This Old House Call

Our city’s supply of old homes is the perfect canvas for a do-it-yourself home improvement fiend. So, we weren’t surprised to find PBS’s popular “Ask This Old House” in town to tape an episode  (airing Oct. 6 on WVIZ) in which plumbing and heating expert Rich Tretheway solves a pipe puzzler in a 100-year-old Buckeye Neighborhood home. When the dust settled, we asked Tretheway about his visit. What’s the story behind the home that brought you here?

The homeowner, Cliff [Murray], had grown up in his house. Since his mother passed away, the house had been unlived in for a couple of years. … So he started remodeling and got stuck on some of the plumbing stuff in the upstairs bathroom.

How did you help him?
We showed him how to replace a drum trap. … A trap is designed to keep sewer gas [out of the house]; every plumbing fixture has one.  This one has a reservoir of water that you can’t run a [plumbing] snake through to clear it. So if it gets clogged up, you’re pretty much toast.

What is one thing owners of older homes should watch for?
Many of those old houses were plumbed originally with fine-thread brass piping. … And a lot of those connections over the years start to show a little buildup of this white calcification right at the threads. So if you go down and see that every time a pipe turns there’s a big chunk of white stuff on the threads, that would give me reason to say, maybe we want to replace that piping.

What’s your best DIY advice?
Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Eat the elephant in little bites.  … Know what you can do, and know when to call a professional. You’ll know the minute you went too far.

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