When you have concrete walls and floors
With water pipes buried in dirt beneath the floor
And one decides to take a leak (no pun intended)
It drains the only direction it can go
Which in our case was through our outer wall
And into our neighbor’s workshop.
There was a knock on our door one morning.
Aron, our neighbor says he has something to show us.
We follow him to his workshop
Where he points out that a section of wall.
It is 8 feet tall by 12 feet wide
The paint is covered with water stains.
It is wet to the touch.
We all stand around staring at it for about five minutes
It slowly sinks in
That our water pipes run along the floor
The whole length of our house
To the very back where the bathroom is.
Seventy something feet of water pipe,
Of which this section is in the latter third.
We were fairly certain
It was the leaky valve in the shower spigots.
They had been leaking a while.
Then in desperation –
Because we didn’t want to deal with it,
We capped off the shower.
It must have backwashed into the wall,
Spilling into Aron’s workshop.
New shower spigots were probably the answer.
Figuring we would fix the shower ‘ahora’
Which really means – well soon, maybe today or tomorrow
But maybe on the weekend, or next weekend.
With all good intentions, we promptly forgot.
About a month later Aron comes by again.
This time, the upper wall is mostly dry
But the lower three feet is sopping wet
And a puddle was forming on the floor.
He tells us he doesn’t care, it’s just his workshop
But we should care, as it is OUR wall
That will crumble one day.
I immediately imagine the worst.
The wall crumbles,
The house (3 levels) begins to fall in at the center
Or Aron’s 9 year old son Ariel decides it’s fun to tunnel under
Or we have to tear down the whole side of the house and rebuild.
Although none of that happened
We still had to find the leak.
This meant trying to get a measurement.
Dropping a line down from our terraza
To the place where the leak began.
Measuring the distance of the back of the house
To the beginning of the other end of the leak.
Our house, then Aron’s house, then we realized
That the street, being on an incline
Meant that the height of the water in Aron’s house
Is lower than the height in ours.
It becomes one big geometry and mathematics experiment.
We managed to narrow it down
To an area that spanned half of our lower bedroom
Where the water had spread all the way to that wall,
To the cistern and pump on the other side of the bathroom.
A linear distance of ONLY 28 feet.
Imagine in a typical US house with sheet rock on the walls –
Tearing off 28 feet of sheet rock to find a leak.
Only in this case you are digging up sections of concrete
Parts of floor, parts of wall,
Then digging down six to 12 inches in the dirt
Plus digging through whatever other surprises
The workers left when they filled in the hole.
You do this not just in the most logical places –
Such as at the bottom of the shower spigots
Or underneath the bathroom sink
But half way between the sink and the washing machine
Then you wonder if you need to start in the bedroom.
All the time we are hoping the cistern underground is not leaking.
That would be a huge mess.
By this time we have pulled out all of our
Building the house photos.
We thought we were documenting so carefully.
But looking at the photos three years later,
We realized that we got the initial laying of the pipes,
But not one photo of where the joints were,
Nor how it was finished off
Nor where the toilet drain was
Nor where the washer lines came and went.
It’s a huge mess under there.
I keep re-measuring everything
As if that is going to make any kind of difference.
I’m trying to be logical, when in fact
All I’m doing is getting in the way,
This has some small comfort for me
Even though I see
That I’m not being helpful in the least.
In the third excavation, at one of the joints
Fausto calls us in.
His head is in the hole, he’s smiling
Waves me down to put my head in the hole
Where I hear a light hissing sound.
This is what he has been hoping for,
A sign that there’s water moving somehwere.
To make a long story short,
He does a little more digging with his hands,
Finds a moist spot and keeps digging
Until a small but forceful geyser of water erupts
Shooting water all over the bathroom.
The rest is history
A welded joint
Waiting a week
Checking that the walls are drying out
Filling in the holes
Replacing the tiles
Add in new spigots
And we are ready to go.
Thank god it wasn’t the cistern.