Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Why I learned to use my own power tools VIII

When last I left off telling of Hedda's adventures in having her house brought up to code, I left a photograph at the end of the page, of a sawn-through hole in the wall:

Fully six months after the contractors were required to finish their work on her house, Hedda is still patching great gaping things like this, on her own.

The plan, according to the original description, was to put all the pipes, including the venting stand-pipe, through the same stretch of wall between the kitchen and bath. This would require that the 10'x14' kitchen have a 2.5'x2' chunk taken out of the corner, in lieu of cabinets or appliances, so that the octopus of plumbing could reach every nook and cranny required. This would also require that, should Hedda instal the laundry units she had purchased, they would take up another comparable space in the kitchen, leaving little room for cooking, eating, and doing dishes. Before Hedda signed that deal, she negotiated with the contractor, since he was already moving a wall to enlarge the bathroom, to build a "box" in the wall for the stackable washer and dryer, and to put the pipes up two separate sections. The difference would be, the standpipe, the bathtub lines, and the washer would all be that much closer to the main and sewer. The kitchen sink would remain its same distance.

The contractor agreed to this, on paper. After all, it made sense, logistically.

Somehow, somewhere, the standpipe moved. Several times.

Part of this was due to the trouble the subcontractor had in correctly installing the bathroom sink. Hedda, with approximately the same amount of funds allotted for a standard, crappy little sink with ugly little lav, had bought what she deemed a "cute little unit", a rounded bowl and pedestal that would fit into a small bathroom nicely. Pedestal sinks bring with them their own special challeges to instal -- the pipes have to fit very closely into the space behind that ceramic column, the bowl has to be attached carefully to the wall from beneath, and it's not really a one-man job. And those are for starters.

Apparently, along with all the other challenges in the task, the guy they sent to put in this little sink had some trouble understanding the nature of gravity. The drainpipe, after the trap, ran into the wall at about a 9 degree slant -- uphill. Hedda pointed this out to him, and he said, "Nah, it just looks that way. It's level." Not accepting his word, and not quite ready to trust her own instincts, Hedda came over and borrowed my carpenter's level. Sure enough, the pipe could be considered level -- if you rested one end of the carpenter's level on the top of the pipe and the other end about a centimeter down the side. That pipe was not likely to drain properly in that position. Hedda called the chief contractor and expressed her concerns. He came out the next day and defended the workman.

Hedda called a friend, a retired professional plumber, who told her in no uncertain terms, the man who installed that pipe was an idiot. He recommended another man who could do it right. Hedda, however, was locked in, financially, to the contract with the man who hired the idiot. She called the city building inspector, upon recommendation from several people, and the inspector came to talk with her, to alleviate her concerns. He glanced over the work with her.

The inspector called the contractor and politely told him to do the job right.

Previous posts in this series: Part I,Part II,Part III,Part IV,Part V, Part VI, Part VII

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