Friday, October 7, 2016

No Way To Stop The Flow: Ah, But There Is !!

Sortin' through my junk mail, pickin’ up all my scraps
Siftin’ through this deep pile, I’m checkin’ out all of my traps
Unpackin’ my suitcase but it’s already time to go

A rushin’ river of detail, no way I can stop the flow
No way I can stop the flow

Tim O'Brien's No way to stop the flow

You see that hose-bib there??

Well there's a reason for the plant and that funny looking contraption hanging from the splitter.

We don't get hard freezes down here in Central Texas very often, but they do happen, so when I built our place I installed frost-free hose bibs. Only problem with that is that this one on the front of the barn has pretty much always leaked.

Over the years I've spent hours changing gaskets and O rings (Lots of them inside this complicated thing!) and polishing shafts (Plenty of those in there too.) but was never able to stop the leak completely. 

Fortunately it only leaked when open. As long as the valve was closed the leaking stopped. Since the valve is closed far more than it's open our solution was to use that leak to water a plant.

Only I noticed the other day that now the dang thing was leaking with the valve closed too, and that was just unacceptable.

Bad news is that when I installed the hose-bibs there were no interior walls or insulation in the barn yet.

Good news is that because I did the installing I know right where everything is and it only took a few minutes to cut into the wall and expose the hose-bib's supply pipe. Actually maybe it was a little more than a few minutes since that's cement-board and not drywall.

I've had my fill of fighting with those fancy frost-free hose-bibs so I went through my plumbing bin where I toss all the castoffs from previous projects


and found what I needed to replace the frost-free bib with a standard flanged bib plus a shutoff valve with drain so I can isolate the hose-bib and drain any water from the pipe behind it to prevent freeze damage.

I should note that I bought the PVC primer and cement fresh for this job. I've found that no matter how tight you screw the lid back on these, after many months of storage the product is no good anymore, especially the cement, so I buy the smallest cans I can, label them with the date opened, and what I don't use up in a few months I toss.

I could have done this job a little cheaper by using a PVC ball valve instead of a brass valve plus adapters, but I've found that PVC ball valves in the smaller sizes are very difficult to turn and require substantial support blocking on either side to prevent cracking a pipe.

The brass valves are much easier to turn, even after years of inactivity, plus I already had this one with a small drain on one side which suited this application just great.


Down in the well house I have the hose bibs plumbed and valved separately from the rest of the fixtures so I was able to shut off the water to the bibs but keep the rest of the house functional while I was working. Here in the well house the piping is 1 1/2" and PVC ball valves of this size can be turned without having to call The Hulk in for a little help. Which is a good thing because there's 13 valves down there in the well house!! And buying thirteen 1 1/2" brass valves plus adapters would have busted the budget!

 While in the well-house I saw that our resident rodent control expert is still in residence and growing.

Whenever I find a shed skin in there I remove it so I know the next one I see is fresh and he's still on the job. This one reached from the ground to the top of my shirt-pocket. Allowing for a little shrinkage, the former owner of this skin is over 5 feet long now.


With the water off the surgery starts.

Only when I tried to remove the frost-free bib through the side of the barn it got hung up on the brass-to-PVC fitting on the back-side of it.

I knew I was going to have to enlarge the hole in the side of the barn to fit the new flanged bib and it's adapter, but trying to do that with a pipe already sticking through it would be exceedingly sloppy, so some more surgery was in order.  (Notice the dead-blow hammer laying there next to the reciprocating saw? I've had this saw for over 30 years now but it's reluctant to operate when first plugged in. One good hard whack with the dead-blow on the steel casing while the trigger is pulled seems to wake it up.)

Since there's more steel inside the frost-free bib than air it took a while, but I soon had the thing in two pieces and could temporarily push the trapped piece back through the hole until I could enlarge it.


Because drilling a clean hole where you've already got a hole is very difficult to do, I grabbed a piece of dowel, center-tapped one end and tapered the other

so when I drove it into the hole there was something solid for

the proper sized Forsner bit to grab onto. (Yep, hole saw would have been better, though still needed the plug to keep it centered, but I don't have a hole saw the right size.)

With the hole enlarged the remaining bit of the old bib slid right out of the wall, clearing the way for the new bib.

With a rough measurement in hand I attached a length of 3/4 PVC to the new bib


then slid it into place, trimmed it to the right length, and dry-fit it to the new shutoff valve which was already installed. (Note the little knurled knob on the bottom of the shutoff valve? That's the drain to clear water from the section of pipe behind the exposed hose-bib.) I carefully lined up the new hose-bib to sit straight on the outside wall then made some reference marks on the pipe and shut-off valve inside so I could get it back where it belonged when gluing things up.

And for the first time in years we have a drip-free hose-bib on the front of the barn!

I guess we'll have to remember to water that plant by hand from now on.

All that was left to do was take the piece I cut out of the wall and make a little hinged door out of it

and rehang the garden tools.

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