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So now that I'm back in town, I went over to my grandmother's to pick up my cat this evening. Grandma usually wants to chat, and had offered dinner, so this is going to be a hour and a half, two hours tops. I'm getting ready to put the cat in his carrier when she mentions that she went into the storage area under the house to pull out her wooden laundry rack, and it was all wet and rotten. So I ask why it was wet... There's water on the floor around the water heater. I go down to take a look, and indeed, water on the floor around the water heater... because it is coming out of the pressure valve overflow pipe at a rather alarming rate.

Out to the garage, cut the breaker. Tried to turn off the water, but the handle would only turn one way, and that was on more. Call my mother, 'cause what do I know from plumbing? I rent. She suggests I call cousin #1 (who owns a bunch of rental property and has lots of contractor buddies and has done a fair bit of plumbing himself. Got his voicemail. He calls back 5 min later, from Anchorage, where he's on vacation. Suggests I call cousin #2. Cousin #2 is home, but leaving for an out of town training. Says he'll make a few calls and get back to me. Calls back 10 min later, says Cousin #3 is on his way to Home Depot and will get to us shortly, and its probably just mineral deposits in the overflow valve, and not new water heater time.

Cousin #3 arrives with the new pressure valve to discover that the folks who installed the water heater soldered the pipe that comes off the pressure valve rather than using a screw on type fitting. Cousin #3 leaves to go get his soldering torch and supplies. He can't find his solder, so heads to Home Depot for the second time.

Comes back, tries to desolder the pipe. Has the torch on the joint for like 20 min. It's not moving. Whatever type of solder they used wants to be hotter than the propane torch can manage. Hacksaw time. He saws the pipe, gets the bad pressure valve out, puts the new one in and leaves to pick up the fittings to replace the pipe for the overflow.

Back again. So we take the various plumbing bits out on the patio, he preps them and fires up the torch. Did I mention this torch doesn't get very hot? It takes at least 15 min of continuous heating to get the pieces hot enough to where the solder will flow. That's half the soldering. He asks me if I want to try the other piece. I'm game. So I heat it, and I heat it, and I heat it, then I heat it some more. Solder finally flows. He suggests putting on a bit more, so I do. After is has cooled for a couple of minutes, he picks it up to check the joint. It looks good... except for the large lump of solder on a surface that needs to be smooth for the coupling to not leak.

So he heats it, and heats it and... the solder ain't melting. We finally end up sanding it down, which is definitely not recommended practice, but it's just the overflow pipe, and with any luck the water heater will die before the pressure valve goes again, and therefore the joint will not leak because no actual water has gone through it.

I'm still not considering a career in plumbing.

Next: I get to manage the restoration work for the water damage from when her upstairs toilet backed up, and she couldn't think what to do about it except keep flushing.


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May 2010

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