Some of us are delusional in thinking that we are handy. My boyfriend and I have different tactics when it comes to home projects. He calls someone immediately. I “try” to fix it. This one reason why we like having our own places.
Recently, last week, I finally got plumbers over to fix a leak hidden somewhere in my vast lawn. I learned of this when I received an enormously large utility bill. Thinking it was the electric, (I live in Florida) I looked at the charge of usage. Holy crap. I am using quite a bit of water. I called the utility company. The customer service woman was very pleasant and explained the bill to me. “There is a leak on the property, she said.
“how do you know this? I asked.
“The water is not going through the water heater.”
“You know this?” Wow, technology.
If I were to get the leak fixed, which doubled then tripled in usage, I can get a credit down the road. But, for now I am having to turn the water off at the street, to stop the spinning of the meter. It was spinning pretty fast.
I called my stand by plumber to assess the situation. I have an old carriage house (ca 1911) with a very large yard. The story is that there was a larger home in front of the carriage house, but it burned down. The carriage house survived. It has crazy old plumbing, with a neighboring home having a plumbing easement through my yard. Once while visiting a neighbor, a small Bobcat construction vehicle was making its way through my yard. When I got over to my house, the fellow was digging up my back yard, looking for the sewer pipe. That‘s right, digging up my unused back yard. The house behind me has their sewage going through the entirety of my property. This means no in ground pool on my property in the near future.
My plumber shows up late. With a tired expression tells me that “I should just have it replaced and not look for the leak.” I think oh no, I am not going to be spending thousands for a new 80 ft pipe installed. I vowed that I will hunt down the leak.
On occasions, like now since many of us are still home, I walk barefoot in my yard. During this I cannot detect any “soft wet ground” where water is seeping in. While on my search, starting at the house turn off. I start digging. I imagined the pipe would go the length of the house. I was wrong. What I thought was a root was a pvc pipe. Which I cut. Not badly. But enough to have to repair that small mistake. And the pipe was angling across the house under the slab. I was resorting to geometry and a diagram of my house to figure out where the pipe came out on to the main side. It made no sense.
Desperate, I watch videos on water dowsing or water witching. I have brass coat hangers I can sacrifice for the experiment. It is an experiment as I do have a healthy dose of skepticism, but I am desperate. Wandering my yard with two bend coat hangers. Hoping I am not adding to the long list of “Weird Things My neighbor Does” from my neighbors. While walking around my property the brass rods seem to swing. I go inside and water witch my downstairs library to find the angled pipe. I thought it was going to the corner of the house. But, the rods, (I am skeptical) point me to a section of at the window. I go outside to dig. Wow, I found the angle of the out pipe. Weird, but great and yet I can still be skeptical.
Lucky, I live in Florida, pipes have to be inches from the top, not feet. I have to find the pipe turn that brings the water from the street, I get readings from the rods (they seem to work I continue to skeptically use them) and I find the neighbor’s easement pipe. No pool on the side of the house either. No leak as I dig with my hands to find the elbow. I find it. It is under a concrete sidewalk path. Ugh.
During the several day search for the leak, my boyfriend would come over and ask about the water situation. “Working on several ways of approaching the problem. The water is off, but there is water in the toilet tank. I have water in containers you can wash your hands.” I turn the water on at the street when I need it.
“When are you going to call a plumber?” he said a bit exasperated.
“When I find the leak. On my own. I have my ways of working these things out.”
He cuts the visit short.
Finally I found the leak, hidden next to a tree under some decorative bricks, which I placed there last year. I started to trench. I called a neighbor who is my go to handyman. In the dark with flashlights we pondered my college try by covering the larger gash with some adjustable clamps and rubber. (I saw a video on fixing leaks with adjustable clamps) That only mitigated the flow. Okay, it really did not mitigate any of the flow. When I had to turn the water on for a shower, the tree outside received a shower as well.
The image for this story is my attempt at levity of the situation of a plumbing leak, where like Ma Joad, I am fetching water for survival of the day. Perusing Instagram, I am always struck by the images of bookscapes that book fans create. Soft lighting, (candle optional) cups of tea or coffee and their favorite reads and handwritten notes garner at least 1,000 likes. So far my post has only 20 likes.
He informed me he could not work on it as he was heading out of town, but did tell me to trench to the coupling. That may help.
I called a few plumbers, but not my standby guy. He never sent me a quote. And he is not really my standby plumber, but his assistant Walter, who I call upon after typical working hours and is willing to work “off hours and he is cheap. Once Walter told me he had grandfather who was a World War II spy.
The plumbers I finally chose were thrilled. Well, as thrilled as plumbers can be faced with a long day dealing with all kinds of water disasters. My weird endeavors helped make this an easy outdoor fix. They did not have to dig to find the leak. They did not have to dig to trench, They were equally thrilled when I told them I would be filling in the trench. I was rewarded for combined joint effort on a job completed. Not great but, good enough. For my efforts, I received a 10% off the bill for being a new customer. I win.
A few days later sitting with my boyfriend over coffee and a shared muffin. He tells me he has learned a lot about me during the leak saga. “You are willing to explore, experiment, do the hard work and finally you will call the experts when you have reached the point you do need expertise on the matter.”