I Suck at Home Repairs

As I may have mentioned a time or two, I am a failure at making minor home repairs.

Let me be clear, I 'm not entirely incompetent. If I were the perfect caricature of a bumbling dolt; hammering his thumb, spilling the paint bucket, and generally making a clusterf*@k out of everything I touched it would almost be forgivable. 

My problem is that I'm the perfect combination of just competent enough to understand what to do and how when it comes to most basic fixes around the house, but insufficient skilled to effectively make said repair.

This in and of itself wouldn't be too bad if it were not for the fact that I also possess the glorious man-need be handy around the house in order to validate my Y-chromosome. 

Inevitably I get into a simple repair, and it takes three times as long and six more trips to the hardware store than it would if I knew what I was doing. I like to imagine my bearded, lumberjack shirt wearing heavily muscled man ancestors (or mancestors), watching over me as I flail ineffectually underneath the kitchen sink. They would probably stand, arms folded, shaking their rugged heads in shame and disappointment as they slowly choke the life out of grizzly bears with nothing but their blue jean clad quadriceps. 

I thought I'd keep a running log of a home repair as I start, and inevitably screw it up, eventually either fixing it or giving up and calling someone to come fix it for me thus bringing great dishonor upon myself. 

The Job 

In this particular instance the very simple home repair in question is a leaky sink faucet coupled with a reoccurring clogged drain in one of the bathrooms. 

Periodically the sink in the downstairs bathroom becomes clogged. This probably happens once a month on average.

Depending on who in our household you ask, the reason the sink clogs so frequently varies.

So that we're all on the same page here, the downstairs bathroom is my wife's bathroom. It has a a countertop with space for all her lady stuff like makeup and lotions and that assorted pile of bobby pins, loose earrings, hair ties and bracelets that have taken over the soap tray.

 The upstairs bathroom is unfinished, and has nothing but a two inch rim around a free standing sink upon which items may be placed. It's literally one step above a pale of water in the middle of the floor. Naturally that is the one I use.  

With the appropriate bathroom assignment situation's clarified, you can see where my wife's claim that the clogged sink is a result of the one or two times I have shaved my neck down there falls apart pretty quickly. 

Clearly the clogged sink is from a tangled clod of hair that made it's way from her head, to her hairbrush, into the sink where it slithered down the drain, and unionized or something and is now blockading the drain in protest preparing a list of demands for things like fancier conditioner.

Fresh from the rousing success of just having repaired a leaky kitchen sink, (a project that took three days instead of the twenty five minutes it should have) when my wife informed me the sink was leaking in her bathroom I decided I'd fix that and try to take care of that pesky recurring clog while I was at it.

Naturally after bumbling your way through one plumbing task, you should jump right into a second one, right?

So the job would be simple: Fix the leak, take the J-bend out and see if there is a pseudo-sentient hair amalgamation to extract, put it back together, stand back and stroke my glorious moustachio and beard in stoic approval of my own good work.   

Assuming that everything would go disastrously wrong I decided to chronicle the job. Below is the running diary of said task:

Day 1- Friday

4:00 PM

I decide to tackle the bathroom sink right after Emily leaves for work. Figuring I'd do it while she was out and have it leak free and draining like a champ by the time she came home. Thoroughly impressed with my rugged sink fixing man skills, there would proceed to be gallons of making out.

 4:05 PM

In my zeal for home repairing, at no point do I bother to run some water through the sink to locate the initial leak which had been reported to me. I have no idea what joint was actually leaking.

Figuring I'd have to take everything apart anyway in order to clean out wherever the clog is, I launch right into trying to take the pipes apart with a wrench. My assumption is that once the clog is dealt with, the leak will be sorted out when I put everything back together and tighten it.

I begin the process of attempting to disassemble the drain with the tools I have collected:

  • Adjustable wrench x1
  • Roll of paper towels x1

At no point does it occur to me that I have possibly under-prepared.

4:06 PM

I am unable to budge the joints holding the various pieces of pipe together with my single wrench. I probably need to get a second wrench to apply some force in opposite directions.

I own a second wrench.

Aforementioned wrench is in the basement.

I am not in the basement, I am in the bathroom.

That wrench can go f*@k itself. I'll make it work with the one.

Update 4:08 PM

Due to an unforeseeable complication involving inadequate wrenches the pop up drain breaks off of the bottom of the sink.

This project has now escalated to require a trip to Lowe's. I'll need some plumbers putty or something to glue the thing back together.

Now in a towering sink drain related rage, I do the responsible thing and procrastinate on returning to the task for the rest of the afternoon. I hang out with the dogs instead.

Day 2- Saturday

5:00 PM

Armed with a bright eyed and bushy tailed enthusiasm for sink repair as well as an extensive font of knowledge obtained via searching "How to replace a sink drain" on Google and reading a single article I am now prepared to re-tackle this job.

5:15 PM

My first step is to remove this bad boy from the sink so I can see what I'm dealing with. After the application of a bit of tactfully applied smacking the crap out of the pipe and wrenching it free I get the drain out of the sink.

I am met with this sight.

Well that's Gross.

I then look at the actual drain piece I've pulled out.

 Aaaand also gross. If you have a particularly weak gag reflex, I apologize for not having prepared you for that.

Now thoroughly aware that I have been washing my hands in a bacterial ooze filled basin of filth I set off for Lowe's to purchase all of the materials I'll need.

As I, prepare to leave, old drain in hand, I realize the threaded part of the thing is cracked. This displeases me. The piece was either already cracked, or I cracked it manhandling it out of the sink like a toothless rock gumming barbarian. 

I elect to presume the former.

I insinuate that the drain's mother was a lady of ill repute who conjugated with many foreign made pipe wrenches.

I leave for the hardware store.

6:00 PM

I arrive at Lowes.

Because I am well versed in the location of plumbing supplies in Lowes from the previously mentioned kitchen sink fiasco, I get right down to business and start looking for the parts I'll need.

From this point on, you may feel free to imagine the theme song from Jeopardy playing on a loop in the background as I stare at the wall of drain pieces attempting to match the old bits that I've brought with me to shiny new counterparts which don't smell like a four day old bag of vomit.

One would imagine that simply taking a piece, finding the one on the shelves that looks like it, and grabbing it would be a relatively simple task which should require no more than a few minutes of time and minimal brain power, right?

6:45 PM

I have been standing in this plumbing aisle for so long that I begin to forget what my life was like before I walked into this Lowes.

Much like a goldfish in captivity, my understanding of the world narrows to this single fourteen foot wide, hundred foot long prison of gaskets, flanges and union joints. The outside world is but a distant memory, lost to the all consuming task of picking out the proper replacement parts for this god forsaken sink.

I grab parts that I think are correct at first, only to realize they are slightly incorrect on some way or another a few minutes later. The signs, describing the dimensions of each individual part might as well be written in hieroglyphics for all the good they are doing me.

I had enough parts to have built two and a half of the section of drain I wanted to build at one point, all sprawled out on the floor like some sort of Beautiful Mind style web of madness.   

That picture is the tidy, sane version of the mess I made on the floor of this establishment, once I had narrowed things down quite a bit. Also, I'm not sure where that mystery liquid on the floor came from. Lets just presume they are the countless tears I shed during my imprisonment in aisle 14.

  I have a feeling if anyone else walked into that aisle looking to pick up a few things for their own home and saw me steadily building a rat-man style den for myself on the middle of the floor they quietly turned around, went home to hug their wife and children and are proceeding to live out the remainder of their life with new-found appreciation for their sanity.

Eventually I do get things under control and collect all the supplies I will be needing to make my repair. 

6:50 PM

I leave Lowes.

I am surprised to find that the world has not progressed to a futuristic state of utopia during the time I was inside the building. I locate my car and head home.

7:00 PM

Returned home with my goods, I set to work putting the new drain in the sink.

I follow the instructions provided on the packaging that the new drain came in and manage to replace it in a fairly successful and uneventful manner. Plumbers putty on the underside of the bit that goes into the bowl of the sink, and screw it all together. 

With the new drain in place, I begin to get all the other pieces of pipe ready to put everything back together when it occurs to me that I really never found the reason the drain has been backing up. All the pipes I took off were pretty clear.

I notice that I might be able to take off that tiny, unsuspecting little bit of pipe that you can see coming from the wall in the picture above.

Could it be?

I will say this. The things that I have seen cannot be unseen. Should you chose to continue reading beyond this point, you do so with the understanding that I cannot be held responsible for the psychological trauma that may be inflicted upon you by what is to come. You have been warned.

I remove the pipe and shine the flashlight of my phone into the opening in the wall. 

I was not prepared.

Oh dear sweet virgin Mary what am I looking at? What foul vortex of pure evil could be responsible for regurgitating this twisted clod of concentrated hate?

As I reached into the drain with whatever would serve to dislodge and pull free any portion of this fetid wad of sludge I swear to you it began whispering to me in a dead tongue. I saw visions of the end of days and my nose began to bleed. Whatever hell-pit this thing had come from, it was loathe to be extracted from my bathroom drain, and it would destroy me and all that I hold dear given the chance.

Calling upon every ounce of inner strength in my body, I removed as much as I could reach. In the end, I wound up with a golf ball sized wad of horrible filth. They should have cast this thing as the piece of Voldemort's soul that get's blasted off of Harry in the last movie. It was that foul.

To help put the size of that abomination in perspective. If you look closely you can see a q-tip lodged in there. A poor unfortunate casualty, absorbed into the elder hive mind before being destroyed along with it. 

In order to ensure that it could never hurt anyone again I had to walk this thing to Mordor and throw it into a f*@king volcano.

7:30 PM

After performing a cleansing ritual and scrubbing the topmost layer of skin off my hands with steel wool I get back to work putting the sink back together.

It all seems to be going well, and I get everything put back together.

I test the sink.

It leaks profusely.

Son of a parasite ridden three toed sloth, why is this thing leaking?

I isolate the leak to the nut that holds the stopper mechanism in place. Wishing a pestilence upon the nut, the company that manufactures the nut, and the first born children of all of the employees who work in the factory where they produce that nut I remove it to find that it's cracked.

..... balls.

Day 3-Sunday

8:00 AM

Guess where I am again?

Don't let the heavenly rays of light shining down from above on the front of this store fool you. This is a place of sadness and misfortune.

I've got every square inch of the plumbing aisle eternally etched onto the insides of my eyelids, it does not take me long to get in, locate the replacement nut and get back out. 

8:30 AM

I arrive back at home with the nut, quickly swap it for the cracked one, give everything one last tightening, and fire that baby up.

Nailed it.

I stand back and bask in the glory of my handiwork. I am the master of my domain. My mancestors are slightly less ashamed of me this day. Tonight I will feast.