Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The First Bump in the Road

So, I know I said this next post was going to be about our plans... but we had a bit of a hiccup.  About mid June, I received our latest water bill and our water usage had doubled!  The city came to take a look and said that we had a leak.  We had planned to have the water line looked at anyway because there had been a small amount of water under the house where the line came in for about 6 months.  I called 2 plumbers to come take a look.  The first one looked at the meter, said it wasn't running so I didn't have a leak, and left without hearing me out or anything (We won't be doing business with them again).  The second plumber showed up and I explained our water usage had doubled, but the meter wasn't turning so we don't know exactly what is going on, but we wanted a quote to have the water line replaced regardless.  About a week later, I got a quote from the second guy for $3021.63.  Crazy! 
The first quote we received!

I called to ask about ways to reduce the cost, such as digging the trench ourselves.  He said he would send a revised quote without the trench.  At this point, Cliff decided he was going to figure it out for himself and just do it.  $3000 was just a ridiculous amount of money to spend.  I decided to get a second bid on the job.  The next plumber I called gave me a rough estimate of $500 if we did our own digging.  Much better.  I figured for $500 it would be warrantied and we would be sure it was done right.  Before that plumber could even give me a final bid, Cliff already had the job done! 

The trench
I came home on Friday evening and Cliff had already dug the trench. It had rained ALL day, so he was covered head to toe in mud and he was exhausted.  Saturday afternoon was nice and sunny, until Cliff came home with a rotohammer he rented to drill through the foundation.  As soon as he got to work with that thing, the sky just opened up and rained about an inch in 30 minutes. 

On Sunday, he had to bore under the sidewalk with a piece of PVC.  He managed to run the new line, put a new shut-off valve on our side of the meter, take a crash course in soldering copper pipe, and got the whole thing hooked up and running.  In total, he spent about $100 in parts, including renting the rotohammer, and a weekend's worth of his time.  He was able to do it himself, with some advice from a helpful neighbor with plumbing experience.

This is how the incoming water line looked (on the left).
Here is Cliff's summary of the experience..."Well we have had a leaky incoming water line for a while, but the recent pressure surges from the city's water main replacement project finished it off! Our water usage doubled on the last bill.  So after getting a plumbing quote for $3000 bucks I decided I could figure it out myself.  I dug a 25' by 2 foot deep ditch.  Then I rented a RotoHammer and went through 9" of 50 year old concrete.  And today I manually bored under a 4' sidewalk.   Using your hand over the end of the pipe to create a hydraulic ram is definitively  faster than just blasting water through the pipe.  I had trouble with my plumbing soldering, but after three trips to the hardware store and lots of questions to the employees I figured out I was not using enough Flux.

  The new line is with the PVC sleeve through the concrete.
Notice the pool of water around the pipe.  Not a good sign. The new line is with the PVC sleeve through the concrete. I like how the previous repair reduced it down to 1/2 inch. No wonder we had crappy water pressure.

By the way, we received the revised bid, reduced for doing our own digging, $2073!  Still a ridiculous figure. I calculated that even if we valued Cliff's time at $50/hr, it would have only cost about $500.  Not bad, eh?

An added bonus is now we have less worry about putting in our retaining wall...I would've hated to have the wall all in and have that water line completely bust, requiring we tear down the wall.