Friday, February 03, 2006


In our quest to install a gas dryer, I learned a lot about pipes. First of all, pregnant women, don't try this at home.

Our house in new. As in, the cap on that gas pipe has only been there since my last haircut. This would imply that it should come off easily. It couldn't possibly be rusted. Painted shut? A wrench should take care of that. And it did begin to turn, except that it was the pipe going into the wall that was turning, not the cap.

I actually do like mechanical things. Despite my inexperience, there is something comforting in the neat fitting together of parts. That's why I'm the one who sets up the speakers and puts together the crib each time we move.

But this job was my husband's territory. Gas lines and plumbing scare me. At least I've learned enough to know when it's a good idea to ask for help.

I watched him struggling as he holds the wall pipe with one tool and twists the cap with the other. I wished there were some way to reason out the problem, but this seems a matter of brute force. I call my step-father-in-law, the handiest person I know, who also lives three time zones away. The proud husband doesn't see the point in telling him we're not strong enough to unscrew a cap, so I make the call.

"What kind of wrench are you using?" he asks. I start describing the pliers. Then I desribe the rusty wrench we decided wasn't working well enough and had just gone out to K-mart to replace. "You have two options," he says. 1) Buy a handy tool we'll never use again in our lives, a pipe wrench. 2) Unscrew the pipe out of the wall.

We're reluctant to do #2, but it seems the simplest solution. As hard as we've both been yanking, I question if a pipe wrench will help. I take both pieces, securely attached, to the local hardware store. Clutching greasy gas pipes and being a pregnant woman who really shouldn't be doing strenous activity like yanking on pipes added to my usual self-consciousness while wandering around and checking out the prices of pipe wrenches.

Everything is in cages, even the $12 wrenches, so again, I ask for help. He pops the pipe in a large clamp, digs out a pipe wrench the size of my head, and gives it a few twists. Nothing. Except that he's adding to the metal scratches on the pipe and the cap is not budging. We walk to the pipe aisle and I solve my problem for $1.19.

The trickiest part was then hoping there's no gas leak in the wall. We could test the outer seal with dish soap, but there's no way to see or test the connection in the wall. Having a super-sensitive pregnant woman sense of smell sometimes comes in handy. No gas.

What I loved most at the end of the day, with the dryer humming along contentedly, was that we did manage to reason our way out of the problem.


Blogger Colleen said...

nothing like getting something accomplished.

speaking of getting things accomplished...i have a mountain of my own laundry to tackle.

8:45 AM  
Blogger James said...

This is exactly what happened to us a year ago when we moved into our new house. Fortunately my father-in-law was visiting the next day, so we let him show us how to buy a pipe wrench and not blow up the house. I always wondered if I was the only one to deal with this problem. It's nice to know I'm not. Enjoy your dry clothes.

3:23 PM  
Blogger Notsocranky Yankee said...

Glad it all worked out. Happy drying!

10:42 PM  
Blogger mal said...

the odorant used in Natural Gas in detectable by smell at around 1 part per billion. NASTY stuff so you should be good.

Assuming you used black iron fittings, some teflon tape or anti seize compound should have assured a good seal in the wall.

The hands in the oil patch would routinely break our 36" pipe wrenches and then add a "snipe" for additional leverage. It was entertaining to watch a 200lb guy hanging on it trying to break a fitting.

One thing about working in the petroleum biz, I learned a lot about plumbing.

I am with you, I LOVE my gas dryer. You will like it even more when you are running loads of diapers

9:00 AM  
Blogger Jessica said...

Thanks Mallory. Next time I'll email you when I have a plumbing question!

10:34 AM  
Blogger Stormmaster said...

Sounds dangerous, especially if you have to trust your nose (which I wouldn't do).

4:00 PM  

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