Friday, October 1, 2010

Adventures in home ownership: the toilet edition (episode 1)

My house has four bedrooms and two bathrooms. The toilet in the master bathroom got clogged sometime last year. However, I got laid off last year and wasn't making stellar money in the first place, plus my car broke down several times, I almost went into foreclosure, I was going through a divorce, my cat got deathly ill with renal failure, and I had to declare bankruptcy. Needless to say, I just haven't had the money to call a plumber, and I have a second toilet, so I've just used that one.

Granted, I did try to get the master toilet unclogged; I tried snaking it with no luck, poured gallons of caustic chemicals down the thing to no avail, bought a canvas blowbag and several rubber counterparts to it and used them only to get water all over the bathroom, etc. I think I've done my due diligence. The only other thing I can think to do is blowbag out the mainline, which I would have to climb on the roof to do. I might even be willing to do *that*, except my roof is seriously at like a 45 degree angle and although I'm not particularly afraid of heights, and although I like the sensation of falling, that sharp stop at the end can be a real bitch.

About two weeks ago, the spare bathroom toilet handle broke. This is generally not a big deal. A new handle is like, a buck fifty. So I went to Home Depot (trip 1) and bought another one. In the process of replacing that, the overflow tube broke. Annoying as hell, but also not a big deal. If you buy the all in one toilet innards kit and get the expensive one, it's $20. And the new Mr. Diana reminded me that I'd broken it once before, because he mentioned it looked glued. The tube is ten years old. It's a two dollar part. It's probably due for replacement.

I went to Home Depot (trip 2) and got an all-in-one kit, figuring to replace the valve (which of course also started leaking about this time) and the float while I was at it.

To do all that, you have to turn the water off to the toilet. Again, not a big deal, except that when we turned the water back on, the valve started leaking.

Trip to Home Depot the third commences, for a hacksaw (for some reason, the pipe coming out of the wall was a single piece with the valve; apparently that's common in this area at that time of construction), some copper pipe, a new valve and a mechanical splice that they called a "shark bite".

On this particular day, I'm at work, right, and Mr. Diana is at home (we work different days). Right as I'm scheduled to get off, there's a tornado in the city I work in, and security isn't letting people leave the building. Once that tornado passes, there's a different one in downtown (I think there were 7 tornado touchdowns in the metropolitan area during that storm), and it's going along the same route I have to drive to get home. So I decide to sit my fat white ass down in my office chair and mind my own business until it's safe to drive.

Once that tornado passes, there's a HORRIFIC thundercell right over my house. For the life of me, I can't get a hold of Mr. Diana, and so I'm fretting that he's either blown away when the roof tore off the house, or that he's trapped at Home Depot (since he had to go back for a fourth trip for something) without his phone. (It turned out to be neither).

In any case, by the time I get home, it's dark. The pipe coming out of the wall is leaking. (Dripping, not spraying.) It's humid like whoa. And I'm generally just aggravated beyond belief at all of this.

But we've not even gotten started.

A friend of mine sees me sign on to Facebook. He's been desperately trying to get me to sext him all day because he's at home bored, and I've been in training and he's just not taking no for an answer. In an effort not to destroy my friendship with him, I basically snarl at him that I'm in an epically vile mood and to leave me alone. He asks what's going on and asks if I have called the city, which I have not. I did mention that it was after hours, but after thinking about it for about two minutes, I figure it's worth a try. (What are they goign to say, "no"? That leaves me no worse off than I am now, other than a potentially high water bill.) So I call the city and ask if they can turn my water off remotely. The nice policeman who answered the phone informs me that no, they can't, but asks me what's going on. I tell him about the leaking pipe, and that I cannot see the valve to turn the water off because it's under two feet of water (owing to the earlier rains). (Note for the record, it is just about twenty-four inches from the ground to the pipe. I'm not exaggerating about the two feet of water.)

He's like "oh, that's nice," and I'm reply quite sarcastically "oh, yes. I'm just DELIGHTED. Let me tell you." He laughs and takes pity on me and calls utility dispatch who ALSO take pity on me, and some poor sod who was happily minding his own business, warm, dry and clean in his house at 9 pm, drives all the way out to my place to turn the valve off, getting completely soaked and muddy in the process, explains to us how to turn it back on (now that we can see it and know exactly where it is), and leaves to go back to whatever normal thing it was doing when normal people are at home at night.

With the water successfully turned off to the house, we cut the pipe in the bathroom, put the mechanical splice and new section of pipe on, replace the valve, turn the valve on, go outside and turn the water on.

The plan was, I was going to stay in the house and watch the valve, and Mr. Diana was going to go outside and call me from his cell phone. That way, when he turned the water on, I would be able to tell him the condition of the valve (since it's easier to talk on the phone than scream at each other through walls, closed doors and across the yard over the sound of water).

We'd used this method previously for trying to blowbag the master toilet out, and it worked very well.

Not so this time. Mr. Diana drops his Blackberry in the hole the valve is in, which is once again full of water. (Why he didn't use his Bluetooth headset is utterly beyond me.)

He rescues the phone, yanks the battery out and sets the phone out to dry (which later turns out to be fine), and we turn the water back on, and the new valve and pipe are leaking. Quite a bit faster than before, but still just *leaking*.

Now, per the guy at Home Depot, if the mechanical splice leaks, we're to just keep tightening it. Which is what we did. And the thing promptly popped off and in the minute and a half that it took us to get the water shut off back outside, twenty gallons of water sprayed all over the bathroom floor.

By this point we're pissed off, hot, sweaty, sore and fed up. Of course I didn't think that we'd have this many problems (or ANY problems, really; by this point, I figured we'd had our share!) so I hadn't preemptively filled any buckets up with water. This leaves me what's left in the pipes to bathe with and brush my teeth with. And I have to work in the morning.

In the morning, when it's light (and the water from the rain has finally receeded), Mr. Diana goes back to Home Depot (trip number FIVE!) and explains the situation. He buys a special tool (for something ludicrous like $5) to turn the water main on and off with. He fixes the valve in the bathroom so it doesn't leak. He goes back outside, and turns the water main back on...

And discovers the main has broken.

On my side of the demarcation point.

I thought I was going to cry.

Thankfully, the same guy from the city (who was just as congenial as he could be from start to finish, I might add,) came out and fixed it and said that it was close enough to the demarc that he fixed it for no charge.

So now my spare toilet is working, but the master toilet still is not. But at least I have A working toilet.

The next step on the master toilet is to take it off and A) blowbag the toilet and B) blowbag/snake/pour cleaner down the pipe (I'm not exactly sure where the clog is--if it's in the pipe, or the toilet). However, the anchoring bolt is rusted through and I can't get the damned thing off. I tried using the hacksaw but it didn't even TOUCH the bolt. Someone at work lent me a Sawzall and if that doesn't work, as God is my witness, I'm taking a sledgehammer to the damned thing. Because a new, reasonably high tech dual-flush toilet is $98 from Home Depot, and this has caused me significantly more than $100 worth of emotional distress and parts.


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