[Part Two in the multi-part series, “Adventures in Plumbing”. To read Part One, please click here.]
With two inches of new snow overnight, the work to begin repairing our sewer line was late in starting. Icy roads and continuing snowfall were delaying everyone, including the work crew assigned to our repair. Though they were late, the plan was to restore full sewer service by the end of the day. Upon their arrival, the work crew started up their backhoe and placing their tarps and 4 X 8 boards in the front yard. Dan, our contractor, arrived a few minutes later. He briefed his crew on the plan of action. While they began their work, Dan came inside to review the work contract. With the contract signed and the first half payment made, it was one more measurement, an exact measurement of the sewer line location under the house.
In the utility crawl space, Dan located the sewer line and moved forward to the street facing portion of the foundation. While in the crawl space, he heard a “whistling” type sound. Thinking it was the furnace beginning to cycle on, Dan returned to his measuring. Not hearing the furnace on, he wondered what was causing the sound. He shined his light around the crawl space and saw the source of the sound. “David, you need get down here and see this,” Dan yelled. With flashlight in hand, I joined him in the crawl space. “Holy s***!” was my reaction. Water was pouring in from its service line near its connection with the water meter. Dan said we need to get the water turned off. He called his crew foreman to locate the box and turn off the water. Our problem had grown larger.
I told Dan of the repair to the water line made last summer. He asked if the work had a warranty. If it did, the other company could come out and fix it. It would save us from an added expense, or at least, limit the repair cost. I called the other company, and no, it was not warranted since no extra parts were needed in the patch fix. Knowing that, I asked Dan how much would it cost to replace the water service line. He would normally charge $2800 for a full replacement. Since he was on-site already, Dan said he would charge $2000. With the price seeming reasonable, I said to go ahead with a full replacement of the water service line. The patch fix from the summer had cost $1000. Besides, the other company said last summer if another leak in the line was to develop, it would need to be replaced.
Dan apologized, repeatedly, for the turn of events. The water service line was fine the day before when he made measurements for the job quote. He said he never experienced this kind of situation before. I said don’t apologize; this was unforeseen. With this new job added to our contract, Dan consulted with his foreman, Quinn, to determine how he wanted to proceed. They decided to make the water service line replacement the priority job. With snow continuing to fall, the sewer work would be pushed back to the next day. One more night of “babying” the drain system wouldn’t matter much since we were doing it from Tuesday (Feb 24).
With the focus redirected at repairing the water service line, the backhoe went to work at opening a trench close to the existing line. An hour and a half later, a nicely shaped trench was open. Off to one side, the copper tubing of the existing line. In its place, flexible PVC tubing would be used – the standard in all new home construction. PVC is very durable, not subject to corrosive action and less likely to fail.
flexible PVC tubing, rated for water service ready for laying in the trench
Before laying the PVC tubing, the old copper service line was removed. It seemed the time was nearing for replacement. The metal was more malleable, the connections were brittle. The last portion of the service line was copper tubing inside a larger diameter, copper valve connector tube. When the copper tubing inside the valve connector tube was removed, a one-inch crease was found. It was most likely the leak had developed in the crease. Dan said replacing the water service line was a good decision.
crewmember Dakota working in the trench
While Dan would normally drill a new hole into the foundation wall to accommodate the new service line, the PVC tubing was threaded through the old copper valve connector instead due to the low temperatures (around 15° F/-10° C). With compression fittings fitted at both ends of the PVC tubing, turning the water back on was the system test. The kitchen and bathroom faucets were turned on, but in a limited manner as not to overwhelm the drain system. No leaks, all dry.
By the time the backfilling the trench was finished, the snow was falling more heavily. More importantly, the new water service line was installed and working.
One job done.
Preview – Adventures in Plumbing, Day Three
Though assurances could not be given, the hope was for no additional surprises. That was the best we could hope for.