I should have become a plumber. Or married one. Or at least befriended one.


I had plans to go out with my friends tonight and see a band downtown. I just called and cancelled — I’m not feeling well; tired and sick to my stomach. Perhaps it’s sleep deprivation, or perhaps it’s the $398 I dropped on a plumber this morning…

The drainpipe to the clawfoot tub upstairs had sprung a leak. Well, actually it had sprung a leak again… Numerous previous owners had fixed the leak with caulk, over and over again, and I didn’t see that as a fit method of fixing things. When things break, I like to fix them the right way so that I can be confident that they won’t break again for a while.

It is, however, quite a bit cheaper to fix things with caulk than with a plumber.

Knowing that these were hundred-year-old pipes I was dealing with, I called the plumber right away, rather than tinkering with it myself. I did, however, ask him if I could observe his work. If I’m paying the guy, I might as well learn something from it.

He pryed off the caulk, and removed the trap with the greatest of ease, announcing that the problem was simply a missing gasket. I felt extremely lame. This, I could surely have done myself, no?

However, with the gasket in place, the leak had not disappeared. Upon closer inspection, the bottom of the pipe it was connected to was so corroded that the bottom half of it fell apart in his fingers.

I felt relieved that I had called in an actual plumber.

He gave me the option of replacing just that one pipe, or the whole drain assembly to the bathtub, for a mere $50 more, which would replace the equally corroded neighboring pipes. Since he was already down there, I had him go ahead and do it.

However, once everything was in place, it was too low to meet up with the connecting pipe. He gave me the option of purchasing a new trap piece, or raising the tub to meet the pipes. The price would be the same either way, and since the tub needed leveling anyway, I had him go that route. And wondered a little whether he knew what he was doing.

The tub was very unlevel. He had two-inch pieces of pipe underneath the feet on one side. It looks a little odd, but he siliconed them down to the floor, and assured me that it’s sturdy and safe. I guess time will tell the answer to that.

However, in the process of raising the tub, my dear plumber disturbed another connection which had been fixed repeatedly over the years with caulk. He said that he could silicone it (which he wouldn’t be able to guarantee) or replace that as well, bringing the whole drain assembly up to code.

He had already been there for a couple of hours, so what’s one more $55 half hour, right? Since he was down there, I figured I may as well have him fix the whole thing so that I didn’t have to deal with this again.

The inside of the drain stack was so corroded that he spent most of that half hour just chipping away debris and corrosion, so that he could re-thread it. It did not look like fun, and I was once again glad that I had not attempted this myself.

He finally (finally!) finished after being upstairs for nearly three hours. Even with my 10% web discount on labor, it still set me back $400. I wasn’t sure how well I liked the looks of the clawfoot tub up on little pieces of pipe, but at that point, I just wanted him out of here so I could stop paying him… the self-stick vinyl tile in the bathroom will surely have to be replaced in a few years (another bad idea, at least for a bathroom in a rental unit), and at that point perhaps I can prop up the tub on something more aesthetically pleasing…like painted blocks of wood or something.

The main thing is that their drain isn’t leaking. The previous pipes lasted for about a hundred years, and I hope that these do too!

I also kind of hope that the tenants overhead what the final bill was. I had a brief conversation with one of them about how I generally tried to fix things the “right” way, so that they wouldn’t be breaking again in the near future. I doubt that they’ll appreciate the $400 new pipes as much as I do, but I do want them to know that I’m doing my best to be a good landlord. (Please stay here forever, tenants!)


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