Lessons learned from a disaster that could have been worse.

This was the scene from my basement at about 8:00 p.m. last night, as the two plumbers hacked into the wall to deal with the burst pipe:


They were darn nice guys and the bill only came to $264.99, which frankly I don’t think is all that bad considering the time of night and how busy they were.  I don’t know if I have any readers from this area, but if so, I can recommend the plumbers we used: ABC Plumbing & Drain, Inc.  The receipt says they have locations in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Allen Park, and Wyandotte (I didn’t receive any compensation from them for giving them a positive review; they don’t even know I’m reviewing them).

The pipe burst with such force that the stream of water blew a big hole in the drywall: DSC04009DSC04010


The force of the water behind the ice in the pipe split it right open.

The plumbers redid the pipe, which goes up the basement wall and out to the garden hose faucet outside. It’s one of those special frost-free faucets, but what we didn’t know is that there was a shut off valve in the house to that faucet and the one in the front yard garden which should have been turned off once winter hit. The plumbers showed us where it is and turned it off so that we won’t have this problem again, which is good because the air temperature tonight is supposed to be -7 F and the air temperature tomorrow night is supposed to be a record-breaking -17 F.


These valves turn off the outdoor faucets; my husband told me that when plumbing handles are horizontal, the water is turned off, which is useful information to know.

Our basement is a walk-out, which means that the wall where the pipe broke is above ground level; this means the wall is exposed to a lot of wind, which makes those pipes susceptible to freezing.  Next winter, I’ll follow the steps from the helpful site Plumbing Geek for preventing frozen pipes (I advise clicking that link and reading all the info there):

  1. Find the service valve for a particular outdoor faucet.
  2. Close the service valve.
  3. Remove the hose and open the hose valve (turn the faucet to the “on” position”) that is served by the service valve you closed.
  4. Place a container under the hose valve or have someone watch to see if water drains from the hose valve.
  5. Hold another container in place while you open the waste cap on the service valve.
  6. Watch for water to drain out of the waste cap, or for air to be drawn into the waste cap, or both in stages.
  7. Leave the waste cap loose, the hose valve open, and the hose off the hose valve.

The plumbers left it like this:


and today the disaster clean up people arrived with industrial fans and dehumidifiers.


They peeled off some of the drywall and pulled back the carpet where it was wet to remove the pad:


They sprayed the area with some kind of antimicrobial chemical to prevent mold and mildew and then ran the dehumidifier hose into our utility drain:


They’ll eventually replace that section of carpet pad, determine if any wood was damaged by the water and replace it if need be, then re-insulate, re-drywall, and repaint. The estimate is around $2500, which again is not as bad as we feared (also, thank goodness for home owner’s insurance – always keep your policy up to date!).

One thing that occurred to me is that if Phil had not been home, I would not have had a clue where the main shut-off valve to the water was, which would have substantially increased the amount of damage. He showed me where it is:


Do you know where your main water shut-off valve is? If you don’t, I strongly advise you to locate it now while you are not having an emergency.

All in all we feel like we got off easy; the disaster clean-up people confirmed for us that we did, too. They, like the plumbers, have been working round-the-clock shifts since the frigid weather hit and told us they’ve seen really catastrophic damage in some people’s homes. I said a silent little prayer for those poor folks and thanked God for both the mercy we received this time around and for all the really kind and helpful workers we’ve dealt with so far.