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Here’s some of what’s been going on the past couple of weeks…

Monday, November 18, 2013 by  
Filed under Daily Blog


Hey everyone, I’m back! The past couple of weeks have contained quite a few unplanned challenges, and I felt like I needed to take some time to fully focus my efforts on overcoming those issues.

When I signed off nearly two weeks ago, I was in a pretty foul mood. I won’t get into everything that was going on, but here are a few of the major things…

Our October power bill. What the... ?!

Our October power bill. What the… ?!

The past couple of months we’d seen ridiculously high power bills: $650 in September, and almost $700 in October. It’d been hot those months, but these bills were unprecedented. We had the power meter checked, the two air conditioners checked and an energy audit. There were no problems found with anything.

Lisa had noticed a hot spot on the kitchen floor, but had not mentioned it to me. Well, one day I was barefoot in the kitchen and felt the spot, too. I said something to Lisa and she said, “Oh, I love to stand there it’s so warm!” Not two days later, I noticed that the water softener was showing water flow (1.1 gallons per minute) even when everything was turned off. When I shut the hot water off, the flow stopped.

I did some experimenting, and I found that the water softener does not show flow for any amounts less than 1 gallon/minute. It was then that I knew what was going on: we had an underground hot water slab leak. The leak had been going on, undetected, for several months. This explained everything.

So, what to do about it? I called a plumber and, based on the hot spot, he said it was probably under the cabinets. Repair would require removing some of the kitchen cabinets, removing several pieces of tile, using a jackhammer to open the slab to reach the underground pipes, repair the leak, repair the slab, replace the tiles and replace the cabinets.

The plumber said the leak was probably caused because one of the construction crew who installed the underground pipes didn’t probably glue an elbow or something. I was furious: all of this because someone didn’t glue a 60 cent pipe joint correctly. I recall that when we had the house built there were numerous plumbing issues that had to be corrected before we closed, and a few discovered after. I also recall finding and complaining about vodka bottles left by the plumbers. Idiots.

Unfortunately the builder of my home went bust when the housing bubble burst. Which means I have no warranty, and no recourse. My insurance company said they would help with the costs of jackhammering the floor, but only to the extent of discovering if there was any structural damage under the slab. The pittance they offered to cover was less than my deductible.

I decided to contact a company that specializes in finding underground leaks. They use “high tech equipment to find underground leaks with 98% accuracy”. I figured if they found the leak and it was not under the cabinets, it would be worth the $300 flat fee they charge for the service.

I never thought I'd see a jackhammer in my kitchen.

I never thought I’d see a jackhammer in my kitchen.

The guy who came out spent a lot of time going through the house, and said he was sure the leak was under the washer in the laundry room. After saying that he forced air through the plumbing system and, using his listening equipment, changed his mind. He said the leak was just in front of the cabinets in the kitchen where we had noticed the hot spot on the floor. I said, “Are you absolutely positive?” As he marked the spot with duct tape, the leak doctor said, “Yes, 100% positive–your leak is under this tile.”

So I paid the man, and called another plumber. I pointed him to the “X” and watched in horror as he proceeded to jackhammer my kitchen floor.

As the plumber worked a steady cloud of concrete dust drifted away and settled on… pretty much everything. I thought, “I’m going to be cleaning for a month.”

Eventually the plumber broke through the 4″ concrete slab and hit dirt. He began to scoop the dirt out in all directions. I was thinking, “Why am I not seeing wet dirt?” As his arm disappeared deeper and deeper into the hole, hope began to fade.

The plumber asked me to turn on the hot water. I did, and–now up to his shoulder in the hole–he said he there was no water. I felt sick. Eventually water did begin to fill the hole (and, later, my kitchen–that’s another story), but the pipe was clearly not where the leak doctor said it was. Not even close.

“100% certain the leak is right here!”

Looking at the mess on my kitchen floor, I realized I’d just wasted a ton of money to dig a hole. I felt like screaming.

The plumber said he could either jackhammer up the tiles under the cabinet, I could call the leak doctor to come back out or he could repair the hole in the slab and call it a day. Considering the inaccuracy of the leak doctor’s first attempt, I didn’t have much hope that he would be able to find the leak. Besides, I only have six spare tiles, and these tiles are not available any more. I could very well be looking at several more holes, and a complete re-tile of the kitchen floor. Not only that, considering the quality of the work done by the original plumbers, the chances of another leak at some point in the future were fairly high and I’d have to go through all of this again.

I decided to cut my losses. I told the plumber to repair the slab (I had to repair the tile myself), and that I was going to abandon the original plumbing system entirely and do a whole house repipe. Meanwhile, I had no hot water. Cold showers really suck.

A whole house repipe is a pretty major ordeal. The entire existing plumbing system would be abandoned, and all new pipes (and I mean everything) would be installed throughout the entire house. This process involves a crew of plumbers with full access to my entire home and attics, followed by a drywall repair crew. I would handle the tile repairs and paint once they were done.

Numerous holes had to be cut in the drywall to run the new pipes and access the various fixtures. The house was in complete upheaval the entire time. My office, which is next to the cabana bathroom, had to be torn apart. The entire process took five full days (and there are actually still a few minor things they need to complete).

The new plumbing system has a 20-year parts and labor warranty, so at least I won’t have to worry about this again for awhile.

Here are a few pictures of a couple rooms…

The garage walls. Many of the walls in the house were cut open like this.

The garage walls. Many of the walls in the house were cut open like this.

My office wall.

My office wall.

The marble face of the master bath spa had to be removed to access the pipes.

The marble face of the master bath spa had to be removed to access the pipes.


This ordeal would have been enough on its own, but when it rains it pours… during all this Loki fell pretty hard on the kitchen floor and injured his front leg. Loki’s back legs are very weak, so he basically had only one good leg. Loki will be 18 years old in less than two months, and we thought this was the end. Unbelievably, nothing was broken and he recovered within two days. He is truly a wonderdog.

Work? Of course during all of this things were crazy at work. I felt like I was being pulled in 50 directions, and my stress level was off the charts. There were a few other things going on, too, and I started to think I was going to lose my mind…

Added to all of this, I was unable to ride my bike very much during the week. Between the stress and lack of recent saddle time I considered bailing on the two 100-mile bike rides I’d planned to do on the weekends. Ultimately I decided to do them both. It was the right choice. In fact, I feel those two century rides are the only reason I didn’t lose my mind!

The two 100 mile bike rides I did–the Warrior ride a week ago and the Horrible Hundred yesterday–were awesome! I’ll devote a blog to each in the coming days.

So, it’s great to nearly be back to “normal”! I apologize that I had to abandon my blog for a couple weeks while I worked though these issues, and appreciate your understanding. 🙂

John Stone Fitness Comments

14 Responses to “Here’s some of what’s been going on the past couple of weeks…”
    • The whole house was CPVC. There’s a very small amount of copper that joins the CPVC to the fixtures (you can see this in the master bath tub photo, above).

      When researching PEX Vs. CPVC I quickly came to the conclusion that the debate was almost religious in nature: strong proponents of each, and absolutely unwavering in their beliefs.

      I considered a PEX repipe (and got quotes on it), but decided to do the repipe using CPVC. CPVC is a little trickier to install than PEX, but the quotes were nearly identical in price. The CPVC has a much longer warranty, so that is what swayed me.

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      • In your situation, the warranty is a BIG deal I imagine…sheesh. LOL. 🙂

        My buddy who builds high end homes in the Raleigh area (and formerly Long Island) still swears by copper.

        In your kitchen, it might be worth an hour and just snug up the screws in your cabinets (hinges, knobs, etc.) and any other place nearby that has a screw. All the shaking from the jackhammer may have loosened a few, and cabinets that get out of whack can be unruly. Also, keep an eye out for nail pops nearby in the drywall, again the vibrations may have loosened some stuff. Indoor jack-hammering can be unforgiving.

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  1. It just occurred to me to ask:

    If the leak Dr. said the leak was under the hot spot on the floor but it clearly wasn’t, what was the hot spot? Was this just an area where the warm air from the leak *somewhere* was able to rise under the tile? Is the area still warm? (I know that you’ve changed the water flow but am still curious.)

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    • The hot spot is now totally gone. The hot water was certainly pooling in close proximity to that area of the floor tile (it didn’t take long before the hole filled with water and then subsequently flooded the kitchen when we turned our back for a few minutes), but not close enough to reach the actual leaking pipe through the spot the leak doctor indicated.

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  2. John, sorry to hear about your recent plumbing problem. Lately I’ve heard my share of problems. My house in MD had an upstairs bathroom leak. I went home for a week to take care of that and ended up staying 3 months dealing with cleanup, insurance, and reconstruction.
    What I have found is everyone has a story; a rainstorm that flooded the basement; hurricanes that destroyed a lower level, tornadoes throwing trees through windows and walls.
    Hearing those stories helped me put my worries in the ball park of doable jobs. You certainly have a difficult problem, not the least of which is still going on. Good luck with the rest of the work and congratulations for keeping your head on straight when some of us would have gone off the deep end.

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