Are you ready to jump back into my plumbing nightmare? Dont’ worry, it’s got a happy ending (so far).
Check out part 1 here if you haven’t already.
I waited for the plumber to show up, and in the meantime, checked around the house again to assess the damage. The ceiling in the laundry room had one corner with a new stain, clearly from that morning’s watery escapades:
I feared the worst, but was still very pleased that I could expect a plumber in just a few hours to fix what was likely a busted, frozen pipe. Hopefully if I got him out here soon enough, I could begin drying things out and limit the damage and/or mold risk. I went back upstairs and cleared things out, now able to take a few pictures between the bathroom and the garage (all of the ones you saw yesterday in part 1 weren’t taken until this point; I was simply too panicked to even think about a camera).
Around 10 AM, the doorbell rang and my new plumber was there to greet me. He also brought along his son, and I found this comforting; this was clearly a local family business, and the plumber (Greg) could not have been more friendly. I walked him around, per his request, to help give him a layout of the house. The master bath was directly over the laundry room, but the pipes were likely to be found behind the wall, which would position them directly above the garage ceiling just in front of the garage door (where the drywall had been hanging down). He looked around in the garage as well and gave me some helpful info.
He explained that back when it was built, this house and all of the other homes in my neighborhood once had polybutylene piping. I knew this from the homeowner’s disclosure when I first purchased the property; he knew this because he’d been one of the companies who worked bids for all of the re-plumb jobs. What this meant too is that he was really familiar with the homes in this neighborhood: their typical layouts, the kind of pipes he knew to expect to find, and the standards that they’d been installed with.
Ready to begin his work, he thought it best to just tear down the panel of drywall in the garage that had clearly disconnected from the joists above and see what he could find. Much to my surprise, the drywall was completely dry save for one small corner (that had probably soaked through thanks to the valve fiasco that morning). Already, we were off to a good start.
He then explained that he recognized the replumb job was done by one of his competitors in the area; and thankfully, they’d done a pretty decent job at it (he mentioned that it was hit or miss with that particular company; they were typically the lowest estimate and their work sometimes reflected shoddy craftsmanship). He also pointed out some other good news; the pipes were, in fact, fully insulated above the garage (not pictured; that’s the duct for the dryer in the laundry room that you see in the pic below). They hadn’t frozen; I was in the clear!
We also discovered a separate space above my garage that had once been used for storage (I had seen the access panel in the garage ceiling but had always assumed it was unused space behind the walls for plumbing and electrical access if needed). But no, there was apparently even a stroller up there that the previous homeowner must have forgotten. But why had the drywall come apart in the first place? His guess was that it was just old & was falling already; over the winter, it must have slumped. I probably hadn’t noticed in this last month of working on things inside.
Huh. Hooray for old houses.
At any rate, we went back up to the master bath, where they were able to drain the water and tighten the valve back down completely. No more leak, no busted pipe, no repair work actually needed. Hell yeah. I was tremendously relieved, but also confused: how on earth could that valve have suddenly become loose? Surely, if it were an issue of a leaky valve, this problem wouldn’t have waited for months, dry as a bone, and then all of a sudden leak, right? I’d been in this bathroom many times in the last few weeks trying to find missing tools; never saw so much as a drip. I’d been below in the laundry room for several weeks working on tiling; if there had been a leak then, I would have seen stains while cutting in with paint at the ceiling. So this was definitely no more than a few days old. He said that he’d never even heard of such a thing happening before. It could be that the fluctuating temps caused expansion and contraction much like it does with other materials in the home, and that it finally caused the once perfectly tightened valve to dislodge just a bit; considering that it was a compression valve (which is meant to hold 300 pounds of pressure), it doesn’t take a lot for loose to become completely off in no time. My twisting the valve was the final straw.
And he had even better news: since he didn’t actually need to do any repairs, he was only going to charge me for a service call. He knew a drywall guy who could help me hang a new panel back up in the garage if I wanted, and all I’d probably need to do in the meantime to take care of the water was to let it dry out. There was no long-term damage yet, so no mold was growing, and I’d just need to take proper steps to make the area as unfriendly to mold as possible. Point a fan up into the space behind the wall to get air circulating, and do the same in the bathroom itself. He also suggested checking out my hot water heater to see about changing the pressure settings (you don’t typically need anywhere close to the amount of pressure that the water comes in from the street; if you don’t already have one on the hot water heater, you can install a water pressure regulator for around $50).
I was so so grateful for their help, I gladly handed over my card for payment. They even double-checked the work that my uncle did beneath the kitchen sink (since the garbage disposal and other pipes had to be moved to fit the new sink). I trusted my uncle’s work and nothing had been leaking in the months following the sink install, but it was still nice to hear it coming from a pro that everything looked perfectly fine.
Just before the duo left, the son gave me their business card with his personal number written on it; because they were local, he lived just down the street. If I ever ran into an emergency like the one that morning, he’d be more than glad to help me out, even if it was late. I thanked them again, shook their hands, and was relieved to now have a plumber I can trust if I ever need them.
I ran to the hardware store shortly thereafter to pick up some drying supplies: I large standing fan for the garage (to point up into the ceiling); a box fan for the bathroom. I also grabbed an industrial-sized bucket of DampRid (a dehumidifying product that soaks up moisture in the air) to put upstairs and another smaller container for the laundry room (just in case). The machine-style dehumidifiers they had for rent (note: there was only one in my area) were already completely gone (I assumed for people with actual frozen pipe problems). I also grabbed a spray bottle of mold treatment + preventer to spray all of the wet surfaces with. In short, I was doing everything humanly possible to help dry that bathroom out.
I also peeled up the carpet leading into the bathroom to let it dry too (simply put: if it gets down to the subfloor, carpet padding doesn’t really ever dry out on its own unless you let it breathe; best to just peel it up and allow it to get some air).
And in just 12 hours, the room is already looking much better:
The smell in the bathroom is no longer present (save for a faint odor that is much cleaner-smelling, so it’s just the DampRid), which tells me things are heading in the right direction. I’m thinking of grabbing a second large bucket of DampRid and placing it in the ceiling above the garage for a few days too. Once the chemicals do their thing, I’ll feel more comfortable replacing the drywall (which you should only do once everything is completely dry). I may even hold off just a smidge longer to have a big ass hole in which to hoist some plywood up to my new vacant storage area (I’ll share pics at some point; it was just too much risk to snap one on the ladder).
And the lesson?
I like this whole DIY shtick – in fact, I absolutely love every minute of it. I’m already laughing about this story (“I mean, I flew across that room!” Name that movie.). But despite my growing “expertise,” I still have a lot to learn. There are times that I will feel silly and too embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know what to do (and even fight back a few tears in the middle of it thanks to feeling overwhelmed). But as long as I’m learning, I think I’m okay with that. Plumbing is definitely not something I feel very confident about, which is what makes this story so hard to tell and expose my own complete lack of common sense. Much like electrical, I know that it’s possible to figure things out on my own, but sometimes, it’s just better to have peace of mind and call the pros (and considering this is a first in over three years, I think I’ve done okay in that regard to apply my limited know-how thus far!). And at the very least, I’ll have the pros in my damn phone so I don’t feel quite so stupid or embarrassed next time.
(As of this post going up, it’s been a few days already since disaster struck, and everything still seems dry. I’m giving it a good two weeks of observation before I can comfortably call this a success, but so far so good!)
Alrightie, your turn. Have you ever had a complete disaster moment like I did, and you didn’t know what to do? Have you ever had one that turned out to be much better than you first feared?