Little did I know when I wrote last week's blog post about replacing my washer
promising to follow-up with outlining the replacement of my dryer vent line, that I would spend hour upon hour in the crawl space this weekend. And still not get the dryer vent replaced!
A little refresher: The crawl space was invented in 1947 by the evil genius Dr. Crawl. He discovered that you could take all that was awful and frightening about the basement and concentrate it into a much smaller space. It would still serve the same practical purpose, a place to hold the furnace and route all the plumbing pipes through, but would concentrate the terror into a confined space. To make it truly terrible and evil the headroom would have to be reduced to such a tiny amount that belly to the earth would be the only option. Then make it dark and damp and let bugs and critters have easy access to it.
There you have it, a place common to most suburban homes that both Indiana Jones and the Goonies would be uncomfortable with.
The weekend started out pretty swell with plans to replace another bad sprinkler head and an entire sprinkler control valve which had sprung a leak. This went swimmingly and I was well on my way to moving on to my next weekend backyard project. I was manually setting the new valve to make sure it was fully off and fully on when it was supposed to be when I noticed something strange.
My dog Frankie, who hates the water, hated the sprinkler heads which had the audacity to spray the yard even more. By playing with the manual controls I could make different zones spray and drive him crazy, running and biting the heads in different parts of the yard. I was amusing my wife with this when the PVC pipe supplying the entire back yard with water shattered and broke in two places. One of them somewhere under the house!
So there I was, with a broken water pipe somewhere under the house. A pipe, I might add, that was plumbed before the pressure regulator. So, you can assume that water was flowing down there at up to ten gallons a minute. Luckily, unlike the last time I broke a pipe, I knew how to turn off the water to this one.
If you've been following my previous adventures you know I'm willing to go far past the point where most homeowners are calling in the pros. Well, this weekend I reached the breaking point. I didn't go over it, but I did reach it. I'm not a small man at 6' 2" and 250+lbs, and crawl spaces are in many ways a misnomer for me. It was pretty much like "The Great Escape" without the little carts or "Shawshank Redemption" without the sewage.
Have you seen the way they train soldier in basic to slither on their bellies with their rifle in front of them under the barbed wire? That is the only way I can get around under there. After two days of worming around down there I am sore and I'm sure I've gotten quite the workout.
I'm skipping the gym until Wednesday.
So I dug up my strap on coal miner's headlamp, my worst pair of jeans, and my least favorite long sleeve t-shirt. As an added precaution I tucked the shirt in to the pants, and the pants into the socks. I tried on both of my old one piece jump suits, but unfortunately they no longer allowed me the freedom of motion I'd need down under.
Ideally someone would sell a lightweight one piece suit of Tyvek or something as the "crawlspace suit": totally creepy crawly impervious, and tougher than dirt. Anyway, I was stuck with cotton. On about my fourth trip under I added an extra layer of sleeve because my elbows were taking a beating down there. Now I have a totally awesome cut-off sleeveless shirt to drink beer in when the work day is done.
My one piece of advice for crawlspace work is this: Do more than one project down there at once. If you have to go in, do everything you've been putting off. It's kind of like surgery. Getting a mole removed? Might as well have them fix your nose too while you're under.
I've always hated that the sink in my second bathroom takes up to 60 seconds to flow hot water. This also means my washing machine gets no hot water for 30-60 seconds at the start of its wash cycle. It's a simple enough thing to insulate the hot water pipes once you are in the crawl space, so I was determined to take care of this while splicing and replacing PVC sprinkler supply line. The insulation is basically a less fun cousin to the pool noodle with a slit in it. You just push it on the pipe and that's that. There is adhesive along the slit and you just need to pull the tape covering off and it's installed.
PVC made the job easy once I was under there. Plastic polyvinyl chloride pipe is cheap, readily available, and easy to work with. It can be cut with a hack saw or, even better, with a PVC cutting tool, which are like a heavy duty pair of scissors. Putting it together again is nearly as easy. There are threaded joints, but most people just use slip joints and glue. The glue dries quickly and its water tight and can handle pressure in 24 hours or so. The hardest joint was actually not under the house, but was a line in the yard that hard to be dug up until a suitable place to repair it was found. In anticipation of the possibility of something like this happening in the future I used a screw together fitting here. If this pipe bursts again (God forbid!
) it will be an easier job.
Of course, I still didn't replace the dryer vent. This means I have to go back down there. At least I didn't see anything alive, or recently dead while I was down there. There were some bones, but they could have been chicken or cat or raccoon--I didn't look that closely. There were plenty of spider webs, but thankfully no spiders that I saw.