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Monday, May 7, 2012

Home Maintenance-

The other day my wife and I were out doing some errands. As we approached the front door of our house my wife pointed to the bottom of the exterior wall by the door and asked, "What's that?" There was a puddle of wetness on the porch near the bottom of the wall. On the other side of the wall was the garage, and the nearest point of probable wetness was the water heater.

Dutifully, I made my way to the garage, anticipating great expenses and unpleasant hours of repairs or negotiations with those who do repairs. I was not yet worried. I don't worry well. I went to see. I found the base of the hot water heater was wet. The wall behind it was wet. I could see where water was pooling along the base of the wall and running out to where my wife had first spotted the problem.

I tracked the water upward, and found it originating at a point near the junction of the copper flex hose and the acronym plastic pipe taking the hot water into the house. I could not find the actual leak. The water was coming out as a fine mist, and only became visible where it gathered on the wood structure of the garage. I looked, and looked. I stuck my finger (carefully) into the invisible flow. It became wet. Yep, a leak.

Using my iPhone I took a photo of the point of the leak and some of the related hardware. I then emailed my Dad. He has a lot of experience in doing the repair thing. I have much less. We communicated by email and phone. I was considering taking my photo to the big box store nearby. He advised me to go to Grover Electric and Plumbing Supply. I followed his advice. I am glad I did.

The people at Grover are knowledgeable. Not just the older male fellows working the back. The young ladies working the counter up front were also advising customers, and assisting in an energetic and beneficial manner. The fellow at the central counter helped me with similar energy and knowledge. He said he really liked the way people can bring in photos and videos on their phones. It helps him know what the problem is, and what to do about it.

Regarding that, I would advise taking both a video and several still photos. Gather as much visual information as you can to show the people at a shop such as Grover. Get images of the problem, and related components. Good advice will come from good information.

The man at Grover took me to where the parts were, selected the parts, and even assembled some of the stuff. He made sure I had all I would need to do the job right, and safely.

Armed with that advice and a bag of stuff, I went home. I called my Dad again, and he agreed to come over. I probably didn't need any help. The job was straight-forward, and the instructions at Grover had been clear. However, I really wanted to enjoy doing the job with my Dad, and the extra hands were helpful. We got it done in short order, and had a pretty good time doing it.

We were both introduced to a new product, which proved to make the job a whole lot easier. It was necessary to cut off a section of the acronym plastic pipe and replace it. That replacement would require some kind of joint. The man at Grover recommended and supplied a SharkBite joiner. You just put in two inserts, slide the PEX line in one end, and the PEX line to be joined in the other. Make sure they are seated. That's it. Tight joint. No leak. No obstruction of the water flow due to a reduced inner diameter, because the diameter remains virtually the same.

Now, I value the box stores for volume pricing and all. For the most part, I have had good advice from people in such stores. However, not all employees there have the kind of knowledge I found at Grover. The volume at the box stores assures better pricing, but few employees can attain the level of knowledge I found in a specialty shop. Based on the number of contractors running in and out of Grover, that specialize expertise is valued in the construction industry in Southern Oregon.

I can't pretend to know a whole lot about the economics and philosophy surrounding the advance of the big box stores and the demise of local businesses. Grover is a chain store, though not as big as some of the international chains. Could a more local shop have provided the same service? I don't know. Would I have better served the community by calling a plumber? Perhaps. I just know that I got the job done, and am satisfied by the results.

Now I just need to get the image of a fuzzy blue guy doing plumbing out of my head...

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