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COLUMN: Plumbing tales from the dark side

Am I too old to become a licensed plumber?

Over the past month I have become too well acquainted with trips to the hardware store and calls to the plumber. The can-do spirit is wearing rather thin at the Colombo household. Mrs. Colombo is a saint.

I will say this, a competent plumber who arrives on time and performs the task adequately is worth his weight in gold, and I should know.

A kitchen remodel coupled with some other, unrelated, needed repairs made for a nice Christmas present to a local plumbing firm.

The latest fiasco was my own doing. My shower was leaking. I have repaired and replaced many a dripping faucet over the years, so I figured I would have no trouble tackling the single-handle shower. I hear you laughing.

The manufacturer of said shower fixture had a nice little video posted about how to get that handle off and replace the guts.

One problem, this big collar nut did not want to budge. When I used a little too much force, the whole fixture turned with it. I broke the water lines behind the shower wall. Luck­ily, I had already turned the water off at the road.

The palatial Robin Hood Road homestead was without water for more than 24 hours. My lovely neighbor Sarah Flannigan gave us some bottled water to drink and let me fill some pots of water for other uses.

The plumbers had to go through the wall in my bedroom closet to fix the shower. I’m not going to tell you how much this cost, but as you might expect, it would have been much cheaper to call the plumber in the first place.

A few weeks ago, the front outside spigot was leaking horribly. I thought I would simply remove it and replace it. I hear you laughing.

When I tried to remove the fixture, the old iron pipe poking through the brick wall broke off along with it. This I could fix, but it required turning off the water at the road and crawling in and out from under the house at least four times.

The spigot has not been replaced but at least the line is capped and not leaking. I will finish it when I am feeling more confident.

My troubles actually began when I tore out my old kitchen cabinets in anticipation of the cabinet-maker coming with the new ones.

What he didn’t know, and what I had forgotten, was the 6-foot long, 3-inch drainpipe running sideways from my sink through my old floor cabinets into the wall. Why? I sent the cabinet-maker a picture. His answer was simple: Pay a plumber to take it under the floor directly under the sink, or cut holes in custom-made cabinets. The choice was easy but expensive. No way I was going to ruin good cabinets.

My friends John Bailey, Ryan Smith, Blake Silvers and Steve Bennett are also capable do-it-yourselfers. They often offer me solace in times like this.

“I know, I know,” John will say, patting me on the back. Blake and Steve had an encounter similar to mine with a shower handle replacement. Ryan dropped a piece of ceramic tile down an open toilet drain while doing some remodeling. We can all commiserate with each other. And on the flip side, I know there is a group of plumbers somewhere laughing over a few beers and one of them is saying: “You should see what this one guy on Robin Hood Road tried to do himself.” That’s OK, I don’t mind, as long as he comes on time when I call.

Mike Colombo is managing editor of the Rome News-Tribune.