On Wednesday nights, I take a ballet class downtown. I’ve danced all my life, and being in the studio, even as a nonprofessional, is soothing. I can breathe deeply, let all the stresses fade away, and keep in shape at the same time. It’s Nutcracker season, so these past few weeks have been filled with little dancers prancing down the halls, Tchaikovsky filtering through the rehearsal walls.
Yesterday was a normal Wednesday. I made a quick dinner (pancakes) so that I had time to get dressed for class, and B job-hunted online while ESPN played in the background. Scout and Zoey followed me around the house as I gathered my things. I set my dance bag on the island and said goodbye to B.
About 10 minutes after leaving, I realized that I’d forgotten my bag. It has everything in it—pointe shoes, thread, bobby pins. I had to turn around. At this point it was dark and traffic was heavier. I knew that by the time I got home I wouldn’t be able to turn around and make it downtown without being late. I debated not going to class at all, rather than show up late. No one likes to open the door to a ballet studio and interrupt the teacher’s flow, the concentration of the other students, the music.
It turns out it didn’t matter.
When I pulled into the driveway, the kitchen blinds were open, and I could see through the glass that B was standing in the living room holding a Dutch oven. Why would he be standing there like that? I walked through the door, and he called to me before I’d even set my purse down, “Do you think you could skip dance tonight?”
The ceiling was leaking. Big, heavy drips of cold water were cascading from a hole that was now in the living room ceiling. My mouth fell open. I gasped dramatically—not the dramatically because you’re trying to be dramatic, but the really-mean-it-holy-cow-what’s-happening gasps. I’d left a house together and come home to one in pieces, all in the course of 15 minutes.
B explained that after I left, he went into the kitchen and then, upon returning to the living room, glanced up. It was a whim, really. But there in the ceiling was a giant bubble. A bubble of paint and drywall swelling up above his head. He touched it. Then he went and got a paring knife and poked a small hole. The ceiling was full of water.
This was right around when I arrived. I helped him arrange a ladder under the hole to hold the pot while we peeled away the drywall. It was sopping wet. We peeled and peeled until we found dryness again.
The hole we ended up with, about 24 x 36 inches, allowed us to see easily into the ceiling. The leaking pipe was easy to spot.
The good news is that there is no mold. The leak has not caused any damage to our beams. We called a 24/7 plumbing company and discussed the situation with them as water dripped out at about 4 drops/second into two Dutch ovens we’d arranged on the ladder. We decided it could wait until tomorrow, sparing us an emergency plumbing bill.
Eventually, after he couldn’t sleep, B got up and went downstairs. I was just nodding off when he called for me. He was back upstairs, with his head deep inside his side of our bathroom vanity. He’d found the leak.
We’d originally thought that the leak was from the piping that runs to our soaking tub. We were having nightmares of having to rip out the tub to replace the piping underneath it. B smartly decidedly to measure from the wall to the leaking pipe downstairs. Then he came upstairs and remeasured. The measurement from downstairs led him right to his sink.
B doesn’t use the underneath of his sink very much. It’s mainly used for storage: sunscreen, boxes of tissues, hydrogen peroxide…the essentials of adulthood that you don’t need every day. So when he opened the cabinet doors, he was surprised by what he found: standing water. His cold water pipe was dripping so much that the pooling water was leaking through the bottom of his cabinet, through the plywood flooring, and thus through the living room ceiling below.
Suddenly we understood. Two months ago, we noticed an uptick in our water bill. September was a small amount, but October was over 50%. After asking around, everyone always said, “Do you have a leak?” Well, no, we said, we don’t. Then check your toilets.
So we did. What we found was that all three of our toilets had very high water levels. This means that they were using more water per flush than needed. So B went out, spent $40 at Lowes, and replaced all the inner workings of our three toilets. This was last week, so we weren’t expecting to see the difference until our next bill. We thought we’d solved it. We were now more water efficient than we were before. Score one for us and Nature!
B shut off the cold water valve in his sink, and the leak stopped. Just like that.
The good news is that B can fix this himself now. He can see where the leak is originating from, and it’s thankfully not from the inner workings of our soaker tub. The ceiling is now completely dry after a night airing out (even the water in the bowls evaporated), and the area under his sink is dry too. So now all that’s left for us to do is to repair the damaged area on the piping under the sink, and learn how to repair some drywall.
Homeownership is a never-ending learning process, my friends.