Over the Hill

Staying out of hot water

Phil Dirkx
Phil Dirkx

"Face the thing you fear and the fear will disappear.” I don’t know who said that, but it wasn’t me. I not only shrink from fear but also from potential discomfort. I proved that again last week.

One morning last week I stepped into one of our bathrooms and noticed it felt warmer than the rest of our Paso Robles house. I raised my hand toward the ceiling register. No warm air was blowing down. I decided the heat was a fluke and forgot about it — almost. The bathroom stayed warm all day.

It was still warm the following morning. Again, no heat flowed from the register. Nor were the faucets of the sink and shower especially warm, nor were the walls. Part of the floor, however, was somewhat warm.

I went into the garage and checked the hot-water heater. Its muffled roar indicated it was on and heating. I thought I should do something, so I turned down the thermostat for no logical reason.

The next morning the bathroom was still unusually warm. I blamed the morning sun. But doubt nagged because our latest water and gas bills were higher than the same month last year. I blamed our Christmas house guests for that.

I occasionally wondered whether a hot-water pipe might be leaking, but I refused to believe that. The walls and floor weren’t moist, nor were the outdoor walls.

I also stubbornly doubted that our concrete-slab floor contained water pipes. The only water pipes I’d ever heard about leaking in our tract were above the ceilings, not in the floor. They froze and sprung leaks in past winters during unusually harsh cold spells.

A leak in the concrete floor was too painful for me to consider. Fixing it would cause a huge mess and probably cost thousands of dollars.

I also didn’t take such common-sense diagnostic steps as turning off all our faucets and then looking at the water meter. If its little whirl-a-gig was still spinning that would indicate a leak.

On Friday night, I lay awake worrying. By Saturday morning, the bathroom seemed even warmer, but still dry. When I went outside, however, I did find water, lots of it. It had to be leaking from a pipe in the concrete slab. I feared it would terribly damage the foundation if it kept on. I finally acted.

It was Saturday, and a three-day holiday weekend, but I did manage to find a skilled and thoughtful plumber. By Tuesday afternoon, he had installed all new hot-water lines above the ceiling and cured the leak. It did cost a few thousand dollars, but it wasn’t the big mess I feared.

So I proved I can face a fearful experience, as long as the only alternative is something worse.