Such Is The Power That The Plumber Wields Over His Subjects

By June we were beginning to starting to really settle in at Kawama. The carpet was up. The old tenant was out. The painting was done. The shower was grouted and in working order. We unpacked most, if not all, of the boxes. The lights were working. We now had a washer and a dryer. The sink and the toilet were both installed. Things were looking good. Life was getting back to normal.

Then one day I noticed a yellow stain over the sink. Uh oh. I felt around above the sink. Water was dripping from somewhere above, soaking the cabinets and dripping into the sink. I put a pot under the drips on the kitchen counter and went to work figure out where the leak was coming from.

I thought I knew what it could be. Except when I chipped out the tile and felt around the valve of the handle I broke, it was still completely dry.

Now you might ask, as I did, what was directly above the leak. That would be our toilet. What did I not want the leak to be about? Anything involving the toilet. So I set out to find a cause of the leak that didn't involve the toilet.

For me, the calculus was simple: Something involving the toilet, or at least the part of the toilet below the floor, was above my paygrade. The rest of it maybe — maybe — I could handle. And if all that did was delay the inevitable? Then so be it.

In this way, I ensured that the tub handles were completely caulked. I made sure the window frame wasn't leaking shower water back into the house:

Kawama, Astoria, Queens

Along the way I learned that it is incorrect to caulk window flashing (that thin metal protecting the window frame itself) because then there is no way for water to escape out the bottom:

Kawama, Astoria, Queens

Incidentally, if you walk around your neighborhood and look at window flashing, you'll see that most people have their window flashing caulked. It's kind of crazy, especially if what I read on the Internet is correct.
Goober and I went on the roof to see if maybe — maybe? — the leak above the sink on the first floor was the result of a roof leak three floors up:

Kawama, Astoria, Queens

The leak of course was related to none of these things.

One thing made me scratch my head — the water didn't smell like waste water, which of course it would if it had been coming from the toilet waste line; after all, our shit did not not stink; we knew this. So I developed a new theory: I speculated that the leak had something to do with the humidity.

As I learned through substantial research, it wasn't really about the humidity as much as it was a matter of the dew point. See, you would see condensation on the pipes — and thus a leak (get it?) — if the dew point was above a certain point.

But then we'd have to figure out what the dew point meant exactly. Which I now know.

In short, the dew point is the temperature at which water vapor condenses. The domestic water supply in most places is about 55 degrees. So when the dew point is above 55 degrees, the pipes will condense. In the beautiful summer that happens in the Mid-Atlantic, we get high dew points often. So this being late June, I assumed that our pipes were just condensing and dripping into the kitchen.

Of course, right?

I mean, it just was so obvious that that was what was happening.

So for several days I tracked the dew point and noted when it went above or below 55 degrees, then checked to see if the leak got better or worse.

Eventually I realized that this was stupid, and just tore away at the ceiling tiles and looked up there for myself. Here was what I saw:

Kawama, Astoria, Queens

Kawama, Astoria, Queens

The first image is the original ceiling, with the waste pipe for the toilet visible through the wood planks. The second image is the lead toilet waste pipe itself, attached into the main waste line flowing down the wall into the basement and out to the sewer, with what I believe to be condensation collecting at the bottom.

My theory was vindicated! But then, if you turn your attention to the upper portion of the image at the pipe, you'll see a tear in the lead. I think the technical term for this condition is "fucked up," which is what I told the plumber when I immediately called him upon seeing this. He said he could send some guys out that Monday. I said that would be fine with me. I did not ask him how much it might cost to fix because we didn't really have a choice. Such is the power that the plumber wields over his subjects.

Posted: February 8th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: The Cult Of Domesticity | Tags: , , , , ,

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