Friday, May 9, 2014

I Hate Plumbing

On a trip to the big box store to pick up some polyurethane, I decided to stop by the plumbing department to pick up the necessary stuff to finish plumbing in the sink which is a step rapidly approaching. I hadn't pulled the faucet out of the box so I didn't know what I needed to attach the water supply to my 1/2" copper piping but I thought I could guess. I also needed a trap assembly to connect the drain to the outlet in the wall. I picked out the proper copper fitting and an 1-1/4" P-trap assembly and went home. The fitting I had picked out was way too big for the faucet connections. The stopper tube in the sink drain was 1-1/4" but I noticed that the connection to the wall was 1-1/2". So despite my planning ahead, I was still no closer to hooking up the sink than I had been before.

My shower door finally arrived and I knew I would need some drill bits for going through ceramic tile but I waited until I could open the installation directions before buying them. So with the sizes needed written down, I grabbed all my plumbing fittings from the sink fiasco and headed back to the big box store to return them and get the proper ones. I also pulled out the faucet installation directions and saw that I needed to go from a 3/8" female compression fitting to my 1/2" copper pipping.

The fittings area of the big box store is utterly depressing. I almost want to shoot myself every time I have to stare at that huge wall of fittings in individual plastic bags. There are many reasons why:
1. They are always mixed up so if you find what you are looking for, you often can't find another or if you find the tag, the product hanging there isn't what is labeled on the tag.
2. There are piles of ripped open bags and loose fittings everywhere because people like me can't determine what the writing on the bag means and have to rip open the bags to verify the thread type. They have a handy dandy thread gauge hanging up right next to the fittings to try them out but you have to rip open the bags to do so. The thread gauge also had compression sizes, flare sizes and universal sizes, male and female connectors glued to it for you to check with. However, not one little bag ever says compression, flare or universal. Instead it says 3/8 male to 1/2" female. It is up to the consumer to figure out which of the three thread types it is referring too.
3. I had three clerks look at me standing there and hurried on by before I could ask them for help. Two others weren't so fast and I asked them for help. They just scratched their heads and stood in front of the massive display looking at it blankly for a polite amount of time before wishing me luck and hurrying away. None of them had the slightest idea what fitting I needed. One actually had four fittings going from 1/2" copper to PVC to metal compression fittings but couldn't find anything simpler.
4. The racks are arranged by sizes and not types of fittings which makes it twice as difficult to find things. If you are like me going from 1/2" to 3/8", you have to check both size categories because the fitting you be in either of them. Once you find the right size, you have to wade through many dozen different types of fittings for a myriad different thread types, situations, etc.

I'm sure I could think of many more reasons but I'll limit to those heavy hitters. I spent about an hour grabbing this and that, ripping it out of the bag, checking fits with other fittings and at times just staring up at the mass of fittings wishing for some sort of divine intervention. I was just about ready to give up when I finally found the fitting shown at the top of this post. It was labeled 3/8" OD x 1/2" SW. The SW stood for solder weld which is what I needed and there was nothing saying what type of thread the 3/8" side was. But after tearing open the bag, I was able to see that there was a copper ferrel and compression nut so I'm pretty sure if I throw those parts away, the male threads should fit the 3/8" female compression fitting on the end of my faucet. A complete solution in one fitting! But when I went to grab another so I could do both the hot and cold sides, I saw that it had been put on the wrong hook and the fittings behind it were completely different. So I spent another ten minutes looking over the hooks and sorting through bins before I finally found another one.

Finally I went to the p-trap section where there were a myriad of choices for various 1-1/4" and 1-1/2" configurations but nothing that I could see for someone who wanted to go from one to another. I almost fell to the floor and just lay there until someone ran me over with their shopping cart and put me out of my misery but after about fifteen minutes of looking and one useless clerk who didn't know anything later, I finally found a rubber adapter with clamps an aisle over made for going between 1-1/4" and 1-1/2" p-trap pipe material. Not an elegant solution for sure but if it works, I'll be the happiest guy I know.

So I got my new fittings home and tried everything out and I think it will all work. But the way my luck goes, I will have the water shut off and going to hook everything up when I discover that the fitting wasn't quite what I needed and I will have to make yet another trip to the store or just break down and call a plumber.


Anonymous said...

An Aldi opened up near me and it is the epitome of efficient delivery of stuff I've ever seen.
They have a system where the item are in a standard sized box designed to be the display container, itself. Which has the price and description. There is never more than three items atop a new box telling me just how narrow are the time limits before a renewal. It's just so amazing what computer stock control, when well designed can do. As to their management of staff time, again brilliant. They have a full staff until they saw how the store local worked. Schools getting out, church times, and so forth.
Nowadays, there are no experts selling anything unless it's big ticket and bespoke.

Ed said...

Vince - We used to have local hardware stores all around and the owners who ran them, had worked that same job for 30+ years and new just about everything when it came to hardware. I remember going in with my father and him telling the owner what he needed. The owner would rummage through bins of this and that and ten minutes later set a pile of fittings and fasteners on top of the counter and we never had to go back twice because we didn't have the right stuff. Those stores were all driven out of business 15 years ago by the big box stores we have now.

Anonymous said...

It's the same here to some extent. The big-box stores are being held back by planning and by the lies that the current situation is saving jobs. It's not, what's happening is the same as with you in the Sates 20 years ago. When the towns began to really fleece the hinterland. If the margins in the was narrow then the gap wouldn't exist for the big-box place at all.
But now we have an insane situation where town centre rents are astronomical and the local tax abusive so the shops in the High St are mostly chains selling low grade tat or empty or Charity Shops who're tax exempt totally.
In truth though, how many times did you go to that shop.

edifice rex said...

This is why I go to a actual plumbing supply house if I'm not sure, or electrical or whatever. They will look at your faucet, whatever and then pick out everything you need to get it hooked up. And they are usually cheaper and very nice. Or at least, that's the case here. :)

Ron said...

Ahh, yeah... plumbing stinks. And I have certainly had similar moments of wanting to shoot myself in a big-box plumbing fitting buying experience.

I spent about 45 minutes at a Lowe's trying to figure out how to get from the 3/8" pex tube I have (which was fairly standard for short runs back when I put it in) to the 1/2" pex toilet fitting they had. It seemed like such a simple thing.

I finally bought the darn fitting I needed online ($2.38). And a couple extra, just in case. And some tube and other fittings too.

Ed said...

Edifice Rex - Unfortunately we only have one plumbing supply place and unless I am a certified plumber, they are not interested in the likes of me.

Ron - That is exactly why I try to order stuff online. I usually can get exactly what I need and know if from reading the documentation. Unfortunately with faucets, they don't seem to publish connection information online so I'm stuck waiting for it to arrive and see. Hopefully I will luck out and the fittings I already bought will work. Doubt it but a guy can dream.