plumbing in wonderland

©2023 michael raven

Good lord do I dislike doing my own plumbing.

The problem with being a Jack-of-All-Trades is that I’m not one of those folks who actually gets good at all of those trades. I get a passing grade and, often, only a barely passing grade at that.

Plumbing is a skill I wish I was better at. Most of my plumbing is grunting, grumbling and muttered expletives, with the occasional expletive that is on the 11 end of the dial of muttering.

Which is why I put off doing anything about a leaky basement toilet for as long as I can. And then, New Orleans called to bitch about the trickle that was the once-mighty Mississippi, and I decided I’d better repair or replace that SOB.

And… Toilet installs are relatively easy. Follow the directions; tighten this, but not too tight…

So I opened up the tank (no water on the floor, so I ruled out a leak onto my basement floor) expecting to see a tattered and weary flapper gone to hell on me. It was fine.


I start messing around inside, trying to determine what it might be causing the leak/refill cycle of the past week or so, pretty befuddled. That is, until I tried to slide the flapper off to inspect it closer and the whole refill tube/valve slipstreamed sideways and into the part of the tank it didn’t belong in. And then the flapper went AWOL and I flushed the toilet, scrambling to find that friggin’ shut-off valve.

I prayed and hoped and wished, but the big-box stores don’t carry that kind of part, and the Ma/Pa hardware stores have left the neighborhood so, rather than drive all over the place looking for an ancient toilet part that probably no longer exists in a physical store, I just bought one of those valve complete replacement kits. Somehow, I doubted that the tube was the only victim in this (did I mention ancient?) whole toiletry affair.

My Spidey senses picked it right. As soon as I started dissembling the tank to put replacement parts in, the rubber gaskets turned into a black smear and dissolved on touch. I felt like a reverse Midas (there’s a joke in there…).

And the main brass pipe under the flapper was frozen fast to the greasy remains of an aluminum washer by means of previously-mentioned black-smear gasket remains. Pertrified.

So I spent the next 20 minutes man-handling the washer and praying I didn’t bust the porcelain or drop the tank on the floor before it surrendered. While doing so, I must have jostled something because I bumped the nuts supposedly holding the toilet to the floor flange to discover that they had been caulked in place and were not actually attached to anything. Frigging previous owner cut corners like this all the time (he actually did the same thing on the upstairs toilet, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise). Because today was not the day I wanted to replace the toilet and it had held up so far, I opted to not try to correct this travesty of plumbing (I may suck at plumbing, but I am a relative genius compared to the previous owner of my home, along with being a relative genius electrician).

I finally got that off so I could get to the business of repairing my toilet which, at this point, would have been quicker to replace (except for that nagging feeling I won’t find a floor flange when I replace it).

It took me a while (in spite of being a relative genius compared to the previous owner, I still have to think about things three or four times when it comes to plumbing, just to make sure I don’t screw the pooch), but I finally got it all put back together and flushing better than it had since I moved in.

There… the bulk of my day shot for something I had originally blocked out half an hour to do.

I really don’t like plumbing.

Photo by Antonio Friedemann on

10 thoughts on “plumbing in wonderland

    1. No doubt. Especially faucet installs. I’m 100% convinced most engineers who come up with faucet DIY home design have never had to actually install their faucets and have no clue that their mounting schemes are not practical or require much more light than use typically available under a sink.

      And… I have a sink like that. It’s been waiting for warmer weather for about three years…

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Ha, you sound like me when it comes to all things DIY (or, indeed, all things!). And yes, those jobs that you think will take 30 minutes end up taking half the day, and the tricky ones, for which you’ve planned half a day, take 30 minutes (plus the half a day you spend thinking ‘it can’t have really been that easy – what have I fucked up?!’).
    Happy days.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. My husband and I are frugal. We try and fix everything ourselves and it can certainly be a time-suck/expletive spewing weekend when it’s something big like plumbing. Glad its in your rearview mirror now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not above hiring someone when it is obviously out of my skill set (like the old cast iron drainpipe that cracked), but plumbing is one of those things I always *think* I should be able to to do and always run into *something* that makes me wonder why I had the crazy idea that I could.

      Liked by 1 person

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