Monday, January 30, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: The big drip

(My apologies -- this isn't exactly a "microblog" post -- but it's what I've got! ;) )

Early last Thursday afternoon, I finished housecleaning and was putting away my basket of cleaning supplies in the front entryway walk-in closet by the front entryway, where we store our Christmas tree, dh's guitar & cleaning paraphernalia (including vacuum cleaner, steam mop, dust mop, etc.), as well as our coats, hats, scarves, etc., and footwear. The electrical panel & modem that control our television and Internet service is also located in the closet wall.

Why is there water in this bucket??
I don't know what made me look, but there's a bucket (actually two nested in each other) sitting on the floor in the corner by the door with a squeegee and some cleaning rags inside it... and the rags were floating in about two inches of water. I said aloud, "Why is there water in this bucket?"

I looked up -- & I could see a stain spreading out from the little plastic disc that covers the sprinkler head on the ceiling. :(  :(  :(   I felt like crying. My nice little condo!! It felt like a violation of sorts.  Granted, water leaks can & do happen in houses too (believe me, we know...!). But it was hard to feel like my nice little condo, our haven, was being damaged. Also, in a condo building, anything that happens in your unit has the potential to affect other units too (and vice versa).

Called in dh to have a look, & then called the property manger (who is seldom onsite and not especially responsive -- but that's another post/rant...). To his credit, he arrived within 20 minutes, had a look, checked to make sure the leak wasn't coming from the unit above ours, and called a plumber.

(While we were waiting, we emptied the closet of most of its contents, at least the ones sitting on the floor or near the leak site. I guess on the one hand, it's a good thing we just happened to have a bucket right below the leak (!), so nothing that was sitting on the floor got wet. On the other hand, we might have noticed it earlier if we'd stepped into a puddle, right? As one of my friends said, thank goodness it happened NOW & not when we were on vacation for two weeks...!)

Where the leak was happening.
The plumber arrived within an hour and cut a hole in the ceiling drywall to see if he could locate the problem. He agreed that, yes, it was the sprinkler system -- but unfortunately, no, this was something he could not fix. He didn't even want to touch the thing, in case he set off the system & flooded our unit (!! -- ummm, thanks. I think?).  He was emphatic that the property manager needed to call in the experts -- the company that installed the system, or a company that installs & services sprinkler systems.

The sprinkler system guys (two of them) eventually showed up around 5:30 -- and enlarged the hole in the ceiling to get a better look at what was happening. The leak was in a joint in the pipes (plastic, glued together). (After they removed the faulty section, they determined that two sections of pipe hadn't been pushed in together QUITE far enough... water had gotten into it and wearkened the glue seal, which created the leak.)  They kept telling us how very rare & unusual it was for a problem like this to happen, that any such flaws were usually uncovered in the testing phase before the building was finished. Hey, you're talking to Mr. & Mrs. "Rare & Unusual" who have gone though infertility, stillbirth, a bicornuate uterus, a fifth wisdom tooth, etc. etc.  Of COURSE something like this would happen to us, wouldn't it?? :p  

They needed to turn off the entire sprinkler system on the floor -- but by then the property manager had left for the day (!) & there was nobody on call who could or would bring them the keys they needed (!!).  Eventually, they spoke with someone who agreed to bring them the keys in the morning.

They arrived around 8:45 a.m. on Friday (after we spent a night spent listening to the faint drip-drip-drip of water falling into the bucket coming from the closet) and went straight to work. After notifying the fire department about what they were doing, they turned off the sprinkler system on our floor and removed the faulty section of pipe (two sections not quite properly joined together, it seems), which created a gaping hole in the pipework, from which water immediately started to gush. 

They thought it would take a few minutes to drain the system -- a couple of cups of water -- but just to be safe, they brought in one of those big industrial sized plastic garbage cans to catch the water as it came out. I didn't note exactly when they started, but it was probably around 9:30 a.m.

Bin #2 almost full of water...!
(I have video of this too.)  
After TWO HOURS (during which they emptied the water in the bin TWICE), they decided there was no point no point in sitting around watching water drain (plus they had another job they needed to get to). They explained the pipes needed to be absolutely dry before they could install the new section, because otherwise the glue would not set properly and we'd just have another leak (and possibly a flood) on our hands when they turned the water back on. The guy who appeared to be the team supervisor gave me his cell # & told me to call if/when the water got to about the 2/3 mark. They left around 10:45 a.m.

Shortly after they left, the stream of water seemed to slow just slightly. Around 1:45, I called to let them know the water was still coming out of the pipes, but the flow had slowed to a trickle/fast drip, and the bin was somewhere between 1/3 & 1/2 full. They came back around 3:15 to check on us, but of course, the water was STILL dripping.

So they emptied the bin (again) & said they would let it continue to drip (and hopefully dry) overnight, then return the next day (Saturday morning) to replace the faulty section of pipe.

The faulty section of pipe that was removed & replaced. 
And so dh & I got to listen to the "drip... drip... drip" of water for the rest of the day... and on through the night. We also noticed something interesting:  every time we flushed the toilet, the flow of water would increase (!).  We told this to the sprinkler system guy the next morning and he said it was probably because the sprinkler pipes were close to the plumbing pipes, and the vibrations would move more residual water through the sprinkler pipes and into the collector bin. Made sense, but it was still weird to see.

Dh joked early on that it was "like Chinese water torture" -- but after a while it wasn't that funny anymore -- it WAS torture. (I said it reminded me of the Austin Powers movie where Austin first gets defrosted and has to relieve himself -- and keeps going and going and going... ;)  Both of us found ourselves making more trips to the bathroom than usual -- the power of suggestion, lol ;) -- which of course led to more water coming out of the pipes.)  We despaired that the water was NEVER going to stop dripping and that the pipes would never dry out.

The new section of pipe.
By morning (day 3), thankfully, the water had slowed to almost nothing. Even after a flush ;) the dripping would slow down again within a minute or two, which was comforting. When the sprinkler guy arrived -- almost 24 hours after he first opened up the pipes to drain -- he dried out the remaining moisture with towels, and then angled the pipes slightly so that any residual water would run away from the repair site. He installed the new section, securing the joins with glue, and left it to dry. He said it needed to dry for at least 12 hours before he could turn the system back on again -- but since he couldn't return until Monday (day 5!), it would have almost 48 hours to cure.

Even though he assured us we could run water during this time without causing any problems, dh & I were both somewhat paranoid by now (do you blame us??)(although we did have to use the plumbing a few hours after he left). Besides which, the smell of glue was overpowering (& it was too cold outside to leave the balcony door open, even a crack, for too long). We called BIL & asked if we could spend the night on his couch, and cleared out as soon as we could. (Dh did return a couple of times just to check on things.)  We returned on Sunday morning (after the glue had been drying 24 hours)  

Bright and early this morning (Monday, day 5) the knock came on our door. Within minutes, the water to the sprinkler system had been turned back on to our floor -- and our closet remained dry (and has since then -- knocking wood, loudly!!). We shook hands with the supervisor and told him it had been a pleasure to deal with him. That said, I added, "No offense, but I really hope we don't see you back here anytime soon." He just laughed.

The hole in the ceiling remains;  someone else will need to be called in to patch the drywall. (Dh will bring it up with the property manager.)  Until then, there's no point in putting everything back into the closet. (Once again, I am thankful we went for the two-bedroom unit, so we have extra space to store this stuff for now. ;)  ) 

Needless to say, this put a real damper (pun intended) on our weekend. We didn't feel we could leave our unit so long as those pipes were draining water (and I'd already been going a bit stir crazy, with lousy weather keeping us indoors a lot lately). This is one of those times when I'm really glad we're retired and don't have to take time off work to deal with stuff like this.  

So how was YOUR weekend??

You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here   


  1. Yikes! Sorry to hear your weekend was a wash (pun also intended). Hope your condo is back to normal soon.

  2. Welcome to condo living! And though annoying, this sounds fairly straight forward (I'll spare you the story about our unit leak that took 3 months to fix and reduced our living space by 50%). Glad you caught this in time.

  3. What a pain in the ass. I mean, lucky that you caught it early, but so annoying to have to deal with it.

  4. Well that's a terrible way to spend the weekend! Glad it's fixed now and that your property management company was responsive. I hope they are just as responsive when it comes to fixing the hole in the drywall!

  5. Oh, man. That sucks. I am glad you were home though -- I had a student whose house sprung a leak in the second floor bathroom while they were on spring break and it flooded the whole thing rendering it unlivable because of mold concerns. Water is so funny -- you need it, you appreciate it, but man can it cause chaos when not controlled. I'm glad it's okay but sorry you had to spend so much time listening to that maddening drip-drip-drip over the weekend!

  6. Oh my gosh, that sucks. "Chinese water torture." A good analogy. :) That's a bad way to spend your weekend. Good thing you have the extra storage space!

  7. Good grief! I know your frustration at being once again the victim of a very rare situation. We all just want to be boring and normal, don't we?!

    And I can definitely see that the flushing/extra water dripping situation would have been unnerving to say the least. That did make me smile a little!

    Glad it's fixed, and you can once again enjoy your condo.