A "Simple" Plumbing Job

plumbers putty Thirty years ago my mother's father handed my father this container of plumbers putty as he passed on a seemingly simple piece of wisdom.

"Here, you'll need this."

What I remember of my grandfather (I called him Nannu) was that he was quiet, nice, and knew how to make or fix anything.  He had this giant metal lathe in his basement and he was the kind of guy that would take a block of metal and turn it into a motor.

When a guy like that says "Here, you'll need this." a smart man listens.

Fast forward 30 something years.  Christine asked for a new kitchen faucet for her birthday and our family delivered. She went out on a Friday night and I decided to install it while she was away. I figured it would be a nice surprise.

I was half right.

Fixing the Sink

What I didn't know getting into this project is that 40 year old plumbing is held together by the will of a deity that is patiently waiting for a good laugh.  Parts have either fused together in some form of unnatural molecular bondage or they break apart if you look at them funny.

As it happened, the faucet handles which I was trying to remove were fused at the molecular level, and the shut off valves as well as the dishwasher drain connector were poised on the edge of sublimation. Very convenient...

As I lay there half submerged under the counter sweating profusely, with Alex standing on one of my legs, Conner on the other, and Allison laughing at who knows what, I realized the stream of obscenities coming out of my mouth were of such a nature that Alex didn't even know to remind me that I had said a bad word. I decided to put the kids to bed.

Three hours later Christine arrived home just as I had managed to remove the existing faucet.

"SURPRISE! The sink doesn't work and don't touch the dishwasher!!" 

The next morning I left at 5am to pick up a replacement for the recently martyred dishwasher drain connector.  I swear I never touched it.  I finished installing the new faucet before Christine woke up. All that was left was to turn the water back on.

That's when things got ugly.

The shutoff valve under the sink started leaking. My father came over to help and we went into the basement to find another shutoff valve so that we could fix the one under the sink.  My basement has not one, not two, but three water heaters. They are connected to each other via a tumultuous ballet of future plumbing bills. Needless to say, it wasn't easy.

With my father's help we managed to find the proper water heater configuration and two shutoff valves needed to stop water from going to the kitchen. Of course one of those shutoff valves started leaking. We eventually had to shut off the main water ingress to the house. Fortunately that one didn't leak because the next step was to set charges and blow the town reservoir.


With the leakage stopped, my father took a small plastic container out of his toolbox and went to work on the  shutoff valves. He had everything fixed in just under 20 minutes. We tested out the new faucet and breathed a collective sigh of relief that we weren't swimming at that moment. Start to finish it was a 19 hour plumbing job.

Just before he left, my father handed me the small plastic container of plumbers putty he had used to fix the shutoff valves.  It was the same container my grandfather had given to him years ago. He said "Here, you'll need this."