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Repiping the house rekindles memories of the 2021 big freeze

By John Toth

The Bulletin

I had this crazy idea of repiping our house in the middle of the holiday season. Why not? It should be done by the time Santa comes down the chimney. I thought.

That part was not a problem. The plumbers did a great job, minimized the sheet rock destruction as much as possible, and in three days got the job done.

The problem was that they couldn’t do the job without turning the water off for a full day and then turning it on only partially. This was not their fault. It was planned all along. But that didn’t alleviate the discomfort of not having running water in the house.

The last time we had this happen, it was during the big freeze of February 2021, when yours truly first discovered the scientific fact that copper pipes can be punctured by expanding ice, making it rain inside the house.

That’s when I started thinking about repiping the house with Plex A pipe, which is what they put in new builds today, and which stand up to prolonged cold weather better than copper.

Another problem during the freeze was that none of our pipes running through the attic and in the walls were insulated. Since they were installed in 1983, they started to fray around the edges. The solder that was used to connect them was weakened by the water pressure, heat and the cold over the decades.

Memories of the events during the freeze raced through my mind as I filled up the only remaining tub in the house with water before the plumbers turned off the water and went about installing the new pipes.

During the 2021 freeze, that’s how we could flush the toilet while we waited for plumbers to replace the punctured pipes.

I poured the water into the tank and flushed it, but one of the workers told me that rapidly emptying the bucket into the toilet bowl has the same effect. It worked just like he said.

This time we were going to have water overnight, but what if one of those new pipes blows out?

This thought was generated by PTSD from the second morning of the Texas freeze, when the first pipe in the attic burst and water started gushing out of the ceiling. I still remember that sound. The attic probably amplified it some, but it sounded like Niagara Falls just relocated to one of the corner bedrooms.

I woke up several times at night and checked to make sure that everything was dry. Only the master bedroom shower and toilet were working, but I still made my rounds, just to make sure.

Washing my hands in the shower was awkward, but not too bad. That night was also our old water heater’s last night to serve us. It was going to be replaced the next day by a new one.

On the third day we were again without water, but I was gone all morning. By the time I returned, the water in the bathtub was almost gone. We had to conserve toilet flushes until the guys finished so that we’d have enough.

“We’re almost done,” said the young plumber who was very pleased that the job was winding down.

I was even more pleased. Unceremoniously, they turned the water back on and tested all the connections. All was well. We were back in the water-usage business. It was a great feeling of relief, knowing that I won’t have to worry about freezes anymore.

“You should still turn your water off, just to be on the safe side,” advised one of the plumbers. “But we insulated everything in the attic and ‘most everything in the walls.”

 The problem has not been turning the water off and draining the pipes before a prolonged hard freeze. We have learned the hard way to do that. The problem has been turning the water back on and hoping that the old copper pipes were still able to function without making it rain from the ceiling.

I listened closely after the water was turned back on, but I heard nothing. It took another day or so to fully trust the new pipes.

That night when I took a shower, I got a pleasant surprise. The water pressure was much higher. I took a long, hot shower and enjoyed every second of it. I was in the lap of comfort and luxury. This is the life. I let the water relax me.

Then, I heard a noise. It was one of the cats. False alarm.

Back to the shower.


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