When we moved to Moscow, we knew we’d be here for more than five years and that buying our own place would probably benefit us more in the long run than renting. There are many advantages to owning your own home. The most obvious is that your monthly payments go toward something tangible. When you pay rent on an appartment, all you get back is a place to live for the month. With a mortgage payment, you’re that much closer to actually owning the place you live in, which means when you move out, you can get that money back by selling the place. It’s also freeing. We can do whatever we want to the house without having to ask permission. Don’t like the walls? We can paint them. How about a new floor? Done. Want some pets? Nobody to raise our rent for having them, or outright deny us the choice to have them. We have our own yard that we can decorate and landscape as we please, including putting in a vegetable garden.
Of course, owning a home isn’t all freedom and bliss. It costs money. We still have to pay utility costs, but when something breaks, we’re also responsible. There’s no landlord to call to have it fixed. Such is the case when we found not one, but two water pipe leaks this past week. The first leak was in the pump room in the garage. The pipe leaving the presure tank was connected to the pressure T joint via a steel coupling and a nipple. The nipple, threaded into the T, had corroded its threads and developed a small spray that was slowly getting bigger. So, when Tate came over to help me take off the broken pieces, he thought the threads inside the T had been stripped away. It was later that I found the threads to be just fine, only dirty with build-up and possibly the threads from the pipe that had come out of it. The pressure T happens to also be threaded on the outside, so I bought the proper step-down joint and repaired it. When I got the water back on, the leak had been repaired.
But it was still dripping water. This time, it was coming from the base of the quarter-inch pipe where the pressure switch connects to the T. We had some plumber’s putty and used it to try and temporarily patch the leak. It worked, sort of. The leak persisted, but had slowed to a very slow drip by morning. However, the putty should seal a small leak like that. It turns out the putty we had bought was old and starting to dry out, causing its application to be quite difficult. We picked up a fresh pack and attempted to seal the leak again. In doing so, the leak got worse. When investigating the problem, I noticed that the pressure switch wobbled quite a bit and I thought that maybe I could screw it down tighter. So, I disconnected it and soon discovered that the pipe was indeed corroded and the threads had snapped off.
In the end, I got a new pressure T and replaced the steel pipe with PVC, as the rest of the pipe had already been converted. The old iron pipe had been connected to the new PVC with a self-adhering coupling. I figured I’d use the same method which would give me an easy disconnect point should I have to take the pressure T off again in the future. Of course, on first connection, I must not have had the coupling lined up quite right. It was very difficult to screw into place and after turning on the water and noticing a small leak, the coupling slid right off the new pvc making a mess of my pump room. After some fiddling around, I got it to fit properly, and so far, there have been no leaks in the pump room.
The second leak was in the house. Erin came home from her work trip to Dinosaur National Monument and noticed that the floor in the kitchen had buckled a little bit, indicating it was wet. She then heard a small leak which we thought was coming from under the floor. But our floor is solid concrete under the laminate. As we started to tear it up, we noticed that the leak was coming from pipes behind our kitchen counters. So, while Tate was out, he helped me remove one of the cabinets which, thankfully, wasn’t installed correctly and was quite easy to remove. Again, the leak was between a steel nipple and a T-joint. The nipple had corroded through its threads spraying water against the cabinets and leaking down into the particleboard subflooring. We were able to remove a small section and replace it with pex tubing and sharkbite connections. The leak has been patched and we now have working water again. It was good to take a shower this afternoon.
The aftermath of this leak is going to be the more difficult part. Because the cabinets and subflooring are made of particle board, they quickly absorb water. We’re not entirely sure how long the pipe has been leaking, but there was a mild odor of mold and mildew. Even if the cabinets aren’t pemanently damaged, the subflooring and the floor pannels are. We’ll still have to rip out the cabinets to repair the flooring underneath and assess any other damage to the wall. In addition, these failures have us worried that more junctions are going to fail in the near future, so we’re contemplating having all of the steel pipe replaced with pex or pvc while we have the cabinets out. Worst case scenario, we’ll have ourselves a completely remodeled kitchen. At least if the damage is bad enough, our insurance policy will help cover the repair.
The joy of home improvement projects, voluntary or involuntary, is that you come to realize how many tools you need to be a home owner. It’s not enough to have a hammer and some screw drivers. Thankfully, Tate had some pipe wrenches for us to borrow for now, but I think I’ll be investing in at least one in the near future. There are some jobs that you just need a professional for. Fixing the kitchen may be one of these. But by repairing these small plumbing faults ourselves, we likely saved a couple hundred dollars. I’m not happy about the circumstances, but it’s nice to know that some problems aren’t as difficult to fix as you might think.