Springing a leak: a crisis averted

Trent Ernst, Editor


A few nights ago, I was downstairs working in my computer room in the basement. I had to blow my nose, and, not having any real tissues in my office, stepped into the bathroom next door to get a hank of toilet paper, only to discover water pouring from the ceiling, turning the roll of toilet paper, onto which it flowed, into a lump of pulp.

My youngest daughter was upstairs having a shower. I called up for her to stop. She couldn’t, of course hear me over the running water, so I ran up and asked her to stop the shower.

When she stopped, the leak stopped, which meant only one thing: there was a leak in our system, but it was after the tap.

If it had been before the tap, the leak would have merrily continued whether the water was running or not.

So that meant the leak was either in the pipe leading up to the shower or in the drain coming out of the tub.

Colette called her father, a retired pipefitter turned teacher who had done the work on the bathroom.

The first step was to figure out the source of the leak. Through a hole in the basement’s unfinished ceiling, the water leaked. With a flashlight, I could see a short way into the insides of the tub, but not very much.

Colette turned on the water in the tub. I watched and waited. Nothing. We turned it off for a few minutes, then turned it on again, this time turning the shower on. Almost instantly, the water started dripping into my eye, which was peering into the hole.

Colette removed the metal cover where the shower head goes into the wall and immediately figured out the problem. Somewhere along the line, the neck of the shower, which screws into a pipe on the other side, had come loose and was now leaking in the recently replaced wall.

This, believe it or not, was good news. If there were actual damage to the pipe somewhere in the wall, we would have to open up the wall to fix it. Our brand new wall.

Instead, we unscrewed the shower neck, re-wrapped it with Teflon tape, then put it back in.

Colette wanted to make sure it wouldn’t leak again, so she tightened it even tighter than it had been on before.

What that means, though, is the shower is now ever so slightly, but permanently, pointed towards the wall.