Get Ahead of Pipe Problems

Chasing leaks will wear you out, but it’ll never get you ahead.

It rained last night. It started in the evening, light at first, but then picked up to a steady shower that increased in intensity after dark. It was the first time this summer I’d laid in bed with the windows open and just listened to it rain.

Over the course of the night, the storm woke me a few times. It was steady throughout the night, but only occasionally did it rise up enough to jar my eyes open. Each time, I caught the distinctly separate sound of heavy drops plopping into the plastic bin I’d placed in the eve of the attic above my bed. I’d listen for a minute and feel a flash of dread before falling back asleep.

A couple weeks earlier a large branch snapped off a birch tree right outside the bedroom window. It dented the metal roof and messed up a vent stack. Water had been getting in there ever since, but I didn’t notice right away.  

Eventually, the steady beat of rain on the roof gave way to birds announcing the arrival of daylight, and I listened as the breeze shook the last of the rain out of the trees. As the day dried out, my concern over the ongoing leak dissipated. My contractor has been assuring me for the past couple weeks that he’ll be over in a day or two.

If I left that leak alone, the water would eventually get into the second floor and find a way down to the main level. It would cause significant damage. It’s the same for the leaks in your systems.

I’m mostly lucky. Insurance is covering the repairs and the plastic bin is working for now. But you don’t have the luxury of sitting back and waiting for someone to come and fix your system when it breaks. You don’t have the option of putting a bucket under your pipes when they leak. You have to address them.

I could have been proactive about the tree that fell. A few years earlier a larger birch came down in a storm and smashed in the gable end of my roof. I thought at the time that it might be a good idea to take down the one on the side of my house too, but I didn’t. I can’t control the winds, but I could have taken the tree out of the equation. The inaction came back to bite me.

Have you ever waited to replace a pipe you knew was on the brink of failing because there wasn’t money in the budget, only to see its inevitable failure become an even more costly emergency repair? If you don’t have the money or the means, sometimes that’s all you can do. Even if there isn’t money in the budget for line replacement or rehabilitation, there’s always money when a waterline bursts and opens a sinkhole in the middle of town. But that’s not a path toward system improvement. It’s a path toward bigger failures and higher price tags.

That’s why it’s so important to be proactive, creative and efficient and to stay on top of new technology. You need every advantage you can get, because you don’t have nearly enough allies pushing for bigger sewer and water budgets.

Providing ideas, examples and industry insight that can help you do your jobs better is our whole mission. A new feature we’re launching this month, Supply Side, is aimed at doing just that. I hope you find it beneficial.

Enjoy this month’s issue. 

Comments on this column or about any article in this publication may be directed to editor Luke Laggis, 800-257-7222;


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