Hinge joints and pee traps
and thanks to Steve for the phone call
The stain appeared slowly. At first, the ceiling looked oddly discolored. We chalked it up to steam from the dishwasher. Sadly, the stain grew.
Dark marks on the ceiling are troubling. With a persistent dark mark appears on a ceiling underneath where a shower drain is located in the bathroom above, I knew I had a problem.
Pushing on the drywall revealed the extend of things. The ceiling was soft, pliable and moist. This wasn’t merely surface moisture from a venting dishwasher. This was drywall impregnated with moisture. I had a mess on my hands.
I started with the shower drain. It was installed poorly. Really poorly. Though the plumber we used was a red seal plumber, this was a terrible job. It would have been difficult to install this shower drain more incorrectly than this. In terms of screw ups, this was red seal quality.
Everything had to go
Places that needed plumbing cement didn’t have it. Places that shouldn’t have had any cement were glued fast. Everything had to go. With the kitchen ceiling opened, I cut away the ‘p’ trap, the drain and a couple of inches of the existing drain pipe. I went to the store and bought the parts necessary to do the job correctly.
All of this was pretty fun. Plumbing is like playing with Lego, or completing a puzzle that has a few potential solutions. Once I had the parts at home, everything was cut, sanded, dry fitted and ready to be glued back together.
I felt sick to my stomach
I hate gluing plumbing together. Everything about that seems so final. It either lines up and works or it does not. Once it is done, there’s no going back. The glue makes it such that things that wiggled during dry fittings wiggle no more. There is not a lot of room for errors.
So many times that I’ve faced it, I have screwed up. The screw ups on more than one occasion resulted in me needing to cut everything away and start over. Typically, I’d account for this by buying two of everything and returning the parts that I didn’t either use or ruin.
This time I didn’t
This time, I bought only the parts necessary for the job. I dry fitted things three more times. It was as though that by doing a ‘dress rehearsal’ of plumbing, I might get things right this time.
The repetition was helpful. Some parts stuck more easily. Others fell off. I came up with a plan. Glue on the extension to make up for the stuff that I had to cut away. Attach the shower drain stuff to the ‘p’ trap. Then, use the movable, hinged part of the ‘p’ trap to line up with the end and glue that last.
One piece at a time I applied the glue and put things in place. Everything worked. Everything lined up. No swearing. Nothing smashed in a fit of frustration nor flung out of the back door and across the yard.
The next day I was still unsure of what happened
Steve called. Steve called because Steve’s a plumber. Steve’s a plumber and a friend who saw my Instagram story where I made a video of the beginning of my plumbing adventures.1
I talked Steve through what I did and the order in which I glued stuff back together. He laughed. “You did it bud, you left the hinge joints till last. That ‘p’ trap? That’s a hing joint. It moves. It gives you enough room to make corrections and adjust. That way you don’t glue yourself into a corner when you’re putting stuff together.”
The ‘hinge joint on a ‘p’ trap is a part of the plumbing that doesn’t get glued. The parts tighten up by hand. The hinge joint is slack in the system necessary for adjustments.
When we’re making changes, we need slack in the systems of our lives. Planning on where in the process, where in the creative process that we have engineered flexibility in the form a a metaphoric ‘hinge joint’.
Life doesn’t go perfectly. Frequently things don’t come together as we’ve planned, nor how we rehearsed. Slack in the system, hinge joints, can give us space to adjust and line things up so that our work can come together.
What kind of hinge joints do you have in your life?
Of course I made a video of it. I want the world to know that I’m the kind of guy who does his own plumbing.