Saturday, October 13, 2007

Straight Flush

We recently embarked on a medium-scale bathroom remodeling project in our house, precipitated (good choice of words, as you'll see) by an air conditioning leak in our attic. It's a long story, but we'll just leave it at that. Anyway, we took this as an opportunity to update our powder room and upstairs bathroom, and I can honestly say...well, I hope I can say...that we are almost finished. We let the pros do the tile work, and we took on most all the plumbing tasks ourselves.

What has struck me in this endeavor is the seemingly endless array of new bathroom fixtures of all types. We opted for a granite countertop/undermount sink with travertine marble in the upstairs bath, and a vessel sink/waterfall faucet combination with travertine floor in the powder room. I never thought that technology could have made such inroads in what up until a few years ago was a truly functional area of the house, but it certainly has, and I believe it's for the better.

In the process, I have also learned a lot about plumbing. I now know and can spot at fifty yards a P-trap, a flexible supply line (steel is best), or even a compression fitting. Before, I was always scared of plumbing -- a mistake in a plumbing job can cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars, and electricity, by comparison, seems so simple. I mean, if you put in a two-way switch where a three-way switch is supposed to go, you'll know immediately that you've made a mistake, since the switch will sizzle like water in hot oil as soon as you turn it on. That's what I like about electricity -- the all-or-nothing factor. Never mind that you can shock yourself into the next century.

Plumbing, on the other hand, is a bit more insidious. We all must at some point have experienced that "drip, drip, drip" in the night, lying awake and wondering which part of the house will collapse, leaving us like stranded rafters in Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat. But I have learned that plumbing, like anything else for which exorbitant service fees are charged, is a process which takes patience and a certain level of courage. The courage part is very important here. My new friend Willie at Lowe's gave me some great advice at one point, and that helped get me over the hump. Willie told me, "It's gonna work...I promise!", and I believed him. Turns out he actually was right. But again, it took a little intestinal fortitude.

So verily I say unto you, if you are the adventurous type, fix your own toilet next time. Replace that drain. Upgrade those nasty old faucets. But just remember, should the situation run amok (and it very well may), a good plumber is just a phone call and several hundred dollars away. We did have to call a plumber for a couple of the early tasks, and both times, he zipped right in, joked with us the whole time, and made prompt repairs. You know, Robert was a really fun guy. Oh, and he also told us that his condo in San Diego is almost paid off. That pretty much says it all.