Saturday, August 12, 2023

A Little Me Me Me

You may have noticed I had no post Wednesday the 9th.  The peculiar part of this is that the previous Wednesday (the 2nd), I also missed a post which I explained about the next day.  It was due to a few recurring car troubles that sucked up far too much of the day and attention.  

As Roseanne Roseannadana used to say, "It just goes to show ya. It's always something. If it's not one thing, it's another."  I picked up the car the Monday before that, July 31st, and it continues to start properly.  I suppose I'm more comfortable with it not even two full weeks after picking it up than I expected to be, but it has started without even the slightest balk or hesitation.  

It wasn't the car thing that made me miss Wednesday, it was another.  On Tuesday night, as I was writing that post, we suddenly were interrupted by an alarm.  Not instantly recognizable, but vaguely familiar, we soon realized it was from our kitchen.  The second time we had to have our kitchen rebuilt because of a leaking dishwasher, we added an alarm with a sensor under the kitchen cabinets so leaks from the dishwasher wouldn't have time to ruin the cabinets like before.  It didn't take very long to discover that the cold water valve was dripping.  You can see a drip getting ready to fall in the red highlight box.

There was a puddle on the bottom of the cabinet under the kitchen sink, but not a lot of water.  Since the alarm sensor runs several feet along the lowest part of the floor there, we don't have a way to see the whole length of it. 

Since it looked like it was going to be a simple replacement; unscrew everything attached to the old valve, unscrew the valve from the wall and replace it with a new one, I opted not to call a plumber.  Probably needless to say, it didn't go quite that easily.  For me, plumbing jobs never go as easily as I'd like.  I think most readers know that pipe names have nothing to do with their actual sizes.  Someone once told me that "there's nothing 3/4" about a 3/4" pipe."  It's worse than that.  There are two T connectors visible in this picture, one sort of horizontal attached to a braided metal jacketed hose going off to the right, and another mostly vertical T going to two "poly-something-or-other" tubes running down.  The braided metal jacket (tube) is called a 3/8" and the others are 1/4".  

I didn't learn until this job that there are three families of connectors in both sizes, and a connector from one family won't mate with any of the other families.  In the RF world I come from, adapters between connector families are bread and butter products, available by the barrel-full, by the pound, or however many you want.  In the plumbing world, this doesn't seem to be the case.  

In the radio world, this is roughly a 1/4" to 3/8" adapter like I needed.  (These folks are expensive, you can find them cheaper.)

The reason for the long explanation is because I bought the wrong valve on Wednesday and couldn't get everything restored.  The valve I bought had two 3/8" fittings and I needed one of each.  I couldn't come up with an adapter from 1/4 to 3/8".  Since it was approaching evening, it was all I could do to put the leaking valve back in place and search for a valve that would work for me.

Thankfully, the company that made the valve also made one with both 1/4 and 3/8" fittings. The True Value guys were willing to take the return and credit me with the price difference (the one I needed was cheaper than the one I mistakenly bought).  Within an hour of leaving to do the exchange, I had this replaced and everything working. 

Ahhhh...  Everything was fine at the homestead.  Peace and working plumbing.  For about 24 hours.  This repair was finished Thursday by about 11AM.  Friday morning, I turned on the air conditioner in the shop about 10AM.  Within 15 minutes it didn't seem to be cooling off as well as it should.  As Friday went by it was more and more evident that the air conditioner had broken down and it needed someone with the equipment to fix it.  Being the peak of summer, it's their busy season.  No repair tech until next Wednesday.

"It just goes to show ya. It's always something. If it's not one thing, it's another."


  1. What did you do to tick off Murphy?

    Roseanne Roseannadana was right.

  2. I was very lucky to have a good family friend across the street at our place in Long Beach. He was a plumber, and taught me more about plumbing in the times we had to call him than I'd learned in my previous 50-odd years of tinkering on stuff. Little things, like when they're under a sink, they're no longer "valves", they're "stops". And all the different threads and their names. I know a fair amount about pipe, tubing, and hose, but the residential plumbing world has different names.
    Incidentally......3/4" pipe is 3/4" ID. 3/4" tubing is OD, and 3/4" hose is ID. Tubing will slide into hose, but that's about it!

    Yeah, Pasternak Enterprises is definitely a bit pricey, but their connectors seem made better than the ones that are "Two for a Buck".

    1. In the case of these connectors, I found what I have are called compression connectors, then there are barb connectors, and finally "plain old" pipe. The True Value store has three five foot tall racks of parts, one for each of the three types, and a wall-mounted sample of male and female parts for each type to check the one you brought in.

      I'd almost like to know the history of how that came to be.

  3. You had a car that didn't start properly. I just had a pickup that didn't move properly. Tranny bit the bullet. 3100.00 bucks later it now moves properly. The tow was cheap at 70.00 bucks but the rental vehicle to get home was near thievery. Had it for about 2 hours to get home and back at a cost that approached 4 bucks a mile. I could rent an 18-wheeler with a driver for less per mile. Even the tow truck driver was less per mile.

  4. Do you ever get the feeling that Murphy's watching you very closely?

  5. I am convinced that the plumbing industry makes everything involved far more complicated than required to weed out a lot of the DIYers so that plumbers can make more money with simple but vastly overpriced house calls.

  6. There's a good reason that the plumbing truck that shows up to one's house to do work has a wall of bins of thingies all in a bazillion different confusing sizes and configurations.

    I can do plumbing. I remove whatever is broken, bag it in ziplocs, go to the hardware store, check everything there, with the assistance of the plumbing pro (hopefully) and still end up going back for the right part or parts.

    I hate plumbing. I can do it, just... there's a point where it becomes more economical to call out the plumber and have him/her/it do it from the stores of supplies in all the bins in the truck than it is to have me go back and forth and try to hang upside down like some weird sloth or simian.

    Now that I am in an apartment, can't call a plumber in. And God forbid the maintenance workers for the apartment actually get off their duffs and do a passable job.

    I can go a good job. Far better than passable, and I'm not a professional maintenance worker.

    I'll be installing extra insulation in the attic next week, along with insulating the a/c duct, because I can't get the apartment people off their asses.

    So I know how you feel.

    1. I've seen people say that when you're retired, your time becomes free, so the idea that calling a plumber is more economical that doing it yourself is never true.

      I reject that idea. If anything, your time should be more valuable because you have less of it available. When someone dies at 50, everyone thinks it's a tragedy. When someone dies at 70, they think "he was a little young." If that.

      On a different note, a few years ago, we replaced the main central air in the house. It was March. The guys who went into the attic/crawl space didn't have space suits with air conditioning for safety, but the team leader strictly enforced limits on the time they could be up there. It's helluva lot worse up there in August than it is in March, so be careful!!

    2. The insulation work will be done at night. I'm not completely stupid.

  7. Boy, for the price they are asking for that adaptor, it'd better be lossless!!

  8. Air conditioning problems?
    Never fear! Brandon wants to take care of that!

    1. I like to say a technologically advanced civilization couldn't exist here without air conditioning. We have the worst of all worlds. We're at the latitude of southern tip of the Sinai peninsula, Sharm el Sheikh, and the humidity of the deep end of a swimming pool.

      Meanwhile the people that are saying it's decadent to have air conditioning are at the latitude of Seattle. "Same planet, different world."

    2. A/C was unleased on a grateful world in July 1902.

      Controllable powered flight was proved in December 1903.

      Both have provided invaluable service to mankind.
      But that isnt the only similarity. After so much yearning throughout history for these technologies, government has sought to place onerous burden on both.

    3. But understand that Federal "Law Enforcement" will do what they are TOLD to do.

    4. Oh, St. Willis of Carrier, please bless our HVAC systems during this summer, Amen.

  9. Different types of connectors for different types of pipe/tube/hose, it's really not that bad. Galvanized steel (for water or air), black steel (for gas), hard copper, soft copper, stainless steel (for food safe apps), PVC, ABS, CPVC (for hot water), PEX (best of all plumbing methods), poly, teflon, rubber, vinyl. Each type has one or more connector families that match the material. Copper pipe and CPVC is the same outer diameter, you can use push-on connectors for CPVC on copper. Glued plastic pipe (ABS, PVC) comes in Schedule 80, 40, or 20 (different wall thickness for different pressure limits). Don't use PVC outside because UV degrades it. If you have to, paint it. Grey electrical PVC is UV-resistant, but electrical pipe comes with it's own family of connectors.

    Once you jump in, it's not that complicated.

    Your stop with the dishwasher tap on it probably only needed taking off and putting back on. It probably didn't have enough teflon tape wraps, or wasn't tightened enough. The joint was leaking, not the valve, from what I can see in the image. The valve body (unless it came from India) is damn near unkillable.

    Oh, and the stop-to-equipment tubing comes with 1/2", or 3/4" NPT on one end (or a copper compression fitting or a copper flange fitting) and either a toilet connector (large, NPT thread but not tapered) or a sink connector (small, is 1/2 of a compression fitting, untapered).

    All pipe types are searching for a) lifetime, b) water taste, and c) ease of installation. The best of these is the latest invention, PEX. If you avoid the cheap Chinese stuff that leaks various chemicals into the water, it's clean. It lasts forever and isn't sensitive to UV. You can plumb a house with it in a few hours (putting together a joint takes about 10 seconds). Steel pipes are worst at water quality because they rust and are susceptible to a bacteria that smells like sulphur. Copper seems pretty good, but the old ones leach lead from the solder joints, which are susceptible to cracking loose with temperature expansion and contraction. The worst thing I've seen (in Florida) are cheap contractors who bury copper piping inside concrete slabs, where the chemicals literally corrode away the pipes. PVC/CPVC lasts forever, but is messy to put together and subject to frost bursting. PEX and poly are essentially unaffected by freezing because they will expand before breaking.

    Oh! I left out drainage pipe types...that's another book.

    1. Ah yes, DVW.
      Worked with it ALL, and that INCLUDES the old cast iron with lead seals. Still have grandpa's lead equipment and that includes a brass torch used to melt the lead and the casting rings!
      Them were the days, you betcha!

      Gimme PEX any day!! Technology marches on...

  10. There are no easy plumbing jobs.
    My AC went bad, ice build up inside and the copper pipe from the outside unit to the inside frosted up. I found that with 30 min off I could have it run for about an hour with out it freezing up so I sent a timer, on for 60 min then off for 30.
    That worked until the guys could get out to replace it and it was cheaper than buying one of those freestanding units.

    1. Most plumbing jobs *are* pretty easy IF you have the correct tools. If you don't, Horror Freight can help you get by...
      Just sayin'.

  11. 2 yrs ago on Christmas Eve my daughter noticed her diswasher was not working right, and the control panel functions were erratic. To get to the chase there was an under slab leak in the cold water line feeding the kitchen and bathroom and the path of least resistance was up into manifold in the wall behind the sink. One drip a minute but over months made many gallons. The dishwasher was sitting in a puddle and a microswitch was under water. I surmise logic level voltages in todays new fangled appliances are easily effected by wetted parts.
    The house was built 50 yrs ago with what was the best water pipe material ever used- Copper. Well today Copper isnt the ideal material and its not because of cost. My research turned up case histories of entire housing developments less than 10 yrs old with water leaks in copper water piping. It turns out the chemicals used today by utilities leave behind a chemical compound called chloro-amines that eats copper creating pin hole leaks in the wall of the tubing. Chloro-amines isnt healthy either. But its in our drinking water. About the leak. The Copper pipe/tube for under slab use is jacketed in a plastic outer layer in a co-axial arraingement. A leak in the copper is contained in the jacket, so the water runs up the interstitial space between the jacket and pipe and into the wall where the manifolds are located. The manifolds are where the pipe runs are connected together as the water is distributed to different parts of the house.

    Search the net with this term “ chloramine and copper pipes”. Its filled with history of the issue.

    The history of water leaks in homes is a painful one for homeowners and costly to insurers. Its water leaks from overflowing sinks and toilets, water heaters, piping, and air conditioning condensate lines. Today cross linked polyethelyne or PEX and CPVC are the materials of choice. Copper is so costly no one uses it, even with its issues with pin hole leaks. Each material has its particular strong and weak points and thats another topic.

    Moving on, two weeks later I found a puddle in the garage, a wet wall and another case of water leaking out the plastic jacketed copper pipe. 2 leaks in different pipes in 2 weeks. Oh boy. That told me the only prudent course of action was to repipe the house. So we spent 11 grand to repipe the entire house water lines, using the crawl spaces as in South Florida homes sit directly on concrete slabs. Theres no crawling under modern homes in South Florida. I chose to repipe with CPVC pipe as its solvent welded connections gave me greater comfort compared to the mechanical connections of PEX pipe. It was a mess as walls and ceilings had to be cut open everywhere and plumbers dont do drywall. Thats when this greybeard-yes its grey stepped up and did the drywall work. And my beard got even greyer, not from drywall dust either. End of story.

    Now what I want to know is what was the failure mode of the valve that leaked under your sink ? Brass valve bodies rarely break. So either the valve stem packing gland is loose, the threaded pipe connection, or the compression fit connection(s) failed. So what failed ?

    In closing I like the idea of water leak detectors. What model are you using ? Im thinking of buying them for all undercounter sink locations.

    BTW. I was gifted a Tri-ex 4-70 tower -its Tajisitian version but had to remove it this week. I hired a small carry deck crane to weasel in the back yard and in 4 hours had it down and loaded on a rented 26 ft Uhaul. An hour drive north to home, a tree and chainfall and it was unloaded. A monster compared to my baby 35 ft light duty. The homeowner even paid for its removal. From an SK here in Miami, W4CSO. A sad story of illness and a determined wife, also a Ham. Not sure how to post pics here but will put some up on groupsio - crank up towers section
    Putting it up is another story. A job for next year. If my back holds out.


    1. Dave, you ask what is the failure mode of the valve?

      My answer is China. From bolts and fasteners to anchor chains to every other component made of metal.

    2. Chinesium isnt all bad. And its not likely to be chinese if its been in an older home for decades. But I get your point. Especially in counterfeit materials originating off shore. We dealt with this in the the electric power and chemical industry decades ago with alloy problems in high pressure valves and fittings. Aerospace and Mil parts are counterfeited too. All with disasterous consequences. But one example of good chinesium is the Norinco imported M-14 clone. It was pretty good but with accuracy issues. Cheap chinese ammo was also pretty good stuff but it was banned from import.

      Most piping leaks are where there are mechanical connections. Threaded, compressed, flanged, and bolted connections are common initiating sites for leaks. Material failure less likely. Lets see what SiG reveals.
      As for China, I think the biggest error in US foreign policy was the recognition of China and Nixons outreach in the belief we could democratize them. Every American dollar spent on Chinese goods goes to build their military and will return to the US homeland by way incomming warheads.

    3. Not quite sure where to put this, but I'm not sure of the failure mode/mechanism on the valve. It has precipitates in it of some kind that look like white sand. Lime? We have hard water and deposits like that are pretty common, I just don't understand how they could cause a leak. I could see it if closing the valve was stopped by the white sand, but the valve is almost completely untouched. It gets touched once a year when we change the filters.

      Another oddity is that Tuesday night when we first found the leak it was dripping once a second. By Wednesday morning, before any work was done, it had slowed to once every 3 seconds. When I put the old valve back in Wednesday afternoon, it was once every 5 to 6 seconds.

      The valve was screwed onto a section of threaded pipe with Teflon tape on the thread. When I took it off, the tape at the end came off and I put down new tape for the new valve.

      Back in the early '00s, perhaps around '08, we had a leaking copper pipe in our slab. The plumber at that time had told us that when the city water went from chlorine to chloramine this started happening. We expected more failures but have lucked out. We have a water hammer that I've tried to treat with things I learned online, but to no avail. Could the shock of that happening when valves that are automated open or shut (dishwasher, washing machine, anything automated) have damaged it? My guess is "maybe."

    4. I've seen hard water eat through cheap valves, like the "pot metal" kind, or a zinc-type casting. And I've seen out-of-spec threads that don't seal properly, even with tape/goo/Permatex, et al....

  12. In modern homes their are snubbers or air chambers located in the walls behind the the shut off valves. They are to prevent water hammer, which can tear apart pipe connections. Also todays code and insurance requires expansion chambers be installed on the cold water supply at the water heater. Code changes required cities to install backflow preventers at the house side of the water meter. Check valves essentially. Before check valves the water expansion effect of heated water relieved back into the water system. The check valves prevent that so the entire house piping gets pressurized as the water heats and expands. Water heater makers also require expansion chambers be installed or the warranty is void.
    Cities are bad at telling homeowners they installed these check valves. Its usually a tiny blurb on your water bill.

    I installed mine. Requires some soldering and a handful of copper fittings and a few feet of pipe, new valves, expansion tank and a few hours. I also installed a peak reading pressure guage to record the peak system pressures. The expansion chambers have rubber bladders and are pressurized with air to balance against the water pressure.

    1. The white sandy stuff is the mineral precipitation out of the water. Cities provide mineralized water. It eventually clogs up valve passages, shower heads, faucets etc. In small passage valves the mineralization prevents tight shut off.

  13. I've been having my youngest do all those repairs. He said, "Dad, what are you going to do when I'm gone?" Me? Just be proud he now knows how to do all those repairs.

  14. Iron Laws Of Plumbing DIY:
    1) Any trip to Big Orange Box is going to be repeated at least two more times before the job is complete.
    2) For any number of parts you need, for one or more: They're out of that size.

    Beans' Procedure is the correct one:
    3) Remove everything from the wall* to the item or appliance in question.
    Ziplok bag it.
    Buy an exact replacement for every single thing.
    Return home.
    Assemble new configuration using all the new parts.
    Save the old ones that aren't broken for the next emergency.

    *4) When things still don't work, you will have correctly ruled out the problem in the assembly you just created, because it's beyond/behind the wall.
    Now, you may call the plumber.

    But hey, at least you successfully tested you water leak alarm under field conditions!
    Walk tall, man.
    But be aware: water leak alarms always fail when you're away on vacation for multiple days.
    Just warning you now.

  15. Electrical connectors aren't as identical as you may think. I had a product I MIL-qualified with a particular brand's flange mount BNC socket. After a production run another batch of parts was ordered. The supplier didn't have the brand I originally used, so they sent another. I got a call from the shop that "the BNC sockets don't fit the box." The needed to fit, indeed to seal hermetically. A call to the supplier revealed they didn't have "my brand" in stock anymore, so they sent the others, because "BNCs are BNCs, right?" Wrong - they may mate electrically but the mounting flange can differ.When I said I must have the correct brand and returned their shipment, they had the gaul to take the same connectors and put them in discarded wrappers from the correct brand, staple them closed and send them back to me. A call to a defense procuring agency to discuss their action cleared up their attitude but it still didn't get me the parts. I had to re-qualify a second model of the product with another, more common connector, after modifying the box to fit.

  16. Teflon tape is not good for tapered fittings, it's really not good for anything. The taper squeezes the tape out. Get some pipe dope.

    1. Thanks for that. The tape is one of the things I'm suspicious about and Teflon cold-flowing under the constant pressure from the valve makes perfect sense.

  17. Many years ago, we were installing a system loaded with solenoid valves, air cylinders, and, of course, air lines. The engineer in charge warned us to use pipe dope and not thread tape. His reasoning was that little shreds of the tape could get into the valves and cause problems that were very difficult to troubleshoot. The system would be unreliable until every line and valve was replaced.