You know it’s going to be a fun morning when your husband leaves for work, but comes back inside a minute later saying “I don’t think I’m going to work today. We have a situation in the cellar.” I imagined a couple of different possibilities before he told me what was actually happening. He said there was water leaking all over the cellar. This was obviously bad, but better than the scenarios I had quickly imagined. He took a video of the leak before shutting our water off.
Last year, when Peter and my dad were putting in plumbing for the half bathroom, they added a new water shutoff, right near the entrance to the cellar. It shuts off all the water to the house except for the cold water in the upstairs full bathroom. This came in very handy yesterday when Peter needed to shut the water off quickly. It saved him from crawling through the cellar to one of the farthest corners of the house where the main shutoff is. After shutting the water off, Peter was able to determine that the leak was coming from a tiny hole in a piece of Qest* water pipe. The pipe was coming out of the water heater and feeding the house with hot water. There was already an existing piece of Pex pipe in this segment that suggests this section of Qest has leaked and been repaired in the past.
We’re not positive how long the leak had been there. Peter thinks he went in the cellar on Sunday afternoon. He discovered the problem on Tuesday morning, but we think it may have started Monday evening. While in the kitchen Monday evening, I kept thinking I was hearing dripping water, but it wasn’t raining. I would turn around and look at some of our leaks in the ceiling expecting to see them dripping, but they weren’t. Overnight on Monday, Peter thought he was hearing rain, but it wasn’t raining. When I stepped into the dining room Tuesday morning and got close to the part that is directly above the water heater, I thought the floor seemed rather warm. We now know this was because hot water was spraying out several inches below there, and the water heater was probably running continuously to keep up with the constant demand for hot water. I called my parents seeking suggestions for how we should fix it. My dad happened to be home and didn’t have to go to work until the afternoon. He said he was literally about to leave to go to Lowe’s anyway and could pick up some parts and then come by and fix it. Yes, please.
As it turned out, he used none of the couplings he had bought and also none of the tools he brought, except his pocketknife. He just used a wrench to loosen the existing coupling, Peter’s Dremel to cut off the leaking half-inch of pipe (good thing I had just given Peter some heavy-duty cutting blades for his Dremel on our anniversary and that I was able to find them, since they weren’t with the tool), his knife to smooth the cut, and then he stuck the same old pipe back in the coupling and turned the water on. No more leak.
It will certainly leak again, but hopefully not before we replace the water heater and all the Qest piping in a couple months. And the wet insulation and potentially rusty ductwork will all be removed with the big construction project. We are still running the dehumidifier in the cellar, trying to dry it out. All in all though, things could have been a lot worse/wet than they were. Also, thank goodness almost all of our plumbing is easily accessible in the cellar.
*Qest pipe (also known as polybutylene plumbing) has been the subject of several class-action lawsuits over the years because of its frequent leaking. Our home inspector was not kidding when he told us that it was leak-prone and that we should budget to replace it.