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Today just sucked. In every way possible, everything that we did today sucked and sucked bad.

Basically, what it comes down to is this: you may think that quote from a plumber is high. Perhaps it is. But it is high because plumbing is sucky work that takes longer than you expect and is both hard and requires a bit of attention to detail. You might think to do your own plumbing to save money, but what you spend in time and redoing mistakes will more than make up for that. (You may choose to do your own plumbing because you are still suffering a little post-traumatic stress from a fraudulent contractor and a multi-year lawsuit, which is another deal altogether. YMMV.)

Basically: this stuff is harder than it looks and it looks pretty hard, actually. Today we started pressure testing our DWV system and it went super super bad almost from the start, and did not get better.

So let's start with a little photo from yesterday:

Water supply hooked up

Yesterday we got the water supply hooked up to the PEX manifolds, and at least as far as the manifolds, it held up under pressure. We don't have everything ready after the manifolds, so when we were done testing that I shut it off again and it will wait until later for testing.

Putting the pig in the line

Today started here and rapidly went downhill. Noel installed the testing pig or bladder or whatever it is called in the bottom of the new drain we've installed. The one we have is not quite the right one for the test setup we have, though we didn't know another kind existed until much later. But Noel got it in the pipe and was able to inflate it with a bike pump. Then we tightened a few things up and went upstairs to add water.

We ran a hose from the front of the house through the upstairs bathroom window, and got on speakerphone with each other, Noel in the basement and me on the bathroom floor with the hose end stuck in the toilet drain, slowly filling up the drain.

The first thing that happened was that we got the drain partway filled up and a leak started up at the cleanout in the basement, which we had not actually tightened up at all, or taped.

So we stopped, and Noel drained the system. I went downstairs and shut the water off at the front of the house, and the backflow preventer sprayed me with water thanks to the extra pressure of having the hose end 25 feet up in the air. Thank you.

So we added the teflon tape, then got back in position.

This time, one of the straight connectors in the basement failed. And the cleanout still leaked.

So, I turned off the water again, got sprayed again, Noel drained the system, we added more teflon tape on the cleanout and replaced the straight connector with a couple of flex connectors and a short length of 4" pipe, and then we got back in position.

This time the wye fitting at the bottom of the downstairs toilet was leaking. And the cleanout was STILL leaking. We decided to try filling the system a little more to see if we'd find more leaks before we made the repair, and--spoiler alert--that didn't work, either, and in fact a bunch of flex connectors gave out (at least one of which we are pretty sure we'd neglected to tighten enough), and there was water all over the basement.

The good news is that our expensive drainage system for the foundation works like a charm.

So, I turn off the water again, get sprayed AGAIN, we repair the wye and replace the two flex connectors with just one and a new length of pipe, we add more bracing to keep things from moving round, tighten every flex connector several times, seal the cleanout with wax from a toilet seal per some dude's advice on a plumbing forum, and get started again.

This time we got up above the level of the downstairs toilet before a couple of fittings started leaking. And another cleanout.

This time, when I turned off the water I immediately made a run for it and only got slightly sprinkled, instead of doused with water. I can learn.

Unfortunately, this time when Noel went to let the water out of the system again, the pressure pushed the pig into his hand and trapped him for a time, then when he got his hand out, the pig got stuck and had to be deflated with a knife to be removed.

It was late by then, and getting your hand smashed sucks, so we called it off for the night.

As I said, today sucked. We hope to have mentally regrouped by tomorrow evening, but the rough plumbing inspection is not happening tomorrow.

posted by ayse on 12/07/14

6 Comments

What a miserable day. I'm glad you can describe it with such good humor.

Ugh, awful. I'm sorry today was a bucket of suck.

About now I would be calling a reputable plumber to work with me. Are there none in your area? After 2-3 bad experiences with crooks or incompetents, I found a very good one in mine.

I actually know a lot of great plumbers. This is not about not being willing to call a plumber. We want to do this ourselves, I specifically want to do it because actually doing construction work makes you a better technical architect, which is what I do for a living when I'm not rebuilding my home. I have learned a LOT from this project and that has gone directly into my work.

But ordinary people who are not learning about the trades for professional and personal reasons, sure, go ahead, call a plumber right away. We have a recommendation on our resources page for locals. I recommend doing it before you're done 99 percent of the work, of course.

You might want to make some kind of deflector for that backflow preventer. A small bucket upside down might do, or carve up a plastic juice jug or similar container.

Of course having it will probably mean you'll never need it again after this.

I thought of the bucket trick, but decided that if my getting sprayed meant Noel's hand didn't get smashed again, it was OK.

Note: We're getting pummeled with spam comments, so I've turned off the ability to use any HTML or include any links for the time being. Email with any issues.

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