Janet Combs

Janet Combs

Rich and I just spent a half hour playing in the “Legos-for-grown-ups” section of our home improvement store: the plumbing fittings aisle.

Right now, we are focusing on the area where all fixer-upper projects originate: the workshop. It’s a narrow enclosed, uninsulated area that runs the entire length underneath our home, between the pillars that raise us 20 feet above sea level. It houses a furnace, hot water heater, shower, and an old beige beast of a water-treatment contraption which we seriously hope is not treating our water because, if so, it is infusing it with dead-spider and rusted-metal particulate.

According to neighborhood folklore, our workshop area was formerly a place to trap feral cats. Rich and I don’t ask too many questions about the previous conditions at our home, mostly because we can’t un-hear the stories. And now, neither can you! I’m sorry. Please join me in compulsively monitoring all doors to exterior storage closets to prevent their becoming potential stray-cat habitats.

A year ago, we cleaned everything out of the shop before moving Rich’s tools in. Fortunately, no feline remains were found. A couple of weeks ago, when my older brother and Rich took out the shower, pipes previously tucked in a wall became a dangling latticework of copper hanging in the middle of the room. Because we want to scrap the water-treatment dinosaur, put in a few new hose bibs and install a utility sink, all the plumbing has to be reconfigured with the proper shut-offs and so forth.

These are not things I ever thought about before, and I encourage you to take a few moments to ponder your magnificent plumbing! We only tend to think about our plumbing when something goes terribly, horribly wrong; when unsavory liquids are spewing from unexpected orifices. But your plumbing is a work of art; it is elegant, functional, and I’m here to tell you — fun to work with!

Which brings us back to the fittings aisle. There are bins upon bins of plastic pipe connections of varying sizes and shapes—elbows, tees, wyes, valves, reducers, adaptors—across from a wall of PVC pipes. Rich had a list but seemed to enjoy rummaging and selecting what we might need for the project, putting a few spares of this or that into our cart. The only disappointing thing to me was that all the fittings were a bland, boring white. Multicolored fittings and pipes would definitely add an energetic air of chromatic commotion to a workshop!

Just this morning, I got to see how this all comes together. During the week, Rich had rearranged new piping down the walls to go to the new utility sink. Now we had to assemble the proper fittings to make the water flow properly down into the established sewer pipe in the floor. I was on the ground first, trying to assemble the various pieces, but Legos were not really my thing as a child. I preferred playing with my “Tressy” doll, with her rope of luxurious hair that “grew” through a hole in her head when you pressed a button on her stomach.

My point is, Rich had to get down on the ground to figure it out. Watching him was like warping back in time to a Christmas morning when he was nine years old with a new set of Tinkertoys. Once everything was positioned and working, it was time to glue the individual components together. This I could do, based on my past skill with “fun flowers,” a 1960s toy that taught me how to squeeze liquid plastic carefully into hot metal trays to bake my own useless, psychedelic blossoms.

Now we are up to the part where we have to shut off our water and connect the old system to our new system. Apparently, we will be sweating pipes as well as ourselves for the next portion of this project. But that’s another column, for another day.

Janet Combs is a freelance writer living in Georgetown County. Her column is published regularly in the Georgetown Times. Contact her at https://janetfrickecombs.wordpress.com.