Service plumbing is all about tricky situations. Fitting your body is spaces not meant for those over the age of 10. Working on equipment from 40 years ago half rotted away. These tricky situations can be a lot of fun though. They help push your skill level and creativity to find a solution. There was one call though, if clients saw they would second-guess ever even having me in their home. One call I’ve never discussed I’m so embarrassed what my peers would think of me. One call, I don’t want anybody ever finding out about. So…..
It was a day like any other. An afternoon in mid-May about 2 years ago. I was dispatched to replace a tap. Easy enough, I was thinking it would likely be a quick swap. Once I started speaking to the client I found out the call was actually to replace his roman tub faucet. Again normally this would not be a big deal but road blocks soon arose. To install the new valve you had to work from within a small crawl space below the tub with just enough room to sit upright if you could properly angle your body. Next, the access to the valve was through a small hole cut out from the floor that wasn’t big enough to fit both hands in to work AND be able to see what your doing at the same time. That was nothing though to what came next.
For any of you non-plumbers out there, roman tub faucets generally look like a letter H with an extra fork in the middle on the top side. Some come in 3 pieces, while others are simply 1. This was the latter. The client explained the spacing between his tub holes was an odd size and he could not find a valve with the proper spacing. He wanted me to cut the valve into 3 pieces and modify it so the valve would fit. That’s not normal, if something comes in 1 piece it’s usually meant to stay in 1 piece. I was instantly searching for another way.
Me: “ Well sir, I don’t think thats the best idea.”
Client: “I don’t think it’s a big deal.”
Me: “Are you sure you couldn’t find the proper valve? If I cut this one into pieces it’s going to void any warranty from the manufacturer. How about you give me 10 minutes to try and source the right one?”
Client: “You won’t find anything. I’ve been to every supplier in the city, and there’s nothing online. I’m fine with losing the warranty, I need this installed.”
The convo went on for a bit but the client was dead set, so if there’s no other choice there’s no other choice. The client understood the risk he was taking and accepted what might happen. Let’s get busy. That’s when the work got interesting. I worked away cutting the valve into 3 pieces, soldering on adapters, taking measurements. My original game plan soon fell through, as I realized I wouldn’t have the space needed. The valve soon became a Frankenstein type monster. I had soldered on adapters to get me from copper to pex back to copper. I had to use some….(whispers)… shark bite adapters to fit in other spots. Difficulty grew as I talked about before – when I needed to use two hands I couldn’t look at what I was doing. But I created my monster and it looked like one too. I looked up at it and wondered what my chances were this pig was gonna hold once I turned the water back on. So I said a little prayer to the pluming gods and turned on the water. Not a drop squeaked out to my amazement. I wrapped up installing the taps and sat down with the client to go over the paperwork.
No lie, I was (and still am) proud of what I had accomplished. I was able to take a job that placed me back 100 yards from the starting line right from the beginning and made it to the end of the race jumping over every hurdle along the way. I wish I still had the photo of my beast but sadly it’s lost in the aether somewhere. Years from now whoever is the lucky guy to gets to replace that valve is gonna look up and curse and wonder what idiot would have installed this valve. Hopefully he isn’t a fan of blogs.