Years ago, Dennis Buckley, former Neighborhood Extra editor, suggested I should write about unusual plumbing experiences (thanks Dennis!). Time passed and my list grew as others added to it. Some of these experiences will make you shake your head. Some were near disasters. Some are funny ... now. Here they are:
1. A construction worker shot a 38-caliber propelled anchor that went through an 1 ½-inch thick concrete attic floor and missed me by inches. Concrete fragments hit my side, and the anchor stuck in the roof sheathing.
2. While on a service call, a vicious dog on the other side of a fence jumped within inches of my face and tried to bite me. Not to be outdone, a huge “attack cat” was at the top of some steps ready to pounce on me until the owner grabbed it.
3. A construction worker fell 30 feet off a scaffold on a project and landed beside me. He was back to work the next week!
4. On a project in the early ‘80s, there was ductwork that needed to be removed from an abandoned maintenance office. The ductwork was full of ½-pint empty whiskey bottles that caused the ductwork to crash to the floor and barely miss the worker removing it. The whiskey brand was all the same.
5. Possibly the most interesting “leak repair” was on a leaky sewer pipe that had a coffee can cut up and strapped to it. That’s odd in itself, but then someone put a #2 lead pencil through a rust hole in the coffee can. A stalagmite growth was formed at the bottom of the pencil. It was still dripping!
6. Small town plumbing installations and service are often entertaining. A bar had two toilets that were so close that people sitting on them would be touching. Another bar had a urinal in a corner with a column in front of it, making it difficult to use. One restaurant had a toilet that ran water continuously for over six months.
7. A main sewer from a commercial building had 1’-0” of back fall going the wrong direction for 30 years. There was enough water flow from the building that the sewer did not plug as often as it should have, but it did get cabled fairly regularly.
8. There was a water heater in an old duplex with no flue pipe! The basement foundation leaked so much air, the tenants luckily avoided carbon monoxide deaths.
9. A home had a plugged toilet with tree roots that grew up under the toilet and filled in the entire area. The roots were shaped by the bottom of the toilet.
10. Multiple times, anchor nails have been shot into water piping and did not leak for many years.
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11. I’ve seen a fire protection system storage tank in Lincoln with dead pigeons in it and dead rats in sewer manholes that indicated there was deadly sewer gas. There were unlucky dead squirrels, cats and birds that could not get out of furnace flue pipes.
12. During duct-cleaning jobs we’ve found drugs, porn, dead animals, pop cans, and the list goes on. There’s also been rooms full of marijuana plants and drug paraphernalia.
13. One apartment had a naked mannequin in a closet that scared the bejesus out of me when I opened the door!
14. An inventive customer used 4-inch PVC plastic pipe for compressed air piping and a storage tank. It blew up, and there were shattered PVC fragments throughout his workshop. Don’t use PVC for oily compressed air piping!
15. Another customer used PVC water piping (against code), and the water heater setting was so high the piping expanded and sagged.
16. I watched a plumber use a rifle with a level taped to it to establish where to make a hole in a metal roof for a vent stack. Everything lined up, and he shot a hole through the roof!
17. A 3-inch high pressure gas main was bored through a 4-inch clay tile sewer. Luckily, our sewer camera prevented us from cabling through the plugged sewer!
18. One handyman reduced a 2-inch shower drain to 1-inch piping. The entire project lacked craftsmanship and the owner sued him!
19. There have been hundreds of examples of amateurs installing plumbing fixtures wrong or trying to fix water leaks with caulking, putty or duct tape, which proved to be expensive solutions!
When in doubt, please take the safe route and hire licensed plumbers that have insurance!