The Joys of Home Ownership – Leaky Pipe

Erik Personal Development and Lifestyle, Projects, Thoughts of a Mastermind 11 Comments


It was Super Bowl Sunday. I had a few friends coming over. My roommates and I were getting the food ready and the house cleaned up. Suddenly, my roommate looks up and says, “What’s that? Should there be water dripping down from the ceiling?” Oh no…

In this post, I want to talk about one of the joys of home ownership… handling and paying for any damages that occur… (get ready for a bunch of pictures!!)

House Maintenance and Repairs

One of the main arguments people like to use in the “own vs. rent” debate is the expense associated with maintenance and repairs. Everyone has heard nightmares of how a burst pipe, a roof needing repairs, or a crack in the foundation has resulted in a expense which totaled in the tens of thousands of dollars! It’s true; maintaining a house can be expensive and there is always the risk of something breaking: the furnace, the water heater, a pipe… (are you getting the feeling this post might be on a pipe?)

For me, I’ve been extremely lucky in the past 19 months of home ownership. Up until this point, the only thing I had to repair was my roommate’s faucet; the handle had tightened up. $15 and a little lubricant did the trick!

My luck ran out Super Bowl Sunday. As mentioned in the opening paragraph, it was about 4:45 PM CT,  30 minutes before the game, when my roommate looked up and made the unfortunate observation: water was dripping out of the ceiling. The pipes in this part of the ceiling go up to my bathroom. No time to panic, I had to take action!

water damage on ceiling

As you can see, some of the drywall peeling back from the water.

Stopping a Leaky Pipe

The first thing I did was go to my basement and turn the water off going up to my bathroom. With all water issues, this is the first step everyone should take: identify the source, and cut off the supply. Once I was able to cut the supply to the leaky pipe, I figured it would be alright to watch the Super Bowl for a little while and enjoy the company of my friends. Since there was no water running through the pipes and the leaking had stopped, everything was fine.

At halftime, the score was Falcons 21, Patriots 3. At this point, I said to myself, “This game is a blow out and basically over… no way the Falcons will let this lead go! I’m going to look up how to fix a leaky pipe.” (How wrong I was on the game!!)

While doing research, I came to the realization I’d have to open up the ceiling and expose the pipes. This would have to be a job for the night after the Super Bowl.

Drywall Demolition Crew

The next day, Monday, I went to my day job and thought about the task ahead of me. I was planning to open up the wall to expose the pipes. After opening the wall, I would diagnose the issue to determine if I could fix it myself.

First, a little background on me as a handyman

There really is only a little background 😉

I am not that handy. While I’m very detail oriented in my day job and other work, for some reason, I struggle with making precise cuts and measurements. When I was younger, I was in Boy Scouts. I had to build various stools and structures out of wood. I didn’t continue to practice this “skill” until recently when I made some shelving in my basement. A little focus when cutting and measuring goes a long way!

clean basement and shelving

Shelving I made September 2016!

Back to the Leaky Pipe

As I’ve mentioned repeatedly on this blog, one of my goals for 2017 (and life) is to experiment and learn different skills and crafts. I believe life is all about gaining experience in different areas and ultimately, using your accumulated knowledge to give back to others in need . I figured, why not? I would try and see if I could fix the pipe. If I couldn’t, I’d call a plumber.

I got home from my day job Monday night, had some dinner, and went to work!!

First, I wanted to be safe. I’m always very nervous going into walls and exposing myself to dust and particles. My house was built in 1900, so I have no idea what kind of stuff I could be exposing myself to! Bring in the battle gear!!

male with googles

Ready for battle!

Next, I got a saw, a hammer, a flashlight, and a utility knife. Time to open that baby up!

wall busted open

My handy work, busting her open!!

The Leaky Pipe Diagnosis

Once I got into the ceiling, I saw the problem. As you can see below in the picture, the cold water pipe had come loose from the wall. In addition, the PVC to copper joint had also come loose and was leaking. When going from PVC to copper, it is smart to connect copper and PVC with a “copper male-PVC female joint”. Whoever did the plumbing the first time really messed up.

leaky pipe

The joint was not done correctly and also had dislodged from the wall.

You see all that debris? That’s super old school insulation, essentially ground up newspaper!!

At this point, I wasn’t going to mess around with trying to fix this. The kitchen is the most highly trafficked area in my house;  I didn’t want my first plumbing job to be in the kitchen. I needed to bring in a plumber 🙁

I also decided I’d have a drywall repairman come for the same reason: I’d never done drywall. Time to get out the pocketbook!

beautiful kitchen

Don’t want my first plumbing and drywall experience to be done in the most trafficked spot in the house!

Getting a Plumber to Fix PVC to Copper Joint

The next day, Tuesday, I called up my friends over at Ben Franklin Plumbing, and scheduled for a guy to come over and fix my leaky pipe. The plumber came by and it was a quick 3 hour fix. He connected the PVC and copper pipes with a proper joint, threw some sealant over the it, and the connection was good as new! He was laughing because the old joint should have been done completely different and I was lucky that I caught the leak so fast.

The cost of getting a plumber to fix the leaky pipe joint was $468. Given the potential damage and expense associated with a bigger leak or break, I figured this was reasonable. (Also, since I rent out two rooms to friends, I can claim this as a rental expense!!)

fixed pipe

The Proper PVC to copper joint and now it’s attached to the wall

Drywall Repair

Since the leaky pipe was fixed and not leaking anymore, the next step in the project was to patch the drywall. As I mentioned earlier in this post, I didn’t want my first drywall and plumbing repair experience to be in my kitchen (the most trafficked area in my house). I called up a local handyman, Greg, and he agreed to come out and patch up my drywall.

The cost to patch the drywall was $293 and took about 4 hours over 2 days. It took multiple days because the drywall mud takes time to dry. With drywall, you want to put drywall mud over the creases and then sand it down to get it to look  smooth and clean. The mudding and sanding for this job took two iterations.

I feel a little bad on the total cost of the drywall repair; the materials were roughly $20. Though, again, I didn’t want to do a horrible job and have my guests comment on my poor drywalling skills 🙂

Networking Opportunity

While we were waiting for the drywall mud to dry, I chatted up Greg about his previous handyman experiences. He had been a handyman for all of his working life and had done many projects: building his own cabin, installing windows and doors, hanging and repairing drywall, and doing some plumbing. Since I was reading The Millionaire Real Estate Investor (book review) at the time, I was thinking about finding talented individuals to be on my team. I was impressed with his work ethic and hustle. He did a fine job and was candid in our conversation; I was interested to work with him again.

We will see where it goes; it’s always good to have a good contact in the handyman industry!

Finished Product and Conclusion

After Greg, the drywall repair guy, left, I cleaned up the kitchen and got back to normal living . I was relieved it was only a few hundred dollars to repair the pipe and the drywall. It looks good as new! All that is left is to throw some paint on it.

finished drywall product

The Finished Product! Looks great Greg!

Overall, I’m fairly happy with the results of my leaky pipe situation. Yes, it stinks it happened, but there were some positives: I was able to finally see the pipe situation in the wall/ceiling area going up to my bathroom, and now the PVC and copper pipes are connected properly. I shouldn’t have any more troubles with these pipes going forward 🙂 To recap the costs, the cost of the plumber was $458 and the cost of the drywall repair was $293; a total of $751.

Do you fix things yourself or do you call a handyman? Have you ever had water damage or a leaky pipe? Did you do it yourself or have a plumber come over? Do you have any handyman tips for me?

Thank you for reading and have a good one!




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Comments 11

  1. Sounds like we have a similar philosophy in trying to do it first yourself and then calling in the experts.

    One thing that I didn’t completely understand at first during tax season was that I was only allowed to claim expenses for the portion of the house that I rented out.

    Which was either by square feet or by roommates. So when I had three roommates I was only allowed to expense 75% of repairs. The remaining 25% had to go towards basis in the house.

    Needless to say I had to restate two years of tax returns which really sucked.

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      Ooooh, that’s unfortunate on the tax front 🙁 At least you caught it. Still, you were able to get some of the depreciation and expenses associated with a house vs. none at all for non-rental properties!

  2. We als own our home. Since we are fully in the FIRE journey, I try to increase our DIY.

    SO, no more gardener for us, I DIY. I also look at things that need repair and try to to as much as possible myself.

    Still reluctant to do electricity myself… I got a shock once in the past, kinda nasty!

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      I will probably never do electricity on my own.. that’s a recipe for disaster! Thanks for the comment Amber Tree, love your blog 🙂

  3. Great work attempting to fix it yourself! We have a similar approach of balancing the potential risks of causing more damage versus the cost of a professional. .nd that’s great that you are able to claim the repairs because you rent out rooms!

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      Thanks for stopping by Katy 🙂 I think it’s a decent strategy. We are alike because we are both looking to be frugal. Part of frugality is risk management though!

  4. Hey Erik,
    Glad that the issue is fixed – it could have been a lot worse.

    In my last house we had water leaking through the ceiling because of a badly installed drain pan for the HVAC. Definitely a mistake going with a cheap new construction home – the fact that the toilet was plumbed with hot water should have been a warning!

    Finding contractors you can trust and that are reliable is the main thing.
    Best wishes,

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  5. Leaky pipes are unfortunate. With your home being built in 1900, you’ll probably start to experience issues with pipes more frequently over the years. Especially with copper pipes, those “explode” under pressure.

    Instead of having a plumber come out and repair each time you have a leak, you could opt to have pipe sleeves inserted into the the pipes.

    It’s essentially a thick plastic bag material that’s inserted into all your pipes that add another layer between the water and the pipe, aka stops the leaking. I don’t remember the costs, but it would be cheaper in the long run if you continue to have issues and don’t want to keep ripping out drywall. The only issue is the water pressure might decrease because there’s less room for the water to flow through, but if you don’t have pressure issues now you’d be fine.

  6. I own my own window company and I’m always searching for
    newer info in the industry. Enjoyed the read.

    You’ve got a great site BTW.

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