A busted pipe in August?

Went into Landlady’s house this morning after chicken chores, because she’s due this evening and I come by fairly regularly to make sure no mice are rotting in traps stinking up the place.

No mice, but a sound as of pissing water was coming from behind the closet wall.

In the utility closet where the water service emerges from the floor, water was shooting out of a big open crack in an elbow joint. A broken pipe in August? This is Murphy at his finest. It must have cracked last winter during one of those extended cold spells. I went without water almost all winter.

So I ran up the ridge to the shut-off valve, then back down to assess damage. Unfortunately her entire ammo store was in the path of the water, and all the cardboard boxes are soaked. It’s not a lot, maybe a thousand rounds of centerfire in various calibers but I mourn for four old-fashioned bricks of .22LR. Not that any of it is going to be duds in the short-term but it’s probably not a good idea to keep it longterm. And I’d say the steel-case rounds should be shot up in fairly short order. Fortunately her spare rifle wasn’t on the ground.

So there’s plumbing work this weekend. And I don’t think it’s going to be possible to replace that elbow joint without tearing out some of the closet wall. I wonder: Some of you guys sent me sealing tape, and the elbow itself is exposed enough. Is it possible that could fix a break of that kind without having to cut out a bunch of wallboard and pipe?

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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15 Responses to A busted pipe in August?

  1. Ben says:

    In a word, NO.

  2. Mark Matis says:

    What is the water pressure in the system? Is she on the same tank as you use? And is her house higher or lower than yours? Since you are on a gravity fed system…

  3. terrapod says:

    Yeah, Ben is right, The tape is a temporary (as in a few hours) solution to give you time to find a new elbow, pipe, union sleeves and tools to put it all back together.

    You already turned off the water, drain from a low point, cut out the bad parts, replace, re-solder etc. etc.

  4. Joel says:

    Yeah, figured. I need to go see if I can dig up an elbow and pipe of the correct diameter from her barn. I don’t keep anything that big.

  5. Norman says:

    Is there a reason she doesn’t turn the water to the house off when she goes back to the city? (That assumes there’s an easily accesible valve to do so adjacent to the house). Something in the house needs water when she’s not there?

    Random thought: What about Ian’s place, and D&L’s?

  6. R says:

    You may be able to temporize with a patch depending on the size and location of the crack but tape is unlikely to be successful unless backed by a hose clamp or something similar to hold it in place.

  7. Mike says:

    I’ve used automotive heater hose and clamps with great success on copper. My fathers old house had some heater hose patches that were 20+ years old. He was cheap. If you’re gonna leave it in place get good stainless clamps.

  8. Beans says:

    And… what’s she doing storing ammo not in watertight containers?

    Old ammo cans. New plastic ammo cans. Plastic food storage buckets. Plastic totes.

    Cardboard boxes out in the open? What level of craziness exists out there?

    Just say no to storing anything on the floor that’s not in a protective container.

    Other than that, enjoy your shooting spree.

    Actually, most of the rounds should be okay. I’ve fired rounds that have been laundered. Seems to not have affected them.

  9. Joel says:

    Yeah, the subject of ammo cans came up. As to use, she can probably just swap with either me or Ian for a lot of it. He goes through orders of magnitude more than the both of us combined.

  10. RCPete says:

    I’m not sure why, but surplus ammo cans have reappeared on the market. They’re now about $8 each, but $5 cans were a long time ago (before Desert Storm, if memory serves).

    Oh yeah, 50Cal cans, not .30s.

  11. William Conrad says:

    They make pipe fittings called shark bite. they require only a clean pipe, no sweating, glue, etc. they cost more than copper fittings but they are easy, quick and work.

  12. Dygert says:

    In re “snake bite” fittings they work on copper or any kind of plastic and can be removed and re used. Sweet!

  13. Zendo Deb says:

    When the steel ammo cans became crazy expensive, I went looking for a cheap alternative.

    They aren’t the greatest, but I can pick them up locally when I’m driving by Menards. Cheaper even than Harbor Freight. They are Cheap, in every sense of the word, but they will protect me against more water than I’ve ever seen. (Plus they aren’t on the floor anyway.)


  14. Ruth says:

    Having dealt with my share of split pipes that spray water EVERYWHERE, it may be worth pulling all the wallboard anyway, unless it’d split right before you got there it’s all likely soaked.

    What kind of pipe is it? There’s an older type of water pipe, polybutylene, that has a rep for getting splits as it ages. Unfortunately it was mad popular for a while. I’ve got it all over my house, and after having it split repeatedly we’re slowly replacing it all for a mixture of other types.

  15. Joel says:

    This was a PVC elbow installed in 2010 though the fitting itself may have been older than that. The pipe was going through a slightly misplaced hole in the wall that may have been stressing the fitting for all those years.

To the stake with the heretic!