Water in the Basement

PG apologizes for light blogging yesterday.

A short time ago, PG noticed some dampness in the carpet in part of his basement. Since he had lost confidence in a previous service that sent out someone to check on heating, plumbing and air conditioning and provide preventive maintenance on a periodic basis for a flat monthly fee, PG contacted a friend who builds houses and asked for recommendations for a plumber.

The recommended plumber stopped by the next day. For PG, he had one thing to recommend him besides the referral from PG’s friend – he was a man of mature years. He was also very pleasant to deal with and happy to answer PG’s questions.

Within about five minutes, he pointed out to PG that a prior plumber had re-inserted a plug in an interior drainage access point improperly. Upon, close observation, PG could see how the prior plumber had made a dumb mistake – cross-threading the plug.

(Sorry if that’s too technical, but it’s the same thing that happens when you try to screw a lid on a jar and the lid won’t screw all the way on. You unscrew the lid, line it up properly on the jar and the lid closes as it should. The lid was cross-threaded the first time you tried.)

The earlier plumber appeared to have put a bunch of sealant on the plug which may have delayed the appearance of consequences of his error for a few months.

The new plug was properly installed and the mature plumber went on his way in a short period of time. In an act that will probably get him disinvited from the annual Plumbers’ Ball, the old guy declined to send PG a bill for his services.

All was dry for several days, but then the dampness returned. PG called the mature plumber again. After the plumber examined the situation and found the plug was still in place and working as it should, he said he would send his son to cut open the wall to see why the leak had returned.

It didn’t occur to PG that the dampness problem may have had more than one cause. Problems with more than one cause are regarded by PG (and many others) as more disturbing than problems with a single cause. They tend to be tougher to diagnose and fix.

The mature plumber’s son arrived yesterday as promised, examined the dampness and cut a hole in the wall with his saw. The hole didn’t disclose the type of problem the mature plumber thought might be easily fixable, so the son (who struck PG as a younger version of his father) began a more extensive investigation.

To shorten a long, damp story, one or more of the much younger representatives from the old plumbing service had screwed up in at least couple of different ways – after servicing PG’s central heating and air conditioning, a careless representative had left a pipe that should have been sending condensed water from the air conditioning system down the drain closed. Hence the condensed water was running toward the back of the floor in the furnace room, wetting the back wall, then draining downward to a point where it flowed back forward under the floor to soak PG’s carpet as well as a whole bunch of other things.

In defense of yesterday’s plumber’s father, the Mature Plumber, when he came to visit, PG’s air conditioning had not been running much, so there wasn’t much condensed water. In the last week or so, the weather has been very hot and the AC has been extremely active.

Yesterday’s plumber fixed the AC drainage problem by opening the drain pipe, but also discovered that, apparently due to some sort of improper installation (PG was out of the house on a mandatory task and got the explanation from Mrs. PG), one or both of PG’s two water heaters were also leaking and contributing to the dampness problem as well.

In addition to problems with more than one cause, problems with hidden consequences are also quite disturbing. PG has done some squirming around with a flashlight and confirmed the problems yesterday’s plumber discovered with the water heaters. He’s not sure where to look for the AC drain pipe.

The problem yesterday’s plumber discovered with the AC drainage valve reminded PG of a couple of reasons he quit using his prior preventative maintenance service:

  • After one of the last visits from the prior service, PG discovered that the young technician had turned off the natural gas valve that sent gas to PG’s furnace and neglected to turn it back on before he left. Casa PG became a bit chilly before PG discovered the problem.
  • After the last visit from the prior service, PG discovered that the young technician had turned off the electric switch that powered PG’s air conditioning compressor outside the house and neglected to turn it back on before he left. The fan was blowing inside Casa PG, but no cold air was appearing. PG found and fixed that problem as well.

Throw in a phone conversation with his homeowners insurance agent and with a claims representative and yesterday was chock full of things that PG enjoys less than making blog posts on TPV.

If anyone lives near PG, he has recommendations local plumbing/heating/AC people who are very good and those who are to be avoided at all costs.

7 thoughts on “Water in the Basement”

  1. Now sing the title of this post to the chorus of “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” (Brownsville Station) and rewrite the verse lyrics.

  2. Having had fan and AC problems recently which were not fixed by the visits from our in-house guy, but required an actual AC tech who noted we were very low on coolant, replaced it, included something new (a pinhole sealant which he warned us might smell like skunk – and did), and the AC was working beautifully when the real heat wave hit.

    Good plumbing makes you happy. It sounds like the ‘preventive service’ was set up for getting in and out quickly, not actually keeping things maintained. Every one of those missing steps should have been on a checklist.

  3. Great story! (I particularly liked the creative use of “to make a long story short” 🙂 )

    Glad to hear you got it sorted out. I’m sure many homeowners have horror stories about shoddy work. I know I do! And yet, because apparently that’s all work that “Americans won’t do” anymore, the cost for the services (and the corresponding pay!) has gone way up. I’m encouraging my own son to go into any line work that involves repairs in the home. It’s a great industry to be in right now!

  4. Have dealt with similar problems. Glad you found a good plumber. Now keep an eye out for mold problems. They are NOT fun to fix.

  5. I now own and maintain the 80 year-old family homeplace so I feel your pain. One thing I learned long ago is that some repair people are either idiots or crooks, and it pays to know your stuff. If I can’t do it because of equipment or strength, I know how to do it, and I can tell if it’s done right. Repair guys quickly realize I’m not a dumb woman. Less nonsense from them and better service.

    Put fans on that wet area so you won’t end up with a mold problem.

  6. I don’t know what it’s like today, but many years back the phone at the Chicago Plumbers Union was answered, “Hello. The plumber protects the health of the nation.”

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