Archive for May, 2012

May 5, 2012

Walled Off

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We’ve been thinking about baby gates lately. Yes, Zippy is still in utero, and likely won’t be mobile until 2013 in all likelihood, but there’s someone else in our household who needs to be corralled.

Both Domingo and I have close family members with cat allergies. I want to keep baby’s things relatively free of dander, just in case. Lily came first, and I’m a firm believer that every reasonable effort should be made to accommodate both baby and pets. My goal is not to forbid the cat from going into certain rooms (after all, nothing is more appealing to a cat than a place she isn’t allowed to go!) but limit her access. She can investigate, but no sleeping on the baby blankets. Luckily, the allergies in our families are mild so if we keep our house clean, and the cat fur down to a minimum, I’m not anticipating a problem. Lily has been showing less signs of stress, which should also help.

We wanted a pressure gate, rather than a hardware installed gate that would have be much more permanent. Pressure gates are held in place by applying pressure to both side walls. With the latch up, the gate is slightly smaller than the doorway opening. When the latch is pushed down and locked into place, the gate expands slightly to be bigger than the opening. Since the doorway is immutable, the gate can’t extend, creating pressure. Pressure gates can be removed and put up as many times as you want.

A few weeks ago I picked up the cheapest baby gate we could find – First Year’s brand gate at target for $10. (Why pay for more when the simple one will do?) The pressure causes the latch bar on this baby gate to bow slightly when in the process of securing or removing the gate. The latch is not the easiest to operate in general, and this added pressure/bowing it makes it even worse. The gate is fine once secured, but putting the gate up and taking it down can be a bit of a pain – which is exactly why we wanted a pressure gate in the first place! The manufactures seem to realize this, making the gate low enough that you can step over it without much hassle, even when you’re short like me.

Since the latch style seemed to be the problem, we needed to look at the next category of gates. The cheapest one in the next category up was the Munchkin Quick Install Gate, currently on sale at Target for $20. It’s another pressure gate and operates mostly the same way, but what makes it stand out is the type of latch. Rather than just a bar with a clamp, the munchkin gate has a guide to help the bar stay in place, sans bowing. It’s so much easier to operate. The gate is also heavier, sturdier, and taller. I suspect it will last to zippy’s toddler days.

For our needs, the munchkin gate is definitely worth the price increase. Since it’s still on sale and we need at least two gates, we’ll pick up another one.

I consider myself pretty handy, but we’re not always the fastest when it comes to home repairs. I have a list of things I’d like to tweak around the house, but finding the time to get around to them is always hard. We had two leaks (that we know about) that we’ve been avoiding for over a year: the master bathroom sink, and the master bathroom toilet. I know what you’re thinking, that’s so bad for the environment. Actually, the leaks were both very slow. Our water bill shows our usage compared to households of similar size and we use significantly less water, leaks and all. So I never sweated it.

A few days ago I noticed the small leak in the toilet had turned into a constant flow. Not good! It was time to finally fix the problem. Trouble was we couldn’t figure out the location of the leak. Everything seemed fine. The tank filled, the water in the bowl looked undisturbed, there were no puddles. The most likely suspect was the flapper, but there were none of the typical signs of flapper leaks. No air bubbles rising up from the flapper, or water dripping down into the bowl. If I couldn’t hear the water running, I wouldn’t believe the leak existed. Since we couldn’t figure out what the problem was, we were left with no other choice but to turn shut the water off and call a plumber. Or so we thought.

That’s when my dad suggested food coloring. A couple drops in the tank and we could see where the water was flowing. It certainly looked like the dye was pooling around the flapper. That’s when I noticed the green dye wasn’t running down the sides of the bowel, but coming out the siphon jet! Yes, the toilet was leaking at the bottom of the bowl! No air was being displaced, hence no air bubbles. No water was running down the sides of the bowl, so no water displacement in the bowl. What a sneaky flapper leak.

Domingo went to the hardware store and picked up a $5 flapper. He installed it, but now we had a new problem – the chain was too long for the toilet to flush. No problem, I got out my jewelry tools and shortened about 8 links.

So there you have it, jeweler’s pliers, food coloring and a $5 flapper saved us a call to a plumber.

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