Sunday, January 11, 2009

PVC Pipe Paranoia

This afternoon, as I dumped a wheelbarrow full of fallen leaves from my backyard into a big pile in the street for city pickup tomorrow, I noticed, in the distance, that my neighbor seemed to be flooding his yard with water. The water was spilling into the street and down the storm drain. "Wasteful," I thought, "particularly during a drought." I returned the wheelbarrow to the back yard, to rake up yet more leaves.

I thought I should first look for something in my basement, however, so I opened up the basement door, and heard - flowing water. Towards the front of the basement, a large pipe had severed and a vast flood of water was overwhelming the area. Panicked, it took me several minutes react sensibly. I called Joe the Plumber for help, and located a suitable water shutoff valve. Suddenly, I realized that the reason my neighbor's yard was full of water was that, having swamped my own yard with the stuff, there was nowhere else for the water to go. I fretfully worried when Joe would arrive.

It's unclear why the coupling on the PVC pipe severed. That particular basement wall had been replaced by Joe The Plumber in late 2007. When Joe arrived and took stock of the situation, he pointed out that the light gray PVC glue on the severed pipe coupling did not point to him as the culprit (his trademark is an electric blue color). Maybe so, but if the hole in the wall cut for the pipe was too tight, it is possible that the settling of the house, with time, had made the wall place too much pressure on the pipe, leading to the failure of the coupling (with Joe as the ultimate culprit). Alternatively, with the cold temperatures we've been having lately, maybe there had been some ice activity there, leading to PVC coupling failure.

In any event, it could have been much worse. The flood had gone unnoticed probably only for half an hour. At least I was home, and not in New Zealand (otherwise, with E. at the helm, the flood could have gone on for days). The flood occurred in a part of the basement where previous flooding had led me to install a sump, with pump, three years ago. So, the damage seemed to be limited.

Still, I fear for the future of my pipes.....

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