adventures in plumbing I
Saturday, November 23 2002
While Louis continued work hanging drywall in the closets, bathroom hallway, and bathroom, I launched into the wonderful world of plumbing, specifically sweating pipes. Sweating pipes is a form of soldering, though it's done on a much grander scale than the puny electronic soldering I've been doing since I was fourteen or so. In gearing up for today's massive plumbing push, I first soldered together a few complexes of pipe branches to be attached to the plumbing stubs protruding through the bathroom floor. Once these were done, I was prepared to try attaching the cold water branch complex, which included a little valve for the toilet. I turned off all the water in the house, uncapped the cold water stub, and then did my best to mount the complex. For some reason my solder wasn't flowing very well, and I was unsatisfied by the job I'd done. Still, though, some impulsive demon inside me wanted to test to see if the thing would hold water. I ran downstairs and turned it on. Bad idea. When I came up I saw a little pool forming under the complex, so I had to run back down and shut the water off and flush the toilets so as to kill the pressure.
From then on I was paranoid about turning on the water. I equipped Gretchen with a walkie talkie and had her turn the water on and I'd be there to tell her if it was leaking. Interestingly, though, from then on I had no further trouble with leaks in any of the pipes I sweated.
By the end of the day I'd hooked up both shower valves to both cold water and hot water and I'd run line to one of the shower heads. The use of flexible soft copper tubing saved me a lot of soldering, though I still had plenty to keep me busy.
Somewhere in the is process, I'd actually had to build yet another stud wall between the toilet and the place where the new whirlpool bathtub will go. I'd made this wall only 53 inches high, and I'd left it detached until I got all the plumbing work done in the area where I needed to place it. There was a rather large amount of plumbing actually in this low wall, including one of the two shower controls. This gave it sort of the appearance of a car door, or at least the skeletal insides of a car door, particularly when I had it detached and out of the way.
My successes with plumbing surprised even myself. For some reason I'd had reservations about my ability to do it correctly, perhaps because Gretchen had been sort of skeptical about my, "Oh, I can probably figure out how to do that" attitude. But in the end, plumbing seemed essentially self-explanatory, particularly once one had a sense of the general sizes of things and the protocols of attachment. Still, I'm finding it more of a challenge than electrical wiring, which is so easy that I don't think I've ever had an unexpected result from it (compare that to programming!). The thing that makes plumbing more of an interesting puzzle is the restriction of spatial arrangements. With electrical wire, as long as there is an unobstructed path, electricity can be made to go anywhere. With copper pipe, you have to do a little planning to establish the angles of bends that need to be soldered in place. Then you have to be careful to keep your soldering away from stuff that can be damaged by the heat. Even when one uses soft copper pipe to eliminate the soldered pipe connections, it's not always easy to get the pipe to bend, particularly on a tight radius.
In other house-related labor efforts, Gretchen initiated a massive insulation installation effort in my "studio" - the hitherto-unusable attic space above the garage. Like all other attic spaces in the house, this one features a high cathedral ceiling. With something like 800 square feet of floorspace, it should take me awhile to clutter it up. The main downside of the space is a general absence of natural light. There is, however, a plan on the backburner to eventually install a penthouse or two in this space to bring in more light and make available more floorspace, as well as improve the appearance of the façade of the house.
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