Calling a Plumber to Fix a Broken Pipe in the Bathroom
An Annoying Dripping Sound
September 3, 2011
The drip-drip of a leaking faucet or running toilet is both annoying and expensive as the water that is steadily going down the drain is not free.
In the interest of avoiding a large water bill as well as silencing the annoying dripping noise, it is best to get this fixed quickly.
When the problem is simply a dripping faucet or running toilet the solution is usually simple and inexpensive.
One can usually fix a running toilet by removing the cover of the tank and adjusting the chain that runs from the flush handle to the rubber stopper at the bottom of the tank.
Occasionally, a new chain and/or stopper is needed but these can be purchased for a few dollars at any hardware or home building supply store.
Similarly, a leaking faucet can usually be fixed by simply replacing a worn washer on the faucet, although occasionally one has to to buy and install a new faucet. But again, the cost is not that much.
While the above two are usually simple and inexpensive do it yourself (DIY) projects, other leaks can be major problems.
I encountered this one night when I was home alone and the house unusually quiet.
The Sound of Dripping Water But No Leaky Faucets
Returning from a trip to the bathroom in the master bedroom of our townhouse I heard an annoying dripping sound.
Going back to check the bathroom, I found no dripping from the faucets or exposed pipes on the sink or shower and nothing from the toilet.
The drip-drip sound continued. However, as before, there was no evidence of any leaks. I even checked the floor around the toilet where the dripping sound was coming from, but it was dry.
While I tried to ignore the sound, I was haunted by the fear that the sound was coming from behind the wall and had visions of hidden flooding, mold and an expensive repair job.
My fears proved true when I shut off the intake valve for the toilet and flushed it thereby removing all water from the toilet.
I then put my ear to the wall behind the toilet. I heard the drip and concluded that I had a leaking pipe behind the wall.
Going online I found a number for a 24 hour plumbing company.
I called, but, when I explained the problem, the person answering asked some questions and concluded that the leak was probably minor.
I was advised to wait until morning when they would dispatch a plumber at their lower day rates rather than the more expensive emergency night rates.
A Plumber was Called
The plumber came first thing in the morning. After shutting off the toilet and removing the tank, he proceeded to cut two holes in the wall before he was able to discover the source of the leak.
Fortunately, the leak was minor having resulted from a connector having sprung a leak.
The leak was small, and while there was a small pool of water at the base, which was the cement slab on which the house rested, it was not yet large enough to seep through the base of the wall into the bathroom itself.
Also, while there had been some spray from the leak, the area it hit was small and absorption minimal. This was good as I was concerned about mold growth and/or rotting of the wood but neither were evident.
The Pipes in Our Home are Polybutylene
Lead has been the metal of choice in the making of water pipes for centuries.
However, health concerns and economics have resulted in different materials being used for pipes in recent decades in the United States.
In fact, lead has been so closely associated with plumbing for so long that our word for both plumbing and plumbers comes from the ancient Latin word plumbum which means lead.
However, the pipes in most homes and other buildings constructed in the past half century or more are now made of copper, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), Polybutylene (PB) or similar materials.
I already knew that our home had Polybutylene pipes and was a little concerned due to stories I had heard about problems with this material springing leaks.
The plumber assured me that the pipe looked good and it was just a small connector piece that had broken.
This observation by the plumber, plus what I had previously learned about Polybutylene pipes reassured me.
My previous research indicated that having Polybutylene pipes should not be a problem as that material is good.
The problems with Polybutylene pipes are usually the result of improper installation.
Since our townhouse is close to 30 years old and with no evidence of leaks during the three decades since the house was built, I have assumed that our plumbing was installed properly.
Concerns about Possible Mold Growth
With the leak fixed, there was still the problem of the two holes in the wall.
It took a couple of weeks before I could get the handyman who I usually call for jobs that are bigger than I can handle to come and replace the drywall in the two holes left by the plumber.
I used part of this time to help dry the wood thoroughly by running a fan on it for a few days.
At the advice of a friend who had previously had a mold removal company, I mixed some laundry bleach and water in a spray bottle. Putting on goggles to protect my eyes, I sprayed the exposed area behind the wall thoroughly with the bleach mixture.
There was no water damage to the wood, but I wanted to kill any mold spores with the bleach mixture and drying of the area to prevent the growth of mold behind the wall.
Mold behind walls is not only a health hazard but a major expense to get rid of once it gains a foothold and spreads.
Bathroom is Now Good as New
Wanting to keep our expenses to a minimum, I painted the wall after it had been fixed and then attempted to put the toilet back together.
Before I could put the toilet back together I had to replace a couple of gaskets but these only cost a couple of dollars at the local Home Depot.
Unfortunately, the toilet began leaking when I got it back together and I was unable to find and fix it. So, the plumber had to be called back. He discovered a problem with one of the parts inside and quickly fixed it.
What I originally feared would be a major and very expensive project turned out to be a minor project involving little expense.
We were without the use of the toilet in our master bedroom bathroom for about three or four weeks, but that was a minor inconvenience.
The total cost ended up being a little over two hundred dollars by the time we were finished.
Our bathroom is now good as new.
Do it Yourself Plumbing
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© 2011 Chuck Nugent