The Tank › Plumbing hell.
- November 27, 2010 at 2:04 pm #14563
Warning: Long post.
It all start one hot sunny afternoonâ€¦.well I donâ€™t really remember the weather but I do remember is that one of the fill valves would not stop weeping. It was a small amount of water, not enough for me to really care about (my wife and I never use more than the minimum utility usage per month) but something I knew I needed to fix. Being a new first time home owner (double whammy) I decided to fix it.
Now as a side note, I am not the typical â€œknow it allâ€ that tries to fix something only to have it blow it up in there face later and require a professional to come out and sort out the ensuing mess. Nor does my wife pre dial 911 when I go pick up tools. I have an engineering mind, wear many hats, own many tools and love working with my hands. I wear the electrician, welder, mechanic, carpenter, nerd, and plumber hats but none professionally.
Little did I know that this fill valve was something special, it was one of those Watts types that has a built in relief should the pressure get too high. This is likely due to the lack of an expansion tank. So anyway, I replaced this valve with a new one. Everything seemed fine until the mother in law showed up. Not that her arrival had anything to do with it but she happened to be there for some of the fun.
I noticed that the TP valve on the water heater started weeping the next day. Figuring that this was normal for a 7 (I think) year old whirlpool, I opened it and closed it a few times but after 10 min, it would start weeping again. So I decided I would replace it. Went to Home Depot (they know me by name there) and obtained the appropriate parts and then attempted to turn off the cold feed to the heater. Well, thatâ€™s when the packing started leaking. I was able to turn off the water, replace the TP, and tighten the packing so the shut off valve could be still be used. I knew I would have to replace it and figured that I would do it after my wifeâ€™s mother left. And that was that.
Or so I thought. Much to my dismay the new TP started weeping also. The best part was an hour before she was to leave, she used the other bathroom and when after flushing, the fill valve literally exploded and knocked the porcelain led off and to the side about 2 inches. Please note that I had purged the air from the line and it had been used several times since the water was turned back on.
Keep in mind that all of this was going on in a time frame of around 2 days.
It actually did cross my mind to plug the TP valve but I knew that was wrong and a stupid thing to do. And after watching that episode of Mythbusters where they did the same, it just reaffirmed that position.
So then it hit me, could it be pressure? I connected a pressure gauge bib outside while my wife was in the shower, 55 psi, looks good. I waited until she was done, it quickly shot up to 70 psi and then slowly over the period of minutes, 80, 90, 100,â€¦..all the way to 150. Ahh, itâ€™s the pressure reducing valve thatâ€™s to blame. In the front of the house I have a bib (never used it before) that is piped pre regulator, connected it there, 210 psi. At that point I thought I had a faulty gauge, tried a different one, showed the same.
Now the real fun begins.
I go turn off the main in the house and its packing completely blows out. No way to tighten it for temp repair. Also, it was installed backwards so even when closed, water still came out of the packing. I grabbed an adjustable wrench and ran to the meter and proceeded to turn off the water there. Note that its around 5pm on Friday. The valve was very stiff and as I turned it, it broke off. I didnâ€™t really put that much force on the valve. From this came 2 good things, the water was no longer leaking in my utility room and the new leak is before the meter so at least its not costing me money. I call the utility and strangely (note sarcasm) they were not interested in fixing it until the morning, but when I very carefully explained to them that it was pre meter, they were out in an hour. It was one heck of a geyser.
So I head to the home depot to get a new PRV. I would love to say that this solved the problem and everyone lived happily ever after but no, I am not that lucky. I figured that while they did there work, I would do mine. Keep in mind that the water meter is at the same elevation as my roof (two story house). I cut off the end and while it was draining, mud started pouring out. Yep, mud from there digging in the meter put. In my fresh potable line. So now I have a many gallons of water and now clay mud all over the floor. Trust me, it gets better. I clean that up and make the repair, leave the water off overnight to allow for the PVC cement to set. The next morning before work, I turn on the water and bleed the pipes and all seems ok. I was relieved, happy and ready for another project.
Then I had problems with the regulator moaning at times of low flow. I replaced the valve and installed a gauge before and after the regulator to keep an eye on things.
And then it happened. The PVC split on its casting seam on the high pressure side. A faulty 98 cent part causes thousands in damage. You have no idea how much water can come in through a Â¾â€ line at 210 psi thatâ€™s right off an 8â€ main with no restriction. Well at least I had no idea. We think it ran for only a half hour but do not know for sure. It soaked nearly the entire downstairs and had a constant flow going under the back door. There were 2 inches standing in places. After my wife got out of the shower, she heard something odd, went downstairs, saw the water and its source and ran up to wake me yelling â€œWAKE UP WAKE UP BIG LEAK BIG LEAKâ€. A burned out shop vac, homeowners claim and many days of blowers and dehumidifiers later, the water was gone along with the obligatory sheetrock, carpet, power tools, electronics, etc.
I decided from that I am not going to let this happen again. I have attached pictures of my repair. Though it is excessive and way over built, that is my nature. I tend to over do things. All piping that is in the house running at high pressure is stainless steel and rated for 3000 psi. I use 2 regulators, the first drops to ~75 and the next to ~45. I also installed an expansion tank. All the PVC crap is gone. Never much liked it anyway. (The only part that was PVC is what came from the meter and to the PRV, rest was copper). The stainless steel main penetrates the foundation and 5 feet away it is spliced to the existing PVC. I installed a sensor on the floor that actuates a Dynaquip electric ball valve that turns off the water if the floor gets wet. Water heater cold line valve was also replaced with a ball valve. Soon there will be sensors under the fridge, dishwasher, toilets, cloths washer, and anywhere else I think a leak could form. Pardon the mess in the pics, they were taken before I cleaned up the room.November 27, 2010 at 2:13 pm #14564
Another pic.November 27, 2010 at 10:57 pm #14568Randy SchuylerKeymaster
Wow. That’s the only word for all that. I’m sure it wasn’t any fun if you were there, but it was sure fun to read about!
Now, I’m curious: It looks as if you used galvanized steel below the gauges. Why? Sooner or later (probably later when you’ve forgotten about it), it’s going to rust shut internally and cause you some more grief. Or is the whole house plumbed with that and you’re just doing stopgap?
Randy SchuylerNovember 28, 2010 at 3:29 am #14572Larry WeingartenParticipant
Hello: I think somebody’s been shopping at McMaster Carr, because all that looks like stainless to me. 3000 psi… Wow!
I’ve done plumbing for over forty years and have thus far escaped a day like you had, but I think it’s simple luck. Really don’t see that you made any big errors.
Thanks for sharing the challenge 😛
Yours, LarryNovember 28, 2010 at 11:44 am #14575Randy SchuylerKeymaster
Oh my poor old eyes. I’ve never in my life seen, anywhere, stainless steel plumbing…. Cancel my last comment…..
Randy SchuylerNovember 28, 2010 at 1:06 pm #14577
Yep, its stainless steel, and yes, someone has been shopping at McMaster Carr. I decided that I am not going to have another flood again. Pay me now or pay me later…..
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