I Hate Plumbing

I’ve been know to tinker with things at home – I’m generally able to fix things that are broken, and build new things that need to be built.  There is, however, one thing that really don’t like: plumbing. No, let’s get it right, I hate plumbing. And yes, you guessed it, I spent my weekend playing plumber.

All because my washing machine was on the verge of dying.

Two weeks ago, we had a new clothes washer and dryer delivered.  We felt like we’d finally won a home appliance battle – we were looking for one, there was a great sale and it was a Consumer Reports’ Best Buy.  The stars and moons had aligned. Usually they just die with no warning. Sears brings us the stuff, they put it in, take away the old ones, all is right with the world.

Until we washed clothes.

We start to use the washer, and we notice that every time it runs it sounds like every water pipe in the house is banging around. Apparently, new washers have valves that open and close really quick, and it causes the pipes to jump every time the water shuts off at the machine.  As I watch them from the utility/furnace room, on the complete opposite end of the house, I can physically see the pipes moving. Not cool. I can just see one of the copper fittings working itself loose eventually, leading to the kind of plumbing issues that are really expensive and there’s no way I can fix.

So, here’s the plan:

  1. Check the owner’s manual, to see if there’s anything that can be adjusted on the machine. Yes, I RTFM. Remember, I build software applications, which means I write documentation in hopes that some user somewhere will actually read the documentation.  No luck finding an answer there.
  2. Climb into the crawlspace and make sure all of the pipes are secure, which turned into 5-6 hour Saturday afternoon and evening adventure. In and out, cutting and fastening mounting blocks for the pipes. Most were done ok, but there were a few that could have been done better.
  3. Climb out, put all of the tools away.
  4. Wash clothes again – same problem.
  5. Swear.
  6. Check the manual again, to see if its a water pressure issue. I’m on a well system, so the pressure’s not the same as city utility.  Checked the well pressure tank – well within normal operating range.
  7. Swear again.
  8. Start making plans to call a plumber on Monday morning.
  9. Really swearing now, because this stupid washer and dryer is really starting to get expensive.
  10. Calm down a little bit, start doing some research to see if I’m missing something.
  11. Read through about 20 different home repair how-to’s and related things, and stumble across a water heater installation that mentions something called a hammer arrester. It sounded just weird enough to dig a little further.

About five minutes later, I realized that was my answer.

The quick-close valves that supply the machine were causing a back surge in pressure every time they shut off – and the pipes moved/banged/jumped every time it did it. Apparently this is called a water hammer, and they make arresters for it. The next thought was at least there was only going to be one call on Monday, to the plumber.  I figured this was going to be an install kind of thing in the plumbing somewhere, which is the point where I get off the plumbing bus and hire out.

Upon further digging (because I usually don’t like losing to machines) I realized I could buy one with washing machine connections at {name your preferred home improvement store}.  Which really isn’t entirely true, because the only place I could find one was Menards. Of course, the store closest to me only had one, which is how I know nobody else had them.

Twenty minutes of installation time to put on two Mini-Rester Residential Water Hammer Arresters (model 660-H to be precise), move the stuff back into place, and hope this fixes it.  If it doesn’t, it’s plumber time. Fortunately, this worked.

One Saturday of crawspace fun, five different home improvement/hardware stores and a fair amount of foul language – all in the name of clean clothes.

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