Categories: From the Pastor's Desk

Clogged Pipes

When you’ve been around old rectories for a while you start to learn a lot about boilers, pipes, rooves, bricks and all the rest.  One of the things that’s true about 120-year-old rectories is that often enough the plumbing is 120 years old.  That’s the case at St. Paul.  We had a study done a few years ago and the architects pointed out which things were in good shape, and which would have to be changed.  One of the things they dinged was the pipes.

As it turns out, in this rectory there is a loop for the hot water.  That means you don’t have to wait for the hot water to run out of the boiler (in the basement) into the bathroom that’s on the 2nd floor and a couple of hundred feet away.  There’s nearly instant hot water, and you don’t waste so much water.  The downside of these loops is that over the years they slowly get clogged up.  The minerals in the water, and the rust from the pipes begins to make the pipe smaller.  And, every time you shut off the water to the house (to make a repair or change a valve) more crud gets into the pipes.  Especially the hot water pipes.

So, we turned off the water in the house a few weeks ago, and ever since then the shower upstairs in the bathroom didn’t work.  It was the smallest trickle of water and took around 5 minutes to get warm.  I took some cold showers, thinking I could usually shower at the Park District pool.  I usually go swimming every day.   The only time I really needed to take a shower at the rectory was on Sunday mornings.  Then the virus hit.  The pools are closed.  Son of a gun… I would need to take a shower every day I was in the rectory.  Well, not really need.  I would want to take a shower every day.  I’m spoiled, and I can’t imagine not doing it.

Last night as I was tossing and turning in the bed, worrying about things beyond my control, and praying for people in between worries, I got to thinking about the pipes.  I thought, “I bet if you could get some of that CLR stuff into the pipes, it might make a difference.”  I thought maybe it would dissolve some of the crud, and we wouldn’t have to tear up the walls and ceilings to change pipes.  Then I would go to sleep and dream… how do you get this CLR stuff into the pipes to dissolve the minerals in there?

Somehow during the night, I thought of it.  I know, I thought to myself, I’ll turn off the water.  And I’ll turn off the circulating pump.  Then I’ll get a jar of the CLR stuff.  I’ll put the hose from my hand-held shower into the jar of CLR. Then downstairs in the kitchen we’ll open up the hot water faucet.  There will be a vacuum in the pipes, and it’ll suck the CLR into the pipes.  We’ll close the system and turn on the circulating pump to get it around the house.  Then we’ll flush out the pipes.

It worked.  I took a shower upstairs.  Wow! The things you think of when you’re stuck in the house!