Salt air and plumbing at the sea shore

Lois and I recently visited friends who own a condo in Ocean City, Md. The days melted away in relaxed banter. Following a great dinner at Dr. Unks Bar & Grille (the owner was a bartender for years, hence the name), we hit the boardwalk for ice cream. My made-in-China shirt picked that moment in time to fall apart literally as long tears began appearing at random. We laughed until our sides hurt.

Lois and I recently visited friends who own a condo in Ocean City, Md. The days melted away in relaxed banter. Following a great dinner at Dr. Unks Bar & Grille (the owner was a bartender for years, hence the name), we hit the boardwalk for ice cream. My made-in-China shirt picked that moment in time to fall apart — literally — as long tears began appearing at random. We laughed until our sides hurt. Evidently, my less-than-a-yearold shirt was adversely affected by the balmy, salt-laden, sea-spray night air!

The next morning we wanted to help clean up before leaving, and it turned out our hosts needed a new disposer installed. They’d already purchased an exact replacement model. With PVC slip-waste plumbing in place under the double-bowl sink, I figured it would be a walk-in-the-park job to deftly twist off the old model and install the new grinder in the wink of an eye. It was the least I could do as a way to thank our hosts.

No good deed goes unpunished! Salt air does not-so-funny things to metal.

Ordinarily, you’d simply insert a screwdriver tip into one of the three “eyes” of the disposer’s grip-ring and twist it counter-clockwise a few inches and the major portion drops off, leaving the sink basket in place. Given that our friends had a limited number of tools and no plumber’s putty, leaving the older sink basket in place made perfect sense.

With the power disabled, I positioned myself on the opposite side of the sink cabinet while lying on the floor to insert the tool and twist off the old disposer. That first attempt brought a bead of sweat to my brow. No need for work clothes here — this’ll be child’s play — out with the old, in with the new.

Obvious to us men, bigger tools and louder grunts were in order, so we rummaged through the available tools and selected larger instruments with which to strain at the offending rings of steel that were bonded metal-to-metal as if welded. Words unsuitable for printing here joined grunts and sweat flowed freely.

The night prior, while on the road to Dr. Unks, we’d passed Elliot’s Hardware Store on Route 611. We had waxed nostalgic about how few of these Momand- Pop stores remained while the big-box DIY stores rose up to squash these bastions of personalized service with aisles of goodies where men could roam for hours to grunt and soak in testosterone. Fifteen minutes later, we were wandering Elliot’s aisles seeking out instruments of mass destruction. Armed to the teeth, we returned to the scene of the crime — with a container of plumber’s putty too. No disposer was going to get the better of us men!

Salt air must contain some mighty power ful bonding element s . No amount of straining, grunting or harsh words intended to intimidate an inanimate object worked. The 2-ft. pry-bar had absolutely no effect whatsoever, except that the sink itself began to buckle under our joint assault! Clearly, nothing short of dynamite was going to coerce the two metal rings to separate.

In my almost 40-years of plumbing service work, I’d never come across such a stubborn disposer connection! Aside from the sink beginning to buckle, the only thing that moved was the entire assembly, which meant I’d broken the seal between the sink outlet and the basket. Darned good thing we’d grabbed a can of plumber’s putty!

By now, the plumber’s putty that had once resided under the basket’s rim to seal the void between rim and sink was long gone; the twisting and straining had pushed it all aside where it slipped out from under the sink basket in broken slivers. It was time for a full frontal attack.

The miniature hacksaw we’d purchased at Elliot’s was used to cut pie-shaped wedges into the basket’s upper rim. In order to protect the sink, the pry-bar was used to elevate the basket’s rim. Once we’d sliced five roughly equal sections, a set of adjustable pliers were used to bend the rim until we could drop the offending disposer straight down through the sink’s opening. While removing the existing wiring connections, we discovered that the ground wire had never been connected!

A bit more relaxed now, we wiped perspiration from our brows and began assembling the new disposer. While I attended to the sink basket, our host connected the new disposer’s wiring. We were on a roll and just minutes from success! Our wives had long finished the other cleaning tasks and were relaxing on the porch overlooking the bay — men’s work is never done.

With the new disposer in place, it was time to reconnect the PVC slip-waste connections. The new disposer gasket wasn’t slit along its interior circumference to slip over the end-outlet’s tailpiece, which was a concern. As I raised the extended horizontal tailpiece intended to connect with the end-outlet waste tee, I realized two things: the tailpiece was an inch short, leaving an air-gap; and the new disposer’s outlet was almost an inch higher than the tee’s outlet. That caused us to recheck the box. Sure enough, it was an exact model-to-model match.

Back to Elliot’s! Sure enough, Elliot had exactly what we needed and at a very reasonable price. We were welcomed as old friends upon our return, the kind of personalized service you’d expect in such an establishment.

Those of you working the plumbing and HVAC trades along the coast where salt-laden air does horrible things to metal now have my deepest respect.

Dave Yates owns F.W. Behler, a contracting company in York, Pa. He can be reached by phone at 717/843-4920 or by e-mail at [email protected] All Dave Yates material on this website is protected by Copyright 2008. Any reuse of this material (print or electronic) must first have the expressed written permission of Dave Yates. Please contact via email at: [email protected]

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