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Dateline: Where plumbers and electricians make hydraulic magic

Plumbing of the highest order

At last, there’s a spray of hope. Last Monday, my pipes from Home Despot* were finally delivered. Finally! Yes, there was one item missing from the order, but even that turned out to be fortuitous. Suspecting that my order was being held up by something not in stock, I canceled the order, and reordered only the pipes. Plus, as it turns out, a 1-inch spherical valve, which was supposedly in stock. Everything else that would fit in my car I went to the store to buy while I was waiting for the new order. As it turns out, I bought the 1-inch valve too, having forgotten I ordered it. So it being missing was a form of divine intervention to my benefit. Home Depot’s incompetence was finally on my side for a moment.

Tuesday, Antonio, my electrician, and his brother, David, a plumber, showed up to begin tackling the job. And tackling is indeed the right word. Not only is the old plumbing made of now-rusted-together galvanized pipe, but considerable lengths of it are cemented into the wall and have to be removed. Lots of hammering, drilling, and colorful Mexican language ensued. We managed to only cut off the water to La Señora’s bathroom for a brief spell, which was good. We were also aided by the fact that my main bathroom’s cold water is fed by a different pipe from the tinaco. So while we have no toilet there, we do have a way of filling buckets so we can use another one.

So far the work is progressing well. They’ve been at it for a week now, and much of it is done. I’ve also discovered that I need less plumbing than I thought. The bath in the northwest bedroom appears to have new-ish copper plumbing. The flow problem in the sink turns out to have been enormously complicated: a clogged aerator on the faucet. Without that, the taps are fine. Shower flow is semi-adequate, but that bathroom is also downstream from some of the most corroded pipe. I’m hoping it springs to life once we replace that stretch.

Leaky Pipe to Northwest Bathroom

I’ve also managed to augment my water supply. The main water comes from a built-in tinaco on the roof that blessedly holds about 2,600 liters of water, a little shy of 700 gallons. I’ve got a similarly sized cisterna below. I’ve also got a second, beehive-shaped tinaco over the cuarto de servicio which sits on the lot of the next house. That tinaco, oddly, only provides cold water to the northeast bedroom’s bath. That’s all it does. The tinaco is fed from the one on the roof but otherwise was entirely separate from the plumbing of the rest of the house. But we’ve now got it piped into the main water system, with a valve which is labeled “For Emergency Use Only.” It’ll never really work all that well, because there’s little vertical drop. But it’s another few hundred gallons of backup water, should any emergency ever arise. Plus, it’s now feeding a line for a garden hose in the patio, which is nice. Because what’s there now flows with all the rapidity of a glacier in a hurry.

Secondary Tinaco: Before and After

Friday I had perhaps the most pleasant surprise of all: I don’t need to break any tiles in my main bathroom. After agonizing for literally months about what to do, I finally broke down and cut some small holes in the hallway wall so that I could peer into the back of the tub area. I had very carefully measured so that I could figure out exactly where to expect to find the pipes. David admired my work. “Here, we’d normally just smash a big hole into the wall, but you’ve done it so carefully!” he commented. As it turns out, both supply lines to the tub/shower are copper. So the only remaining mystery is why the water flows so slowly. David says he thinks that he can pull out the valves and clean them, and that that should be a big help. He also reminded me that when I get a water pressure pump, that too should help the flow considerably.

Where I Cut Open My Wall
What Lies Within the Wall

Finding out that I don’t have to break any of the tiles in my main shower is an ENORMOUS relief. That bathroom was one of the main attractions of the house, and it just killed me to think that I’d need to do something that would kind of ruin it. As for the faucet handles, showerhead, and tub spout, they can all be easily replaced without damaging anything else. I’ll still need to figure out some kind of spacer for the tub spout. But for now, I’m extremely happy about how things are turning out.

Imagine my relief.

* Yes, “Despot” spelled as such intentionally