It's not about the house.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

John Henry Will NOT Lay His Hammer Down

It didn't work.

It didn't work to the tune of three times louder and this time at 2:00 in the morning instead of 5:45.

I got up, I went over to my hammerin' radiator. I had a notion to lift it even higher this time and hold it there for a moment -- to let whatever sludge was in there drain back out -- but then I remembered, first of all, that the heat was running, so steam was coming up, so sludge might not so easily drain down. And, second, that it was 2:00 in the morning and I'd just been rudely awakened from a dead-sound slumber: this was maybe not the best time to try lifting half a ton. Okay, a quarter-ton. The end of it. Whatever. Too sleepy.

So I got on my hands and knees and I laid my ear against it and I listened. I could hear water whooshing around in there. And I did not hear it when I laid my ear against the pipe that comes up through the floor. I took this to mean -- at 2:00 in the morning, anyway -- that the problem is indeed with the radiator and not the pipes down in the crawlspace. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it until I'm proven wrong. Which I won't be. Because after that I had a brilliant flash of insight and I fixed it!

I shut John Henry off.

Well, somebody had to do it. We can't have him running around here at 2:00 in the freakin' morning with that legendary hammer. There are folks trying to catch themselves some Zs. And besides, you can't possibly expect me to have any better ideas at that hour. I'm surprised I managed to have one. But at least I did get a few more hours' sleep, even if it was just like the old days, with a hooded sweatshirt and extra blankets and a couple pairs of socks.

Okay, I exaggerate again. There were just two socks. But somehow they, with their podiacal contents, wound up underneath the pillow that I'm still supposed to be sleeping with my feet on top of. So that's got to count for something.

Anyway, just now I woke up for good. (Fine, not just now. About two hours ago. Happy?). I turned the radiator back on and lifted up John Henry's loose end three whole times, for a ten-count on each. I have no idea how high I lifted it, because of course I couldn't see below it while I was above, but I tried to give it a good heft so all that water would float merrily away.

I'm not going in that crawlspace today, I'm just not. If I have to leave John Henry turned off until next weekend, then that's what I will have to do. Because I brought all the non-tree-related Christmas decorations down from the attic yesterday -- which, I have to tell you, was a whole job in itself:

(I don't know why the picture looks all pinky like I left the film undeveloped in the junk drawer for twenty years, but...) I can't just leave those piles in the dining room for an entire week. You know me: neat freak extraordinaire and everything. So today's job is Christmas, damnit!

There is no football game today -- or, no important football game, I should say -- so maybe, just maybe, I'll have time to take a quick look later. At least go and assess the situation, if I get the Christmas decorations taken care of while the sun's still in the sky. Because there are no lights down in the crawlspace. And if you think I'm not looking forward to going down there when it's light out, ain't no way I'm going down there in the dark!

Then again, who knows? Maybe this time I really fixed it.

Nope. There he goes.

He sure is a hard-drivin' man. Lord. Lord! He sure is a
hard-drivin' man!

PS. For all my non-American readers with curious minds.


MD said...

Ok, here are 2 suggestions.. Electric blanket for the night time and the radiator off. When you get up turn it on and at least the chill will be off during the day even with the heat turned way down. said...

Misery loves company:

and try a bigger shim and alter the angle/direction said...

url redone cause blogger is a booger

EGE said...

Hey thanks for the tip, ILU! I read everything they have to say on the subject -- even followed all the links -- and I will blog later about what I learned and what I did.

MP -- if all else fails, I'm with you, but I've got try everything I can to make the hammer stop first.

jm_houseinprogress said...

Okay, so shimming and tilting didn't solve it and it sounds like condensation is getting trapped in the radiator. It sounds like the valve might either need to be cleaned or replaced if it is not allowing the condensation to drain back out. Or, the radiator is tilted too far and the condensation is sloshing and rushing out and hitting the steam square on. The tilt should be slight, just a few degrees. I always through a level on top of my radiator to check it.

If you want to try it yourself, local hardware stores occasionally carry these valves:

Here is some more information about what might be creating your problem:

If you need a specialist to come out and look at it, HeatingHelp keeps a directory of professionals trained in working with steam heat, which gets more rare and rate these days.

Hang in there. I know how frustrating this is.

jm_houseinprogress said...

Feh. Here is that link for steam radiator sounds:

Stephanie said...

hoo man, I might need to borrow your experts to help with my washing machine & tv issues ;)

EGE said...

JM -- I went to but none of the links are working for me -- I can get to their homepage, but nothing else. I emailed them about ordering the booklet you talked about, but I haven't heard back. Maybe because it's the weekend.

Steph -- are your problems Australia-related? Or just you've never-done-it-before-related? Either way, I might know online people who can offer real advice, so email me!