Self Opening Drawer

I have been doing maintenance and repair work for a local OB/GYN clinic for many years as a contractor. This last year I was hired on to take care of their building and repair needs. They are my first response as they pay me to be on call for them 24/7. I love it and I can continue to take care of my other customers as I need to without a conflict of interest.

One day our head nurse Heidi sent me a text saying she had a problem with her desk drawer. “When I am in the office again find me,”she wrote. Later in the day I had to deliver water softener pellets to the clinic so I found Heidi.  She showed me her desk drawer and it was half open.

“Watch this” she said. She pushed it closed and after thirty seconds it just opened all by itself, kind of slow.

“Wow,” I said. “I’ve seen self-closing drawers and have installed many over the years, but never self-opening drawers. I guess you don’t want it to open on its own, right?”

“Nooooo, said Heidi.

“Okay, I’ll fix it.” So I took off to Home Depot to find something to keep the drawer closed. In the hardware department, I found a cute little white drawer and cabinet door magnets, perfect for clinics with white cabinetry. Did I say cute? Not really cute, but functional and for a good price–one dollar.

I installed the magnet that fits above the drawer inside the cabinet frame. It comes with a strike plate that the magnet sticks to. I installed that on the inside of the drawer so when Heidi closes the drawer the plate and magnet come in contact with each other, providing just enough force to keep the drawer closed.

Now Heidi and the other women at work think I’m a genius. I don’t want them to know my secret: Home Depot.

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The Toilet with a Secret

My phone rings. A man’s voice is on the other line. After a short hello and how are you we get straight to business.

“The upstairs guest bathroom toilet was leaking water on the floor,so I turned the water to the toilet off. We don’t use that bathroom except when family comes to stay. That was nine months ago so the water has been off since then. Can you come by and fix it? We have family coming to stay.”

I moved things around to make a little time in my schedule, and headed over to the leaky toilet. My customer thought it was probably the wax ring leaking because the leak only made an appearance when he flushed. Sounded right to me so I stopped in at Home Depot and grabbed a wax ring with a flange and one with no flange. When I got to the house, I was  introduced to the offending porcelain object, then the home owner left me to conduct my interview so to speak.

I found the water turned off and the toilet totally dry in the tank and bowl. I expected as much since it had not had water for nine months. I turned the water on to fill the tank and it filled, just like it should. I concentrated my attention on the floor around the toilet base (to watch for water) and flushed. Water immediately came out around the base of the toilet tank where it’s attached to the bowl. The gasket between the bowl and tank leaked. It could be dry and brittle–or not. It was anybody’s guess. But I did know the leak was water from the failed gasket. I didn’t have a toilet tank gasket in my vehicle, so I took off for Lowe’s.

In our community, Lowe’s has the best selection of toilet parts to chose from. I hurried down the aisle carrying the gasket and new tank bolts. The gasket replacement requires that I (1) turn off the water supply; (2) remove the water from the tank–I always use my wet/dry vac to remove water from the tank and bowl; (3) and then take the tank off the bowl. Emptying the tank of its water saves clean up time at the end; I learned this the first time I spilled water on the floor when I tried to move a full toilet or tank.

Luckily, this toilet only had two tank bolts; some have more. I removed the first one and started on the second when I found the secret the toilet kept from its owner: a hair-line crack through the tank bolt hole to the center gasket area. Not a good thing. Toilet tank cracks always leak. You can patch them but after a while they will leak again. There are products on the  market that patch porcelain cracks, but exposed to water all the time they won’t hold and your luck will run out. I never let my customers take a gamble that could cost them a lot more later.

I needed to find a new tank, but the toilet was old so the exact replacement tank was not made anymore. The only option was to put in a whole new toilet. I gave the news to my customer, and he surprised me with “I have a used one in the garage from when you replaced our toilet with a tall one a few years back.” What a stroke of luck. I did replace a toilet of theirs a few years ago, but here’s the question: How many people keep their old toilets? I have heard of and maybe seen a toilet in the front yard of someone’s home, one with flowers planted in the bowl. No, wait: I don’t think I’ve seen that in person, either. Just on TV. I think about that toilet, stashed somewhere for who knows what, and it makes me chuckle. I wonder if his wife chuckles about it too. She keeps an immaculate house. A beautiful home with everything in its place.

As it turned out, the flapper was bad but I changed it out with the other toilet and it worked perfectly. Too bad I couldn’t just change the tank out, but it didn’t match.

And no, we didn’t keep the old toilet. I smashed it and put it in the garbage.

The New Faucet

I received a service call from one of my clients (a retired Doctor and his Wife) who is having a leak issue with their kitchen sink faucet. The hose that lets you pull the faucet head out and use it as a spray was leaking. With the Doc’s help we isolated the leak at the quick connector under the sink. The local Plumbing supply specialty  store would have to order the hose fitting for an unreal amount and wait one week without a kitchen sink faucet. I called the Doc and we talked about a temporary solution to have water at the sink for that week. I ridged up a hose with clamps to cover the break. The plumbing supply store needed to see the faucet to get the part ordered. Without a parts breakdown and who the manufacturer of the faucet was they wanted to cover all their bases. At this point I would need to remove the faucet and run it down to the supply store then re-install it along with the temporary hook up. The wise Doc said “No lets see how long the temporary fix holds then decide what to do.  We may want a different faucet.” I hooked up the temporary fix and we both checked for leaks, all good.  To play it safe the Doc put a plastic pan under the sink to easily check for leaking by just looking.  The next day I got the call that the temporary fix did not hold and Mrs Doc decided a new faucet needed to be installed. We made plans together that I would go to Home Depot and send pictures of the ones I recommended to the Doc’s phone and his Wife would decide the one to get. I took pictures of several on display with the tall faucet spout that she wanted carefully just picking the Moen brand.  I have always been impressed with Moen and have used their 800 number many times. They have a life time warranty on their products to the original purchaser that has always made me look good as a repair guy. I can get the parts at no charge to my customers. They mail the parts straight to my house if I do not know the customer’s address. I always recommend Moen if the customer wants that recommendation. While at Home Depot the sales guy told me Delta is the same way. I will have to try Delta sometime. Anyway, Mrs Doc called me after looking over the pictures and told me to pick it out for her, “you know what I want.” We talked about the finish and I did know just the faucet for her.  High-end quality and only $228.00 from Home Depot with a life-time warranty. It took me 45 minuts to remove the old faucet and just 20 minutes to install the new Moen. Like I said, Moen makes me look good (I have installed faucets before). I wish someone from Moen saw this and maybe they would send me something cool.

The basement pool

I got a text on my phone; “Hey something in our laundry room is leaking. There is water all over the floor.” I respond; “I am coming 20 min”. I throw my wet/dry vac into the back of my work vehicle along with a couple of big pipe wrenches, just in case. I am going over in my mind while I’m driving, all the possible causes, knowing in the back of my mind it will be something I never thought. I get to the basement apartment all the way across town, right on time. This old house has been made into an upstairs/downstairs apartments really a duplex of sorts, up and down. I knock… no answer, I knock again…..no answer, What’s up?? I text the tenant, “are you home can I go in?” I’m not home yes you can go in!” Weird! I use my key and sure enough water on the floor in the laundry room, 2 puddles about 24″ each. Big deal. I guess to most water showing up where there usually is no water is a big deal. Your idea of water all over the floor and my idea of water all over the floor are probably not the same. Anyway the mystery is now upon us. Where did the water come from? I notice some grey duct tape around a drain pipe that is coming from the wash machine. I got it figured out. I then notice a little wet spot by the floor drain in the same area as the duct tape wrap. I start the washer filling with water to see if the drain pipe leaks or maybe the floor drain is overflowing. While the washer is filling I look around. There it is, two tubes going across the floor to the floor drain and one is not pushed down into the floor drain but laying just past the drain. I quickly follow the tubes and sure enough the one out of the drain is the drain tube from the water softener. The other is the salt reservoir over flow tube. That is the problem. The water softener while it is regenerating drains water that needs to go into a drain. Most are set up like this one to drain into the utility room floor drain. I double check to see if the softener is working and yes it is.  I push the tube into the drain and secure it with a zip tie, vacuum the water up while I let the washer drain and make sure the duct tape was nothing. I head for the house. Solving the mystery is always fun.

Welcome to My Life

Handymen aren’t known for their artful communication. We’re good with our hands, but we’re not so good at using our words. Ask my wife–if you have a few spare hours and a box of tissue. And maybe some chocolate and a good black and white movie. You get my meaning. If you stay around long enough, though, you might learn to like the stories I have to tell about fixing every broken thingamajig in and outside of your house. And I’ll throw in some stories about me and my family (that’s me and my daughter listening to the smooth running purr of our minivan) and the interesting people I meet in my career as the genius handyman I try to be.

Oh, and you’ll learn how to fix things, too. That’s a bonus.  Hawaii 092