Sunday, August 22, 2010

Frosting the Cake from Hell, or Why Plumbing Sucks

To be fair, there are two separate issues at stake here: one is the drippy outdoor faucet, the other is the bathtub. Luckily, the two plumbing problems have not progressed to the point where they are connected. That would be bad.

The story of the outside faucet goes something like this: Faucet broke pipe broke other pipe. Spider in my pants. Install new pipe -- Maybe..? No. What if... No. Or... No. Or... yes! I AM AWESOME! No, I'm not. Damn. Damn damn. Jason? Yay! Ohhhh... Damn. There are metal shards in my foot. Home Depot, you suck.

If this one of those super fast moving videos where 16 hours of work is sped through in 2 minutes, what you would see would be me crawling in and out of the basement (THE most inconvenient part of the basement, too, where I have to scramble behind the furnace, climb the foundation embankment, and then scoot back on the raw dirt with two feet of total headroom) and then waving pipe wrenches around angrily and trying to turn things tighter and tighter when the new pipe dripped, and then Jason coming over and re-fixing my "fixed" pipe by taking it off and doing it all over again, only to find that it dripped WORSE! Let me repeat: Jason came to fix it, and it got worse. We both sat there and stared. Something was clearly amiss. Jason fixes things, not makes them worse. So we shut the water off one more time, took off the whole mess of new pipes, and discovered that Home Depot had sold me a faulty part! The stop valve was cracked - hence, the dripping. A week, a pile of dirty dishes, a whole roll of teflon tape, some very thirsty tomatoes and a lot of curse words later, I have found the source of the problem: shoddy Chinese manufacturing.

In between fighting with this drippy pipe and watching episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer for a good dose of witty and unpretentiously sappy girl-power, I talked myself into re-caulking the bathtub by myself. Again: to Home Depot. I purchased this stuff called Tub Surround. It came in a caulk-looking tube, and it included information about how to Surround Tubs. I was convinced I was on the right track, until (after prying off the old crappy tub strip, spraying lots of Clorox all over the years of funk growing back there and scraping it all off with what is proving to be rather stale elbow grease) I started squirting this Tub Surround all around the brand new, nicely cut and placed white strips. Not only did it come out in great globs of indeterminate consistency, it was GRAY. Having never caulked a tub before, I was not to be scared off. I squirted it all around the tub, and then tried to use the "one wet finger" technique to smooth the caulk. It was like frosting the cake from hell -- the more I tried to smooth, the stickier, lumpier, and more All Over The Place it got! I finally stopped, having covered all my hands, some of my feet, and the whole bathtub in gray goo.

Once again, I called in Jason: "That's the WORST caulk job I've ever seen!" said the expert, with a kind of respectful horror, the way you'd say, "wow, that's the worst case of sunburn I've ever seen," or "Wow, I've never seen anybody wreck a car quite THAT hard, so MANY times in a row!" I, however, was not amused. "At least it won't leak," he offered as consolation. It was true. There was way too much goo all over the tub to let any moisture through. I suggested that maybe it would turn white over night, as it dried? Jason was skeptical. He was right: it was just as dark and gray as ever. At this point, I turned my attention to the tube of offending caulk, only to realize upon closer inspection that it was not caulk at all... it was Construction Adhesive. It was for installing bathtubs and gluing them into place, not for caulking the cracks. I'd smeared heavy duty GLUE all over my bathtub! This was not fixing anything. This was creating a massive, gooey, gray MESS.

Despair ensued. I considered pitching a fit in Home Depot along with a lot of tears and fist shaking and scowling and waving around the tube that said TUB SURROUND and accusing it of false advertising, but then I realized that this would only emphasize my stupidity and so instead I took of ye ol' paint scraper and started a long and frustrating job of undoing the mess that I had made. This is some kind of life lesson, I am sure: messes are easier to make than they are to clean up. Eventually, however, I re-installed the new white strips, clean of Construction Adhesive, and re-caulked it with real white bathtub caulk that came in a little tube and behaved as desired when smoothed. Sort of. It was more like trying to frost an ornery toddler than the cake from hell, but everybody turned out all right, even the bathtub. This is a picture of the bathtub. Notice the lack of gray cement all around it. That's right. I'm awesome.

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