a lot more of water, a tricking rille from the furnace (which is up on blocks in a low-ish spot) over to the floor drain.  But the usual wall-to-furnace path was dry.

     It was dry because the water was coming from a wall a ninety degrees to the usual source, a higher patch of floor where I keep clothes on racks and hanger-rods mounted to the floor joists overhead.  I had to fold up the ironing board, move a defunct analog television* and relocate a few empty boxes before I found the source: the shut-off valve for city water was leaking.  Not around the valve stem, either, but a steady drip, drip, drip from underneath.

     Reaching down to touch the packing nut made the drip rate increase.

     This is the very first valve for the plumbing inside the house.  There's one in a (buried) valve pit out at the street but it takes a special wrench, which is how The Water Company keeps deadbeats from turning their own water back on after it has been shut off for nonpayment.  (Yes, of course there's a brisk, unofficial trade in the special wrenches if you know where to look.)

     I called a plumber around eight p.m.  I kinda ended up getting a little weepy -- hey, I was sick for three days!  Plumber (from Hope Plumbing, our local Zen philosopher-king plumbers; they took over the "fine, antique plumbing" work when Steck's shut down, and bless 'em for that) showed up ten-ish, took a look, tried the valve -- leaks like mad when you start to close it, which is typical -- looked at the meter base or setter, looked at the plumbing, and admitted he didn't have what he needed on the truck and wasn't going to be able to have it until Tuesday.  The meter base is of a type no longer allowed and will have to be replaced. (I haven't seen one like it, and I've lived n older homes most of my adult life.)  It's looking like $700 in parts and labor.  The meter base and inside shut-off valve appear to date from 1924, when my house was built, though they could be as late as 1940s. The leak is actually from a little venting widget, a part of the valve that is made in a way that dates to not later than WW II.

     The plumber looked for the curbside shut-off in the dark but it's nowhere to be found.  They tend to sink into the dirt -- actually, the dirt on the strip between sidewalk and curb slowly builds up and buries them, but the result is the same, you have to have The Water Co. come out and find the thing.  And they're closed for Christmas, too.

     So there's a little plastic shoebox under the leaking valve (it's too close the the floor for a bucket), and there's a steady one-per-second drip into it.  In about three hours, the box is as full as you'd want and ready to be emptied.

     On Tuesday -- if I am lucky! -- I'll spend the big bucks getting this fixed.

     It could be worse; there are plenty of people on this Earth for whom sufficient clean water to let the stuff drip out and pour down a drain would be insane wealth.  This is America, where even bad plumbing is a reminder of relative luxury, and we toss out working TV sets because they're in the way.

     Merry Christmas, Bobbi.
_____________________________
* A big, bulging-screen RCA easily twenty years old -- I wrestled it up the stairs (!) and it's on the patio under a big trash bag pending proper disposal.  Does it still work?  Probably.  Is it worth keeping?  No.  I said "big," but by present standards the screen is small though the device is large and heavy.

14 comments:

rickn8or said...

Ah, the joys of an older house. The "we could fix it by replacing this 15-cent widget if said widget had been manufactured in the last twenty years, so we're going to have to replace everything from here-to-here" kind of joy.

My old analog TV does a great job of acting as a support for its digital replacement and the DVD/VHS box.

waepnedmann said...

It has been my experience (I once owned a home built in 1928 part of the CC & Rs stated that pigs were not allowed to be kept on the lot and cess pools had to be covered) that if you begin by replacing a faucet washer you end up replacing everything clear out to the meter at the curb. Good luck.

Bruce Edwards said...

Hence the expression, "Plumb Crazy".

Bruce Edwards said...

Hence the expression, "Plumb Crazy".

Matt said...

Sorry. I understand. Had the brakes fail on my truck Weds. Waited 2 hrs for the tow, missed work the next day while they replaced the rusted through brake lines. Total was north of $500 for everything. First world problems, I know, but it'd be nice to hear a little ahead at the end of the year. Just once.

Merle Morrison said...

You have my sympathy, for what it's worth! Don't know exactly how old my house is, but it appears on an 1873 map of the township.

Merle

stuart said...

Things are a bit easier over here in UK. My water meter is at the bottom of the drive with a built in stop tap that can be turned by hand. Any problems between there and the house I can deal with myself, everything up to and including the meter is the Water board's problem. Have a good Christmas anyway.

Old NFO said...

Sorry to hear that. Hopefully, you'll get a break.

Will said...

If the meter is in the house, does that mean the city is responsible for the pipes going to the house?

Where I live, I've had three badly glued joints blow apart in that plastic line. I estimate that there is at least one, and possibly two more joints, in the "ready to go" condition. The last one was two feet underground. It started at the meter, and is working toward the house. The same poor worker also did the plastic sewer line, but that's another subject, sigh...

Roberta X said...

No, Will, the water company shut-off valve is by the street and all the plumbing from there on in is the homeowner's. The meter is inside so it doesn't freeze.

rickn8or said...

Will, take solace in the thought there is no pressure in the sewer line.

Unknown said...

Make sure the plumber installs a butterfly valve. That was second replacement of the internal shutoff in my 1963 house that I paid for.

Rich P said...

https://www.facebook.com/Metal-Detecting-Central-Indiana-321218127976637/

Maybe someone here could find the shutoff. I regret that I am too distant to be of further assistance.

Windy Wilson said...

How deep is the waterline required to be buried per the building code? Your valve could be five feet down.