Thursday, December 8, 2011

Plumbing mystery solved

Ah . . . the joys of home ownership and self reliance.

The plumbing in my house looks like the history of plumbing since the 70s. Originally, it was a 4 room square cabin used only in the summer. That cabin was stretched into a rectangle and a dome placed on top. From some angles, it look like a giant mushroom.

In my December 3, 2011 post I covered the joys of replacing the well pump. There’s a photo of a rusty clump of metal that used to be the pump. Once the pump was replaced, the water supply improved, but not as much as it should have.

My worse fear was that something might have been wrong with the buried supply line. Disconnecting it from the rest of the house and running the pump showed I had excellent pressure and volume. That test isolated the problem to somewhere in the house. I heaved a huge sigh of relief that the problem wasn’t somewhere in the 75 feet of supply line buried 6 - 8 feet underground. I hand dug that trench many years ago before I became fat, lazy and wiser.

In my quest for locating the flow restriction, I removed a check valve. When the check valve built in the old pump failed years ago, I installed one right in the basement. It beat the heck out of pulling the pump out of the well, sending it out for repair, then reinstalling it. That worked for more than a decade. However, when I examined it, the valve was looking pretty beat. Since the new pump has its own check valve, the basement one could be done away with.

While that might have been part of the problem, the water flow still seemed restricted. The quest continued.

If you look at the plumbing in my basement, it doesn’t make much sense. If I were laying out the pipe today, it would look a lot different. Everything has changed over the years: where the supple line enters the basement, the location of the water heaters, the washing machine location, plus plumbing to the new addition. Add in extra drains for winterization, connections for solar water heating in the summer and wood fired hot water in the winter. As long as everything works, there’s no reason to lay it out in a more logical manner. Besides, the experiments continue.

After sleeping on the problem for a couple of nights, I had a brain storm. The shut off valve for the whole house was original equipment. The valve and plumbing of that time period was an early version of plastic pipe. It’s not made any longer and very little of it remains in service. However, the shut off valve was original. I turned the water pump off, drained the system, then cut the valve out with a jig saw.

Remember that rusty pump? Rust had made its way though the plumbing and lodged itself in the plastic shut off valve. That’s where the restriction was. With that valve gone, water flows with plenty of volume. That’s one more problem solved.

I guess I’ll have do the laundry and dishes now. Some reward for being clever.



  1. That was very intelligent, you running down the various possibilities and going to the source. Repairs / fixes like that are hard to pinpoint - you did very well!

  2. Laundry and dishes..... no good deed goes unpunished :)

  3. Thanks Anon!

    Matt: Indeed! But what the heck.

  4. Awesome post guys! have you ever taken a plumbing training course? I spend so much time doing mediocre tasks I wish I actually took a course which helped!

  5. Hello Dude,

    You have provided a very good site to know about plumbing. It is usually distinguished from water and sewage systems, in that a plumbing system serves one building, while water and sewage systems serve a group of buildings or a city. Thanks.