Monday, July 9, 2007

Good Enough for Who It's For

Sunday, which officially ended a couple hours ago but is still going for me, was the day to tackle plumbing. Don't ask me why, it just was.

I had determined soon after returning to the farmhouse in Nov. that I wanted to replace the kitchen faucet as part of the cleaning, redecorating and renovations. Now, don't get the idea that a lot of money was ever intended to be involved in this process. Mostly the goal was patching minor sheetrock flaws, painting, putting up new towel bars...little stuff, with mostly scournged/secondhand/sale materials and a reasonable amount of elbow grease. After decades of watching people build/install/fix things, I've learned that a lot of things don't require a professional, just the right tools and a lot of patience. That includes fixing a lot of minor plumbing annoyances.

The gasket where the faucet joined the sink had disintegrated, and water leaked through if it were splashed on the back rim of the sink, keeping the area under the sink perpetually slightly damp with the threat of dryrot. Replacing the gasket (which I could do with a piece of old inner tube and a pair of scissors) would involve exactly the same dismantling/remantling as installing a new faucet, so the new faucet seemed an easy improvement. I wanted one with the sprayer integrated in the faucet itself.

But, I choked when I realized the faucet I liked was $170. I dealt with the old one a while longer while I got used to the idea of spending that much.

I mentioned my plans to a friend, who said another friend had just removed one from her kitchen during remodelling. She passed on my contact info, but I never heard anything. So eventually I just went to the hardware store and wrote a big check. Then it took a while to find the right day to install it (all livestock watered, all dishes done, showers taken, etc. in case disaster ensued).

The day I was planning to install the new one, the friend called and asked if I wanted the used one! I said sure, thinking I'd give it a try and if it worked I could return the new one, if not I wasn't really out anything. She also threw in a coil of 1/4" copper pipe that had been hooked to an icemaker.

The faucet was gorgeous--exactly what I wanted, beyond my wildest dreams. I tested it at a friend's suggestion (good suggestion!) and it didn't leak. And the copper pipe was the right length to run unsoftened water to the kitchen, something I've wanted to do ever since the Reverse Osmosis system broke down a few years ago. The well water here tastes fine, but is slightly hard and has some iron--great natural mineral water, but lousy for laundry or anything involving homemade soap. The cold water in the bathtub is the only unsoftened water in the house, but there's a line running out to the farm which isn't softened.

Several trips to the hardware store later, the faucet is installed and functioning well! And the drinking water tap in the kitchen now supplies fresh well water!

Instead of the complexities of cutting into the water line to the farm to connect the unsoftened water, I used a self-tapping kit designed for icemakers. Much easier than cutting the line and "sweating" (soldering) in a "t" fitting, esp. since the farm waterline runs cheek-and-jowl with the softened waterline, and the unsoftened waterline is in the back, up against the joists, near the wall. It was a bit awkward, but would have been really hard to get to for soldering.

Perfect? No, not yet. One compression fitting leaks, probably because I didn't think to re-trim the ends of the icemaker tubing and use new brass ferules with the compression nuts. But, how important is it, really? I called a friend who is a very skilled & practiced amature plumber, as well as a great brainstormer and cheerleader. This is the man I called, more than 25 years ago, to come witness my turning the ignition in my car the first time after I removed, rebuilt and reinstalled the carboretor all on my own, not having been told it was "really hard." Of course the car worked fine, because I'd followed all the instructions VERY carefully, but I was so afraid that it would blow up when I tried to start it, I couldn't do it alone! A true friend--if he laughed at my irrational fear, he didn't let on!

Anyhow, True Friend and I discussed the causes of the drip...nothing I have parts/tools on hand for at this hour. Oh, well. I timed the drip (2.2 per minute), had the kitchen faucet drip into a teaspoon (25 drops per 5 ml), and calculated the appoximate volume of the leak: less than a liter a day, if I did it right. In reality, I have poorly adjusted water hydrants on the farm that leak that much or more. And I "waste" that much water many times over by small acts of carelessness or inattention, every day.

In time, the minerals in the water will likely plug the drip anyhow. The drip is in the basement, landing only on a concrete floor, and there is a dehumidifier to take the water out of the air as it evaporates.

That was my church-going today: praying and talking to God while I calmly and patiently and diligently worked on the plumbing. What better congregation than the sheep in the back yard when I trot out to the shed to look for a tool? What better hymns than the cardinals in the trees, and the roosters crowing in unison? What better sermon than the great personal stories from the excellent clerk at the hardware store, who is awaiting the birth of his first grandchild?

Good enough for me: A high-quality, well-designed faucet but not a new one; drinking water at the little spigot but it isn't RO. The church of the hardware store.

I don't need the best, most perfect, most expensive to be happy. Just enough, just GOOD enough.

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