the last few days, I swear…
Woke up this morning with water running under my house. Now, I knew I
had a pipe start to leak from the freeze Wednesday night, and I
intended to fix it as soon as possible (yesterday was another 16 hour
work day- Curse you, windows XP!), but last night the leak got worse,
because it got really cold again. So.
I had to do something before we lost all water pressure and the
I finished a cup of coffee, put on my Walls Coveralls over my pajamas,
and out I went, into the cold.
We don’t have a basement. We have what is aptly called “a crawlspace.”
A space where one crawls.
On a normal day, this is a fairly unpleasant task, as my HVAC
technician friend Sean Arington can tell you- it’s a cramped and dirty
place to be. Add a couple dozen gallons of water, and the dirty, cold
crawl space becomes a MUDDY cold crawl space.
I turned the water off at the street, then wiggled up into the cramped
little spot where the pipe burst. I was lying on my chest in about four
inches of ice cold mud as I tried to cut through the broken pipe so
that I could pull out the cracked section and install the patch. The
old pipe was some kind of cheap PVC that kept collapsing under my
cutters. This made it impossible to cut. This is very annoying at 6:45
am when one is lying on one’s chest in ice cold mud. I backed out of
the crawl space, went inside the house, dripped mud from the door to
the tool cabinet, found my hacksaw, and disassembled it, because it was
too large to use in the space I had to work with. I then wiggled back
under the house and using just the hacksaw blade (finally) cut out the
old pipe, put the new section in, backed out, turned the water on at
the street and heard the distinct *->pop<-* of a PVC patch giving way,
followed by the cheerful gurgling WHOOSH of gallons of water pouring
into the mud cavity where I had just been lying.
Water off, fittings disassembled, then cleaned out and reapplied.
Wiggle out. Water on.
If one reads the fine print on a can of PVC cement, there are several
caveats that are hidden beneath warnings in three languages (warnings
stating in no uncertain terms that the stuff is carcinogenic, caustic,
volatile and just plain mean). Caveat number one is to make sure that
the pipe is clean and dry. (OK, that's not possible. It's like the
trenches at Verdun under there.) Caveat number two is that the drying
time (specified over in the sunny West Berlin of the other side of the
label from all the warnings and caveats) IS NOT APPLICABLE if the
ambient temperature is below 60º F. If the temperature is below 60º,
which is when pipes are likely to need fixin' from freezin' and
breakin', then drying times are significantly longer.
Also.... Caveat #3: Don't reuse glue smeared fittings, which means it's
time to go back to the Home Despot for more PVC parts.
Driving a car while grotted head-to-toe with mud is interesting.
Especially if it's your car and you ever intend to drive it again. So.
Towels, towels everywhere. Now, remember, I am dripping, and it is
cold. So much so that I leave a trail of drops the size and color of
pennies as I walk through Home Despot. (Probably about $1.26 worth.)
I buy fittings, return, wiggle into the crawl space again, smear
everything (including myself) with evil smelling glue, fit it all into
place, then restrain the urge to go test the fitting with water
Instead, I tiptoe to the kitchen, trying not to awaken Mrs. Dog to the
apparition of a mud covered misanthrope staggering through the house
like a mud-covered Bigfoot, and I pour myself a cup of coffee (I am so
glad I made coffee before I turned off the water), then I sit on the
front porch and mutter into a hot cup for half an hour.
The moment of truth inexorably comes.
I go to the T-wrench stuck down in the hole where the water meter is,
and I heave mightily to turn the main water valve for the house to the
"open" position. I lope over to the crawl space and turn my ear towards
When wise men and philosophers tell you that it's next to impossible
to prove something doesn't exist, they aren't talking about leaks.
Victory is mine.
The next time you hear someone who sits in an office complain about
how much plumbers make, smack them for me, ok?