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Archive for Sunday, March 7, 2010

Jest for Grins: Plumber flushes out household wear and tear

March 7, 2010

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When Jerry, my friend and former geometry teacher, introduces me to someone, he invariably follows my name with, “You should see her toilet!”

I admit to being pretty proud of that special toilet when we built our home in the country, or I never would have shown it to Jerry when I gave him our “new house” tour. And, because our master bath toilet was pretty pricey, it is the only one of its kind in our house. Our other toilets are just ordinary johns — no pressure tanks in them — so you won’t find me lifting off a tank lid and showing them to visitors!

Recently, I began to hear water dripping in our special toilet. Another flush or two would usually stop the problem, so I didn’t worry about it until our last water bill was sufficiently excessive for me to call our plumber. Lenny checked it out along with several other plumbing problems I had managed to live with and, after phoning his supplier, gave me the bad news that no parts were available, so the toilet would need to be replaced.

With Lenny’s blessing, I decided to see if I could locate a part on the Internet. I typed the pressure tank number into Google and — Whoa, Nellie! — up came incident after incident of exploding toilets. Trust me: The last thing on my worry list had been an exploding toilet.

Happily, I also learned that the manufacturer was offering an improved replacement pressure tank contained within a new ceramic upper toilet section. All I had to do was provide our toilet’s model and serial number (I told you it was special) and $125, a veritable pittance compared to the price of a new toilet.

I ordered it, called Lenny and gave him the good news. He was happy for us, but worried that he might look bad because he’d been given the wrong information by his supplier. Not likely. He long ago earned my loyalty by removing — with a straight face — a dishcloth from our malfunctioning garbage disposal.

Husband Ray and I have recently discovered that many components of this house we built 15 years ago are approaching the ends of their mechanical lifespans. We just paid $400-plus to replace a pump on our geothermal water furnace (that wasn’t on my worry list, either). And five years ago, we replaced a drop-in smooth-top range that beeped incessantly. Do you know that drop-in ranges do not come in a standard width? Whose crazy idea is that? The result is that we had to buy a range that fit the space, not necessarily the one we wanted. But the new one hasn’t beeped, except when it’s supposed to, so it’s working out OK.

Oh, right, and we replaced the original roof — guaranteed for thrice as many years as we got out of it — several years ago. Three roofers and two insurance adjusters told us the shingles were defective, but the manufacturer didn’t agree. The last straw for me was watching Ray, atop the roof in a 40-mile gale, surface-nailing the shingles (asphalt, we’re 6 miles from the fire station) after the adjuster told him to protect the inside because the roof was toast. The shingle manufacturer eventually did admit fault and compensate us, but we didn’t re-roof with the same brand or type of shingles. Fool us once ….

I’m not sure what will go wrong next. The refrigerator is our oldest appliance. We bought it when I worked out a deal to buy a new refrigerator and give our old one to son Greg. About 12 years later, we had a repair bill on our “new” refrigerator and Ray remarked, “That old one we gave Greg is still going strong.”

It may be, but not at Greg and Val’s house. I’ve long admired their sleek side-by-side with ice in the door. Still, I’m a happy camper. Our new pressure tank is working fine, and I’ve stopped worrying about being blown off the toilet when it explodes.

— Marsha Henry Goff is a freelance writer in Lawrence whose latest book is “Human Nature Calls.”

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