Sunday, July 29, 2012

Making a Splash

“If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash.” ~ Bruce Lee1

What we’ve discovered over the last couple of weeks is that water, when put into pipes behind a wall, can also be a stealthy, sneaky bastard. Recently, the townhouse we rent changed ownership (not a big deal - we still have the same point of contact; it was more an ‘on paper’ change of ownership I think). Anyhow, in the process of the Homeowners Association being notified of the change of ownership, the billing for the water got rather jumbled and we ended up with two different account numbers for the water bill, one in my name and one in the new owner’s name. When a bill in the owner’s name arrived in the mail last week for over $2,000 and showing over 200,000 gallons of water had been used, naturally, I freaked out a bit. This was right after the property manager had emailed me regarding a letter he had received from the HOA advising of “unusually high meter readings”. Unusually high? Holy shit, 200,000 gallons isn’t unusually high! It’s an indication of something severely wrong.

We had heard what sounded like running water since even before we moved in. We looked everywhere for evidence of a leak. The property manager looked everywhere. He had his inspector look everywhere. Nothing. No evidence of any leaks. No water marks in the walls or ceilings. No wet spots on the floor. Nothing. So, we figured it was just a quirk of the house being that the cut off valve in the closet had a good bit of the drywall around it cut away so we could actually get to it; like maybe because there wasn’t insulation and drywall surrounding it, we were just hearing the water coming into the house.

But when we got a bill showing 200,000 gallons of water being used in a very short amount of time, naturally that was proof of either a leak or a faulty meter. What kind of pisses me off a bit is that the HOA and the billing company seemed to have taken their sweet time to alert us to this. I mean, I looked at the meter after we found out about the amount of water loss, and it was spinning like the second hand on a clock (compared to the neighbor’s meter, which was barely moving). Just seems to me that the meter reader could’ve said something - it was pretty fucking obvious the meter shouldn’t be spinning that fast. Anyway, this is where the ‘water can be a stealthy, sneaky bastard’ part comes into play.

As it turns out, the leak (or should I say leaks) were in the hallway wall adjacent to where the hookup for the washing machine is, as well as under the kitchen sink. Some of the leaks being under the foundation slab, I can understand why we wouldn’t have spotted those, but the ones in the wall were the stealthiest, sneakiest bastards of all. You would think those would become very obvious and cause the wall to be wet. But they didn’t. Instead, the water ran down the pipes and into a drainage hole that sent the water under the house.

It’s finally fixed, with the plumbers being quite inventive by simply re-routing the water into new piping that they put inside the walls2 to avoid having to tear up the floor and cut into the concrete slab. The drywall guy was also especially good in reusing the pieces that the plumbers had cut away from the wall and ceiling to patch the holes. A little sanding and painting and you won’t even be able to tell that sections of the wall had to be cut away.

But let this serve as a warning - just because you don’t see the water doesn’t mean it’s not there because it’s a stealthy, sneaky bastard that can cause your bill to get ridiculous.3

~ JC

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1. http://www.fightingmaster.com/masters/brucelee/quotes.htm

2. For Photos, go to my Picasa album - https://picasaweb.google.com/110387951680089539658/WaterLeaksJuly2012#

3. Thankfully, it’s not my dime - the landlord will have to cover the repair costs and deal with the water company to try to get the bill adjusted. And even if they won’t adjust it, I can damn sure guarantee you that I’m not paying that shit :-P
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