I Need Plumbing Advice!

When Virtual Plumbing Assistant was just getting started, I received a “need plumbing advice” chat request on my plumber request line late one evening. In the chat request, there was a detailed message and several pictures.

The message was as follows: “I have a leak in my laundry room washer hookup; when I turn it off, it still leaks. It is leaking currently and will drain into the crawlspace. It has been leaking water for weeks now. Help! I need plumbing advice!”

I sent back a message introducing myself as John, a professional plumber with Virtual Plumbing Assistant. Also, in the message, I inquired about the pictures that were close-up images of what looked to be an older boiler-style shutoff valve. The out-of-focus pictures, three in total, were not helping me understand what and where the problem was. I asked if he would like to do a virtual chat so I could get a better look at his plumbing issue. From there, we could then determine if this is a DIY plumbing repair or not.

Leaking water from a hot-water shut-off valve connection,

He messaged me back, saying it was getting late and he would contact me in the morning. I thanked him for contacting VPA and wished him a good night, thinking he may just find a local plumber and I would never hear from him again.

Covid and Plumbers

Well, the next morning, bright and early, I got another message from him. In the message, he explained that with Covid (about six months into it), he did not want a plumber physically in his home as prevention for health reasons, and he was worried that the plumbing leak would get worse and cause more drain damage underneath his home. He explained that he knew nothing about plumbing and was quite apprehensive about a DIY approach, but he decided that he had to do something.

I suggested that we chat about his plumbing issue virtually. I explained how easy it was and that I needed to see the issue to be able to give him further plumbing advice. He agreed to chat and said he would be free in about an hour.

At approximately 11 am that morning, I sent the request. When he accepted the video chat and started the call, I could tell he was still apprehensive! So, I dove right into telling him how to adjust his smartphone camera so I could see through the front-facing camera, and we were ready to investigate.

Virtual Plumbing Inspection

Into the laundry room he went and focused on the washer hot side shut-off valve. As he got closer, I could see water spraying out from below the hot water valve. Now it was starting to make sense; the female fitting that was attached to the laundry box was split. The brass fitting that the hot water valve was threaded into was spraying water, making it look like the valve itself was leaking.

Knowing that the female fitting was attached to the metal washer box, which was recessed into the wall, was a problem. This was not going to be a simple fix for the owner, and it’s possible he may still require a visit from a professional plumber.

In a brief explanation of what the problem was, I told him that it was repairable, but it was not going to be fast or easy. He then turned the phone camera around, looked at me, and said, can I do this? I thought for a second and replied, yes, you can.

Still seeming a little unsure, he asked what to do first. Before anything else could be done, I explained that he had to turn off the hot and cold shutoffs and disconnect the washer hoses so he could move the washer out of the way.

Once that was done, he needed to cut the wall, which was drywall, below the washer box so we could see the water lines. He agreed and told me he would let me know when that was done.

Wall opened up to expose the water leak in detail, and to aid in repairs.

Progress: The Repair Plan

Several hours later, we chatted virtually again, and he showed me his progress. The water lines were ½” gray Pex right to the box. Now I knew how the repair was going to happen.

Since going to a hardware store was out of the question, we decided that getting parts online was his only possibility. He told me that he had Amazon Prime, so now we knew we could get parts. We went through the tools he had so I would know what to add to the plumbing parts list.

I decided to send him a plumbing parts and tool list with pictures and part numbers to make it easier for us.

Before ending the call, we found the water heater and the water shut-off for that. When he was not using hot water, he was going to shut it off to slow down the water damage. I emailed him a part and tool list and told him to let me know when he had everything.

DIY Plumbing Is An Option This Time

We decided that the repair was going to be as simple and inexpensive as possible. There are times when money restrictions play a part in repair options.  Normally mechanical fittings are not my first choice, but this time they would work fine.

Almost 3 weeks later, I heard from him again; he had the parts and tools and was ready to continue with the repair. He shut the water off to the water heater and removed the pressure from the water line before we started the virtual chat.

His first job was to cut the existing Pex water line with his new Pex tubing cutters and install a ½” ball valve so he could turn the water back on and work with no rush. With a little apprehension from the two of us, once you start, there is no stopping. He cut the line.

Found Confidence!

He had done his research and knew to clean the cut pipe and inspect for any sharp edges before installing the ½” mechanical valve.

Mechanical ball valve installed.

Once installed, he slowly pressurized the hot water line and checked it for leaks. None being found, you could tell that he was happy that part was done! He explained what he was going to do next before ending the call.

I got this email later that day: “Phase 1 is complete! It hasn’t blown in 30 minutes, so figure I can sleep tonight! I think the pipe won’t fall in the wall, but duct taped it to the side for peace of mind.”

He finished the job the next day, and all without the need for a visiting professional plumber!

Wish I had a final picture of the repair. However, several weeks later, he emailed me to tell me everything was working and there were no leaks!

Enjoy the day!!

John Burr
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