Dateline: Where plumbers and electricians make hydraulic magic
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.
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.
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.
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
I assume that nothing major has transpired since this last post. So i guess not big Christmas parties are on the schedule. I hope I haven’t missed any updates. Phil
Kim G said:
Sorry for the late reply. I only just now noticed your comment. I’ve got a post in the works, but for whatever reason haven’t been able to hit the “publish” button. Thanks for the comment. Hopefully, I’ll have something soon. Cheers!
Kim G said:
Hola Bstone! Thanks for the comment. Slowly but surely things are coming together. Cheers!
Alfredo Lanier said:
That’s pretty amazing that there is any copper plumbing at all in a house that old, unless it was a recent addition. Gravity pressure from a tinaco is pretty lame and I would suggest a pressurizer. Some new ones don’t require a sixty gallon tank like the one we had to install. It’s a pressurizer on demand kind of thing, don’t know how it works exactly. That fountain would look beautiful in your backyard, especially as you look out through the dining room windows, don’t you think? Just asking, like Tucker Carlson says.
Kim G said:
Whatever copper plumbing is there was added later. I’m guessing it was done some time between the 60s and the 80s. La Doña told me that the tiny bath in the smallest back bedroom was built for her by her father when she was in her 20s. That would have been some time in the 60s. Whether it was done simultaneously or not, all the bathrooms have copper pipes to them, which was a pleasant surprise. As for the fountain, yes, it could be lovely, though you can’t really see it from the dining room. Meanwhile, the mosquitoes could see it and use it all the time. I’m unlikely to have it as a water feature, but it’s early days. As for a pressure pump, the plumber has recommended one. Since my tinaco is effectively on the 4th floor (of a house with 9-foot-plus ceilings) the water pressure/flow is OK in my house. But it’s going to be pretty lame higher up. Plumber and I are debating the merits of the instant-on type vs the pressure tank type. I shouldn’t need much since gravity is on my side.
Thanks for your comments. Hugs!
I tend to do my own stuff too! Cast iron pipes usually have a coarse interior and between standing hard water, rust and other ingredients they get plugged eventually. I had a fun time in a crawl space populated with rats and copious amounts of spent toilet paper and decaying excrement on my back replacing cast iron pipes with DWV plastic in my first home. It was built in the late 40’s (we didn’t learn exactly when). Our next door neighbours who had lived there forever but were polluted (inebriated) most of the time always remembered it being there. It was quite solid but with odd construction features. Collapsed chimney stack on the inside, that was a fun one! Heated ceiling plates that caught fire, etc.
Kim G said:
Wow, that sounds like a nasty job. But then so much of remodeling an old home isa nasty job. Removing the toilets in my house here wasn’t exactly a delight either, especially considering the things stuck inside. Let’s just say they were things that never should have been flushed.
By the way, if you want to edit your comment, just leave me a comment using a different (maybe fake) email. It’ll then go to moderation, and I’ll make whatever changes you want to the original comment and then delete the one with a different (fake) email.
Cheers and thanks for stopping by!
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Thanks I’ll try that…
I am glad to hear the good news about the plumbing and the tiles! The photos and details are all fascinating to me because I don’t know if I would have the same patience as you under such challenging circumstances. And Home “Despot” is very funny because it appropriately describes the cockamamie online ordering system in Mexico you have experienced. May the rest of what needs to be done be smooth and timely.
Kim G said:
Hola Fred! Thanks so much for the support. I’m not sure how much patience I’m having with all of this. It has proven to be remarkably stressful, even though I don’t really have a deadline. Of course I’m very eager to move into Art Deco fabulousness, but I don’t have to be out of my current place any time soon either. Anyway, thanks for the comment. Hugs!
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