By Baruch Tenenbaum
A renovation is a multi-faceted project. It requires seamless cooperation between the contractor, the client, and other professionals. Sometimes, it doesn’t go smoothly; mistakes can happen… some more entertaining than others in retrospect, but usually no laughing matter while they’re happening.
Here are a couple of incidents that happened to me and one to a friend. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Sitting in the Hot Seat
I had just finished renovating a basement in Toronto, and the very last thing I needed to do was to install and test the shut-off valves. The final valve was the toilet, so a flush was in order. The best way to describe what happened next is “Old Faithful” (the geyser in Yellowstone National Park). Boiling hot water filled the cistern and steam began to rise from the toilet bowl. “Uh oh! This can’t be happening!” I tried flushing again, the water only got hotter.
I figured I must have accidentally swapped the hot and cold copper supply lines—that were now hidden away behind tiled walls and drywall ceilings. I had visions of wrecking a month’s worth of work to find and fix the problem. To say I was sweating was an understatement!
I collected myself and started tracing the lines. It turns out that the bathroom was close to the furnace room, where the hot water boiler was located. I had branched off the cold supply line of the boiler to feed the toilet and capped the line. Over the next two weeks, the hot water from the boiler had transferred heat through conduction to this ‘closed’ line. This boiling water was released when I installed the valve. A few more flushes and cold water flowed like normal! The moral of the story: if at first you don’t succeed, flush, flush again.
Boxed into a Corner
This next story happened to my friend Aaron. It was a few weeks before Succot, and he brought home two of his talented non-Jewish factory workers to build a wooden Succah, adjacent to the sliding doors of his kitchen. Chris and John had never done this before, but Aaron had all the materials on hand to frame the boards and build a support structure for schach. He patiently explained what do and when he saw they were set, he left to go back to work. He left the workers food and drink and locked the sliding doors as no one was home.
Chris and John were skilled carpenters and were making great progress on the large Succah. They were even thinking of opening up a side business in Succah building. After a few hours of hard toil, they installed the last screw and packed up their tools. Problem was, the sliding doors to the house were locked and they had built three Succah walls around themselves—and had no way to get out! These were the days before cell phones; they had to wait three hours until someone came home to release them!
Sponga on Motzei Shabbat
As is common in Bet Shemesh people finish off their “challal”, which refers to an unfinished area adjacent to or below their apartment. The challal usually has four walls and is often filled with dirt from the original construction of the building. A few years back, Noam and his neighbor hired a disreputable contractor, aka, a chapper (not me) to empty out the challal under his apartment. The contractor also installed sewage lines in the challal for a future bathroom or kitchen. For reasons beyond the scope of this article, Noam and his neighbor fired him. A few years later, Noam hired me to finish off the job. I found a 4” waste line in the floor and confirmed that it indeed went to a sewage manhole in the street. There was also a 2” waste line coming from the neighbor’s apartment, which emptied into the 4” line. It was located exactly where Noam’s kitchen was going. I branched into the 2” line and added the waste plumbing for Noam’s kitchen.
On motzei Shabbat a few days before the cabinets were to be installed, I got a frantic call from Noam. He discovered very unpleasant sewage coming up through the floor from one of the kufsaot (round drain covers). How could I have hooked up his kitchen to a bathroom sewage line? I was baffled.
Without changing out of my Shabbat clothes I ran over to Noam’s apartment. After some searching, I discovered the source of the problem: a seldom used guest bathroom on the 4th floor of the building. But how did it end up in a 2” line? Toilet waste needs to go in a 4” line! Back down to the basement of the neighbor. After breaking the geves ceiling, I discovered what Mr. Contractor had done years ago; he reduced the 4” waste line from above to a 2” pipe and then continued this pipe into Noam’s apartment. Reducing a 4” pipe to a 2” pipe is known as a big no-no (technical term). I had to change all the neighbor’s pipes to 4” and rip up Noam’s floor to connect to the 4” in the floor.
The moral of the story: always hire a reputable contractor, especially one who is good at tracing lines, and, it’s an added bonus if he knows how to do sponga on motzei Shabbat.
Baruch Tenenbaum, owner of Quality Home Improvements, is a professional local contractor, providing high-end jobs with proper Anglo service. He can be reached at 050-674-1976.