Home ownership is a great thing, you can modify your home as desired, if the homeowner association allows it, paint walls and add personal touches. There is financial reward if you buy smart and pay down the mortgage, home ownership has many advantages. Home ownership has some down side, it locks you in place, restricting your mobility to easily relocate, at some point you will ask yourself if you own your home, or, does your home own you. The aspect of home ownership that has most troubled me is home repair. The more things you own, the more things you have that break.
Plumbing is one of my great weaknesses, whenever I start some small repair it slowly becomes a big repair. Yesterday I decided to deal with a water leak in my wife’s bath tub faucet. A faucet that has been in place for 15 years, first I strip the screw removing the handle, then the packing nut is corroded in place. The stem cartridge has merged into a solid part; removing it I break the stem. I carefully place all the broken parts in a baggie and then drive to the hardware store. From a large selection of choices I have to visually match new replacement parts to the broken stack of parts in the baggie. I make a selection, pay the bill and head back home, and it doesn’t fit. Live and learn, right? Now I have a clearer idea of what the part should look like and head back to the hardware store. This time I get help from a hardware store employee, recently hired away from McDonald's, between the two of us I find the, hopefully, correct plumbing items. After getting credit for the earlier parts, the package had been opened which the return lady was unhappy about, I clear the checkout and head for home, and it doesn’t fit. This has to be the correct valve stem, it matches in every respect, using a flash light I examine the dark hole the stem fits into, there is a rubber washer stuck at the bottom. I go to the garage and get a whole box of tools, return to the bath room and start cleaning the mounting area. Finally the new part fits; I install the packing nut and handle, then sit back with obvious satisfaction and recommend myself for a job well done. I go outside and turn the master water valve on, return to the bath room and water is spraying everywhere in great volumes, I quickly run back outside and shut off the master water valve. Return to the bathroom and disassemble all my work, carefully laying out all parts in order, I mentally walk through everything. A washer deep inside the housing had slipped out of place. Thirty minutes later I still do not have the washer securely in place, going online I discover that a special tool is required. Back to the hardware store, they don’t carry the special tool, back home to my garage and I make a special tool. My home made special tool works and four hours after starting this simple home repair I have all parts in place. This time I close the shower curtains to contain any possible water splash before going outside to turn the water on. Returning to the bath room the facet is blowing water at full volume. The faucet now turns the wrong direction, what was off is now on. Back outside and turn off the water again, disassemble the water faucet, hold up the stem and mentally rotate parts until I get the proper action. As I put parts back into the proper order I drop the porcelain handle, the porcelain handle breaks into dozens of pieces. Back to the hardware store for a new handle, by now I am on a first name basis with the ex-McDonald's employee, he sees his new job as a smart career move, a couple of more trips and we will be close friends, now we select a new faucet handle, he is a nice young man and very helpful. Returning to the bathroom I replace the faucet handle, everything works correctly with no leaks. Only six hours to fix this leak, I beam with the pride of a craftsman.
After all this time the water pipes had drained and the water faucet sputters between water and compressed air, but this will work itself out eventually, and I turn my attention to other needs. One immediate need is fresh water for the dog’s water bowl. Taking her water bowl to the kitchen faucet I start the filling, water spurts and coughs and then a large air pocket arrives at the end of the kitchen faucet. Air compresses, water can’t compress, when this compressed air is released at the faucet opening it is an explosion. This explosion blows the strainer off the end of the kitchen faucet. I figured out the physics after the fact, but I never anticipated this rather violent explosion. Back to the hardware store, and my new friend, to find repair parts for the kitchen faucet.
The hardware store had closed for the day, and I decided to quit for the day. The other shower has a small water leak now, the handles on my wife’s shower don’t match and the kitchen faucet needs a new strainer. It’s not that bad, the kitchen faucet works well if you turn in on slowly, the leak in the shower is only a few gallons per day and the wife’s shower just has a problem with optics.
My self-image as a mechanically talented, self reliant man is a little shaken; with good message framing and spin I can maintain the external image, but I guess that internally I will have to lie to myself, I am good with tools. I know that perseverance eventually wins and by the end of this week all plumbing will be fixed.