Thursday, April 7, 2011

DIY day: Basic plumbing and how to tunnel under a sidewalk

Two days ago I was under my kitchen sink wimpering and crying. My frustration came from trying to fix the shut-off valve from my hot water line for my kitchen sink. A friend told me it would be easy (same friend who broke it attempting to shut off the water to help me install a new filter) and I had assembled all the parts I needed. All I was trying to do was screw the line from the faucet to the shut off valve and nothing was working. The threads wouldn't connect. I was all twisted trying to fit as much of my body under the sink as I could. I was getting schmuck in my eyes when I'd lie on my back but lying on my belly I couldn't get my arms high enough to reach it. I looked online and in several home repair books I have here and all of them said, "and then screw the onto the threads" and that was where the whole problem was. I prayed and cursed and couldn't get it to work. and it was supposed to be easy. My head started sending me down into the depths of glum. Felt very alone and without support and imagined that it would always be that way (cue the sad image of a decrepit old woman in a nursing home from "The Economics of Happiness" documentary I saw last week).
Then T showed up and wondered what was happening (everything from under my sink spewed all over the kitchen floor and the front walk - me sobbing with my head under the sink). He went to fix it and ended up breaking the entire supply line to the sink!

So today I finally got the new supply line from the hardware store. They guy looked at the one in my hand and laughed. "No wonder you were having so much trouble." The new lines are made from woven metal and are much more flexible and friendly. and he was right. and after screwing it on and finding a tiny drop of water I undid the whole thing, screwed it on again and now have hot water in my kitchen! Hooray! and I learned a valuable lesson. 1) Plumbing sucks and it's liable to make me cry and 2) better to replace the whole thing (or at least have all the parts to do so) rather than tinker with the tiny bits when it comes to plumbing.
Valuable lessons!

My other diy triumph today had to do with irrigation (which explains the pictures I above). I've got to connect my front yard irrigation line to the hose bib. This requires placing the line underneath my front walk so people won't trip over it. After getting some assistance from an incredibly awesome and helpful guy at JH Mitchell Irrigation and researching on google, and being bouyed up by my plumbing success, I took it on.

First I dug out a large part of the dirt around where I was going to tunnel. I needed a lot of space so the pvc wouldn't bend and arc too low. (you can sort of see this in the first picture)

Second, I assembled the piece my irrigation angel instructed me to. He had me get a pressure washer, a length of pvc (the width of my sidewalk plus) and two fittings - one that screwed into the pressure washer on one end and connected to the pvc on the other end and another with a hose thread on one side and pvc connection on the other side. I have a picture of what this amazing tool looks like (second and third picture above). I vacillated about whether I really needed to go to this much effort to make this tunnel but I had no idea how else it would work.

I connected the hose and turned on the water. First attempt I got soaked by each leaky fitting but it seemed to work until I got about 2 feet away from the other side and hit something hard.

Second attempt same thing happened but this time from a slight angle. I was about to throw in the towel but opted to try something different.

For my "third times the charm" try, I went from the other side of the sidewalk to try and meet the second tunnel. I pushed with all my weight wiggled and worked the pvc pressure washer fire hose thingie and finally got the pvc all the way in and under the sidewalk! So now I have a length of pvc under my sidewalk that I can thread the irrigation line through! Only little hiccough is that I still haven't figured out where it is on the exit side. I can see the water come out but I can't find the damn hose. That seems like a minor problem (fingers crossed) and much better tackled tomorrow when the water recedes and I feel like I could use another feeling of triumph.

What's really nice about this method is the pvc is part of the tunneling tool so as soon as you're done with the tunnel you just cut off or unscrew the connectors and your pvc is right where you need it. I'm hoping that as soon as I find the damn thing all I need to do is run the irrigation line right through it, punch a couple connector fittings together, thread it to the hose bib, and TaDa! I'll be able to water my front beds!

All in all both tasks were daunting and I ran into multiple PITA obstacles but still fulfilled my mission! Hooray!


  1. Doing some DIY repairs at home, especially with the plumbing system, can be a pain. But the good news was, you were able to repair it despite many trial and errors. And you learned one valuable lesson – replacing some parts is better than patching up the damaged part. For one, it can give you a more permanent solution, and it will save you from the hassles of repeated repairs. (Darryl Iorio)

  2. Plumbing problems are some of the most common household issues that we could encounter. Usually, we would call out a professional plumber to take care of those issues, but there is a simpler way. If you know the basic steps that are needed in order to fix the most basic plumbing problems, then that would be much better.

    Chris from kitchen plumber

  3. I've been picturing out while reading this amusing story of yours. I'm guessing that you're all dirty and soaked that day. Anyway, congratulations for fulfilling your mission. Knowing a thing or two about plumbing is a big help!
    - Levi Eslinger

  4. I think I would’ve ended up tearing up too if that happened to me. It can be so frustrating to do DIY repairs. Plumbing is one of the things I really find difficult doing on my own. That’s why now I’d rather call professional plumbers to work on it for me. They save me from crying over my failure in doing plumbing repairs.

    Elia Lester

    1. I think everyone has different ideas to finish any work. But I think this project would have taken long time if that happened to me.

      Luaren@ boiler repair