Yes, really. Alternately this post could be titled “Yet Another Adventure in Homeownering” but it seems the title of a piece matters. Last week’s post got fewer reads than the previous one, which I put down to the title. That’s pretty simplistic, of course. It could have been the weather, or any number of other things, but I’m going with the title.
And speaking of that title, what am I nattering on about, you ask? I’ll begin with the dog.
Last Friday, Cruzer (a mixed breed dog, probably part Akita, and definitely part door knob) would not go to sleep. He was unable to settle, and squeaked constantly. I tried all the tricks I have learned with him over the years (let him out, biscuit, pets and reassurance, orders to lay down, and so on) but nothing worked. He was simply not going to sleep. In an attempt to keep him (and me) from waking Anne, I took him downstairs to the living room. Eventually, for reasons unknown, I got him to lay down and he finally fell asleep. A few hours later we toddled back upstairs after Tinkerbelle got us up for one of her semi-regular middle-of-the-night outages. Once there Cruzer continued to sleep, so I figured whatever his existential crisis was, it had passed. (He gets these things from time to time: sudden, inexplicable worries that pass in a few minutes, or an hour, or with the application of treats. He’s a weird dog.)
In the morning, Anne let me sleep in. I think she knew I’d been up dealing with the dog, and I appreciated an extra hour or whatever it was.
When I did stumble downstairs it was to the discover that Anne was mopping up what she assumed was a large amount of dog pee in her office. She was soaking towels by standing on them on the carpeting, which is not a good sign. But I noted the lack of an odour, and wondered.
I got out the carpet shampooer (we are pet owners, after all) and loaded it up with fresh water and carpet soap. While trying to clean the carpet I realized the machine was sucking out more water than it was spraying. Quite a bit more, in fact.
For those keeping track, that was hint number three. So far they were:
- Dog would not sleep.
- Lots of apparent dog pee in the carpeting.
- Carpet cleaner removes much more water than it sprays out.
At this point I emptied out the reservoir in the carpet cleaner entirely — of both dirty water and the remaining soapy clean water. Then I went back and started sucking liquid out of the carpeting. The reservoir rapidly filled again.
Allow me to repeat that: having already sucked a fair bit of water out of the carpet I then filled the carpet cleaner reservoir again.
Even in my “it’s still early and I didn’t sleep much” state, that finally sunk in. This was definitely not dog pee. And in hindsight it also seems that Cruzer was aware of the leak (he could either hear or smell it) and was disturbed. The other dogs didn’t care, but he did. Anne argues this is all coincidence and Cruzer isn’t smart enough for that. I dunno, but it seems possible it was the leak that wigged him out.
Anyway, in light of these clues, we began a deeper investigation and discovered half the carpet in Anne’s office was wet. Specifically the half closest to the guest bedroom, with which it shares a wall. So we took a look in there.
You might recall that we’ve been painting that room. To do that we’ve had drop cloths down covering the carpet: cheap plastic sheeting covered with old bed sheets. I pulled them back to find this:
The dogs could not get in here, so what you see soaking through the carpet was of some other origin. (FYI, that’s Anne’s office just barely visible through the door on the right side of the photo.)
It had been raining rather heavily, so our first thought was a leak from outside that the previous owners had failed to disclose. And as it happens there is a downspout just outside this room, against the wall with the electrical outlet in the photo, which was obviously the main area where there was a problem. But a quick check showed nothing amiss out there, and no signs of overflow or issue with the drainage.
There was clearly a lot of water, though, and that was a problem to solve.
The next step was the removal of the grey carpet. It was soaked, and the padding beneath was even worse. We took them both outside to remove that much of the water and help us look for the source. I thought perhaps the water was coming up through the slab the house is built on, given all the rain, but nothing like that was going on with the carpet removed. We got fans going, and while making some calls and discussing the issue, Anne found the actual source. It was in the hot water heating system, in the radiator you can see on the left of the photo above. Here’s a closer view:
The leak was in the corrugated copper line right where it touched the floor, just to the right of centre. We could see and hear it there, so we turned off the heating system and released the pressure in the lines.
On inspection it was clear I did not have the tools or experience to repair this. The corrugated line is soldered right to the main pipe of the radiator, so there’s no room to make a connection there. On the right the pipe goes through the closet door frame, so you cannot pull it out to get a tubing cutter on it, leaving me with no obvious way to make a clean cut. Farther to the right you can see the same pipe is covered with ancient pink paint, so even if I did manage to cut it, I’d need to clean up the pipe to make a connection there. I might manage that — with sandpaper — but I didn’t know if that would mess up a solderless connector (SharkBite is the brand I know) and clearly I was not going to solder a connector on to that pipe right against the very flammable wood of the house, even if that wood was soaking wet from the leak.
A plumber was called. The very same plumber that replaced our water heater not too long before.
Before continuing, you should understand the specific days involved here. Things like this always happen at the least convenient time. It was early Saturday afternoon by this point, and depending on when you looked the predicted low temperatures at night were about 1° C, and there was even a mild threat of snow. It’s cold. Not horrifically so, but still cold. Heat is a good thing in those conditions. It was also the weekend of Canadian Thanksgiving, which always falls on Monday. That meant it was a long, holiday weekend. Plumbers were available, but only at a greatly increased cost.
Thankfully the plumber was honest and up front about this. He asked what we’d done to confirm we were OK and that the leak had been stopped from doing additional damage. He also asked if we needed this fixed right away, or if it could wait until Tuesday when the rates were lower.
This house has electric baseboard heat in some rooms — mostly upstairs — and a fireplace that we had not yet used. Technically we had other sources of heat to get us by, so we elected to wait until Tuesday for the repair.
In the meantime we continued to assess the issue and mitigate the problem. I found the water had soaked into some of the sheetrock in a small linen closet in the hallway, directly between the guest room and Anne’s office. I cut that out until it was dry again. Not a huge problem, but it could have gone mouldy. The rest of the sheet rock was dry, even in the closets in the two rooms involved.
I bought a dehumidifier and got it running, and we wound up removing carpet in about a third of Anne’s office. That carpet was in terrible shape when we moved in, though, so it’s not a huge loss. Sadly I also had to completely empty out the closet there. The shelves in it were made of particleboard and had already sucked up a bunch of water through the carpeting. They also prevented the removal of the waterlogged carpet and padding.
After a couple of days of fans and dehumidifier, though, things were pretty good. No obvious odours, and everything seemed dry.
The plumber arrived on Tuesday to fix the issue. He used a sawzall to cut the pipe just inside the closet, which allowed him to pull the pipe out just enough to get a close quarters tubing cutter on it to create a nice, smooth cut. Then he cleaned the paint off with an abrasive cloth of some kind.
On the other end — at the radiator — I learned that those fins are just pushed over a standard copper pipe. They can be removed individually with tin snips. That made the radiator a tiny bit shorter, but opened up a space to cut the pipe and get a good connection.
And of course the plumber owns all the tools to work with PEX, which I have never had to purchase.
In the end, not too long after he arrived, this is what he had accomplished:
No soldering involved. The radiator is a tiny bit less efficient now, but in that room it won’t matter. We can now finish painting, and put the carpet back down.
This little diversion wasn’t fully resolved until Tuesday afternoon, and the stress and chaos still hasn’t fully subsided. We need to do something about the carpet in Anne’s office — we’re still working on what — and get back to work on the guest room.
Oh, as for the leak itself, that was confirmed when the plumber pulled the corrugated pipe out of the system:
In the centre of that photo is an oval spot where the copper rubbed away on the concrete slab the house is built on, and a black spot in the centre of that oval is the actual leak.
My guess is this had been a very slow leak for some time — a year or three — caused by the pipe wearing through as it expanded and contracted with the hot water flowing through it. There’s some rust on the back of the radiator enclosure that would be explained by that. We were just the “lucky” ones who happened to own the home when the hole got larger, possibly as a result of continued rubbing once we turned the heat on, or possibly we bumped the radiator as we were moving things around to paint the room.
The new elbow floats just above the concrete thanks to the brass, SharkBite connector in the closet. That will show similar wear over time, I suppose, but I will put something between it and the concrete to help avoid that. It’s also a lot thicker than the corrugated copper pipe, and should last a lot longer as a result.
We’re lucky this kind of thing didn’t happen on an upper floor of the house. That kind of water leak could have soaked all kinds of drywall and created severe (and expensive) problems. I suppose we aren’t certain we’re out of the woods just yet. There were several gallons of water on the floor, and while it seems to be dry now, lingering issues could still come up. We hope not, but only time will tell.
As you might imagine, the plans for this past week had been very different and did not include spending days dealing with this mess. I was supposed to finish up the painting in the guest room and start assembling it. Ha!
I was also supposed to perform some tests with the CNC machine, and possibly create and share a video of that. “Ha!” again, but not because of the leak.
It turns out that when things go wrong, they really go wrong. The CNC is out of commission, at least for another week or so. I went out to run some tests last Friday — before the leak was found — and discovered it was acting funny. When I plugged it in it started running right away — before I hit the power switch. I assumed I had bumped the switch so I turned it off, but it then turned itself right back on. And then off. And then on again.
After a fairly short time I determined that the main power switch on the machine had failed. I discussed it with Xwalacktun — the owner — and we agreed I would open it up (which would have voided the warranty, had any remained) and see if I could do anything about it.
In the end I confirmed the main power switch is broken internally and needs to be replaced. A replacement is on order and should arrive late this coming week, or so the package tracking system says.
When it arrives I will install it and verify that nothing else has gone wrong. Assuming all is well, I will then be able to get back to testing the CNC and one of the two software packages we are testing that can drive it. Maybe I’ll be able to share something about that next week. It all depends on when the new switch arrives and what else happens in the interim.
Some holiday, eh? May your days be leak free!