Being a homeowner is a wonderful thing. It feels good to have a place where you can make any changes that you want without having to get anyone’s approval. If you want to hang a picture, you just do it. If you want to repaint, or even knock out a wall, no one is going to stop you. It’s yours to do with as you wish. 

But being a homeowner also has a dark side. When things go wrong, putting everything back in order will fall totally on your shoulders. There are so many things that will eventually need attention in a house. When it comes to completing that maintenance, you either learn to fix it yourself, or pay someone to do it. 

Most repairs are pretty easy. There will be many little everyday repairs that almost anyone can do. Some problems are more difficult, but the helpful hardware store guys are always happy to give advice. After a few years the average homeowner will become proficient at most common repair tasks. 

I have learned how to do minor carpentry, and even some electrical work. I can take care of most repair jobs. But there is one task that always sends a cold chill down my spine. 


I dislike having anything to do with plumbing. There are two basic problems with plumbing. It leaks, or it won’t drain. Both of them are annoying and can be difficult to solve. 

I can deal with a leaking faucet. Turn off the water, take it apart, and put in a new washer, done. Except of course for the times when you turn the water back on and it still leaks. After the third or fourth unsuccessful attempt, I’ll give up and buy a new faucet. All I have to do is install it and we’re good to go. 

Don’t kid yourself, it’s never that easy. I am of the opinion that most of the swear words we hear today were invented by plumbers. I have invented a few new ones myself.

Toilets, I hate working on toilets. We have two of them. On one, the little flapper thing always hangs up, so after a flush, the water runs down the drain for hours until someone finally notices and jiggles the handle. I have replaced that part several times, but for some reason it keeps giving me trouble. Sometimes the float valve gets in a bind and it won’t fill. I have replaced that assembly numerous times over the past 12 years. 

But that is not the worst part about a toilet. The words I dread hearing the most are, “honey, the toilet won’t flush, and it’s running over.” Of course, it always has to be the one upstairs; the one that’s going to leak through the ceiling if I don’t get the water mopped up fast enough. I mop up the water, get out the plunger, stick it into that nasty mess and hope whatever is plugging it up will give up and go down.

I think drains are the absolute worst plumbing issues to deal with. The water and umm — that other stuff, is supposed to flow though the pipe, leave my house and become the property of the City of Arkansas City. When it doesn’t, that’s when I step in. I’m the homeowner. (Cue the Dragnet theme.)

I hate clogged drains more than anything. Don’t talk to me about drain cleaners, I have tried every sort of drain cleaner that Walmart and the local hardware store sell, and I have never had one actually open a drain. I might as well have dumped colored water in the sink; it would give the same results.

A plugged sink is annoying. A plugged toilet is disgusting. But when the main drain plugs up, the one that takes it all away from the house, you really have a problem. Nothing drains, everything overflows, and you get covered with all of it as you try to fix the problem.

This is when you will need to bring in the big guns. No plunger is going to make this problem go away. You need a snake. A powerful plumbing gizmo that will spiral its way through the pipe and go after the clog. This will require a trip to the tool rental store, or a visit from a local plumber. Either way, you will be getting out your checkbook. 

Recently our main drain plugged up. My son was upstairs taking a shower. I went to the basement to get a shirt from the dryer. The drain for the washer is at the lowest point of our house. Water was pouring out of that drain. It reminded me of Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park. The basement was a mess, water was everywhere. I ran up two flights of stairs to the upstairs bathroom, yelling at my son to turn off the shower, and don’t even think about flushing that toilet.

What a way to start a Monday.

It took several attempts with the snake to clear the line, but once again, my house is making unhampered contributions to the city waste treatment plant. 

For the moment, I can relax. Everything at my house is in fine shape. Well, I do need to repaint the outside, clean up the backyard and replace some window screens. The upstairs bathroom needs new floor tiles, I need to weather-strip all of the doors and repair a couple of awnings. 

I guess I do have a few things to work on. But at least it’s not the plumbing. 

Wait a minute — is that faucet on the bathroom sink dripping? Again?

Let it drip, I’m just not in the mood to work on it today.

CourierTraveler reporter John Shelman can be contacted at (620) 442-4200 or

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