Saturday, March 26, 2011

365 Jobs, Day 85: What Kind of Idiot

Cross-posted from my new blog, 365 Jobs:

What Kind of Idiot
Monday, March 26, 2007

I've torn out many a bathroom floor.  Usually the job began with "I've got this little leak in my toilet."  Turns out the entire floor is rotten, which doesn't happen overnight.  I always shake my head, silently wondering: What kind of idiot doesn't notice that his bathroom floor has been rotting beneath his feet over a period of months and probably years? 

Until March 26, 2007.  On this day I investigate a loose toilet floor bolt in my own bathroom and discover that the bolt has essentially rusted into a pitiful pile of flakes.  Pulling the toilet, I find - oh my God - the subfloor has essentially melted into cheesy rot.  The surface flooring hid the problem.

I'm that kind of idiot.

I built this house and installed the plumbing in 1979.  I remember installing this particular toilet drain because it went badly.  I'd cut the drain pipe an inch too short.  I'd run out of couplings, so I couldn't extend it that day.

I didn't want to wait until another day.  I wanted to move on.  So I installed the closet bend, drain, and closet flange with only a quarter inch of overlap in a hub which should have had two or three inches of overlap.  This was ABS pipe - the black plastic stuff.  You have to allow enough surface area for the glue to make a good solid joint.  Instead, I bathed the shallow joint in ABS glue and even painted a gooey black ring of glue around the outside edge.

Sometime between 1979 and 2007, my chickens came home to roost.  A major earthquake in 1989 might have hastened the chickens along.  The pipe worked loose in such a way that every time you flushed, water would soak into the subfloor.

Every day we make choices, hundreds of them.  We're bound to get some of them wrong.  I can forgive myself.  In this case, I had to spend two days replacing the bathroom floor because of a shortcut I took 28 years earlier.  A fitting punishment.

I told this to another carpenter who said, "Don't feel bad, man.  At least you have standards.  I just saw some cheapo condos in Fremont where none of those floors will last 28 years." 

It's the Fremont developer's choice.  He's the man in the suit, the man with the money.  He'll make a big profit.  There will be no fitting punishment.  No punishment at all.  I can't forgive that.

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