Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Mystery of the Leaking Pipes

You know, I am convinced that no matter where in the world your house is located, there are times you get to choose what projects will get done and times when the house calls the shots. Case in point: David and I chose to remodel our kitchen. But by the time the last bits and pieces were in place with our cabinets, our master bathroom decided to be a buttinsky and move itself to the front of the project queue. Why? Well, maybe it was feeling neglected or perhaps it had d├ęcor envy of the kitchen. Whatever the reason, we started noticing puddles on the floor.

At first I was blaming the dog. I know! Can you imagine such an angelic creature doing anything so crass as peeing on the floor?

Yeah, I can too. But it turned out that it wasn’t Olivia. We then thought maybe there was a leak coming from the shower. As a test, we hauled our shower stuff into the other bathroom to see if by not using the master bath shower the leaks would stop. Nope.

So then we tried another experiment by not using the master bath sink. Still the puddles persisted.

Based on the rate of speed and location of the puddle formation, we applied some logic and figured that maybe there was a slow leak from the water line for the sink. In order to get to that area, we needed to muscle out the vanity.

As an aside, it was during this effort that we decided the vanity would be lighter to move if we took out the sink. Turns out the sink has no lip on it. The only thing holding it in place was caulk. Gotta’ love it.

Anyway, we got the vanity out and we checked both the water line and drain pipe.

No moisture at any of the junctures or joints. However, there was dampness around the base of each pipe where it entered the tile floor. Might the leak be coming from underneath? But if so, why would the water only puddle to a certain depth and not spread? Might the leak not be from the sink pipes at all, but from one of the water lines for the shower?

If one of us had X-ray vision, we would know the answers, not to mention the perks that go along with being a superhero. But alas, we are only mere mortals who can’t see through ceramic tile that covers cement that covers the pipes.

More experimentation was required. To try and isolate the source of the leak, we knew we needed to be able to shut off the hot and cold water lines to the bathroom. Of course, there were no shut-off valves for this area, so David had to install them.

When we looked at the feeds and drain pipes from outside the house, it became quickly apparent that there wasn’t enough room to install a shut-off valve for the cold water.

The cold water feed is the second pipe from the left between the vent and the large pipe for the toilet stack.

And wouldn’t you know it? The cold water line was buried underground. Why? Who knows?

See that white pipe at the bottom in the dirt? That's the cold water line.

After exposing the cold water pipe, there wasn’t enough give to put in a shut-off valve. Of course. That meant the pipe needed to be cut and reworked. After a trip to Lano’s Hardware, David proceeded to put in the valves. Can anyone explain why a cold water valve costs $3.65 (BZD) and a hot water valve runs around $16 (BZD)?

Hot water shut-off on the left; new pipe and cold water shut-off on the right.
Okay, so now we are able to shut off the water to the bathroom. First, we shut off the cold water. There was still some leakage, but not as much as before. We’ll let it be for another day or so, then turn the cold water line on, but turn off the hot to see what happens.

We strongly suspect the cold water line is the culprit and that maybe there’s a joint, below the floor, that’s causing the problem. And while it may seem like we’re going about this in a very slow manner, we want to be as sure as possible as to what the issue is before we start chipping out tiles and breaking up cement in the floor and/or the shower.

Granted, we had been thinking about remodeling the bathrooms anyway, but weren’t really thinking about having to redo tiles (even though they aren’t are favorites). On the high side, at least we have another bathroom to use while all this is going on. Hopefully we can track down the problem in another few days and put a game plan together to get it resolved.

Man, it’s always something, isn’t it?


  1. Hi Elizabeth,

    I'll be following your travails with interest.

    I'm getting ready to butcher my bathroom shower - leaking behind the shower head in the wall, but I also have two cracked floor tiles needing replacement.

    Before I get carried away and share my whole list of stuff that's broken, worn out, missing, etc., (and we built our place) I'll stop now.
    Best of luck with your repairs. I'm interested.


  2. Leaks should definitely be a priority because they lead to serious problems if left untreated. The pipes connected to your bathroom are definitely the source of the problem. I may not be accurate with this, but it may be because the threading of those connectors might have thinned through time, which is inevitable. I hope you were able to fix it now. Take care!

    Gayle Manning