Getting hooked up

There isn't just one way

There is no one way to hook up your washer, drier, gas range or refrigerator with built-in ice maker.

There just isn’t.

One would think by now that the makers of these appliances would have agreed on a unit of standardization. This is America, after all. OPEC can get together in Austria once a year and agree on oil prices. Obi Wan Kenobi can live with the fact that he trained Luke Skywalker to fight Darth Vader, his own father.

So what’s the problem here?

No one knows. But Mike Frentz knows that he’s getting two, three, sometimes even four or five people in Frentz and Sons every day looking a little dazed. These people had made the natural assumption that they were going to, for example, disconnect an old drier, move it, push the new drier into place and reconnect it with the same fittings. Ten minutes, tops, right?

Not an unnatural assumption. But when they try to reconnect, nothing fits. It’s as if one part had never been near the other before.

Think things through first
This is where the professionals split off from the rest of us, who duct tape everything together, and then use even more duct tape to seal the whole damn thing to the wall just for good measure, and go looking for a beer.

The professionals know something we don’t -- methodology. They do not just rip and hope to reassemble. Mike says they pull the drier out a little bit from the wall and stop, and observe, and ultimately see the answer, to which the rest of us remain blind.

Now Mike isn’t saying why the answer is the answer. It just is. It’s one of those things one just accepts on faith, or one gets used to drying clothing on the line.

New vs. old appliances
The answer is that newer appliances have different adapters and flair nuts than older appliances. The answer also is that adapters and flair nuts, the little pieces of metal used to secure lines to appliances, also vary wildly from manufacturer to manufacturer -- new or not. So you can begin to see the edges of the problem here.

The most common hook-up for a gas dryer. The 3/8" black pipe coming out of the back of the dryer needs a flair adapter installed on it so you can attach the 3/8" flaired copper tube and flair nut.

Let’s say you’re moving and you’re taking your washer and drier with you. Do you know what the adapter on the lines look like? Chances are you don’t, which is why, when you disconnect the washer and drier, you only take the flair nut -- the first fitting that can be disconnected. So you get to your new house and try to reconnect to the adapter someone else probably left right where you left yours -- and it doesn’t fit.

Here are various sizes of flair caps, pipe caps and pipe plugs to seal off gas lines running to household appliances.

This doesn’t just happen with washers and dryers. Gas ranges are even more fun, usually way more fun than a man should have, because they not only require some sort of adapter and flair nut, but at some point you’ll have to cap off the line, so the gas doesn’t leak. Aluminum foil and a rubber band won’t cut it for this job.

Flair nuts and flair adapters of different sizes like these are used to connect gas appliances.

A few tips
But all these jobs have a few things in common that can make them much, much easier. We’ll get into the more difficult concepts in the next column, but for now:

* Be smart and do what the pros do. They don’t touch a thing, maybe a cup of coffee, but that’s about it. They look at the way the parts of put together and take notice of which one goes where. Before they disassemble anything, they might even take a Polaroid picture of the link-up, so they’ll have a blueprint of sorts.

* Some of Mike’s customers videotape the plumbing under a sink so they can bring the camera in and show Mike what it used to look like before they disassembled it. If you’re going to go this route, part size is important. Put a pencil, a dollar bill, or something else of recognizable size in the picture to give Mike an idea of the spatial dimensions he’s working with.