Category Archives: plumbing

A sprinkler saga, episode 2

Mikel from Green Tree Professional returned 18 November to Emerald Hill to continue identifying problems with and repairing the sprinkler system.

With the system operable after the first repairs were made 11 November, Mikel focused in the front yard on repairing the main supply line to the sprinklers that was cut by the plumbers when they installed a new water line between the house and the city water supply at the curb.

As he dug, Mikel discovered that the main supply line for the sprinklers was cut -- pipe in left circle. The plumbers also cut two  lateral lines. Mikel has already repaired one of the laterals in this photo. The second cut is the PVC pipe in the right circle.
As he dug, Mikel discovered that the main supply line for the sprinklers was cut — pipe in left circle. The plumbers also cut two lateral lines. Mikel has already repaired one of the laterals in this photo. The second cut is the PVC pipe in the right circle.
While working on the pipes, Mikel discovered that the plumbers buried a control valve. He excavated to reveal the valve.
While working on the pipes, Mikel discovered that the plumbers buried a control valve. He excavated to reveal the valve. The plumbers also severed the control wire that runs between this valve and the next valve in line. Mikel could not locate the cut in the wires, so he opted to run new wires across the lawn to the connect the two valves.

After repairing the cuts, Mikel began testing the front sprinkler zones. He quickly discovered a lateral line that was cut when the front walk was formed — water burbled up from under one of the concrete steps.

The good news was … At least two front zones operated, even if they needed additional repairs.

It was time for Mikel to depart to his next scheduled appointment.

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A sprinkler saga, episode 1

When Ranserve excavated the foundation for the new garage bay, the concrete crew cut and buried the end of the 12-strand cable that runs between the control unit location in the garage, out to the valves that control the sprinklers in the back yard, along the PVC pipes that were buried in the ground when a previous owner installed the sprinkler system, and out to the valves and sprinkler heads in the front yard.

Ron Dahlke did try to protect the cable, but bobcats, picks, shovels and form boards are brutal.

Ron, Odell, Kevin and Matt dug exploratory holes in the back yard after the garage was built — and they did find the cable.

But it had been severed — and a section about 20 feet long was missing.

Odell asked Steven to have a sprinkler company do the repair.

Steven collected four estimates. Two companies advised it would be easier and faster to install an entirely new system at a cost of somewhere beyond $4,000 to $5,000. Two companies recommended repairs at $95 an hour, plus parts, with about three hours required to diagnose whether the system could be repaired.

Steven selected Mikel and Darynn Eggert, the two brothers who run Green Tree Professional. Yes, Steven gravitates toward working with family businesses and brothers — see the fence postings as further evidence.

In episode 1 of the sprinkler saga, dated 11 Nov. 2016, Darynn and Mikel excavated the cut end of the control cable buried in the ground about feet away from the back of the new garage, patched it to new wire, and attempted to pull that wire into the garage through conduit that was fixed into place when the concrete slab of the new garage floor was poured.

First discovery — it is impossible to force heavy-duty 12-strand irrigation wire through a tight 90-degree elbow when you don’t have a heavy-duty pull cord.

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The concrete team installed electrical conduit when they formed and poured the new slab for the garage. The sprinkler control wire was supposed to travel through the conduit. But, the wire can’t be pulled through the tight elbow identified in the lower circle in photo, at the concrete foundation. Steven approved drilling through the siding — the second, higher circle in the red-painted siding. Note the missing chunk of concrete walk that was cut out when the garage slab was excavated — this has to be replaced. Darynn and Mikel ran a temporary control wire above ground, with which they were able to begin testing the sprinkler system.

After much discussion, Steven permitted Darynn and Mikel to drill a hole through the exterior siding of the garage above ground level, with a plan to shield the cable in new conduit that would be mounted to the exterior of the siding outside the garage, turned down to the ground in a WIDE 90-degree elbow, then buried and run out across the back yard to connect with the old existing cable.

Except … Ranserve still has to replace a chunk of concrete walk that was cut out when the garage foundation was formed and poured. The new wire out the back of the garage traverses this missing concrete, so permanent installation is not possible until the concrete work is done.

The temporary control wire travels about 20 feet across the back yard to where the original exiting wire was severed.
The temporary control wire travels about 20 feet across the back yard to where the original exiting wire was severed.
Darynn and Mikel made waterproof connections between the new and old control wires. The trench at right is where Mikel discovered the open end of a sprinkler line that was severed during construction of the garage. He cut off the knife edge of the PVC and capped it off.
Darynn and Mikel made waterproof connections between the new and old control wires. The trench at right is where Mikel discovered the open end of a sprinkler line that was severed during construction of the garage. He cut off the knife edge of the PVC and capped it off.

So, Mikel and Darynn ran the wire into the garage, temporarily loose and above ground, connected it to the sprinkler controller in the back yard, turned on water to the sprinkler system, powered up the controller — and began experimenting to discover leaks.

Second discovery — the system still worked. In some places.

Third discovery — in the front yard, the plumbers severed  the main supply line to the sprinkler system when they trenched the front yard to install the new water supply line to the house as required by the city. Did the plumbers repair the sprinkler line as requested by Steven? Apparently, obviously, not.

 

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When the drain line under the mudroom bath backs up …

When the drain line under the slab, under the mudroom bathroom backs up, water and crap comes up from the toilet and shower drains. It’s a flood. Second time this has happened since we moved into the house. The immediate crisis is to mop up the crap and get a plumber to the house in the middle of the night to snake the line clean.

After that, we let the room and walls dry out. Then Ranserve comes back to peel off the ruined baseboard trim. And we discover that mold has begun to grow on the drywall paper. We caught it in time. Small spores. Odell from Ranserve sprayed a mold killer. 24 hours later Steven applied a second spray, waited 24 hours, applied a third spray, waited 24 hours, scrubbed the drywall as clean as possible with an abrasive sponge, then a fourth spray of mold killer.

1-dsc_3781Now Odell gets to come back to install replacement trim — and Steven is scheduling a plumber to inspect the main lines under the house with a camera, in hopes of determining why this has happened twice, whether it is systemic, and what the options might be to keep the lines clean.

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Utility sink, part 1

One shortcoming is … there is no utility sink in the garage. Jacquela does NOT want Steven washing out paint brushes in the kitchen.

Steven proposed a utility sink during the design and build process, but it would have required a ridiculously expensive change order — and busting up more concrete.

Fortunately, when we shifted the sink in the mudroom bathroom, it wound up on the wall that is shared with the garage. This puts the water supply and drain lines into that shared wall. Which means we can open up the wall from the garage to tie in hot and cold water supplies, and connect the drain line from the utility sink to the drain line inside the wall that connects to the mudroom sink.

It just requires imagination, a budget, and a plumber.

Mike Rodriguez and his team from Elite Plumbing arrived 21 October to cut open the wall — photo above — and connect the pex lines — photo below.

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Steven’s job is to install a backer board to attach the sink to, re-insulate the wall with foam, replace the drywall, patch the drywall, then glue a plastic sheet against the drywall to serve as backsplash. Here’s what that looks like when Steven is done:

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Now Mike can return to the scene of the crime to hook up the sink and water lines.

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Oh, crap. Again

The main drain line under the slab, from the mudroom, under the kitchen, under the office, to the whole-house cleanout at the front of  the house, plugged. Again. And flooded the mudroom bath. Again. With crap coming up in the mudroom through the shower drain and from under the toilet. At 830 pm.

Ron Dahlke from Ranserve asked Steven to call for help.

Jose from AAA Auger arrived about 930. As Steven donned rubber gloves to mop up the mess, Jose snaked the drain line from the cleanout in the garage at the back of the mudroom bath. No joy. Jose snaked the line from the main cleanout at the front of the house. No joy. We determined that bath 3 and Jadin’s bath still functioned. We arranged for Jose to return in the morning with a more-powerful snake and his camera.

1-dsc_3607About 930 am the next morning, Jose inserted the camera into the drain line. We discovered a “belly” in the drain line where it intersects with the line that drains the sink. Everything collects in the belly.

1-dsc_3616Steven asked Jose to call for the hydraulic power wash needed to flush the line clean.

Here’s the special nozzle fitted to the end of a standard hose. There’s a main jet at the front end of the nozzle; that jet dislodges the crap. A series of smaller jets at the back end of the flange on the nozzle push the crap down the line, flushing the line clean.

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It worked. Yay.

Ron Dahlke arrived to consult. Jose alerted Ron to the belly in the drain line. Steven asked Ron to research a technique that “re-lines” the inside of the existing pipe — as an alternative to trenching under the foundation by hand, digging out the old pipe, replacing the old pipe with PVC, backfilling the trench — a labor-intensive process that takes weeks and costs multiple tens of thousands of dollars. The alternative approach sandblasts corrosion out of the old cast-iron pipe, sprays an epoxy onto the interior walls of the pipes, inserts a balloon into the pipe to hold the epoxy to the walls of the pipe, deflates and removes the balloon — and reportedly leaves behind a cast-iron pipe that is lined with a PVC-like material to which nothing adheres, which means the crap flows to the sewer line at the street — as it is supposed to operate.

Stay tuned.

We don’t want to have to do this again in six months.

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Punch list: Plumbing

Barry, Nick and Blake from Custom Plumbing are at Emerald Hill to tackle the plumbing punch list.

The hot and cold water at the shower heads in the mudroom, upstairs hall and master bath were reversed. This appears to now be fixed. Nick and Blake conclude that quality control did not actually test the plumbing for errors.

Water pressure to the wand shower head in the master bath, nearly non-existent, appears to be fixed.

The drains in the master sink are now centered.

The pot filler above the kitchen cooktop appears to be as close to level as Barry can make it, since the wall is not perfectly plumb; it will always appear to be slightly askew.

The drain line to the downstairs tankless water heater is adjusted to spill less water into the emergency drain pan under the unit; Nick and Blake did not have a supply of pex tubing to adjust the drain line under the upstairs tankless heater and will have to return.

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Flushing it all away

Less than two weeks in the house, the main drain line for the house plugged and backed up and flooded the mudroom bath with less than two weeks of, let’s use an apt euphemism, crap.

See here. And here.

It took more than a day to find the main cleanout for the house. It was buried almost two feet down in front of the house, between what is Steven’s office and the front porch.

Steven contends the cleanout should have been located at the start of remodeling. Steven believes the main line was blocked, in part, by construction debris.

Steven and Mark from Ranserve met today with Barry the plumber, attempting to resolve the four-digit bill for this disaster.

The plumber accepts no responsibility.

Mark and Steven resolve to move on.

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Cleanout resurrectus

We woke to a gray morning, overcast, preoccupied. Was the attack of the Blob ended? Would the showers and toilets drain or plug and overflow?

Events started well — with first-ever showers for Jacquela and Steven in the just-and-finally completed master shower. Yay.

Noah arrived in a Custom Plumbing van about 830 am, with Blake, new to this gig at Emerald Hill. Tim pulled up seconds later in his truck. And they set to work resurrecting the whole-house cleanout that was, for some reason, never searched for, never identified, during seven months of construction.

It’s there, about three feet in front of the house, between the library and Steven’s office, about two feet to the right of the front porch. Found yesterday with a plumber’s camera transmitting signal and a wand to locate the signal.

Today’s assignment — raise the buried cleanout about two feet, into the air, cap it, make it usable, easily findable.

Noah attempts to cut away corrosion from the metal pipe that was buried for some part of nearly 50 years using a cordless reciprocating saw and blade. Tim prepares the new PVC that will be inserted into the buried pipe.
Noah attempts to cut away corrosion from the metal pipe that was buried for some part of nearly 50 years using a cordless reciprocating saw and blade. Tim prepares the new PVC that will be inserted into the buried pipe.
Tim, left, Blake, right, and Noah, hidden, force the new PVC into the old pipe junction. After this, they shoveled dirt back into the excavation, then gravel on top of the dirt, capped the new PVC, and cleaned up everything.
Tim, left, Blake, right, and Noah, hidden, force the new PVC into the old pipe junction. After this, they shoveled dirt back into the excavation, then gravel on top of the dirt, capped the new PVC, and cleaned up everything.
The newly resurrected whole-house cleanout, risen.
The newly resurrected whole-house cleanout, risen.

Later, Barry sent the bill from Custom Plumbing. Four figures. This one hurts. But the toilets flush. The showers and sinks drain.

 

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The blob

There’s a classic science fiction movie, The Blob.

Emerald Hill is not Downington, but the alien blob did attack — and we don’t know yet whether the attack is over.

Eight to 12 feet of gelatinous, clear, mystery gunk lodged in the main drain line under the house, extending from under the pantry to under Steven’s office, toward the street. It plugged the line. The toilet and shower in the mudroom bath blocked up. There was a flood.

At 1030 pm Tuesday night, Steven texted Barry for help. Jacquela and Steven mopped up everything they could, wiped down the floor with bleach, switched on the exhaust fan, left it running overnight.

At 8 am Wednesday morning, Terry from Custom Plumbing dispatched Tim and Noah, who helped to build the plumbing system at Emerald Hill.

Tim, at rear, snakes the mudroom cleanout as Noah monitors the camera for obstructions. This is where Noah and Tim started the morning -- looking for a blockage in the drain line in the slab under the mudroom.
Tim, at rear, snakes the mudroom cleanout as Noah monitors the camera for obstructions. This is where Noah and Tim started the morning — looking for a blockage in the drain line in the slab under the mudroom.

The snake stopped about 20 feet down the drain line, and would not clear the line.

So we went looking for the whole-house cleanout.

Missing.

It’s not on the side of the house outside the kitchen.

They checked the drain line where it meets the city service main drain at the street, running a camera 75 feet inside the line, back toward the house Nothing. At least the pipe was not crushed or blocked, which would have required digging up the driveway and lawn to trench for a new line.

We put in calls to Barry at Custom Plumbing and Mark at Ranserve. Mark dispatched Mauricio from Gilsa Construction, which poured the paver slabs outside the kitchen. Barry slid his small pickup on the rain-wet street into a parking spot in front of Emerald Hill. Everyone shoveled gravel and dug, looking for a buried cleanout.

Nothing.

Barry opted to rent a snake with a camera and a locator wand. Noah and Tim drove off to pick it up. When they got back, Tim drove the snake through the mudroom cleanout and Noah walked through the house, with the wand pitching tones high and low.

We found the head of the snake lodged in the drain line under the pantry.

Then they reversed, driving the snake from the street toward the house.

That’s how they found the whole-house cleanout, buried almost two feet down in front of the house, in what used to be planting bed of bushes and weedy ground cover.

The whole-house cleanout. Found. About three feet in front of the house. About two feet to the right of the front porch.
The whole-house cleanout. Found. About three feet in front of the house. About two feet to the right of the front porch.

Barry, Tim and Noah snaked the camera through the cleanout into the pipe. That yielded our first real look at the blob. They poked. They probed. They put a cutter blade on the snake. Stick the roto-rooter in and spin away, and the blob just re-formed.

Tim, snaking.
Tim, snaking. Noah with a run of blue pex that they used to spear the blob, taking away small bites.

Two hours into the counterattack, the blob suddenly gave way as Barry flushed the toilet in the mudroom.

What was it? We don’t know. Barry, Tim and Noah agree they have never seen anything like it.

The blob, in the pipe, on the plumbing camera.
The blob, in the pipe, on the plumbing camera.

It’s not normal household waste — feces, toilet paper, rice, vegetable materials, etc. All that stuff was backed up behind the blob. It appears “brain like,” folding back on itself and pulsing.

Steven believes it is some kind of construction material dumped into the line. But, what?

Barry will be back Friday to run the camera back into the pipe for a second look. Just in case.

 

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