You waited for it through four lengthy blog posts, the gruesome final bill after discovering the water leak we knew nothing about, wasn’t our fault, did no one any good – certainly not our lawn; after the coming of the leak finder and the plumber and the 250 pounds of sand – I knew there was some reason why I was lifting those barbells – now the bill arrives due and payable – $1428.22 – in April, tax month, that’s why it’s the cruelest month of all.
The plumber came back on Wednesday morning as promised and brought an electric jackhammer and a helper. We ran an electric cord from the inside the house to the jackhammer and the plumber and his helper got to work.
I got busy with online things, but before long the plumber knocked on the door. He held up a section of white PVC pipe. “Here’s where your leak was,” he said.
The piece of pipe had a hairline crack that ran for about an inch and a half.
“The line was surrounded by the concrete,” the plumber added. “The weight of the tree roots made the concrete press against the pipe until it finally cracked.”
“How did the concrete get into the ground?” I asked.
“Probably when they finished the concrete work on your driveway and sidewalk, they had concrete left over. The trench with the water line must have been uncovered, so they just dumped the left over concrete slurry into the trench.”
It sounded like a plausible explanation. The plumber gave me his invoice and drove away with my check.
It was left to me to fill in the hole – and save an hour’s labor charge – with 250 pounds of “play sand” that I purchased from the local hardware store to cushion the water pipe and its newly repaired section. I shoveled small rocks and dirt back into the hole over the sand and put the sod back in place.
Later I met with the water company manager and showed him my bills for the leak finder and the plumber. He had had my meter read again and estimated that my next bill would be at least $1200 instead to the usual $100. We talked it over, and he agreed to subtract a portion of the amount, but we’d still end up paying the largest bill we’ve ever paid.
So where did all that water go? I have no idea and neither did anyone from the water company or the plumber or the leak finder. In fact, the only trace of the water is the numerical difference between the initial reading on the water meter and the last reading after the leak was fixed.
In a future blog I’ll let you know what the final bill came to – another joy of home ownership.
The story so far: after receiving a huge water bill we asked the water company to come out and check our water meter; they did and told us we had a big leak and to call a plumber; our plumber recommended a leak finder; the leak finder came out two days later and found the leak.
After the leak finder drove away in his clean white truck and a check for $300, I called the plumber and told him the leak had been found. He said he’d come out on Monday and fix it. Sounded routine. Meanwhile the leak was spewing out water underground at the rate (according to the water company) of a gallon every 10 seconds.
The plumber arrived an hour and a half late on Monday and began digging up the ground where the leak finder had spray-painted a white marker on the lawn. They hole in the lawn gave up round rocks of various sizes, some requiring two hands to lift out and prompting the plumber to say, “I wasn’t expecting all these rocks,” with a look of disgust on his face.
And then his shovel hit something very, very hard and big about a foot underground. As he slowly uncovered the object it took up one entire side of the growing hole in the ground. The plumber got down on his knees. “This is concrete!” he said, in disbelief and looking up at me as if it was my fault.
“How could there be concrete under our lawn?” I replied. The plumber shrugged his shoulders, and dug some more.
“I’m not going to be able to dig this out,” he said, after five more minutes.
I got down on me knees and felt the surface of the giant blob of concrete. I tried to rock it from side to side to no avail. It blocked any attempt to find the water line.
“I’ll have to use a jackhammer to break it up,” the plumber said, “Otherwise I could be here digging until nine tonight, and you probably don’t want to pay me to dig a bigger hole in your lawn.”
I asked him if he had a jackhammer.
“Back at the shop,” the he said. The shop, in this case, was in another town almost an hour’s drive from our house, “I can’t come back tomorrow,” he added, “I’m booked up, so I’ll be back at 9 AM on Wednesday.”
“What about the leak?” I said.
“I’ll leave you a wrench,” he said. He handed me a long t-shaped tool with a u-shaped tab on the end that would fit around the water company’s valve and allow me to shut off the water.
“I wonder why the water company didn’t offer to leave me one of these?” I said. “They don’t want you touching their value,” the plumber said, as he loaded up his shovel and got ready to go. “Leave the water off until you need to use it. Shouldn’t be a problem.”
So began our no-water disaster drill. My wife, God-bless her, is a member of the Red Cross. As part of the disaster kit she has been putting together was a stockpile of water in old plastic club soda containers sitting on the floor of our kitchen closet. At least we would have drinking water.
But would the plumber come back as he promised? Would the jackhammer be the right tool? Would the plumber ever find the water line? Find out in the next installment of Leaking Water Line Twitter Hiatus.
A leaking water line had led to a hiatus in my Twitter activities; here’s more of the story:
The leak-finder recommended by our plumber arrived on a sunny Saturday morning in a large, very clean, white truck. He was all smiles. He took out two black plastic suitcases and set them on the lawn. I retold him the story of the leak up to that moment – including about the large water bill, the call to the water company, the water company men checking the meter and telling me I had a big leak, and calling the plumber, who recommended him.
He checked the water valve. “Wow,” he said, “You’ve got a big leak, but I’ll find it.” He asked me whether we had metal or plastic pipes. I didn’t know. The line was put in long before we bought the house.
He surveyed the length of the line from the valve to where it connected to the house – probably 50-60 feet. He cocked his head and listened for a sound only he could hear.
“What’s in the black suitcases?” I asked. “My equipment,” he said. “Don’t worry, I’ll find your water leak.”
I asked him if he’d been a plumber before becoming a leak finder. He shook his head. “I was a bartender,” he said, and then he told me the story of the black suitcases and how he became a leak finder.
He had a surfing buddy who worked part-time as a plumber’s helper. One day his buddy was out on a job when a leak finder was brought in. The man arrived with two black suitcases, and proceeded to locate the leak in less than an hour and charged 3 times the hourly rate that the plumber received.
Although he wanted to know more, his buddy didn’t want to ask the leak finder too many questions and jeopardize his job with the plumber. So he memorized the name of the company embossed in the sides of the two black suitcases.
Later the two friends were sitting around watching TV, drinking beer and discussing how easy leak-finding appeared to be. They decided to get their own black suitcases with the magical leak finding equipment and go into business.
When they finally located the company that made the equipment, they ordered two sets. “Two sets,” the man on the other end of the phone line had said. “That’s fine. They cost $30,000 a set. How would you like to pay?”
The bartender and his friend sucked in air, and told the man they’d better put the order on hold for awhile – neither of them had any where near $30,000. But now they had a dream of improving their lives and their incomes, and a new goal to put together $30,000 and buy a set of the black suitcases.
Eventually they had the money, and the two buddies became partners and began to work with local plumbers to find water leaks. They were busy – all the time. They made enough money to buy a second set of the black suitcases, and new trucks, homes and many other things.
Later on they decided to go their separate ways – and there’s been enough business in the area to support them both.
That was the story the leak finder told me as he assembled his equipment and began to probe the ground with a long needle-like tool as he listened through the headphones attached to the probe for our leak.
First he determined that we had plastic pipe. He forced air into the line and began to probe around the stump of a fig tree. He occasionally pulled the headphones off when a car or truck drove by. “Too noisy,” he said. “I can hear the sound of the tires as they go by.”
He stuck the probe into the area near the fig tree stump and listened and smiled. He whipped the headphones off and proclaimed. “That’s it,” pointing at the probe sticking out of the grass in the last place he jammed it.
He went back to his truck and got a can of white spray paint, removed the probe and sprayed the grass. He placed his equipment back in his black suitcases. “Tell the plumbers to call me before they start digging,” he said.
It was over in less than an hour. I held the yellow copy of the bill and my check book. And yes, I had paid him about three times the hourly rate the plumber would charge.
Now I knew where I had gone wrong in choosing a profession. If only I had known about the two black suitcases and the magical equipment they contained.
The plumber came on Monday; but that part of the story awaits the next installment.
I was teaching myself how to use Twitter and other social networking when I got my water bill for the previous two months. The bill was much larger than I expected. I hadn’t been doing any watering this winter, and yet the bill was nearly $40 more than the same period the previous year.
I called the water company. They would send someone out the next day to check the meter. It rained all day, and I had jury duty. I wasn’t called to be on a panel, but I was butt-tired from sitting in a large room with all those other potential jurors where I saw lots of iPads, iPods, Kindles and laptops as I sat reading my old-fashioned, analog paperback book.
I got home just as two men from the water company arrived to inspect my water valve. “Wow!” they said, “You’re using about a gallon of water every 10 seconds!” No water was running in the house at the time. “Wow!” they said, “You’ve got a major water leak. Do you want us to turn off your water?”
What an option – no running water in the house until I could have the leak found some where along 50 feet of line and fixed.
So the water stayed on. With my under-water, jury-duty-addled brain, what other choice could I make?
I called the plumber I’ve used for other problems next and told him the story so far. He said I needed to hire a leak-finder and gave me the names of two. “Do they fix the leak?” I asked, in my naivety. “No,” the plumber said. “They just find the leak and then we come and fix it.”
So I called the first leak-finder; he said he’d come on Saturday.
You’ll find out what happened next in my next post.