Blog module icon

MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

Need Help?
For tips on subscribing, searching, and commenting, please visit our blog FAQ page.

View All Posts

Mar 20

No Mystery

Posted on March 20, 2015 at 8:48 AM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

Water has a way of finding the closest exit and that is no mystery! A call from the tenants in my mom's house last week revealed that there was water exiting from behind the handle of the bathtub and running down the tile whenever the tub faucet was on. Additionally, a riser on the irrigation system detached from the underground adapter and a geyser presented itself at that location. The plumber was called to make necessary repairs.

A call from our house in Novato carried a similar message. Water was escaping from an unknown source and traveling down the driveway. We made another call to the plumber to corral the runaway stream.

Of late, it seems we would be better off putting our old friend, the plumber, on speed dial. But the good news about the flurry of calls is how astute the tenants in both homes are regarding water and taking proactive steps to have the leaks corrected.

Just what causes so many problems with leaks? Mom's house sat idle for some time before the remodeling was complete. During that time, washers dried out, corrosion in the pipe flaked off and clogged the water's path, irrigation nozzles became misaligned, etc. Sometimes plumbing just wears out and needs to be replaced. It also became clear to me that water acts as a lubricant to keep the path it travels healthy and in working order; thus even when unused, plumbing can fall into disrepair. Still other times, even a new part can malfunction and cause water to do some damage.

 Jack ripping away padding to find dry subfloor
Leak damage: Jack ripping away carpet padding to find dry subfloor

The thought of new parts malfunctioning brings up a bad memory. Shortly after we finished building our Lassen home, we were horrified to find there was a silent leak between the walls of the guest bath and bedroom. (We are still wondering why it didn't show up during the inspection before the walls were closed in.) The house construction was state-of-the-art using insulated concrete form (ICF) instead of wood to provide R50 insulted walls. The plumbing was also considered to be the best. Cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) was the conduit used to carry water throughout the house. PEX expands and contracts, which is perfect to use for freeze exposure. The failure, however, was in the crimping of the fittings. The pinhole stream of water silently worked its way into a rarely used closet. Needless to say, it was a shock to find mushrooms growing in the corner of the closet when the door was finally opened. The outcome of that leak? Due to mold damage the room had to be dismantled. Carpet, bedding, mattress and box spring, subfloor, and sheetrock found their way to the local dump. Special dehumidifiers worked for weeks, and people wearing protective clothing applied some agent to eradicate any mold spores lurking. Fix a Leak ... wow, it gave us a whole new meaning!

 Fix a Leak Week logo
Yes, it is Fix a Leak Week. Check for those silent toilet leaks by adding some food coloring to the top tank and see if the color works its way into the bowl. Faucets leaks are easy to see, but what about hoses? Today I noticed a huge wet area where two hoses adjoined—with a missing washer! And don't hesitate to turn off all the water in the house and open the lid of the meter box to see if there is any needle or dial movement that could reveal a silent leak. Find more information about how to use your water meter to detect leaks here.

Come to think of it, there actually is a mystery to water leaks. The real mystery is what prevents us all from fixing a problem when we see water exiting at the wrong place!


Scott Stokes
March 21, 2015 at 10:08 AM
Constant vigilance! When I was putting in our new pex water lines in the master bath I made sure I put in an inspection port in the wall so I could monitor all the connectors in the shower area. Home Depot carries the white removable covers for holes in sheet rock. Charlene, I wonder what kind of connectors you used in your pex system.
Charlene Burgi
March 23, 2015 at 3:43 PM
Thanks, Scott. Good to know about the removable cover! The connectors are whatever the plumbing contractor used. See image:

Leave your comment

You may log in before leaving your comment,
or submit anonymously