Successive Approximations

Recent Adventures in Plumbing

Recent Adventures in Plumbing

Don't ever neglect an opportunity to learn something, even if it doesn't seem all that relevant right now.

Two or three months ago, the metal rod that lifted the stopper in our master bedroom sink rusted away so the drain was permanently closed. So we fished out the stopper and set it aside, but that left a big hole in the sink, perfect for dropping things into. So, figuring it couldn't be that hard, I watched some YouTube videos, got the parts from Lowe's, and set to replacing the drain and stopper.

It's worth noting this was my first plumbing repair, so it took a while. At the time I remember thinking that it felt really stupid, spending all this time for such a minor part of the sink. Everything else was working, but to fix this one thing I had to take a bunch of other bits apart, replace the whole stopper assembly, all because some little thing rusted off.

But I tried not to let it get to me. Do the job, and enjoy learning along the way. Don't worry too much about the goal as long as the process is worthwhile. It would be easy to say I'm too good for this, but the reality is, I'm not. If anything I should have learned this earlier, but there's nothing to do about that now. Just go forward with the situation you're in.

Well, today that experience came in awful handy installing the bathroom vanity in the powder room of the new house. The builders put in a barebones porcelain pedestal sink, but we knew from the beginning we wanted something with a cabinet for storage, and a wider top to hold things like a soap dispenser.


The new vanity had been delivered (along with the appliances) the day we moved in, but we've been frying bigger fish up until this weekend, and waiting to install it until the bathroom got painted. But today was the day.


The project was part woodworking, making the cabinet fit the space and cutting the holes for the hookups, and part plumbing. But I found myself chuckling at the fact that the plumbing part was much less intimidating than it would have been, since I had just recently had some practice with installing the drain assembly on another sink at the old house.

Even though installing the faucet was a new one for me and I was uncertain about caulking the countertop to the cabinet and wall, it was useful knowing the drain part I had under control.

I took the same lesson away even more clearly from Thanksgiving at my grandmother's house, when the garbage disposal backed up in the middle of the afternoon when everyone was trying to cook.

As luck would have it, I had fixed an identical blockage, at home, twice. The first time, not really know what I was doing, it took me about an hour and a half to figure out exactly where the problem was and get it fixed and all the plumbing put back together. The second time when it happened, I was almost thankful for the opportunity to try again. That time it took more like fifteen minutes.

So when I was able to sit down and fix the problem in a matter of minutes at Thanksgiving, it seemed uncanny.

But it was just the product of not being too proud to learn, and willing to take on any job no matter how small. Because I took the time when there was no real urgency to learn about the system and understand it better, when I saw the same symptoms I knew the cure. At the time I resented having to spend my evening fixing the drain instead of whatever else I would rather have been doing. But in the long run, it turned out to be preparation for the future I didn't even see coming.

Ben Berry

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