Sunday morning @ la Casa Pico

Both girls are at their Army Reserve units this weekend. PFC Pico was supposed to go on a field exercise at Fort Dix, but her unit, a military police unit, could take only one commo, and it wasn’t her. Both had the pleasure of doing Army Physical Fitness Tests yesterday morning; both passed.

Penn State is having Spring Break this coming week, so SPC Pico will be home all of next week. Naturally, her cat is here, too, and we don’t have cat peace at home; Pluto, our queen bee, doesn’t like Xion (a neutered male) at all.

And I have a plumbing disaster on my hands. The hot water spigot in the bathroom basic broke and shot into the air, complete with a geyser of hot water. SPC Pico awoke me, at 0110, to tell me this. I couldn’t find any shut off valve under the basin, so I had to go down to the basement and shut off the hot water to the entire bathroom.

Well, that is a copper gate valve in a copper line, and it is corroded. I got the water shut off. Then, in the morning, I did find a PVC shut off valve, almost at floor level, to the bathroom basin, and closed it off. But when I turned the hot water back on to the rest of the bathroom, I found that the corroded valve now leaks when opened. The only other shut-off will shut off water going into the boiler, which means that all of the hot water, as well as the heat, will be shut off when I close that. I opened the corroded valve long enough for everyone to shower, then close it off again; now there’s a slight drip even when closed.

I got everything I need to replace the valve at Lowe’s, but I’ve never worked on copper lines before, and I’ll have exactly one chance to get it right; if I don’t, no hot water and no heat.

Right now, the we have the towels which got soaked in the washing machine, and a load of dishes in the dishwasher; it seemed like a good idea to get that stuff done first, in case I foul up this repair. But I’ll be down in the basement soon, hoping I can get this done right.


  1. Dana, under these circumstances I would advise you to have someone in who can do the job.

  2. Dana, it isn’t rocket science, but old copper lines and fittings can be obstinate. Corroded copper cracks, sometimes it won’t solder (especially if there’s water in the line), diameters can vary, all sorts of unanticipated difficulties can complicate an otherwise straight forward repair job.

    Traditional wisdom cautions to think twice before you start a plumbing job on a Sunday. If things go sour it’s almost impossible to get a professional quickly, and if you’re lucky enough to get one, it’s going to cost you more than you might anticipate.

  3. “I opened the corroded valve long enough for everyone to shower, then close it off again; now there‚Äôs a slight drip even when closed.”

    You could try tightening down on the valve stem nut, to squeeze the packing more tightly.

    Ropelight is correct about the difficulties in repairing/replacing copper pipe hardware, as I’ve been there/done that. I’ve never encountered fitting problems. However, the water/steam problem is solved by having the line properly drained, then gently heating the pipe near the work to vaporize the water before attempting to make the joint. On making the joint itself, I suggest practicing one first before doing the real thing. If you have one, read about this in a home repair manual, a must. And btw, since you will be joining the copper pipe to a valve, you need to focus the heating on the pipe, not on the valve body.

    Or, you could call in an experienced friend.

  4. The copper part is done, and was done quickly. There are new fittings which no longer require soldering; all you need is a pipe cutter to make sure you get the cut square to the pipe, clean away any burrs, and a new type of compression fitting just slides right on and locks. It works on copper, PEX and CPVC. It took maybe twenty minutes.

    I replaced the old gate valve with a brass ball valve.

    The plumbing in the bathroom is all CPVC, and it was done by a jack-leg plumber. The same cutter that gives you a square cut on copper works on CPVC as well, and a slightly different type of compression fitting means no primer and glue: I added two metal shut off valves to the CPVC, and will be using the flexible supply lines to hook everything up.

    There have been a lot of recent improvements made to plumbing technology, making things a lot simpler and faster. But even if there hadn’t been, and I had to solder the copper, I’d have tried it myself; I’m actually pretty good at things like that, even on my first attempts.

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