Evan Tackles a Pressure Tank.

I might as well add plumbing to the list of things I am not likely ever going to be good at.  Here’s why:

For a while now, we have been dealing with lower than optimal water pressure.  We can’t water the garden in one session, having a shower is like standing under a leaky eavestrough, filling the necessary three buckets of water (60 litres in total) for the dogs takes forever – and that is not counting the water we need for the chickens, turkeys, goats, sheep and rabbits.  Worse still, Hunter’s “Mr. Spazzy Arms” hose attachment toy stands not in arm waving excitement, splashing happy, frolicking kids but rather in shoulder-slumped dejection, seemingly aware of the disappointment he brings to a hot summer’s day.  I can wait for the dogs’ buckets to fill, along with the other animals’ buckets, too, and as for the garden, it will rain here eventually.  But not having a cheap, plastic toy with rubber arms flailing about and soaking kids just won’t do.  So, I decided to fix the problem.

Quite out of the blue – even for me – and with only a few hours left in the work day, I decided that this water tank replacement chore was to be my weekend project.  Not that it would take the weekend to do: geez, if I was quick about it, I’d be done with enough time to spare for a cold refreshment before dinner on Friday.  So, when I finished work for the week on Thursday, I sped off to the local hardware store determined to have a functioning water tank by dinner of the next day.

A job like this ought to involve little more than disconnecting the tank from the pump and the line that supplies the house with water, at which point I would reconnect all the new fittings to the new tank, turn on the water and watch as the garden sprinkler sent mighty streams of water high in the air like some Las Vegas fountain.  But, as it is with most “ought to” ideas, the outcome is never what I envision.  If, indeed, the road to heaven is paved with good intentions, then surely its base is made from oversimplified tasks.

Once inside the plumbing section of the hardware store, I looked over the tanks for sale.  I was looking for a specific tank, one that had a bladder inside that allowed for a manual increase in the internal pressure.  It didn’t take long to find the tank, and imagine my luck at finding out that the larger of the two on the shelf was on sale for $50 less than regular price.  “If this isn’t a sign that I am supposed to do this project this weekend, I don’t know what is.” I thought to myself.  I called Jenn from the desk of the hardware store to surprise her with the new plan for the weekend – and boy, was she surprised.  She was even more surprised – horrified, I think more adequately sums up her reaction – when she found out that I had spent close to half an hour following the plumbing guy around the store with a basket, catching all the fittings and hoses and clamps and such that he threw my way.  “Don’t worry,” said he, “you can just return what you don’t need.” It would have been different if I had instead gone home first, measured and took stock of what I needed and then went to the store for materials, but I was on my way home from work and had a brilliant idea.  A brilliant idea that cost $150 more than it should have.

And so, thus equipped with everything I needed (plus a bit more) I went downstairs to tackle the tank.  I cut the old copper pipe from the existing tank, I removed the old high-pressure hose from the pump and I removed the tank.  The hard part was done.  I brought down the larger pressure tank, placed it on the new metal table I had welded earlier in the morning and proceeded to fit together the fittings that connected it to the house and the pump.  First, the ‘T’ for the inlet and the outlet, next was the plug and the pressure gauge, then came the sediment drain and another plug, along with the actual outlet fitting and the inlet fitting.  The outlet was easy: it was simply half-inch Pex line (which I highly recommend) and some snap-on fittings to connect it to the copper pipe.  Slightly more difficult was the array of increasers and reducers that I needed to accommodate the over-sized hose I bought.  Remember, I did all of this from memory, and likely a hazy one at that, so the hose seemed larger than it really was; but, included in my bag of tricks that the plumbing guy had me buy were various adapters so that I could actually make use of the wrong sized hose.  The one thing I couldn’t return.  Every fitting was carefully wrapped in Teflon plumbing tape, the old threads were cleaned and I put on the fittings as tight as they would go plus a quarter turn.  When it was finished it looked like a bit odd, for coming out of the pump was about a foot of galvanized nipples, increasers, collars and all manner of fittings to be able to go from a three-quarter inch pump outlet to an inch and a quarter inside diameter hose.  It really looked like I had done it myself.

“Oh well,” I think to myself, “when we are finally enjoying a nice shower or are able to water the garden and Hunter can play in the sprinkler, what it looks like won’t matter.”  At which point, I turned on the power again and started up the pump.  It may seem like I am building to the hose blowing off and soaking me, the basement and anything else within half a mile of the pump, but that didn’t happen.  The tank pressurized like it should have and the clamps on the hoses and the Pex fittings all held.  Instead, I began to notice little drip-drip-drips from the galvanized fittings.  I used my pipe wrench on them again, thinking that I had not tightened them enough, but I had (this time for sure) and yet they still continued to drip.  I couldn’t figure out what was causing the leak – excepting the fact that I had nearly twelve inches of threaded parts screwed together.  I thought about convincing myself that it was merely the build up of condensation but I’m not that easily fooled so I decided my next best plan was to phone a friend.  He suggested that the threads on the galvanized pipe fittings – being notoriously sharp – were cutting the Teflon tape and allowing the water to leak out.  I needed plumber’s putty, he said.  Of all the things in the bag from the hardware store, plumber’s putty wasn’t among them.  I would need to make a trip to town tomorrow for the stuff.

“Since I was going to town anyway,” I thought to myself, “I should just take apart the whole botched system and return the stuff and get the proper fittings.”  So, I unscrewed all the parts I had put together, I made a note of what I’d need – for real this time, no guessing – and I headed in to town.  The hardware store took back more than I expected, considering there were some scratches on the galvanized fittings and some of the other fittings still had remnants of the Teflon tape stuck to them.  Returning home, I reconnected everything and it looks better and doesn’t leak.  However, our pressure, seemingly inexplicably, is worse now than when I started.  “Hmmm.” I think to myself, “If it’s not this end that needed fixing, maybe it’s the other end.  The well end.”

And that brings part one to a close.  Part two will soon follow.

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8 Responses

  1. haha! Sounds like we follow the same convoluted process. I end up spending way more money and time as I realize what I missed or screwed up along the way! We should go into business together… doing what, I don’t know. How about teaching people what NOT to do??!

    • A business. Now that would be funny.

      I’m not sure what I’m more bothered by: that things so often go wrong, or that I am always surprised when they do.

  2. It sounds like you need help, so I will send “The Great Burwash” over to lend you a hand. He had helped me change my tank and needless to say, Viljo had to finish it. Good Luck and let me know if you want the plumbing wizard over to help.

    • Oh, God! Not Burwash! If he is my last resort for help, then I’ll just as soon haul water from the river with a bucket. With a small bucket at that. Tell him he can’t come over because hunters are not allowed on the Moose sanctuary I’m running.

  3. We were getting a little bit desparate that we would not have a new Markstay story with which to regale our lawn bowling friends. But you never let us down. Thanks.

    And as always, love to you, Jenn and Hunter.

    Dad.

    • Don’t thank me, thank this house and the guy who built it. If it were up to me, I would rather go without having a ‘Markstay story’ to regale you with, at least where the house is concerned.

      We’ll see you soon.

  4. Can’t wait to read Part 2 😉

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