Friday, February 28, 2014

Coming Clean

So I have a confession to make. I don't want anybody to mistake me for being super human because I can tackle most anything when it comes to household repairs. I do make mistakes and I just made one. After doing all that work in the last post to put in two shutoff valves so I could shut the showers off in the future for any plumbing work without shutting off the entire house, I put them in the wrong place so that they shutoff something I haven't yet determined yet. The showers still work just fine even with the shutoff valves closed. In my defense, when you are working in a finished basement locating pipes, it is easy to get disoriented on where the pipes are going and which ones are coming. What I thought were the incoming pipes to the shower were just pipes heading away from the shower into the wall cavity to who knows where. I still haven't figured that one out. The pipes I should have put the valves on were about three feet over. Someday I may still put shutoffs on them because I can access them fairly easily but not today. I'll just shutoff the entire house again the next time I work on the shower plumbing.

On the plus side, I figured out what was going wrong with my soldering that was causing the solder to break off in chunks and burn the piss out of my fingers. When I had queried the internet it was either because it was too cold, too hot or too wet. Take your pick. I think the correct answer was that it was too wet and thus too cold. Both joints where I had problems were in fairly horizontal places with little fall to them so that I could get most of the water out of them but not all. I think when I went to heat the pipe to solder the joint, the water away from the joint would heat and steam causing water droplets to infiltrate the joint and prevent the copper from reaching the proper temperature. No matter how much heat I would apply, the solder would just chunk off instead of slowing into the joint properly.

In both cases, I eventually shoved a piece of bread down the end of the pipe before applying the flux and fitting and both times I successfully soldered the joint the first try. The bread absorbs the water and steam temporarily allowing the copper to heat up and the solder to flow into the joint. I could even smell toasting bread after I was done. The water then dissolves the bread after you are done and it gets flushed out of the system. I always made sure to crank open nearby faucets to flush any out before it had a chance to go to more sensitive areas like the ice maker or water filtration unit. It is a nifty trick and I will have to just get in the habit of doing it first in such situations.


Ron said...

I always get irritated when people see work I've done and say "well, it's easy for you... I just can't do that sort of thing." Ha. I figure I make MORE mistakes than the average - I just keep at it, and with experience the mistakes get less frequent (although not always less serious).

I found that the best bread to use is white bread (not our homemade whole-grain stuff which plugs up all of the screens). I've also found that it can help to leave faucets open so the heated air doesn't expand and blow the solder out of the joint.

Ed said...

Ron - If it weren't for the internet and probably specifically youtube, I would not be doing three-fourths of the things I do. I just watch a few videos and give it a go. If I do try something new like soldering, I usually try to do it early on a weekday morning so if needed, I can get somebody to bail me out. I did do that once on a very confusing three-way light switch project.

I didn't have white bread but I had honey wheat which is very similar to white. It hasn't gummed up anything yet... that I know about. I've always left the faucets open more to just break the vacuum to drain the pipes faster but that is nice to know if I'm ever working near one that is closed.

edifice rex said...

It can be very easy to make such mistakes, even for people that do it for a living. That's why in commercial construction, with all those pipes, they put big stickers on a lot of them with arrows showing the flow of the water! lol! We have lots of little tricks like that.

woodysrockyridge said...

If I just blogged all my mistakes I would have run out of free space long ago.

Youtube rocks! I used to enjoy some of the home improvement shows, but they've all turned into long commercials and most of the work seems less than desirable. Some of the crap that they pass off as "improvement" is the next years workload for professionals.

Ed said...

Edifice Rex - When I build my dream house, all the wiring and plumbing will be well labeled and documented!

Woody - I watch them too and now that you mention it, they do their fair share of commercialization. I guess I look more for the technique than the product since most of the stuff they use can't be found around here. Saying that though, I am going to try a couple new products on my bathroom remodel but more about that later.