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Plumbing Maintenance Why Prevention is Better than Cure

Updated on April 27, 2016

The Scene

Your ceiling has just caved in and there is water, plaster and rubble all over your beautiful kitchen.

What happened?

The bath waste had disconnected from the waste pipe under the bath and when the bath was emptying, it poured into the floor, causing the ceiling below to become unstable and eventually give way. Because the bath is also used as a shower (it wasn't originally) there is extra pressure on the area around the waste from people standing, instead of lying down when the weight is more evenly distributed. This caused the movement between the bath and waste and eventually the disconnection.

How could this have been prevented?

This is one of the most common plumbing emergencies and also one of the most expensive and intrusive ones to deal with. But could it have been prevented? Well, probably. Even though the problem occurred in a hidden place that is NEVER checked, there were probably warning signs that could have signaled that there was a problem. Firstly, when the movement was happening over time, there was probably a small leak first. This could have resulted in a small amount of water on the floor that the homeowners put down to water coming out of the shower, not from the waste. Water coming from the shower will be in splashes (if there is that much water coming out of the shower, I suggest changing the screen or curtain) whereas water coming from underneath will pool.

The other common sign is a brown patch in the ceiling below. Again, this can often be ignored by homeowners as it is not uncommon to see these in different areas of houses. However, a patch like this underneath your bathroom should always, always be investigated. The brown patch is caused by small amounts of water coming through the floorboards and staining the usually white ceiling below.

What would the difference have been?

Had a plumber been called to investigate the tell-tale signs, they would have noticed the leaking bath waste and taken action before it got worse. They would have discussed the need to strengthen the bath supports and install a bath waste that could cope with some movement. This would be a very basic issue for most plumbers and would have taken only an hour or two to repair, saving the homeowners thousands of dollars.

In summary, watch out for the tell-tale signs, they will be there. Make a monthly routine of checking for these kind of signs around the house and act on them immediately upon noticing them. Prevention is always better (and cheaper) than the cure.


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