Of all the subjects I’ve written about, plumbing may very well be one I’ve avoided. No more.
I came home Thursday evening from work to a huge puddle of water near a corner of my house. As I walked around the yard to see if the recent rain had left a standing puddle anywhere else, I discovered what I knew and was dreading – that, no, there weren’t any other areas that still had water visible. I went into the house and to my relief there was no water in the inside, but if I leaned in closely toward the hot water heater/dishwasher area, I could hear the sound of water running.
I know a little about home construction and repair. I have learned a lot of that since living in this beautiful, charming, quirky 75-year-old house. I knew this: I had a plumbing leak, under the house, on the kitchen end.
One of the charming things about this house is the way the construction of it tells a story. In the beginning there was a three-room structure, and over the years another room was added, then another, and another. From the outside you can’t tell this – the roof, while multi-gabled, is shingled uniformly, the siding covers all the seams, but underneath the house it’s a different story. The subflooring reveals different materials, different levels, even different construction techniques. The most contemporary end of the house has a cinder block foundation; the oldest actually has stacked, flat stones, the stones that are found all over this area of middle Tennessee.
The access hole to the crawl space is 2′ x 2′, which while not comfortable, is manageable. Like all crawl spaces, there are pipes and cables lines and electric lines. In the summer there are also scads of creepycrawlies. What happens under this house however, is that the crawl space diminishes as you scootch toward the kitchen end of the house until you can scootch no more. There’s a beam that cuts across the entire width of the house that is about 6″ off the ground – enough to shine a flashlight but not enough for an adult person to clear. Ask me how I know this.
So back to the leak. After my initial exploration and information gathering, I know it’s beyond my basic skills to figure this out. I call a couple of plumbers early Friday morning – one can get to me Friday afternoon, one Saturday, and I schedule them both. The first guy and I talk through the issue, he agrees with my assessment, scoffs at my “you-can’t-get-to-it-from-under-the-house” statement until he sees for himself. He comes back into the house and proceeds to tell me that we will have to go through the kitchen floor, one area at a time, until we find the leak, and then possibly tear up a bigger area to repair it, depending upon what the circumstances are. So of course the flooring will be sacrificed; the subflooring could probably be reused afterward, but obviously the covering would have to be replaced. He said we’d want to use a carpenter for that work, and an installer for the flooring, and then whatever was necessary for the actual plumbing repair. His estimate was $3000-$5000.
After I regained consciousness, I saw them off with their promises of beginning the repair on Monday, after having gotten their carpenter lined up. I spent a Freaky Friday worrying about the cost and the repair and the mess. I called my resident plumbing expert, Big Jesse, who talked me through his ideas all the way from Los Angeles.
Then Saturday’s plumber came. After my insider talk with Jesse, he and I remembered the possibility that there may be a “scuttle hole” under the dishwasher or stove or sink or something. So when Heath from Advantage Plumbing started looking around, we took a panel off the hot water heater, looked in and beneath the dishwasher, and what do we see? Let’s let the pictures tell the rest of the story…
It was right there, right in the middle of the access hole! Woohoo! A little copper sleeve, a little soldering (what’s known as a bandaid repair), and we’re done! Turn the water back on, shove the dishwasher back in, one hour of plumber’s fees, and I’m back in clover!
I think this is less about trying to learn a lesson or takeaway, and more about, in this case, I was just dumb lucky. Btw, that’s the actual plumber and company if you have a need in the future.
So this post isn’t the most exciting or important, but it’s a day in the life. Now if I could just learn to build bookshelves.
Thanks for reading!