the older plumber was phil, the younger one dan. phil's actually been here back in september 2020 to fix my leaking tub drain, but i totally forgot (he did look familiar). they started by putting down some pastic drop clothes from the entrance into the bathroom, and from the bathroom to the back door. they then put more drop clothes in the bathroom and very quickly unseated my toilet bowl, moving it into the bathtub.
from there they started cutting the cast-iron main stack into segments and moving them outside. there was solidified sludge on the inside of the old cast iron pipe, who knows how old it was. while they worked, i was in the living room doing stuff on my computer. there was no heat in the house, i kept warm by drinking some hot tea, feeling the chill on my nose. whenever they cut something, i could feel the vibration rocking the whole house, like someone sawing into a rock. they discovered the vent stack was also corroded and needed to be replaced.
they worked pretty fast, by 9:30am they had all the corroded pipes and old cast iron removed. sensing they might be done by noontime, i excused myself for 30 minutes then rode down to the cafe to grab a check and to use the bathroom, as i was finally ready form my morning poo. i got back to the house by 10:15am.
they took a short break around 10:30am, driving off in one of their vans. most likely it was to go somewhere to use the bathroom. only phil came back, while dan went out on a supply run, returning by 11:30am.
my plastic wide mouth mason jar lids arrived a few days ago but they're not waterproof so i decided to return them (they looked nothing like the photos). the seller took a few days to reply but simply returned my money without any further instructions. so i had to write the seller a message asking where to return the package. they got back to me today, said i could keep the lids as a courtesy.
while dan was gone, phil said it'd be a good time for me to put insulation in the walls. i put on my mask and gloves and cut insulation to size to fit in the wall. it wasn't too much, just a triangular piece, but with the pipes removed, it was much easier to do. when dan came back, they started assembling the new plumbing.
first they fixed the corroded water pipes. instead of replacing them with copper, they used pex piping instead. phil told me the reason was to save money, since copper pipes cost 5x as much. pex is easier to work with and more forgiving in tight spaces. they don't last as long as copper pipes, but they don't get hard water blockage. with that finished, they started installing the new cast iron pipe. they did it in segments, cutting them to size out in the alleyway. the segments were held in place with rubber sleeves and 4 bands of stainless steel clamps.
my father stopped by briefly to check out the action. dan and phil were still in the basement installing the pex piping.
they had the new cast iron pipe in place by 1:30pm. phil asked me to go upstairs and run the water so they can check to see if the replacement stack was leaking or not. he then sealed up the pipe with an epoxy they called bondo, which had a very strong chemical smell. around that time mike made a cameo appearance, to check up on the work.
whenever i was alone with either phil or dan, i chatted with them about being a plumber. phil told me that nobody wants to be a plumber anymore: although there's always work, some of it can be back breaking, with all the bending and lifting of heavy objects. phil told me alewife co. has a crew of 6 people, but 2 of them were out sick, so they've been swamped with work. dan - age 32 - just got his plumbing license 2 years ago. a friendly guy, he hails from weymouth, and makes the commute to cambridge every day. i asked if he does his own plumbing, he said yes, but his seaside house was built by a plumber who already did some amazing pipe work. dan used to work commercial, but residential work has more longevity and variety.
i noticed the new air vent was a different size that the old one. it had a smaller diameter, but was twice as tall. that meant the custom baseboard and trim wouldn't fit over this new vent pipe and we'll need to cut a new piece. it wouldn't be a big deal if we had a compound saw, but the closest thing i have is a cheap plastic miter box that takes forever to cut and doesn't cut accurately. nothing i can do about it now, i'll figure something out.
also while in the basement i figured out what was causing the rumbling sound whenever somebody upstairs flushed the toilet. i breached the subject with phil, we told me it was probably something in the pvc pipe portion of the sewer main. sure enough, when i checked, one of the metal braces was loose, and i could it see it vibrating against the pvc pipe whenever water was rushing through. i didn't have the tools to tighten the brace, so instead i wedges a piece of foam to prevent the pipe from vibrating.
around 2:30pm they started cleaning up. i figured they might actually get out of here by 3pm. that's when paul and steve got back right on cue. they came in to inspect the work while phil and dan were cleaning up. while phil was out in the van writing up the invoice, dan continued cleaning. phil had reseated the toilet, but i noticed it was crooked and asked dan to help me move it just a touch. that turned out to be a mistake because we must've broken the wax seal because when dan when to go flush the toilet, water seeped out from the bottom. so he ended up having to reseat the toilet again with a new wax seal, which added more work for them.
phil came back inside to hand me the invoice. the price seemed a little low - $2800 - and i thought he made a mistake, but i wasn't one to question a bargain. i wrote him a check and he left earlier while dan cleaned up the last bit of equipment, rolling up the plastic drop cloth. he left by 4pm. i didn't think it was going to happen, but they worked a full 8-hours day. not sure when they went to the bathroom, or even had lunch, their faces smudged in black like they've been working in the coal mines.
minutes after dan left, mike called me. he said phil made a mistake with the invoice, and i still owe them $980. what happened was phil only accounted for his own hours, forgot to add dan as well. mike said he could come back tomorrow morning to pick up the additional check.
i rode down to the cafe to grab another check. my mother gave me some peaches my 2nd aunt had bought as well as a bento box.
when i returned home i spent the next 2 hours cleaning the bathroom. even though the plumbers cleaned, they still left the bathroom in rough shape. there were stains in the tub and the sink, and little bits of debris on the floor tiles. worst of all, everything seemed to be coated in rust dust, and the bathroom smelled like iron, reminded me of blood. the new pipes had opened up a large hole looking into the basement; i covered it up temporarily with some wadded up newspaper. i cleaned until my fingers cracked. i also wiped the floor of the bathroom and the hallway foyer twice with a wet rag, just to clean the dust. i finally put back all the bathroom fixtures.
while using the toilet, the position felt off. it was centered, but it was possibly a millimeter or two too close to the drywall box. i checked old photos, and the toilet's position isn't that far off from its old position. i think it's just my imagination. afterwards i took a shower, and brown rust water was rinsing off from the wall tiles and shower curtains. the soap was covered in a thin layer of rust dust. i'll need to clean again tomorrow to get rid of more of it.
good news though is i never once heard the pipes rattling like it did before. so my little foam trick probably worked. it made it seem like steve and paul were being particularly quiet. but that means one less noise coming from upstairs. so now the only noises left are footstep sounds, food disposal running, and television audio.
i didn't eat dinner until 9:30pm. it was actually my first and only meal of the day, since i didn't eat lunch.