A lack of water spoiled January

When the water flowing only through the leaks in the pipes, fixing each in the old and decaying PVC pipe created another one.

For the first time in four weeks, we woke up at home with full running water this morning with no leaks in pipes in our home. We could shower with ease, flush our toilets without a need to refill the reservoir tank from water buckets filled from our pressure tank in our garage, and could enjoy a fresh glass of water from a water spigot.

The project required repairing and/or replacing water pipes, elbow joints, and connections that were required after a failure of our plumbing system cured without producing any new leaks. After a month of following each trip to the Floyd Fitness Center, daily showers were no longer required. I can shower at home, whenever and as often as I want.

One month ago, I came home after covering Circuit Court for The Floyd Press to find all of our faucets dry. A check under the house revealed water spewing from several leaks. Calls to plumbers revealed they were backed up, dealing with frozen pipes from the severe sub-zero temperatures and wind chills placing the wind down to 30 below or worse.

I’ve been doing the job of replacing pipes, junctions, connections, and other needed repairs to the 45-year-old system. The job allowed a chance to install some upgrades, including shutoffs in various places to isolate problems in the future.

A repair of one leak in the old pipe created a new one in the area. Trips to Wills Ridge and Home Depot (which had parts for the older PVC systems) were repeated, time and time again. I would spend most of the day (and many nights) in the cold, damp crawl space. Each new leak added more water and dampness.

It was a needed education. Our original home after marriage in 1979 was an old townhouse in Alton, Illinois. It was built in 1835 and the plumbing was, at best, antique but we seldom had problems with it. Our second home was in a high-rise condo in Arlington County, after moving to the Washington, DC area in 1981. Plumping problems were handled by the condo maintenance unit as a service from the monthly condo fee.

We’ve had to learn a lot after buying the New England-style home five miles outside of Floyd I’m 2004. A water-heater failure in the first six months of living there gave us a quick dedication on PVC pipe but most of the problems were handled by Robbie Robinson as Laurel Creek Plumping. He also replaced our pressure tank a few years ago. His retirement left us without a regular plumber.

The deep freeze from the “bomb cyclone” at the New Year kept other plumbers busy and estimated repair costs were more than we could afford at this point, so I dealt with the situation m by learning on the job.

A competent plumber would, no doubt, would have fixed the problem in far less time. I made a lot of mistakes and had to redo several attempted fixes over but I also learned a lot more that I needed to know about our water system and its needs.

Friends provided much-needed help in finding and helping provide the materials needed to do the job, including Courthouse Supervisor Jerry Boothe, who worked for builder Dwayne Grubb and helped build the house in 1977. As with many homes built in Floyd County over the past 50s years or so, the water pipes are PVC, a material that works best for wells and water supplies with high sulfur content.

However, changes in PVC pipes and ways to repair them (and its later-iteration CPVC), meant having to find materials that had problems mating with the older system, so we had to use a lot of newer, replacement materials and/or adapters to correct size variations, pressure, and temperature needs. It didn’t help that my 75-year-old body suffers from COPD respiratory problems, bad knees, bum hips, a froen shoulder, and no real experience in such repairs.

After too many days in the crawl space under our home, we have a repaired and mostly-new water system with higher pressure and, thankfully, no leaks…or at least, not yet.

Thanks to those who helped. It made a difference.

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© 2021 Blue Ridge Muse