Monday, February 20, 2017

Toilet trouble ~ my column from Sunday's paper

This much I know for sure: Home ownership is NOT FOR WIMPS!

I’ve known this for ages, but I was reminded last weekend when I walked into my bathroom. There was an unpleasant smell. No, that’s an understatement. My bathroom smelled like one I encountered in Panama in the summer of 1972. It was in a waterfront tavern where drunken sailors from around the country came to tank up before setting back out to sea. The bathroom should have been condemned. But I digress.

In hindsight, I was naive to think it was something as simple as a leaking commode. I noticed a crack in it a while back and when I showed it to my nephew Haven, who is a plumber. He had several quips that are unsuited for a family newspaper. But after close inspection, he felt it was some kind of factory defect that we hadn’t noticed when we installed it last year. “Keep an eye on it, and if it leaks, we’ll replace it,” he advised.

When I called him the week before last after I discovered the stinky leak, he stopped by to check it out. Again, he had several “clever” remarks. I thought to myself, “He missed his calling. He should have been a comedian.” It was hard for me to smile much because the leak oozed under the vinyl tile which complicated the problem. The foul-smelling flooring would have to come up.

He pulled out the commode, and I headed to the big-box store for a new one along with the other things I’d need to complete the repairs.

The plan took shape — all I needed to do was rip out the flooring, fan dry the bathroom, scrub the area with an industrial strength cleaner, and allow it to dry. After that, I’d put down new flooring, and set the new fixture. I thought we’d be back to normal by Sunday night…but I thought wrong.

Sunday evening the subfloor was still damp, especially against the back wall. Moisture also seemed to be seeping out from under the shower stall. We began formulating “Plan B.” I scratched all the caulk from the seams of my walk-in shower.

After cleaning the seams with alcohol, I crawled around the bottom of the shower like a salamander squirting new caulk into cracks. The sealant smelled like the airplane glue we used to assemble model cars when I was a kid. After a few minutes of this, I got a buzz. A moment later I began seeing spiders and goats out of the corner of my eyes. “I need some fresh air,” I thought. Finishing the job took several other short sessions.

When this job was complete, I was satisfied the problem was resolved. Strike two.

The next morning there was more water in the corner.

I called the comedian and told him what I found. When he ran back by, he grinned as he said, “Looks like you got another leak.” I wanted to slap his jaws.

We pulled the fridge away from the wall and cut a hole in the sheetrock between the kitchen and bathroom. About halfway up where the pipes threaded through support studs, a tiny pinhole sprayed a little stream of water. Less than 10 minutes later the pipe was repaired, but then I had to start the long process of drying out everything and putting things back together. It would take a while.

Even though I cussed like a sailor for most of the afternoon, I could see light at the end of the tunnel. By next weekend, I should have my bathroom back in order.

Tonight I feel like I’ve gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson. I’m going to take a hot bath, and there’s about a 98 percent chance I’ll have a glass of wine sitting on the rim of the tub.

No, home ownership is not for wimps, and I’ve learned that a sense of humor is an asset.


  1. Been almost there, but not quite as bad.

  2. Great article, and one with which I identify closely. You may find a similar predicament in November 22nd post in "Trainride Of The Enigmas". Good thing you had a helper. My heroic efforts landed me in the hospital. Why hadn't anybody told me I'd got old? Sneaks up on us. Be careful!

  3. Keeping a good sense of humor in times like that is not an easy thing at all. Isn't odd how something we take for granted every day can change our life around like that. Glad you are almost at the end of that job for sure.

  4. Yep, I have seen times I would rather install the New bathroom than repair the old one! New plumbing can be fun. There is NO FUN in repairing plumbing!

  5. Aren't you glad it's finished?

  6. The good things about this whole episode is that you get to share it with your readers ( good blogging and column fodder ) and that you learned something and you got a new floor. You did a good job on that floor. It looks great.


  7. Good thing I don't own my own home I am a whimp

  8. Brave and stubborn people are able to do battle with such a "repair". That was no repair. No, that was a white whale.

  9. Anonymous5:01 PM

    I hope your home has 2 bathrooms!!

  10. You seem good at repairing things. I'm not skilled and pay through the nose for repairs.


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