At some point during the last year, I pulled the dryer out of its spot because the vent hose kept coming off the back. I discovered that this was due to the fact that the vent hose was totally clogged with lint and the air pressure was popping it off. So I left the hose detached so it didn’t catch fire. Since it was the dead of winter, the hot moist air blowing straight out into my house seemed like more of a feature than a problem, so I left it that way while I pondered what to do about the issue.

Months passed.

When the dryer stopped spinning, I pulled it out again to figure that problem out and discovered there was a heck of a lot of lint everywhere back there under the stairs. I looked around and noticed there was a heck of a lot of lint really everywhere in the basement; coating all the cobwebs, etc. So apparently leaving that blowing into the basement was not the best plan. (Turns out not venting your gas dryer outside is a: against the law where I live, and b: against the law because it’s a really bad idea. The combustion products from all that burning gas need to be sent outside. For reals. But I didn’t really stop to think about the fact that what was coming out of there was also the exhaust of the burner until I was mostly done fixing the problem. In my head it was just a heck of a lot of hot moist air.)

I could have plotted a route from the back of the dryer to the hole in the wall the hose led to, measured everything, gone and bought all the duct parts, etc. But that never seems to work out quite the way you expect; at least not the way I expect. I always seem to end up a few inches short here or long there or this spot is too narrow for the pipe I bought to fit there and I have to rethink, or something.

So instead I went down to the hardware store and bought the first parts I would definitely need: an elbow, a straight section, and a new outside vent. And a roll of tape.

A word about duct tape: I hate it.

I used to love duct tape. What self-respecting geek doesn’t love duct tape? But over time I’ve come to know that while duct tape can be used to kludge an astounding number of things, its not actually the best tape for anything. Not even for ducts. The adhesive hardens over time. (especially when it’s taped onto something hot, like for instance a duct…) Eventually it’s stuck like concrete to whatever you taped. But it stops sticking to the tape itself. So you end up with a layer of fossilized duct tape goo, dangling plastic strips, and the thing you taped together is falling apart. And before the part where it hardens into tufnel, the glue gets everywhere and is impossible to remove if the tape gets at all warm.


There are plenty of wonderful adhesives and tapes. A dizzying selection. You will be better served by really thinking about what you want your tape or glue to do and seeking the right tool for that job. (How long do you need it to hold? What temperatures will it need to endure? Is this a permanent or temporary installation? Etc….) Because while you may not have thought of it in this way before, tape and glue are really tools. Sophisticated (or simple) tools for fastening things. As with all tools, choose the right tool and your job is easier and the results are good. Choose the wrong tool and everything is more difficult and crappier. Duct tape is (almost always) the wrong tool.

So what I bought was a roll of adhesive aluminum foil tape. This stuff is also designed for ducts. But it’s actually good at the job—it’s what duct tape is the crappy version of. So I installed the outside vent in the hole in the wall, put the elbow on the back of the dryer, put the straight section on the end of that pointed toward the wall, and taped the two of them together. Then I did the same thing again: looked at where I was now, and where I needed to go, and the next time I was passing the hardware store I bought the next few pieces of ductwork: another elbow and two straight sections. And so on: over the course of a few weeks I added sections (leaving some joints untaped so I could wiggle, twist, adjust, rethink, etc) until I finally mated them up to the outside vent and taped up the last joints. It looks a heck of a lot neater than the “easy to install flexible dryer duct!” that it replaced, and it has a lot smoother inside surface, so it will hopefully take a lot longer to start to clog, and when it does need cleaning I can easily do that by opening just a couple of joints.

Then I went through the basement with a broom over my head and cleared away a lot of the dusty cobwebs. Overall the basement is looking better and better even though I haven’t actually done much to clear out any of the junk I’ve let accumulate in there.


A guy in his early 50s, living more or less alone in a 90-year-old house, trying to keep it all together.

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Posted in Appliances, Plumbing

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