Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Fun with plumbing (NOT!!)

My house--my current house--is blessed with well water that carries a fair bit of iron. So to keep it out of the appliances and pipes, I have an in-line filter that snags it. The filter uses cartridges that have to be changed out every few months.

This particular filter system is new, having been installed by a friend who is a plumbing god not too long ago. I haven't had to mess with it myself yet.

Recently, I noticed that the water pressure was starting to drop off, a sure sign that the filter was clogging up. So I grabbed a filter from Home Depot and crawled into the crawlspace to do what should have been a two minute job.

Water turned off. Check.
Filter canister unscrewed and removed. Check.
Old dirty filter dropped into a five-gallon pail. Check.
Canister rinsed out. Check.
New filter put in canister and canister screwed back on. Check.
Water back on..."What the fu--?!"

Icy cold water blasts out of the filter, hitting me square in the face.

OK, Obviously I didn't put something back together right. I take it back apart, re-seat the filter, reinstall the canister, and turn the water on again. I get a second ice-cold shower.


Once again, I take it apart. I inspect everything and reassemble it. I switch it on again and get blasted a third time. The way this damned thing is set up, there's only one place I can be in order to reach the knob to turn it back on, and that's right where it's spraying the water under pretty impressive pressure.

Why is this happening to me?!

About this time, Belle comes down the basement and pokes her head into the crawl space. Instantly, I assign the blame. "This is YOUR fault," I accuse. "What did you DO?!" Belle immediately turns and runs back upstairs. Murphy, who knows better than to come around when I'm attempting home repairs, is no doubt laughing.

Once again, I disassemble everything, clean it all out, and reassemble it. And once again I get drenched. And did I mention that this ground water is freaking COLD? DAMN IT!!

The new filter looks like the old filter. The label says it's correct. The canister seems to fit just right...yet I cannot get this thing to not leak and spray water all over me every time I turn it on.

Finally, in frustration, I crawl back out of the crawlspace, taking with me the five gallon pail full of water that I'd drained down when I removed the old filter. I take that outside and dump it, and something else spills out on the snow. Something black. Something round. Something that looks like a flipping GASKET!

Oh, son of a biscuit...was it really just that easy?

Sure enough, I go back up in there, drop the canister again, seat the gasket on top of it (Why it fits just like it was made to go there..) and reinstall the canister. I turn the water back on, and finally I do not get hit in the face with a stream of ice water. It's working perfectly now. And all the angels sing "Hallelujah!"

Apparently the gasket dropped off and into the bucket without me seeing it, and having no idea that it needed one, I kept putting it back together without one. Now any donkey could figure out that a fitting intended for water under pressure would naturally have to have a gasket to keep leaks from occurring, but no one has ever accused me of being just any donkey. Hell, no--I'm clearly one of those special kind of donkeys that needs to get zapped with an ice shower about eight times before the light finally comes on.

Can I get a "Hee-Haw" here?


  1. Welp......now you know!

  2. Might be good to put in your maintenance log for the new owners. "Check water filter every 12 months. Remember to swap gasket over."

  3. Pro tip: put a small dab of Vaseline around the threads to prevent having to overtighten.

  4. From another plumbing-idiot: If it has threads, 99% of the times it will require a gasket.
    While we are at it, may I recommend http://www.sharkbite.com/ for future plumbing work. It is almost as easy as plugging extension cords.
    I replaced our old water heater and instead of soldering (which I like, but the wife follows me around with a big fire extinguisher) I used Sharkbite flex hoses and I was done under an hour and zero leaks.
    I religiously go to the wash room every day and stare at my installation in amazement... that was about 4 years ago.
    Yes, that good.

  5. When I worked at the Philly Shipyard I learned that no matter how much leak checking you do, the first time you turn a pump on and pressurize a liquid carrying system you will quickly hear voices yelling, turn it off, turn it off!

  6. Changing filters with disappearing O-rings is fun isn't it? Had to do it at the old house a lot, adding to the fun I had to lube the O-ring before replacing it with vegetable oil and then tighten everything back into place. Fun times.

  7. Get a sign to hang on the horizontal pipe line. DON'T FORGET THE DAMNED GASKET THIS TIME!

  8. Now you know why i always get somebody like my nephew to do my plumbing work and no he is not a plumber just younger and better than me at that kind of thing.

  9. And bit of advice:

    GET A SPARE GASKET. or get someone to install a bypass valve so you can bypass the filter and still have water.

    (actually an "o-ring, BTW)

  10. Stop, you're killing me, here. :)

    Dad once told me to add STP to his car. The only things I knew about STP were that it went in the oil (lots of ads back n the day) and that one checked oi with the dipstick.

    So I dribbled the STP into the little pipe that held the dipstick. It was an overestimate to say about half went into the engine. The rest went on the engine or on the driveway.

    Later, in some disgust, Dad showed me the cap that one unscrewed to add oil. Or STP.

    1. Or as a blonde would call it, the "710" cap.

  11. Wow, sounds like you went to the same home handyman school that I did. (Yeah, been there, done something similar.)

    1. But you went on to repair jet fighters...

    2. And some of them even flew when he'd finished with them!

  12. "Man has to know his limitations!" - Inspector Callahan

    This from a blogger who's own Father tried to fix a radiator hose with Scotch tape - and passed his skill onto his son!

    I have evolved, and done better, but am no plumber.


    1. Hey, I fixed a radiator leak with a green banana once. Good for about 5-7 miles.

  13. I hate plumbing!

  14. Variation on a theme.... Back when I was younger and even dumber (early 1980s) I changed the oil on my little learner bike. Like a good little boy I obeyed the instructions about carefully fitting the O-ring seals on the filter.... and then neglected to fit the copper washer back on the sump plug.
    A few hundred miles of slow seepage later I was a} stranded with no oil in a dark & wet place and b} in dire need of a new rear tyre which had not reacted well to hot engine oil being dribbled onto it for a few weeks..... The handling had become progressively more interesting as time went on, and I was blaming the local roads....
    On the bright side, the chain was well lubed....

  15. Heh heh heh. I have a filter because of silt. If it's not the gasket it's a bit of grit in the threads.

  16. Wait until you stack two rubber gaskets where there should only be one. Works about as well as having none. Were you aware that an early big block Chevy used a canister oil filter? Mid 60's patrol car with a 396ci. 5qts of oil on the floor...sigh...

    1. Changed the oil in my '69 Corvette, and didn't look at the old filter before I tossed it.

      Yep, the gasket was stuck to the block, and I wound up with two gaskets between the filter and the block, and 6 quarts of oil on the floor....

  17. Having a silt/particle filter on our own well, I feel your pain, Murphy.

    It's even more exciting when you realize you forgot to change the filter for close to a year... no, there's no growth or anything nasty in it, but the filter housing is now filled with about 40 pounds of very, very fine mud, gluing the old filter in place, and now you have to remove that and rinse the housing... with no water.

    One tends to get creative at that point, both in solutions and in language.

  18. From one donkey to another Hee Haw

  19. Heh. I can just see Belle's face. It must look like Yap's when Pepper starts "discussing" the current White House Administration.