Monday, July 21, 2014

Smoke on the Water

My weekends with PVC and PVC accessories usually occur unwillingly when I come home and find
It's beautiful!
yet another sprinkler has decided to take the opportunity of my absence and erupt.  Having little money and no real prospects, I’ve been patching together this thirty year old system in a vain attempt to keep at least some of the plants desperately clinging to life.

I’m pretty certain they’re meeting in secret and about to revolt.

This weekend was different.  I was walking out to my garage when I heard some water dripping.  My keenly tuned ears at first thought it was the condensation run-off for our central air conditioner.  This line runs from the top of the room, through our water heater closet and out into a patch of dirt.  Originally, the dirt contained one of those invasive vines that climb up the house covering it in a picturesque vision of greenery while simultaneously working into every nook and cranny to slowly, but inevitably pull the house apart.  To just get the roots out, which had started to regrow vines, took me two days, an axe, and a nuke from an orbital platform.

It was the only way to be certain.

But I digress.  As I walked to my garage on a mission I can’t even remember now, I heard the dripping of water.  I looked to make certain it was only the runoff, and saw one side of the water heater closet was completely soaked.  I could hear water dripping inside the closet, and a chill ran through me.  I figured it was probably some terrible leak, the water heater itself maybe.  I opened the closet door and saw, to my horror . . .

Nothing at first.  It’s extremely dark in there.

But when I got my flashlight out I saw . . . water dripping from the runoff line.

Paid actor.  Not actual water heater.
That’s it.  Not the water heater or one of the major pressure lines into the house.  Not even a hole or leak in the runoff line.  A deliberately placed T-joint was allowing water to leak inside the closet and drenching the wood. 

I couldn’t determine why the joint was there.  Whatever had been attached to the joint had broken off.  The joint itself seemed useless.  The line isn’t under pressure.  It’s meant to keep my roof from being damaged by condensation from the air conditioner.  Maybe you know?

Originally, I thought I could put in a splice with an upturned 90-degree joint.  I thought perhaps that air needed to get into the runoff line for some reason.  This wouldn’t work because of the broken bits still left in the t-joint.  I briefly considered rigging it with duct or electrical tape, but this meant I’d be back out in six months replacing it again.  The only solution was to cut out the pipe above the T-joint, affix a new splice.  This also meant I would need to put in another 90-degree joint at the bottom and a short length of pipe that would run out the closet itself.

Not such a big deal, really.  A bit of PVC joint glue and I should be in business.

But no small job goes unpunished.

The gods of DIY are a malicious and deceitful lot.

The first problem was getting my hacksaw into the tiny space to cut the PVC pipe above the T-joint. 
All this over a little 90-degree turn?
This wouldn’t have been such a bad thing, except the water heater closet is the home of two-million spiders.  I counted.  Once those were cleared out (again, I counted), I still couldn’t find an angle at which to get my saw into position.  It growing later, and my notorious penny-pinching, I opted instead to use an extra hacksaw blade to cut the pipe out.

This went exceedingly well.

Until I realized they’d run the pipe inside the two metal safety bands that secure the water heater to the house itself.  In the event of an earthquake, this keeps the water heater from tipping over, spilling hot water on an unsuspecting child who is playing in front of the closet, or allowing free-flowing natural gas to ignite in a fireball of Michael Bay-ian proportions.

I considered, and quickly rejected, removing one of the metal bands.  I know this trick.  It looks like a simple, single bolt.  It ends in cursing, tears and a panicked call to a plumber who charges triple for weekend, night time, and emergencies.  My head reminded me that PVC is actually flexible.  I might be able to bend the pipe out from between the bands.  If I could, then likely I could bend the new pipe back inside the closet.

Explosion is not to scale.
I know what you’re thinking.  That disaster you heard about on the news this morning, that was me.

Well, you’re WRONG!

Mostly wrong, anyhow.  There’s a blind spot on my friend’s car.  He really should have told me about it.

Anyhow, the short of the story is that the PVC pipe, with much negotiating, pleading and cursing, came free.  The new pipe went in with slightly more ease, and, for once, the end poked out right where it should. 

I glued the whole thing together, and still had time to put my boys to bed.


  1. When I bought my house and was weedwhacking w the brush blade, I whacked off a spicket. Now why would you have a line stcking out of the ground by by 2 ft and a foot from the house, painted green? No idea, but it made an impressive geyser and the lady at Ace irkes.

  2. That's ridiculous - you can't count to two million! You always get stuck on "What comes after 69?"