Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Routine events

Is it just me, or does everybody have these daily routine incidents that take up one's time?  When I retired I imagined sitting back and relaxing, but it isn't like that.  I don't know how I coped with the constant train of events when I was actually working.
The current spate started routinely enough with a small flood on the floor near the toilet in our bathroom.  I could not see where the water was coming from, so I called our friendly plumber, Amram, who obviously likes to come because he overcharges me and is always very happy. He showed me that the leak was from the back of the toilet bowl at the joint with the outgoing pipe, and so he replaced the pipe with a new one with a new seal, and it was fine (charge NIS 250; $68).  A week or so later I found that there was another flood on the floor in the same place, but this time I discovered that the leak was from another source, from under the water tank, behind and above the toilet.  So I emptied the tank, turned off the water, managed to cause another flood, cleaned that up, then removed the downpipe and found that the O-ring was OK, but the former sealant around it had congealed and obviously allowed a leak.  So I removed the congealed stuff, replaced it with what I had available, vaseline, that I smeared around the pipe and the O-ring and then when I had replaced the pipe and the tank I smeared it around the base of the pipe where it exited the tank.  Then I turned the water on again, and guess what, no leak (cost zero!)
Then some days later I inadvertently made another small flood in the bathroom.  I decided it was time to clean the filter of the a/c. I try to do this ca. every 3 months, but it may be 6 months since I did it, before the summer. So I took down the filter and it was filthy with accumulated dust. I usually shake it out over the  balcony at the back then wash it off in the shower. But, for some reason this time I decided to skip the first step and went to wash it first in the shower. This was a mistake.  There was so much dust that it clogged the outlet and then clogged the drain.  Then water began to come up thru the drains in the bathroom floor.  I soaked it all up and then tried to clear it with the plunger, to no avail.  So I drove to the store and bought some de-clogger liquid and poured it down the drains.  Lo and behold in the morning the drains were clear.  The moral of this story is don't skip steps in a well-tried process (cost again near zero!).
The dirt in the a/c filter made me decide to clean the fan that we have been using all summer in our bedroom at night, I looked at the back of it and it was coated with a thick layer of dust.  I took it apart, lost one of the crucial screws on the floor, found a replacement, and cleaned the thick layer of grime coating the back and the inside with the vacuum cleaner, and then put it back together again (cost nothing). 
Then we had a problem with the tap/faucet in our small toilet.  For some time it had not worked properly and I tried to repair it.  But, suddenly the handle just turned loosely and the water gushed out.  So I had to turn the water off at the mains.  But, when we needed to use the toilets etc. I had to turn it on again, but I managed to reduce the flow from the tap to a trickle and we had showers.  After my shower I turned the water off again, and called Amram the plumber.  He came and saw the problem, smiled, went and got a new tap/faucet and replaced it 1,2 3.   I could have done it myself but was afraid there might be another flood again (cost NIS 150; $42).
Then I found that the rug we use in the bathroom was soaked.  I assumed it was water from the drains backing up again.  But, when I had a shower there was no flood.  So I left it, until there was another small flood on the floor.  This time I looked up and saw that there was a drip coming from the bathroom ceiling!  This was not new, it had happened before, when water leaked from the outlet of the air conditioner fan that is in the crawl-space (boyden) above the bathroom.  So I went into the bedroom and opened the door of the boyden near the ceiling and sure enough there was water dripping from the fan unit, but unfortunately it was not from the same place as before and was missing the dish that I had put there in order to catch any drips.  In fact the water was not dripping from the outlet of the pipe taking the water away as before, it was dripping from the actual metal base of the fan housing.   I cleaned up the water and moved the dish so that it now collected the drips from the new place, but I had no idea how to handle this, so I called an air conditioning technician. 
I told him that it was not the actual a/c unit that was a problem but a leak from the tank of the fan unit.  He climbed into the boyden, a space about 2 feet high, something that I am not thin enough and agile enough to do, and cleaned the filter in the front of the unit as well as opening it up and drying it inside and changing the angle slightly so that the water poured away.  He told me that what happens when the filter there is dirty, the suction of the fan pulls water droplets into the housing and they condense and fall down into the base, where they are not supposed to be, they are supposed to drip down into the tube that exits thru the outlet pipe.  He checked the outlet pipe to make sure is was clear (it was).  He first tried to sell me a pump to pump out the water, but since the pipe was clear I told him I'd rather use gravity, its free (cost for this cleaning NIS 400; $108). 
My sister was staying here a few weeks ago and when she came out of the toilet and shut the door, the next person couldn't open it.  I wondered how she had managed to lock it from the inside when she wasn't in it.  We pulled and tugged at the door but it wouldn't budge.  Then I took a flat bladed trowel and jiggled it inside between the jamb and the lock and suddenly it opened.  I found that the latch bolt (that springs in and out to close and open the door) had got stuck against the edge of the lock itself.  So in order to prevent it happening again I removed the handles, then the lock and replaced the handles, anyway there is a small draw bolt inside to secure the door.
Then I went out and purchased two new locks.  They are a standard size and are quite cheap (NIS 50 for two; $13).  I replaced one in the toilet door, it fitted perfectly, I screwed it in and replaced the handles again, et voila.  Then I decided to replace the lock on the bathroom door, since I saw that the handles were drooping (about 20 deg) and I knew it was no longer effective.  I took out the old lock and put in the new one and..it didn't fit!  It was about 2-3 mm too wide so that the hole for the handles did not align with the holes in the door.   What to do?  I took it back to the store and asked if they had one a little narrower and they laughed at me, its a standard size they said.  So I went home and after some delay for thinking about it, I found my chisel (3/8"), that I haven't used for years, and I finally set to.  I started to chisel out the back of the wood inside the door using hammer and chisel to take the wider new lock.  The trick is to put the flat surface of the chisel away from the wood and use the rounded side to lever the wood chips out (that's what my Dad taught me).  The wood was hard and it took about an hour. Eventually the lock more or less fitted, the handles went through the holes and I was able to screw the lock in and now it is perfect.
Now there has been water on the floor again in our other toilet from a leak from the outlet pipe.  I didn't feel like trying to fix this myself, so I put in another call to Amram, the friendly plumber.  He came and found that it wasn't the seal this time, there was actually a hole in the bottom of the pipe that leaves the toilet and exits to the drain.  The plug that had been put in there before had came loose, so he plugged it again with epoxy, and it seems to be working (cost NIS 200; $54).  If it doesn't work, then it would be a big and unpleasant job. 
I counted floods from five distinct sources in the course of a few weeks in our small apartment.  Is this a record? Does it happen to everyone else?  Why me? The moral of this story is....I'm not sure, but I suppose persistence pays.


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