Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Water Main Leak Repair

Two weekends ago, Ian came up from doing laundry (with our new used washing machine) in the basement and mentioned that there was water on one of the pipes down there.  I had just been running the cold water (trying to make wine bottle planters, but not having too much success), so I made the hopeful assumption that he was seeing condensation on one of the drain pipes down there.

But, as you will have already guessed, I was wrong.  When I went downstairs a couple of days later to start brewing our first batch of compost tea, I saw the long trickle of water that Ian had been talking about.  It was coming from a rusted plug nut on the top of the main water line coming into the house.  BIG BUMMER.  



First of all, someone had used a steel plug in a water system, which is incredibly lazy, stupid, or both, because water makes steel rust.  Second of all, that plug had started letting a slow trickle of water leak into the basement, which wasn't great for the basement floor, and it certainly wasn't great for water conservation.  And lastly, it wasn't hard to imagine that leak getting worse some day soon and essentially letting a geyser of full-pressure water erupt into the middle of the basement while we were all at work and unaware.  It was obvious that I had to embark upon another plumbing project ASAP.

I managed to get all the parts I needed while on a break from work last Thursday.  The guy at the plumbing store very sweetly saved me some money by having me buy fittings that could be sweated (soldered) together, rather than threaded fittings.  Threaded fittings require thicker metal and more machining to produce, so they're much more expensive than sweat fittings.  He also took a guess at why a T fitting was used here where an elbow would have worked just as well: a place to drain the plumbing system for maintenance?

Since someone had used that steel plug, I doubt the T fitting had been used for any other reason than it's what the plumber had on hand.  But I did like the idea of a place to drain the system, so we kept the T fitting and added a spigot.

While waiting for Ian to finish showering and getting ready to depart on Sunday morning, I sweated all the pieces together that I could:


And after both upstairs tenants were gone for the day, I shut off the water, and went around the house, turning on a couple of faucets on each floor so that air could get into the pipes and allow the water to drain out the open garden hose spigot in the basement faster.

I cut the 3/4" horizontal pipe coming off the T fitting, and I disconnected the main pipe just above the water meter at a union fitting.  That allowed me to take that section of pipe with the rusty T fitting, put it in my work bench vise, and unscrew the T fitting with a plumber's wrench and my giant muscles.  Once I had it off, it was obvious that someone had tried to cover the steel plug with some putty from the inside to prevent rust.  There you have it: that plumber was too lazy to get a proper brass plug.  Jerk.



I cleaned up the threads of the pipe end.


And with some plumber's putty, I assembled all the pieces and put the pipe with the new T fitting into place.  I'm using a spare washing machine hose to guide water down to a bucket next time I have to drain the pipes.  This spigot is probably 7 feet off the floor.


It took some finagling and a little teflon tape to get the union joint to stop dripping.  In my experience, those union joints are always a little finicky.  But if I ever have problems with this section of plumbing again, I won't have to cut any pipes; I can just disconnect at the union.


After about an hour and a half, the water was turned on, I had chased down the one drip that was occurring with the new pieces, and a potential plumbing crisis was averted.  It cost me $55 in new parts and my own time.  If you think you always have to call a professional plumber, but you like taking on challenges and working with your hands, think again.  If I can do this, you can too.  Neat, right?

7 comments:

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    1. My apologies, Tabitha, for not having seen your comment when you posted it! Thank you for the kind words. That pipe-lining technology is neat. I first saw it used on an episode of This Old House.

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