No matter how much money I spend out of my maxed out home equity line on contractors I always end up plumbing my own pipes. Plumbers are just too expensive. Whenever the wife and I discuss the remodeling budget, plumbing is either forgotten or left to the last with her question, "You can handle that, right?" My mind blanks on all my past terrible plumbing experiences and I say, "Sure."
I’ve learned the following tips with the combined wisdom of my contractor father-in-law, my father’s teenage apprenticeship under my grandfather as a toilet installer, random books I read while checking out at Home Depot, and the internet.
Novice Plumbing Tip #1: Pipe Connections
Pipe connections must be made in order from fixture to wall, you can’t meet in the middle.
I made this mistake while installing a pedestal sink in my hallway bathroom. Because I was unsure of the length of tail needed on the drain pipe, I wanted to keep my options open when connecting to the p-trap. The sink installation required me to have the pedestal in place before hanging the sink on the wall.
I was then stuck with the problem of connecting the p-trap bend within the pedestal. I haven’t found a wrench that can fit into this less-than-an-inch-on-either side gap around the tail pipe that can tighten a nut with any precision and leverage.
Thinking any sealed connection is a good connection, I tightened the nut at the wall then nut at the back of the p-trap. With these connections solid, it was impossible for the last nut’s threads to line up properly with the connection between the sink tail and the mouth of the p-trap.
This is when I try too hard. I get the idea in my head that brute force can solve the problem. It never does. This is when I really start cussing When wearing your handyman hat, finesse wins the day every time.
My father-in-law was visiting the following day. He explained the connection in order technique. We took everything apart. Starting at the tail from the lavatory, I forced the elbow trap up into the nut while my father-in-law tightened the nut with his bare hands. The other two connections—elbow to straight and into the wall—hand-tightened and and were leak free after the final wrench half turn.
Other than saving myself from the horror of a plumber’s bill, suffering through this chore buys me some geek—a late night of Kingdom Hearts II on PS2, or the joy of calibrating my Sanyo PLV-Z3 projector with an Eye One Beamer.
This tip is really just common sense. Unfortunately, that’s my handicap.