Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Bathrooms and Pools - Never Go In Them

Having recognized that Mrs Stevie is getting serious about rebuilding the upstairs bathroom1, I arrived home last night determined to make a start by tearing out what's left of the chipboard vanity. I decided to leave the commode to later since it involves draining it2 and lugging very heavy porcelain bits hither and yon, which meant that working room would be in very short supply, there being about five inches between the lip of the commode and the vanity now (why this was built this way beats me, but I've been too scared to actually start doing anything about it until now). My solution for this nitwit design is to move the sink into the corner which will mean a zigzag trip to get to the bath but more legroom all round. We hope. Relocating the Commode by any means other than an angled flange fitting (which allows about a four-inch sideways shift) is right out. I am not in the market for either a bathectomy or a major soil-pipe relocation.

I started by removing the vanity doors. That went rather well. Then I nipped downstairs to turn off the upstairs water. This is achieved by turning two handwheels, much like U-boat crews staunch leaks in those old WWII movies with the exciting difference that in U-boats the designers took the elementary precaution of not locating handwheels between the pipe they control and a cast iron wastepipe. The wheels turned fairly freely but are old so required nipping up with Mr Stillsons the pipe wrench. Job done and back up two flights of stairs to recommence sink excision.

I decided to bank on the sink, a one-piece faux marble fiberglass affair, being attached to the vanity Genaro-fashion (ibid) and a few tugs on the thing confirmed that this might be the case so I simply undid the flexible couplings at the risers3 and confronted the Wastepipe Question.

A wastepipe is a very clever thing really. It incorporates a u-bend that serves two major purposes. Firstly and foremost, it serves as a weak spot that will fail and flood the vanity with a foul admixture of soap, mildew, hair, hairgrips, backing clips from ear-rings, hair bands and water when using a rubber plunger (aka plumber's helper). Secondly, it forms an airtight seal that prevents the Stenches of the Septic System entering the domicile. It is obviously crucial to somehow preserve this seal when removing the sink if one is not in a position to immediately refit another in it's place. Since our sink will be absent lo! these many weeks while I tear down and rebuild I was faced with the prospect of improvising a bag/rag/plug of some sort or leaving the obviously working water trap in place. I elected for the second option on grounds of less brain needed (Mr Brain is not my friend, the less he is involved the better is my rule of thumb). This choice presented another bout of introspection. I could see that the water trap had been installed Genaro-fashion too, with the top of the trap's compression fitting below the waste pipe mean datum, and were I to simply undo the compression fitting and slide out the waste pipe a good deal of the water in the trap would spill out onto the floor. I therefore elected to cut the sink wastepipe above the fitting. I dithered for a bit, mentally struggling with an imaginary Dremel in the confined workspace, then simply shrugged and went back to basics. I used Mr Hacksaw. I have relied so much on the Dremel of late that I'm afraid perfectly good tools like Mr Hacksaw have sat for years unused. Then I made a display case for a friend and needed the precision that a handsaw can give and was pleasantly surprised by the speed at which this thing could cut. I had quite forgotten.

In two shakes of a lamb's whatsit I had the pipe cut and was able to swing the sink into a vertical plane so I could reach the flexible pipe fittings and the faucet mounting bolts. Thank Azathoth for the Genaro ingenuity of eschewing all the screws that are normally used to secure an integral sink/vanity top to the vanity itself in favour of allowing good old-fashioned gravity and the wastepipe to hold the thing in place! Much quicker to get the faucet off this way that to install it during the aftermath of the flood, I can tell you. Once the sink was out in the back yard with the vanity doors I was able to see a small amount of water welling up from the risers. "This not look good" said Mr Brain and so I leapt into action with my nifty self-adjusting Pliers of Gripping and managed against all expectation to get the buggers to turn and close. Of course the little taps turned out to be stamped brass hollow shapes rather than solid handles and were badly mangled during the process but serves the buggers right I say. Then it was back down to the for'ard torpedo room to nip up the handwheels a bit tighter in anticipation of a leak free commodectomy later this week and I was done for the night. I went and had my dinner (leftover General Tsao's chicken, a bit soggy but leftover Chinese always is) and we watched the first half of Without a Clue to decompress.

The rest of the vanity will come apart tonight with a screwdriver and I can start worrying about the sheetrock conundrum. This can be basically stated as "The sheetrock has been laid Genaro-fashion". A previous aborted tile wall has been covered with new sheetrock rather than tearing the old wall off first. So there are two layers of sheetrock to come down. So far, so doddle. But. The bath area also subscribes to this two layers theory. I emphatically do not want to tear out the walls around the tub and re-tile so some sort of transition must be arranged 'twixt new single-layer wall and old double-layer plus tile. I plan to run my Dremel in Spiral Saw configuration down the tile line to cut the sheetrock parallel to the tile edge, but what then? I doubt I shall be able to find a commercial bevel tile that will do what I need. It's all very frustrating.

On the plus side I think I'm finally getting the swimming pool water back to it's proper state. I have been struggling for most of last month and all of this one to combat a recurring problem with green algae. Experience has taught me that keeping this stuff at bay is fairly easy. Keep the pool chlorinated, filter at least six hours a day and most importantly, keep the pH at around 7.5 because as soon as the water turns acid green algae will bloom. Well, I done all them things guv, and I still had a problem. Cloudy water, filthy floor, the works. I worked each night to clean it but nothing seemed to do the trick. I finally decided to bite the bullet and fitted a new filter (something I was loath to do right at the seasons end since they cost a fortune) and that seemed to turn the (green) tide. I also went very much against my policy and added a cupfull of black algaecide, something I was proud to have avoided the need for since I want my kid and the neighbours kids swimming in water, not developer or battery electrolyte. I added some shock, ran the filter for 12 hours, eight of them connecting it to The Pool Cleaning Robot Of Extreme Uselessness4 and this morning there was only the smallest patch of green fallout. Job almost done, hopefully. Once the water and pool floor are clean I can close up the pool since I am the only one who would get into it now with the water so cool and that would be to clean the bugger. It's a pity really. If I could have nailed this a week ago I could have swum last weekend, the weather was so nice. Of course, I've also got this bloody ear infection. Never mind.

1: She does have a point. Not only is the place a complete wreck and totally unusable for any purpose but storing all her hair-care products in the tub, we've had a replacement commode sitting in a box in the front bedroom for about five years now.
2: Can't flush it dry because I believe the wax flange sealing ring has broken up. Any flushed water will overflow the soil pipe and run either down it to the lower floors (bad) or all over the floor and initiate Domestic flood Zelda (very bad indeed).
3: The little taps under the sink that are supposed to let you shut off the water in a controlled fashion in the event of a problem Ours welded in the open position around the time pterodactyls decided to call a spade a spade and grow feathers.
4: So-called because it runs in patterns that miss spots and won't work at all unless the filter is squeaky clean which it stops being about three seconds after The Pool Cleaning Robot Of Extreme Uselessness is deployed.

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