Thursday, November 17, 2011

I saw something gigantic, out on the water. (Well Done Broke Part 11)

After Dave's departure, the wife and I dined on soup, then watched X-Men: First Class. (Pretty decent, though I take issue with them making Beast beastly and then giving him NOTHING TO DO THAT HE COULDN'T HAVE DONE OTHERWISE, beyond just being furry.)

After the movie, I said the words I dreaded. "You wanna do the tub?"

The wife sighed, wanting to do the tub exactly as little as I did, but she said sure.

I went out to mix the mortar. From the instructions, it's scary sounding stuff. It contained silica and other elements that would supposedly burn you and cause you to develop cancer should you breath any of the dust. So I made sure to wear latex gloves and my dust filtering mask. The 60 pound bag I had bought filled our pickle bucket, so I had to shovel half of it out to make room for water. It wasn't a very exact science, but I just kept adding extra mortar to it until the whole thing came out the consistency of loose grainy peanut butter. This I shoveled into the grout bag and hauled into the house.

Because I would be in tight quarters around a bare electrical outlet, I decided to turn off the breaker for the den. After all, it wasn't as if there was any light beneath the tub that I wouldn't be bringing in the form of my head lamp. We also brought in some other flashlights and desk lamps plugged into other rooms.

I announced to the wife I was ready to begin, dropped onto the waterproof sheet we'd laid on the floor, utility knifed the tip off the grout bag and then started trying to find the best way to get the grout bag back where I needed it. It was very awkward, and quickly the backs of my latex gloves were shredded by the fiber glass shards. I was glad I'd thought to reinforce the grout bag with duct tape, cause even though the plastic beneath was a contractor-grade trash bag it would have been ribbons.

Getting the bag back where I needed it took some work, but I eventually got it there and squeezed out about half of the mortar. I couldn't see what I was doing due to the lack of light and my glasses slipping off my nose due to being pushed up by the dust mask. My wife kept asking me if the flashlight was placed correctly, but I was in stress-mode. For some reason I kept thinking I was under some kind of hard-out time crunch to get this mortar spread. As if it would harden to steel in exactly five minutes, instead of the 24 hours it really took. So with all my wriggling into the wall cavity and trying not to shred my flesh on the fiberglass, I didn't really have the capacity to entertain her questions even if they were trying to help me do what I was doing better. It was only after I started on the other side of the tub that I was able to calm down enough to realize that my carriage would not become a pumpkin at midnight. I also realized I could have had a lot more light where I needed it if only I had remembered to turn on my headlamp.

Once the mortar was spread, we set about to try and move it into position under the weak spots of the tub. This was difficult, because we had no specialized trowels that could reach that far beneath the tub, so we had to make due with squared off lengths of 2x2 wood. When I'd scraped it into what seemed like a good configuration, I tagged out with the wife and she had a go at it. It was like different writers writing drafts of a story, passing it back and forth until both feel it's good. We did the same for the other side of the tub. Then we refilled the bag and spread grout beneath the rear of the tub to help shore things up there. We knew we'd never be able to completely grout beneath all of it, but we could hopefully get it good enough. And within half an hour, we had done what we thought was the best we could given the circumstances.

By the end, my gloves were in tatters, my exposed hands drained of their moisture by the mortar and even three applications of LAY IT ON THICK moisturizing paste hadn't really improved things.

The following morning, Dave returned and worked until mid afternoon on the tank installation. The previous day, he'd said he was going to relocate our new filter system from beneath the house to the garage interior near the tank. Despite undoing all our work from weeks before, we thought was awesome. I've always wanted a filter system that I didn't have to go into the crawlspace to change the filter for. However, on this day Dave had decided he wasn't going to do that. Instead of relocating our filter, he installed a brand new one in the garage, just down stream from the spindown filter, which would do the majority of filtering for the house. The old one would still be there for backup, but it wouldn't need to be changed nearly as often because the garage filter would do most of the heavy-lifting. He said he wasn't even going to charge us for it. I imagine it was worth the expense to him not to have to go under the house and do plumbing there. In fact, I don't think Dave had any further cause to venture into the crawlspace, so this was just added bonus for all of us.

At the end of his time, the tank was in place and in working order. We turned on the breaker and it began pumping well water through the filters and into the tank until there were around 250 gallons in it--which is about all we have in our well when it's working properly. Then the control box shut it off for a four hour break--which, by our previous estimate of a 12 gallon per hour recharge, would give us 48 more gallons before shutting off again.

Dave told us how to bypass the system in case anything went wrong, which would put us back on our previous system. If we had any problems, we only had to give him a call.

By 8:30 the next morning we were not quite at 300 gallons. By 10 p.m. we were close to 400. And it was then that I noted to the wife that both the spindown filter and the new 5 micron cloth filter next to it were looking a mite dirty.

"Yeah," she said. "It's having to filter a lot more water than it normally would."

"Oh," I said.

The following morning, though, we learned that this was not entirely the case.


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