Sunday, September 13, 2009

Adventures in Plumbing

So now that the touch up painting, scratch that, ALL THE PAINTING is done in our Master Bedroom, I am in a much better general mood. So I feel that I can write about our not yet complete foray into do it yourself plumbing without banging my head against my laptop screen.

When we bought our house, the master bathroom had a mix of chrome (shower and skin fixtures) and brushed nickel (doorknob and all accessories). I'm not a fan of chrome, so we decided we would slowly change out the rest of the fixtures. It didn't take us long the change out the showerhead and drain hardware. That job was pretty much a breeze. At least, I think it was. My involvement was pretty much non-existent. But I do know it didn't take Brett very long, and there was little to no cursing coming from the bathroom.

So last weekend, my husband started itching to finish up the shower. A small leak behind the knobs was annoying him, and he wanted to get that taken care of. He figured we could replace all of the fixtures while we were at it.

The day started with a call to our home warranty company for a plumber. We expected not to hear from anyone until Tuesday with the holiday weekend, but less than an hour later, a very sweet plumber was showing us how to replace the seals and o-rings in the stems to stop those little leaks. We were glad to pay the $60 fee to stop the leak and gain some basic plumbing knowledge. After our great experience with him, our confidence was high. I don't know why a PLUMBER being able to fix our leak easily made us think we had mad plumbing skills, but it did.

We made a trip to our favorite store, Lowe's, for some supplies. We got three escutcheons (which I still can't say properly, and which I don't totally believe is a word), three knobs, and a new faucet. Nothing fancy, just the basic brushed nickel style to match the rest of the bathroom. Ninety dollars later, we started on the transformation. Then we hit our first major hurdle. We got the first knob off, and the screwed thingy that goes over the stem wouldn't fit our new knob. And the one that came with our new knob wouldn't screw into the stem itself. How awesome.

Back to Lowe's we went. After talking to no less than four plumbing associates, we were sent to a specialty plumbing store. When we arrived after a drive through lunch, the guy behind the counter was a total ass. He ended up making us custom screw thingies (hey, maybe he was so rude and dismissive because we didn't know the actual names of anything) and three custom little square thingies for the knobs to attach to. We came back an hour later, and dropped $50 more for the custom pieces.

Then we got home, and the custom stuff worked. We attached the first knob with no problems. Success! Then we took off the middle knob. Crap. It looked way different than the other one underneath. This is when the curse words started flowing. The square thing on the end of the stem was metal and significantly smaller than the others. And getting it off proved to be a bit of a challenge. It felt like it screwed off, so Brett attacked it with pliers, a wrench, and every tool in our arsenal before giving up. Then I hopped in the tub, pulled straight on it with the pliers, and it popped off. Let's just say that was not the happiest Brett has ever been, but I SWEAR HE TOTALLY LOOSENED IT. I'm not just saying that. I am a weakling and there's no way I could have pulled that thing off without all his effort.

Then, we discovered another problem with the middle knob. The screw we'd gotten out of there broke on the way out, so there was a piece of screw stuck in there, taunting us. Brett drilled it out as best he could, and we took a break from the cursed middle know and focused on the right. When we took it off, it was clear that it was the same setup as the first knob. Finally we caught a break! But wait. It stuck our from the wall much further than the first knob too. So with the extenders the butt from the plumbing store made us, it stuck out too far. Without the extender, it was closer to the wall than the knob on the left. This is about when Brett got frustrated and left to take a break.

Since he'd been doing approximately 99.5% of the work up until this point, I stayed and tried every screw in our pickle jar, every possible combination of fittings, and basically everything I could think of. I eventually found something that worked. I had three functioning knobs, one slightly off kilter, and a faucet. And that, I considered a huge victory. After taking a few showers, we discovered that one of the knobs was pretty loose, and there was a perma-leak in the faucet. So yesterday, we made one final (ha!) trip to Lowe's for extra square thingies and screws, and Brett tightened everything up for one hopefully final time. It seems to be working for now.

As for me, I'm just so happy that the finishes finally match. And it will be a while before I attempt any plumbing projects again.

Here are the results. Worth it? Maybe. I'm not sure I know yet.