Monday, April 27, 2009

Beadboard Updates

These next few Ramblers are all going to be about the same thing, I suspect: knocking shit up and tearing shit down here at Beadboard Manor. In a push to finally get the basement in some kind of order - largely motivated, I'll admit, by the pressing need to get the renters down there. A useful deadline has presented itself in the person of my friend Kate, who is doing a little labor exchange program for the work I've done on her website (and in advance for working on her husband's site). Thanks to her teaching position in the art department at Weslyan, she's come by leftover insulation material and wallboard* that is mine to have for free, provided I come and get it.

Today, as both a prologue to that activity and an epilogue to a Rambler so old that it's from the previous incarnation of the Rambler, I finally got around to removing the pipe that went to the old and long-gone water softener. And I quote:

"What’s really going on is the sudden parallel attack of all our utility possessions. Everything we own that’s designed to cook, drain, flush, cool or transport has just gone bang-klunk in the last few weeks. It’s as if all of our appliances and cars have signed a murder/suicide pact.

It started with the upstairs fan. The blare of the smoke-alarm, a cloud of blue smoke, and it was time for a new fan. Fine, window fans are affordable things – although they’re trying to make them less affordable. The first fan we found came equipped with dual-blades, a digital readout and a remote control (!), and retailed for $60. We ended up with the classic $14 from Sears.

Then, the basement toilet didn’t flush one morning. I plunged away, and succeeded only in sending the water down the line, into the tub. Turns out the sump pump wasn’t working, and the sump pump wasn’t working because the circuit breaker on it’s outlet had broken. It wasn’t a problem, because it could temporarily plug the pump into another outlet, but it turns out the water softener on the same circuit got brain-fried, and needs to be replaced. That will be $400-$500, when we do replace it. For now, our water remains diamond-like in it’s hardness." - 7/8/05

Bear in mind that this was two years before the flood that really decided the fate of the basement. Yesenia and I opted not to replace the softener - turns out, we like not feeling like we're being coated in softener every time we shower - and it sat down there until the flood. After the flood, during one of the marathon demolition days with Jim, Karl and Sean, the softener went out. And I quote, again:

"So - the water softener sat down there like Lot's Wife in a plastic tube. Full up with salt, totally immobile. Even with four men, we couldn't get it up the stairs. So, Karl cut it apart with his sawsall, and all the salt got dumped into a waiting bin. Now, the hacked-apart softener sits in the driveway awaiting removal, and the salt-bin fills the house with the aroma of cured ham." - 5/1/07

The end to all of this is that a few weeks ago, I noticed a not-insubstantial amount of water on the floor in the 'junk room' (the area of the old basement where the basementy machines do their thing). It turned out to be from the heater, which had overflowed its ballast tank and dumped its excess water all over, and had been leaking out of the (cracked, it turns out) garbage pail placed there for just such a contingency. So I replaced the pail and checked the pressure on the heater in my best Jack Torrance fashion, and that worked out. But the moisture in the corner just wasn't going away, which was odd, especially considering that the heater hadn't even been running for the last three weeks or so.

A very short hunt discovered that the leftover bypass valve for the softener was the culprit, dripping away at a steady pace. So, right: that had to go. And the trick was just to cut out the entire junction and hook the feed line and the line to the hot water heater up directly. Against my father's advice, who raised the specter of caution (or cautioned about a specter - something or other) I might add. Caution about the soldering. I said (in response), 'oh, I'll just get one of those compression-ring things.' He said they didn't make them for this. Oh, well, soldering it is.

Today, after work, I told the ladies of the house that the water would be off for a couple of hours, so whatever it was that needed washing or flushing, the time was then. Then I gathered my tools - including my freshly purchased new torch - headed down and turned off the water. So far, so good. In fact, all of the steps up until actually putting on the new elbow went seamlessly. Draining the line, fine. Cutting the bypass out at both ends, check. Cleaning the ends and applying the flux, check. Then applying the solder...

...applying the solder...

...Jesus Christ, I can't solder to save my life. Seriously, I couldn't even get one bead to stick. I'm like a marmoset with an iPhone. No thumbs, fur flying everywhere, big, moist, mournful eyes staring wildly in pitiful confusion. Just sad, sad to see, and I'm glad nobody did. But at least I didn't have me one of my 'the work's not going well!' tantrums, which is a first. Instead, I got Bubba on the phone, and he said that not only do they make compression rings for this purpose, but a newer and even more fantastical solution existed - a new type of solder free join from a company named Watts that you can just snap into place and then it tightens and you're done.

And Lowe's had it. And it worked just as advertised.

Sure, it was $8.50, but when you consider that I paid $25 for the torch (with propane), $1 for the original copper elbow, another $11 for flux and solder... well, the $8.50 was a fucking bargain, especially when you consider that it took me two tries of about 15 minutes each to try and fail to solder the elbow on (knocking it off with a mallet both times to start again) and about 30 seconds with the Watts. Well.

Anyhow, that's 'done' (crossing fingers and all that). Next up: general clean up and some trips to the dump. Probably Thursday. Whee!


*I think it's wallboard. My understanding is that some students... um... constructed some walls in a tunnel? It's an art school thing, I guess. But, hey: free wallboard!


Karl said...

I remember demolishing your basement. That was fun and satisfying. I also remember trying to remove the water softener. That was not fun and not satisfying. It sucked.

FYI - When I got a blowtorch to make some copper furniture, I was excited because it's perfect for making the crust topping on creme brulee as well.

Unknown said...

Change the suffix 'torch' to 'job' in your second paragraph and it takes on a whole new meaning. Perhaps better justifying your excitement... big pervert. I'll never eat your creme brulee, now.