Burst plumbing. Rate Craftsman vs Blue Hawk Wet Dry Vacuums

Picture of ERNEST ANDREAS
I was outside doing chores, when wife ran out and frantically called me to “Shut off the Main water valve, the bathroom is Flooding”! Run/walking into the  garage for the big iron ‘key’ and a screw driver to open the iron cover of the ‘main’ shutoff, seemed to take forever. Finally the water was turned off so I could see the aftereffects.
We had experienced a major flood from a frozen pipe a year or so ago, so I was thinking ‘not again’. Wife was busily throwing the soaked bath towels into a bucket, as I went to get the little Green (they are now red) Shop Vac Machine, to suck up what inch deep water was on the floor. Lifting the water soaked bath rugs into the tub, sort of removed some of the more than inch deep water. An exercise in futility…somewhat. We slurped up the water, a painfully slow procedure with the inadequate equipment on hand, as it was creeping into the hall carpet.
After countless cycles of vacuuming water through the small 1″ diameter hose and fighting with inadequate little Green (red) Shop Vac Machine’s frustrating, cheap snap-fit plastic ‘bend’ type latches, every time the small canister filled, we eventually got most of the water pulled up and dumped into the toilet. Water had sprayed everywhere, into cabinets and all  over the walls. I shudder, thinking what would have been the result if we had been away or traveling when it occurred. Alert wife described the sound as a garden hose spraying…in the house.
She followed the sound to see what was happening and alarmingly noted the water, spraying like a fan all over the bathroom. The water was hot for some reason, most likely from the water heater being close to the feed line to the toilet tank and our hot water circulating pump. Check the water feed lines to all of your toilet tanks! Whatever you do, you Do Not want this mess, especially if you are away from the house during the failure.
We had replaced the old solid copper (safest/reliable) feed lines with new, modern braided stainless steel types, a year or so ago when installing the new minimal flush toilets.

The tank supply line’s white plastic fitting (weakest link in the assembly) left the threaded portion and burst the braided hose completely away from the toilet tank without warning. The water pressure line then flipped against the sink cabinet and created a fan of water that sprayed the walls and everywhere.

Trip to Lowe’s after the ‘water park’ excitement was mopped up and had calmed somewhat, I found several methods of repair. Bought them all and decided later which to use, what to return. Noted were a type of mesh reinforced flex line that has a built in stop valve, in case of catastrophic failure, such as occurred. Still a plastic fitting on the tank end, as all seem to be, but far more reinforced, gray and thicker than the white plastic on previous type.

Lowe’s gave me money back for the failed one. I replaced the line to the other toilet as well. It was of the same design that had failed. Should have just gone back to the solid copper type for old time reliability, but even they had eventually seeped from compression fittings over time, causing a sneaky leak.

While replacing the other bathroom toilet line, I noted the corroded shutoff faucet and decided to replace it as well. I had previously replaced the shut off in the hall bathroom during remodel. Nothing is as simple as it seems. After fighting for a half hour, finally it came undone. The new shut off is a 1/4 turn ball valve, rather than the old washer type. Almost broke off the copper pipe back inside the wall, while wrenching the old corroded valve loose. That would have been Really frustrating.

While in Lowe’s, I noticed a shiny, compact dimensions, polished stainless steel ‘Blue Hawk’ wet/dry vacuum in a manageable, easily stored 5 gallon size. On sale for $64 (now $38.39 Oct 2013).  http://www.lowes.com/pd_461678-30449-8255519_0__?productId=4755321&Ntt=blue+hawk+vac&pl=1&currentURL=%3FNtt%3Dblue%2Bhawk%2Bvac&facetInfo=   Opened it’s box, checked it out, impressed and brought it home.

Small enough to handle and store, yet big enough to hold easily over four times more water than the little green (new color is red) plastic Shop Vac machine, yet it can also accept the larger diameter hose if need arises, but only at a price of over $20, then you need additional large end accessories. A couple of disposable paper, dirt collection bags are included, as is the good quality 1.250″ id hose and 2 short wand extensions, including a shorter (5 feet) and less diameter hose than I desire. Quality designed mechanical Latches on ‘Blue Hawk’ 5 gal, are far improved over the ‘bend to release’ molded type, that caused endless frustration on the little green Shop Vac Machine.

Added note: Lowe’s Blue Hawk 5 gal wet dry stainless vac, shows ‘Not in stock’ as of 02 Feb 2014. Stanley 4 gal wet dry stainless steel vac for $30, is no longer listed at Costco.

. Look for ‘Real’ mechanical latches holding power unit to tank on any vac you intend to purchase. A ‘tank to power head’ seal is also desirable. Check for a ‘Blower’ connection, with both vac/blow to have hose locks. A blue sock type cloth dust filter ‘bag’, over the foam sock for dirt pick-up, leaves a little to be desired on Blue Hawk.

Both were held in place by a very flimsy plastic band. Lack of a rubber vacuum seal in the power unit channel to tank was noted. Blue Hawk motor only draws 7 amps (18AWG cord), though rated at 4HP? Experience is that less amps, less actual power. Extremely light construction, hard plastic swivel castors (4) fitted loosely, not clicking fully into their sockets after insertion.

Thankfully those devilishly unmanageable ‘bend to release’ type latches securing the power unit to tank, are Only on the cheap little plastic vacs that we have used periodically over the past years. Search of ‘on line’ wet/dry vacs depict the reliable, one year guaranteed Craftsman polished stainless steel, as close to price ($80, now reduced to $69.97). Added note: latest price is $89.97, on sale for $79.97, with an 8 gallon (3 more gal) capacity machine that looks very fine as well. Note the big rear wheels and steel swivel castors.  http://www.sears.com/craftsman-8-gallon-stainless-steel-tank-4-peak/p-00917608000P?prdNo=1&blockNo=1&blockType=G1

Walmart also sells a compact 5 gallon stainless steel ‘Shop Vac’ in price range. Hose inside diameter is 1.250″ (.25″ smaller than Craftsman) It lacks large wheels, has no external water dump and has less features than Craftsman. Numerous wet vacs are plastic construction, which have their points as well.

The Craftsman motor draws 9.5 amps, also rated at 4 HP. More ‘actual’ power from my perspective. In lieu of the supplied, more efficient pleated paper Cartridge filter, No disposable paper bags included. Disposable paper bags cost about $4-5 each (2-3 per package) at Sears. 5 for $5, at Harbor Freight (somewhat smaller capacity).

Craftsman 8 gallon wet/dry vac has a larger diameter hose (1 1/2″ id) for bigger chunks of ‘stuff’, more water, 2′ longer hose than Blue Hawk’s and longer power cord (12′), both of which allow for combined longer total reach from electrical socket.

Two unique and sturdy hose retaining wire racks on Craftsman, are handy for hose storage wrapped around top, with enough space below to wrap power cord and a moderate extension cord. Tool storage sockets are molded into top and base. Really nice storage size overall (smaller ‘footprint’, taller), considering 9.5 amp power and capacity. Larger yellow semi-HEPA, fan folded (pleated) type, ‘in tank’ dirt filter cartridge on a center bolt, for dry dusty pick-up, is another additional nice feature on Craftsman, much better than a cheap cloth ‘sock’ banded over foam.

Replacement cost of pleated type, automotive paper filter cartridge is about $14 from Sears, $6.82 from Amazon. KoPach/Filter (+add shipping cost), where an adapter disc conversion to Craftsman/Ridgid, is offered for less than $4.

Walmart Shop Vac filters/bags/cartridges are about $10 price range in 2013 and ‘appear’ size compatible. Added shipping varies if ordering ‘on line’ from other sources. Black foam filter, covering the floating ‘check ball’ motor protection shutoff for water pick-up use, seems common.

Large diameter wheels on an axle on rear carriage, with quality solid snap fit Metal framed swivel casters on front, let Craftsman roll effortlessly across carpet, while being pulled (hose is swiveled and snap locked) by the 7′ long, larger (1.50″ id) diameter hose.

Weight is only 18#, so no problem lifting this unit while empty. Attachments consist of a 10″ x 1.5″ wide floor nozzle, with snap removable squeegee or brush inserts, a 7″ x 2.5″ full volume floor tool and a crevice tool. Any other tools, connections desired, will have to be adapted in diameter to 1.750″ od hose/wand connector. Feel creative?

Craftsman also has a large diameter external tank Drain with screw threaded, rubber sealed cap, for easily dumping the water scavenged during flood clean-up. A very handy feature, not available on most other small wet/dry vacs. A nice, vacuum enhancing, channel mounted rubber seal between power unit and tank, was noted. Several other vacs visible ‘on line’, have similar features and price. Not all features standard on the Craftsman exist on the others in that price range. Countless others range up to thousands of dollars. Only US govt and it’s contractors, spending Your tax dollars, buys those. :>)

Today a test of sorts, to see if the new Craftsman could pull more additional dirt out of a carpet that had been vacuumed previously. The Craftsman had so much suction, that the carpet was being lifted from the underlying pad. I used the lifting action to shake out the dirt from between the fibers. After an hour of re-vacuuming the well trafficked hallways, I checked the new Harbor Freight bag, installed on the hose port inside the tank. It rattled like lots of small gravel had been collected in the bottom. Other dirt/dust is most likely accumulating inside the disposable paper bag. Craftsman offers larger and differing filtration bags for different dusty applications.

Even with a paper bag installed, leave the pleated paper filter cartridge installed as a redundant second filter, to protect the motor during dust pick up. The 9.5 Amp suction re-lifted the previously flattened down carpet nap, giving the hall a fresh new carpet appearance. The marketing design of only 2 16.5″ extension wands included, leaves the impression that it was designed for extremely short people. Child labor, Hobbits? Definitely obtain extra extension wands if buying this otherwise excellent unit.

Sears internet Parts detail picture for model # 125.17608, will help identify and locate another wand extension set, part # FV 5901.01.01… somewhere? The 1 1/2″ ID of the hose and extensions, .250″ larger than most small wet/dry vacs with a 1 1/4″ inside dia hose, is definitely problematic, seeing as it is smaller than the big units and larger than the common 1″ id hose on house vacuums.

The Sears store in Coronado Center, Albuquerque NM, has serious HR problems in it’s Tool dept. I was hung up on, disconnected, requiring a full repeat of the multi-step dept acquisition process, no less than 12 times, while attempting to locate one person that could help me locate the correct wand extensions. Each call to ‘Hand Tools’ resulted in the same person that seemed annoyed that I had interrupted his ‘Rat Killin’.

Frustrated beyond tolerance, angered, with no one returning my calls (even from 1-800-252-1698 Parts Direct), I called the Cottonwood Mall Sears store. 180 degrees of HR difference. ‘Josh’ was helpful to spend time and research the parts. He transferred the call to a supervisor for location. For some reason, Sears has ‘transfer call’ problems, but ‘Cordy’ the supervisor, ordered the correct extension wands and called back to inform me of arrival at store within 5-7 days.

‘Craftsman Parts Direct’ finally called me 4 days later with a reference ‘case #’, to inform of a different part number (# 17834) and offered to ship the $7.99 wand/s by UPS… at my expense, doubling the price. I chose to wait for local delivery to Cottonwood Mall Sears store, per Cordy.

Added note: Supervisor ‘Cordy’ called and wands came in. Two excellent quality, locking style 20.5″ 1.5″ ID 1 7/8″ OD extension wands, part number 4884600583 or D#17834, were given gratis upon arrival at Cottonwood Sears store. Unexpected, generous gesture on behalf of Cordy and Sears warehouse. Now if only a 45 degree hose to wand, ‘handle’ attachment, fitted with a vacuum ‘re-leaf’ gate were available, to make vacuuming area rugs easier.

Note 30 Jan 2014:

Sears website image Estwing Sportsman 14″ camp axe, $29.99. Excellent price for a quality classic USA made product. After much searching, asking hardware staff the location of this axe in the Coronado ALB NM store (first guy couldn’t locate), search of ‘in store’ website revealed an unrealistic price of $89 (from a Sears ‘associate’ source) After an evening hour+ of phone conversations, Jeannie and Cody finally were of assistance in locating the remote area of the store (Hammers…away from ‘tools’?) that stocks this item. Hanging hook display was empty, though website shows ‘3 in stock’ (shrinkage?). Two trips to store and now waiting for call on when item will actually be in stock for purchase. Hopefully tomorrow will bring a reply?

After no replies over two days, I attempted to locate the Estwing Sportsmans Axe at the K Mart (Sears affiliate) on Carlisle, Not stocked. Cottonwood Mall Sears in Rio Rancho. Not stocked. Proceeded to call the Coronado store, again.

Cody told me, he and Jeanie searched the stock room and no Estwing Sportsman’s Axes were found. He said they were in process of removing the.. ‘available 3’.. from the online ad. Suggested I order ‘online’ to get the axe. I  placed order from home computer 02 Feb 2014, so now we wait for notification of arrival for free store pick-up, as noted on website.

Follow up: Went to Sears store (3rd time) on Tuesday as the delivery order said Estwing Axe would be available for ‘pickup’. No Estwing Sportsma’s axe is on the stock rack labeled for it’s position. Dock guy searched the computer, Although a Craftsman Club member that receives endless ‘offers’, I am not even listed. No Axe, no record of the online order. Online website did confirm 2 left in stock. (now corrected) Apparently mine is/was one of the 3… unavailable ‘in store’ Estwings originally listed?

He suggested I order it in store and prepay. He then placed my order… between loading dock duties.  Following his direction with order number in hand, I stood in line at another register for over 20 minutes, while other problems were being resolved for other customers.

Finally I moved to another tool register and pre-payed. Axe is supposedly arriving one week from today…at my home. Free delivery. I asked him why not at store? Sears will eat up all profit in delivery costs. Apparently he is compensating for my inconvenience?

07 February 2014 Immediate delivery of excellent Estwing Sportsman’s Axe by Fed Ex 2nd day. Apparently it was ‘in stock’…somewhere. Faster than the Sears ‘brick and mortar’ could even locate. Sears must be going the way of Ebay/Amazon, Fast and furious. The ‘3 in stock’ online inventory is now reduced to 0 and shipping is now $6.50.  Sears is great quality. Online is the future.

Side note ref wet dry vac: Lowe’s sells an industrial, very high quality, 20′ x 1.5″ id vacuum hose in garden center (for pool use). $30 (now $37 for 30′), a bit of engineering ingenuity and a professional quality, much longer hose is then available for whatever project may arise. Lowe’s also sells a high quality 1.5″ ‘Shop Vac brand’ hose, in a 12′ length for $32, ready to use.

Check the non-locking, friction fit end adapters for a  2″ compatibility, to fit into the locking style port of the Craftsman….. or even possibly Blue Hawk. Lowe’s does not have in local store, the pleated filter for either the Blue Hawk (no conversion?) or the Craftsman with it’s center threaded cap nut rod. The Craftsman/Ridgid model wet/dry filter described on the box, is larger than the filter included with the 8 gallon Craftsman.

Cousin tried little 8 gallon Craftsman as a replacement for his big ‘Shop Vac’, in his wood shop. Little 8 gallon Craftsman is fine for small sanders, etc. NOT a replacement for that big application. He prefers his quieter old Shop Vac, with 20 gallon capacity attached to his busy table saw. Little 8 gallon Craftsman filled with sawdust faster and was louder. This compact 8 gallon Craftsman is for lighter duty, home emergencies, such as our relatively small ‘flood’ water pick up, unclogging drains, garbage disposals, dish washers, toilet overflows, etc. Big jobs, Big floods, require Big Vacs…and pumps….and Big ventilator/dryers.

Inside the house usage is excellent. Wife says it’s not bad for decibels. The dreaded toilet overflow is one nasty project that requires the device to be sanitized with bleach after use. Operators manual details the procedure. Cleaning out sliding window tracks, sliding door tracks, sucking deep dirt out of the hall carpets, under the bed, car, garage or house gutters, etc, etc.

Before replacing an under the sink garbage disposal unit, I used the ‘blow’ feature to clear the old disposal unit, including plumbing trap, of water. Having no water to drip out during the replacement, was far better than the alternative. I can also see wet vac’s application to ‘suck’ out the jammed unit, if potato peelings or? overwhelm the grinder mechanism or drain. One other hint learned from this latest experience, shop for an all Stainless steel grinder mechanism in the replacement disposal, to prevent premature failure due to rust.

Much bigger wheels, better quality swivels, rolls Craftsman around on the carpet easily with little propensity for tipping, following like a puppy. Teflon lubing the wheels and swivels as assembling, helps reduce rolling friction. Pulled by the hose, it follows well and doesn’t bang into the doorways and the walls, like Son’s borrowed, big capacity, wide tank vac did endlessly during last years big flood. One note: Sears Craftsman immediately replaced son’s unit for me with no hassle, after it began smelling and burning the armature during the extensive flood water vacuuming process. Thank you Sears Craftsman.

Wet Dry Stainless Steel 8 gallon Craftsman at 18# empty, is narrower, easy to lift and carry through the house and easier to store. This same unit is also listed at K Mart and with Craftsman Club discount. Sam’s Club (local) sells them as Vacmaster for $60 with 4 small casters, instead of the nice big rear wheels of Craftsman. Vacmaster also is Lacking the really useful hose retaining devices for top of unit wrap around storage. Handy devices present on the Craftsman 8 gallon.

Lowe’s compact Blue Hawk 5 gallon and Craftsman 8 gallon’s primary functions for our experience, are handy fast clean up. A ‘stand by’ insurance for ‘in house’ water spills, emergencies, which seem more common than I previously imagined.

Costco sells a Stanley stainless steel, wet/dry vac in 4 gallon, 7 amp 2.5 hp size, for only $30 (Amazon; over $40+…. plus added shipping). Features are not as many and not as sturdy as polished Craftsman. No blower connection, No tank seal, but has ‘easy to release’, good mechanical tank latches and 3 wand extensions + nozzles. 4 small plastic casters, instead of Craftsman’s large rear wheels on axle and quality metal castors front. Stanley has shorter 10′ power cord and shorter, smaller diameter hose. Basic paper ‘disc’ type ‘paper/cloth’ mitten filter, banded over foam bag, is standard.

Economical, very compact and easy to handle light weight, for a standby unit, price is excellent at $29.99. For many consumers that do not treat tools roughly (throwing them around), stainless steel is preferred over impact resistant plastic. Cost of Stanley is only $7 more than the common separate units…a power head alone (‘Bucket Head’, Home Depo), which clips onto a 5 gallon bucket, which costs additional $3-4, making it same cost as stand alone, complete unit Stanley. A satisfied buyer/user of the Stanley, testified while I was checking it out, that it is a great unit, powerful enough and confirmed that ‘The price was definitely the selling point’.

Side note from Insurance reclamation professional: Mold forms/grows inside walls and under carpets within hours in high humidity areas. Fast drying is mandatory to reduce the occurrence. In wide spread local disasters, finding a fast rental or even buying a unit to assist in the drying, is sometimes problematic.

Now an elegant, polished stainless steel Craftsman 8 gallon wet/dry vac ( I carefully re-boxed and reluctantly returned sweet little Blue Hawk 5 gallon to Lowe’s: Note: the sale is now $38.39 for the Blue Hawk, which makes it extremely attractive as of Oct 2013)  Craftsman 8 gallon from Sears was only $8 more than Blue Hawk was at the time. (Craftsman Club discount 10% ($8) sweetened the sale) and now sits in the corner of the garage. Standing sentinel-like, lurking for the next emergency, in place of the stiff plastic tangled hose, little ‘green (now red) plastic Shop Vac Machine’, that is in the car…. to be donated to a charity shop at first chance.

‘Emergency’ was not long in coming. In New Mexico with only 8″ avg per year, rain is never widespread across a large area of the state. A localized torrential downpour, a deluge with hail forming dams, converged from several sloped roofs, onto the flat glass of a sun room.

Water backed up under flashing and poured into the sun room from a skylight. Wife was calling for help, as I quickly converted the Craftsman from dry to ‘Wet’ pickup….. where it will likely remain until New Mexico’s ‘Monsoon’ season passes.

Several quarts were collected inside the tank during the multi-stage hectic mop up including several other containers,  towels and mops, enough to prevent long term damage if allowed to set in hidden crevasses and under walls, flower pots etc. Warning, Caution: When using the hose in the blower outlet for drying, ‘after’ slurping up water, the hose will spit and drool dirty water for several minutes.

Note:………prices have increased significantly since this post. Ever more indebted ‘Obama ‘Dollars, no longer have quite the ‘buying power’ that the un indebted old US dollars had. Note the New improved ‘One Hundred’ dollar bill? It is on the fast track to be the new ‘Ten’ dollar bill….. in buying power..

Life is good in the United States of America, “One nation under God”

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