Friday, November 23, 2012

More Bad News

Don't ever ask, "What else can go wrong?" Somebody will be compelled to answer.

When I came home from work today, it was a bit early. There was still light out. I'd tried to stop and get a much-need oil change, but the Econo Lube joint closes early. That was my good luck, as it turned out. Having light enabled me to see the first sign of the problem.

The front entry slab is covered with green astro turf. There was a dark spot on it next to the house. I stopped to check it out, since I didn't remember there being a dark spot anywhere there.

It was wet. I felt it again, just making sure. It was still wet. There was no way it should be wet. I looked over at the pipes coming out of the ground next to the house and there was a little wet spot where the shut-off for the water line into the house was as well.

Having one of those growing sinking feelings, I walked straight into the den, the room on the other side of that wall with the wet spot under it. Good thing I did. Half the floor was wet. It was, of course, the half of the floor that was covered by cardboard boxes we hadn't unpacked yet, rather than the half covered by plastic totes we hadn't unpacked yet.

The next twenty minutes were occupied by Steve and me moving the totes out of their piles to make a base of plastic for the stacks of boxes that got moved on top of them. Several were soaked and had to be emptied, checked, and contents rescued. Somewhere in there we also got out both boxes of rags and threw them all over the floor to soak up the wet spots as much as possible.

Trouble was, as soon as we soaked up everything, more leaked out from the base of the wall over the floor again.

We needed a plumber.

Of course, we had no idea how to find a reputable one rather than a see-how-much-the-traffic-will-bear kind of plumber. You know, like the one we wound up with for the sewer repair. The next door neighbor had mentioned a better cheaper plumber, after the sewer repair had been finished, sort-of. Steve headed over to find out the name, but it's a holiday weekend and he wasn't home.
There were lights across the street, but she (Naoma) is new here and hasn't needed to find a plumber herself yet. She did show up a few minutes later with a wet vac to help with the mess, however, as well as helping with the shut-off valve and bringing over a gallon of filtered drinking water for our use while the house water is shut off. (I didn't tell her I've been drinking unfiltered water in my lunch jug because the ice cubes come that way. Lemon slices hide the taste. I don't seem to have been poisoned yet.)

Now for the yellow pages. The first choice just rang and rang. Not even an answering machine. The second gave voice-mail, so I left a message. I'm an optimist. The third advertised no extra charge for evenings, weekends or holidays, 24/7 service, and had an answering service which promised to call a tech for us if we would wait a few minutes for him to call. We did and he did. About 20 minutes later his truck pulled up at the end of our driveway.

I showed him the wet spots, inside and out, and he looked in the space for the water heater, dug a bit of dirt around the pipes coming out of the ground, and offered his conclusion. I had been envisioning tearing the wall apart to find a leak and requiring a repair of the major construction variety.

Nope, not that. We had a slab leak. Translation: the pipe running under the concrete slab the house sits on had developed a leak somewhere between the shut-off and the water heater. Now I'm envisioning jackhammers or tunneling under the slab and wondering how on earth I can manage that kind of expense.

There followed another 20 minutes of checking out various parts of the house and yard, determining what kind of piping ran where and what the options were. The must beautiful words in the world at that point were "bypass" and "through the attic". I was cautioned that his plan, while leaving the house intact, would route the incoming water around the existing pipping in the front yard and in the process also leave the ability to irrigate the front yard in the dust, so to speak. No biggie, we hadn't used it and had no plans to. If we lost the hoses too, well, we might lose the front pine tree but while a loss, it wasn't the one shading the house.

It still won't be cheap. A wall will have to be opened up to determine where exactly the incoming water hooks up now, likely to the water heater, but we're not sure. Maybe 90% sure. He was going to open the bathroom wall between the door and the shower, but I asked why not the back of the wall, in the water heater closet? He said that would require removing the water heater, but after checking it's installation date, suggested that it might best be replaced now anyway.

So the final plan is to use copper, replacing the galvanized pipe there now and since 1961, coming from the meter to the car port, head up into the attic, across to the water heater, and down into the house again to hook up to the vicinity of a brand new water heater. It'll travel outside the house for a bit, something unthinkable in Minnesota. The old leaky pipe will be bypassed completely. They can even install a connector near the ground outside so we can hook up a hose again and continue to water the pine tree! The back yard watering system (hoses again) won't be affected. And, our water pressure should be even better.

When we commented we had great pressure, he amended that to add checking the pressure and maybe adding a regulator to insure that the pressure is not too high.

We can deal with water from the hoses  filling buckets for sanitary purposes until Monday. We're waiting till then because that gives us time to call the credit union and cash in another CD to cover the expense. But heck, this one's only earning 2.1% interest. I just hate that it adds to the amount of taxes I'll owe for the year.

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