Playing with fire

harder than it looked on YouTube

The one thing that a Navy career, and a subsequent life in an engineering industry, gave me is an appreciation for tools and their uses.  As a result,  I have been able to learn over years, homeowner maintenance skills that I have put to good use.  Sometimes these skills are out of necessity and other times, as a result of being unwilling to hire a “professional” – who probably could do a particular task more efficiently but at a cost to my pride and wallet.  

I learned that earlier in the year when my air conditioning system shut down unexpectedly.  I inspected what I knew, but then found – when calling a serviceman – a dog-hair and dust-choked filter had caused a pressure switch to trip.  At considerable expense for that lesson,  I then decided I would research all my home systems for maintenance and repair information that I could reasonably do myself.  Fast forward to this past week.   All our large appliances in the kitchen have failed in turn over a few years.  We were hanging on till we became “empty nesters” (the kids were extremely hard on our kitchen).   We purchased new refrigerator, stove, microwave and dishwasher.  But because the last time I had replaced leaking water valves  I wasn’t thinking what working appliances needed  I had no means for the installation crew to hook up  icemaker or the dishwasher.   And the man the company sent to install my new microwave told my wife the unit had greater dimensions than the old one to be removed.

Of course, this was partially correct and partially, B.S.    In the case of the microwave,  the installer was likely tired, irritated or unmotivated to actually “look” at the unit.  When my wife and I went back to the store – talking with the salesman also – the floor display was a HALF-INCH larger in depth and height than the original.  It would have fit without any modifications!  But the installer took the new unit away with him.   I still need to get him back. As for the line to connect the dishwasher,  apparently the issue was a little more complicated.  Because the stock water line was four feet shorter than required (new kitchen have the dishwasher next to the sink and not adjacent like my  1960’s-design) a new hose about ten feet in length is needed.  

I put the new dual-outlet valves on the existing pipes under the sink so I would not totally foul-up Thanksgiving plans my wife had.  The cobbled together work leaked requiring a big roaster pan catch basin, and frequent draining for the past few days.   That is where my love for tools, an engineering sense, and YouTube comes in.   Today while my family was out of the house, I removed a stubborn piece of copper pipe under the sink and then brazed on a new section.   A few technical difficulties resolved by a quick visit to the hardware store – for some advice,  a section of flame-proof cloth for welding;  I also borrowed my son’s fire extinguisher at his insistence – and after a couple tries:  Success.   With full water pressure back on this evening there have been no leaks and no desperate calls for a plumbing contractor on a holiday weekend.

Tools any Bronze-Age craftsman would love

Both dogs, Dexter and Comet – who normally hang around at my elbow ALL the time I am in the kitchen – were NOWHERE to be seen. Maybe they didn’t want to be witnesses to me setting myself on fire?

Flooding, flooding!

The practice of medicine is a thinker’s art the practice of surgery a plumber’s. Martin H. Fischer

There’s not too much concern in my neighborhood with the dangers at sea.  No real danger from collisions ( unless a Cessna on approach to the airfield makes an improbably short landing).  There is no danger of grounding.   Likewise, the chance of sinking is very slight at a few hundred feet above sealevel.   And until I attempted tonight to replace the fill valve in my toilet,  I never considered flooding.

As a homeowner, and a technically proficient electronics engineering technician,  I tackle most maintenance myself.  Unless my wife is at home, in which case,  I will opt to call someone to do maintenance.  Some tasks are a little complicated in an old house  whether replacing a dishwater fill line or tinkering with the gas water heater.    With my wife on travel visiting the kids,  I thought tonight would be a good opportunity to replace an annoying toilet fill valve.  For a “water-saving” device,  the last valve I installed has required two or three flushes routinely, and sometimes a manual intervention to the tank.

0512-0707-1115-1056Tonight,  my famous last words were “it’ll only take five minutes”.   I studied the new valve.  I even consulted YouTube.  Simple job.  But the line into the tank – at the bottom continued to drip onto the floor even as I tightened the nut.  I gave in and removed the valve with more water going on the floor,  needing to grab several towels, and getting sprayed from the line as I did not shut the valve from the main all the way.  The job called for and resulted in a few choice “Sailor” expletives after assembly and the tank still had a small leak.

The man who has experienced shipwreck shudders even at a calm sea. Ovid

I was about to resort to calling my neighbor when I noticed one small failure.  I had installed the rubber seal under, not inside, the inner (tank) seat of the fill valve!   And in my zeal, I had nicked the plastic nut which would cause leaking as well.   Fortunately, the old unit had a pristine nut that I was able to reuse.   The Damage Controlman and the Hull Technician can stand down.   Flooding in the compartment has been cleaned up.  General Quarters is secured.  All hands can get back to their Saturday evening.

I was planning to start preparing to paint the living room this week to surprise my spouse.  It would not take that long as I have all the tools, tape and drop cloths.  I have a couple days to call in some “expert” help before my wife returns.  On second thought, I shall postpone this Intermediate Maintenance Availability for another time.  I will not set a watch, but I think it prudent to check the compartment for flooding in the morning.