How Our Veterinarian Diagnosed A Mysterious Bathroom Leak

"Speculation on the Structure of the World" by T. Boehle Copyright 2010

Let me start by saying that my father’s parting words were “things aren’t always what they seem.”

I saw it was wet between the floor tiles in the basement bathroom just below the window.  Again.  I had watched that moisture all winter.  Measuring its length and frequency to determine the source.  (left brain, vigilance)  In the spring when we turned on the spigot fixed on the outside wall,  I came in to find a steady spray of water shooting across the bathroom and flooding the floor.  The plumber explained that water had lay in the pipe that winter, froze, expanded and split the line.  He couldn’t make sense of how I’d seen a periodic pool of water through out the winter,  “But sure enough, that is your problem,” he said.  And he fixed it.  And for a period of time, maybe a month, the floor remained dry.

I guess it remained dry, because I stopped checking (left brain, resolution) until one day about a month later I noticed a puddle of water.  I called the plumber (left brain) and he came right out that early summer day, already hot enough to be running the air conditioning.  He said the work he had done remained in good repair.  He looked out the window and when he traveled outside and around to that side of the house he pointed to a steady, thin stream of water falling from above.  “What’s that”, he asked?  I told him that is where the air conditioning unit drains out.  “Like that”, he asked? “That ain’t right,” he shook his head.  “Look here,” he pointed to the outside wall just below the bathroom window.  “This is all wet, the wall is saturated.  That water is making it’s way into the bathroom.”  I was confused.  (initiation from left to right brain)  “But the leaking spigot line? ”  (denial) He saw where I was going.  “Yea, that was leaking too.  You saw that.  But that just happened when you turned this here spigot on and the water shot out through the busted pipe.  No water coming out of that unless you turn this spigot.  No sir.  Here’s your leak,” and he pointed above my head.

So I called an HVAC repairman, who discovered that there was a blockage in a drainage line and the water was exiting, as designed, through an overflow pan.  He made the necessary repair.  And the next time I put clean towels in the basement bathroom cupboard I slipped on wet tile.  I drew in a great breath and exhaled with exasperation.  (initiation from left to right brain)   I looked out the window. ( right brain)  No evidence of a blocked AC line spilling into the overflow pan and draining out.  I grabbed one of the freshly laundered towels and wiped the thin wet film.

Outside I noticed the wall was still very damp and the landscaping rocks outside the window were wet despite the rocks further out appearing perfectly dry.  I looked up to the gutters. (right brain)  Aha, I thought.  And after my husband cleaned the pine needles from the gutters, he ran a hose down the spout until he was convinced that the water was properly draining from the gutter through the downspout and directed with an underground pipe out into the yard.  We both slapped our hands clean and felt satisfied.  Problem solved. (left brain)

Imagine my utter madness (anger, depression, anger, depression) when I noticed a sheen on the tile floor as I passed the door to the bathroom one fall afternoon.

As I cleaned the floor, I noticed that the wall was beginning to soak up the water and was marred with dark stains wicking up the walls.  I brought a fan into the bathroom, plugged it in, set it on high and closed the door.  I exited the house, got a shovel and began digging in the wet rock outside the bathroom window.  “See,” I pointed out to my husband.  “It is wet all the way down.  Some how it is leaking from the buried pipe.”  He pointed out to me that the water would have to rise up at least 6″ to get into the house.  “It is too much water,” he said.  It can’t be coming from below.”    I wouldn’t listen to reason.  (denial)  I argued.  (anger)  He relented and said maybe.  (bargaining)  Somehow.  And we both scratched our heads.  Okay, perhaps for some reason, after 10 years of properly draining water off the roof, the gutter is now not working.  (bargaining, intellectualization)  We have had a lot of hard rains this summer.  (rationalization)  “But what about in the winter,” I mumbled.  (left brain)  And we both decided not to think about that.  (denial)  We dug the rock out and placed a cinder block in the hole, filled in around with large stones and covered just the top with the landscaping rock.  Drainage would now be faster if in fact the heavy rains were providing a overflow from the roof that the gutter couldn’t accommodate.  Physical labor is always rewarding and I felt smug and satisfied that we had used brains and brawn to finally solve the problem.  (resolution)

You are ahead of me here.  Sitting in your chair, already anticipated the slick tile in the basement bathroom with pools of liquid growing in the grouted valleys between tiles.  I did not.  Not only did I not anticipate it, I decided I wouldn’t look for it either.  (denial)  After all, it wasn’t even a bathroom we used.  I closed the bathroom door and didn’t open it again until the day I noticed water seeping out from under the door.

When I swing the door open I discovered the floor deep in over an inch of water.  The plumber returned and repaired the toilet.  A pipe, a seal, a gasket- who can keep up.  (anger)  Maybe someone was doing this to me to drive me crazy.  (bargaining, right brain)  The plumber, my husband, the neighbor who doesn’t much care for me.  Could the leaking toilet possibly have been the problem all along?  The plumber was definitely not interested in the mystery.  He barely spoke and I noticed he didn’t make eye contact with me.  (paranoia, right brain)  Maybe he thought I was involved in some kind of monkey business.  Some kind Munchhausen Plumbing by Proxy Syndrome.  I felt ashamed.  (depression)  And then I felt angry.   Seriously, what the hell is going on.  (anger)  Down on my hands and knees I scoured the floor with disinfectant.  (left brain)  And that is when I distinctly felt the spray that a drop of rain makes when it hits the ground.  I stopped and was still.  (right brain)  Again, the sensation.  I turned to my right and from the shower head a big drip fell and hit the tiled shower floor and splashed out of the tiled floor casting a very light spray of water onto the tiled bathroom floor.  Ah ha.  (right brain)  I ran to the door.  The plumber was in the driveway writing on a clip board.  I brought him in and showed him the leaking faucet head.  He looked it over, but said with disdain that he’d never seen an installation “like that,” as if he’d just entered Ripley’s house of crazy plumbing installations.  He said that making the repair would involve tearing the wall open and ripping out the old plumbing and running new.  He said he couldn’t just replace the faucet head.  I saw what he was up to.  (right brain)  He wanted out and decided the best was was to make a mountain out of a mole hill.  (denial, rationalization)  Fine, he doesn’t want to work with me on my mystery.  That is fine.  (anger)  He doesn’t have to make such a ridiculous claim as needing to tear the wall apart.

And so enter plumber #2.  I filled him in on the whole saga.  (left brain)  That was probably my first mistake.  But I was hoping for someone with some curiosity.  Someone who could really appreciate how complicated and interesting my problem was.  (grandiose)  He agreed with the first guy and I wondered if there was some kind of shared plumbing data base.  (right brain)  I easily imagined the first plumber in the driveway diligently writing and posting my plumbing history in some plumbers chat room; beware of crazy lady.  (paranoia, right brain)  I hung a bucket over the shower head and vowed to empty it every other day.  Problem solved.  (denial, left brain)  I closed the door.

Sometime later my husband came in from shoveling the driveway to quickly use the basement facilities and found our geriatric cat relieving himself on the basement bathroom floor.

Our veterinarian said that in the advanced stages of kidney failure urine output is often clear in color and odorless.  And that is how our veterinarian diagnosed a mysterious bathroom leak.  Things aren’t always what they appear to be.

1 comment
  1. You are a writer.
    This what you should be doing.

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