D-I-Y Project of the Day (with pictures!)

A few months ago our main shower began to have a small problem with a slight dripping.  It was due to the knob for the hot water having a worn out rubber gasket.  The problem with fixing this is that in order to replace the gasket, one has to have some special tools that will actually reach far into a very tight spot, and I don’t have any tools that could do that.  I also don’t have much hope for being a successful plumber.  I learned that from my dad who was also a rather remarkably bad plumber!  (I don’t cook either, but I can do windows!)

On one occasion about 2 months ago, there was a significant problem with the plumbing on the roof.  Yes, roof plumbing is universal in Mexico because pretty much everyone needs a water storage tank on the roof because water in the public water lines isn’t always available, and a storage tank will provide a water supply when there isn’t water coming in from the street.  Not only does that mean there is a water storage tank on the roof, but there are pipes and valves and, in our case, a hot water heater with more pipes…and a gas line, etc.  It gets a little complicated up there on the roof…not to mention the large stationary gas tank.  Come to think of it, I’m so glad the cupola was struck by that lightning bolt last fall and not the LP gas tank which happened to be just over our heads when that lightning struck.

Ah…I digress (which as you know, I rarely do…ha!).  So, the point about the roof was we had a problem up there, and the owner of the house sent a plumber that he knows to fix it.  It was a big job and he did fix it.  When he finished the big job, I thought, well…he’s a good plumber, maybe he can fix that drip!  So, I asked him if he could and if he would.  He could and he did.  Sorta.  Within 24 hours of whatever he did, the knob for the hot water was dripping again…and now the knob for the cold water was also dripping!  Arghhh.

This pretty much sums up the vast majority of our experiences with plumbers and electricians and most other fix-it people that we’ve come across down here.  We typically have to fix their fixes…which has caused a fixation on my part with not asking fix-it people to fix anything because most of the time they’ll just make the fix-it job bigger and more complicated and more expensive, and I’ll have to eventually fix it myself anyway.

So, the past couple weeks, the dripping has gotten worse.  At times the dripping is not dripping but simply running.  We have a set of valves outside of this bathroom for both the hot and the cold water.  We ended up turning the cold off (because it was running the worst) and leaving the hot with a bit of a dribble.  Of course, this created a situation.  The bathroom didn’t have cold water and so the toilet tank would not be able to fill.  We solved that by putting a large bucket in the shower to catch the dribbling hot water (which wasn’t really dribbling out hot to speak of).  We then used that bucket of water to refill the toilet tank.  Yeah…we’re hillbillies (except I didn’t find a way to use duct tape in all of this).  Get over it.

Of course, there’s more to the situation.  The valves outside of the bathroom are magical.  They not only control the water flow in this one bathroom, but also the flow of water in the kitchen (which is on the other side of a wall from this bathroom so I guess that’s logical).  What isn’t logical is there is also a bathroom on the other side of the kitchen and it is unaffected by these valves.  So, only the kitchen had to go without cold water in addition to this bathroom.

Leaving only hot water working meant that taking a shower or washing dishes could get to be too hot to handle, so we had to turn down the hot water heater.  And with cooler hot water, showers get cold more quickly and some complain but mostly, all take quicker showers.  Maybe we’ll save some money out of this problem yet!  The LP gas is more expensive than the water…I think.

Yet, as you wise people know: a neglected problem becomes a worse problem.  We finally found the hot water was not just filling the bucket enough for a toilet tank refill, it was overflowing the bucket after just a short overnight.  That’s not acceptable.  That’s a lot of water.

But we don’t know any good plumbers, and I’m only good at breaking things and making things worse…hey…maybe I could get a job as a fix-it guy?  Hmmm…well…I digress yet again.

Today, after our morning Bible study, I decided that Bethie and I should drive over to our local Home Depot (yes, we have a pathetic version of this poor excuse for a hardware store) and see if we could come up with some ideas on how to fix this problem.  I thought maybe I could figure out how to get those gaskets changed out.

What we came up with was not exactly the direct route to solving the problem, but it appears to be working for now!

IMG_3274 IMG_3275

So what you’re looking at there is a heavy duty valve (with the blue handle) which I attached to the “water saver” that doesn’t really work.  I decided to leave the water saver because it’s been on there a very long time and it’s not leaking.  Why fix something that ain’t broke when my experience has been that doing so is likely to break it?  Anyway, adding the valve was quite simple.  The problem with that was the valve has “female” ends on both sides and the shower head needs a “male” end.

Hmmm…Home Depot only had a small, angled “male-male” piece that I wasn’t sure would work but for $3, it was worth bringing home to save a trip back.  I quickly figured out that the angled piece wasn’t going to work because…it was angled.   I also realized that it is 100% plastic.  Give me a break.  It needed to be straight otherwise the shower head would be pointing back at the knobs or straight up in the air.  We may look strange, but our bodies are not going to be able to get wet with these contorted spray directions.  And seriously?  We’re going to have showers made out of plastic junk that would break if you happened to squeeze it a little?  Forget that.

So, back in the van and head downtown to the regular hardware stores with the shameful piece of angled plastic and the hope that my Spanish vocabulary would manage to help me find something that would work.

And so, after a few attempts at the first hardware store I came across…I purchased a lovely piece of  straight, heavy duty metal pipe with male threads on both ends and about an inch of plain pipe between the threads…wide enough to wrench it on and to hope for the best.  Total cost was 1/10th the price of the plastic junk Home Depot sold me.  It cost about 35 cents.

Drum roll please….it works!  We turned the magical valves back on and with the blue-handled valve turned off, we get sweet silence.  Wait.  Stop the presses.  Cameron discovered that if the hot water knob is turned off (at least as turned off as we can get it with that bad gasket), it starts dripping from the knob!  So, we simply tried just leaving the hot water knob on and that did the trick!  The drips are gone.  Well…we’re still here, but the water drips are gone!

Necessity is the mother of invention.  If this invention doesn’t work, I guess we’ll be able to say that invention is the mother of necessity, and we’ll need to find a plumber who can attempt to fix the rubber gaskets that we’ve managed to work around…for now.  And as we’ve already seen, neglect is the mother of necessity.  You know…the fix-it “family tree” is really starting to flourish in this house, and it does appear to have a maternal bent.  You can draw your own conclusions about all that…but I’m not about to.  I have too many problems already.

For my next D-I-Y project, I hope to find an electrician who can figure out why it’s dangerous to be barefoot and to touch the fridge or my laptop at the same time that my feet are on the floor!  Don’t worry…I definitely have no plans to tackle that one myself!  (sorry to disappoint a few of you!)


About alanbeth

What’s up? or rather, ¿Qué pasa? Hola, I’m Alan. I’m a missionary living in Mexico. We have a heart for MK Education and so we teach at a local Christian school with MK students as well as nationals and foreign students as well. I occasionally write or have a pic to share with you at my blog, Knowing Your ABCDs, which you can read with a click on the button above. You can read my blog with a click on the button above.
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1 Response to D-I-Y Project of the Day (with pictures!)

  1. Jon Dewald says:



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