Sunday, December 29, 2013

Replacing the Hydrant

 Our outside sources of water consist of one standard faucet (located on the south side of the house where we don't need it) and two "frost free lawn hydrants" at the rear (west). I used to use the one to fill a bucket whenever I wanted to wash the car. The other, closest to the garden, had the most utility.

Years ago, the first lawn hydrant failed. It began dripping even when it was turned off and we called a plumber. Down below the frost line (perhaps four to five feet underground) there's a washer on the end of a long brass rod. If the water is turned off, the rod can be extracted through the top. That's what the plumber tried. It continued to leak slowly. Eventually we got the leak to stop and we quit using it entirely.

But the garden hydrant could hardly be avoided. I water the garden almost daily in the summer. I'd notice that the hose always had a wet spot beneath it. Then, when the weather turned cold, the hydrant began developing a long icicle every night.

This would never do. Since the water wasn't being shut off below the frost line, the pipe, which extends above the ground, is continually filled with water. It'd freeze and burst in winter weather. I wrapped an electrical heat tape around the pipe and that kept it liquid. But it was using electricity (how much I have no idea) and it was a  bit of an eyesore, not to mention a kluge.

So we called the plumber again.

 A plumber worked on it on December 4. He eventually gave up. When he left, the leak was far worse than when he arrived. To be fair, however, I never expected the old fixture was non-repairable. But try the cheapest route first, right?

 A few days later two plumbers arrived with a backhoe to replace the faucet entirely. They dug a hole that was deep enough (five feet, at least) that when the one plumber crawled down in the hole, I could only see the top of his bald head.

 The work was completed just before the weather turned cold. Though the dirt was scraped back into the hole, a phone line which connects to the garage at that corner was left hanging loose and at an odd angle. Plus it was above ground at places in the yard and provided a trip hazard.

 I had to wait for better weather (spring, I thought) to place the phone line back underground and grade the soil properly. Two days ago I began but I found the topsoil was still frozen and was like digging in steel. Yesterday the temperature topped out at 53° and I was able to finish the work.

 My first job was to dig a trench and get the phone line back underground. See the gray phone box and black conduit on the side of the garage? That had to be set straight. Then I graded the soil as best I could, breaking the largest (still frozen) clumps and raking it out even. There was quite a pile there. Now it's beginning to look more like a lawn. I'll plant grass seed in the spring.

 I also had to move a stack of field stones away before the plumbers arrived. I use those as a splash guard for the downspout. You can see part of them on the right side of this picture. When I finished the dirty work, I had to replace the rocks one at a time.

 And here's how it looked when I wrapped up the project later in the afternoon.
 We're $531 "in the hole" after paying for the plumbing work. Let's hope this continues working for a long time to come. The existing hydrants were here when we bought the house so they certainly have been in use for over a quarter of a century, most likely 50 years (I believe the bricking of the house and garage was done in the 1960's). In any case, the work should survive me.

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