ONETIME- Surfin' felines: How high's the water, mama?

Andy Wilfong of Rooter Man

This is the debut of a new column that peeks in at problems.–editor

One time, I went out to check on a leak in a woman's basement. She had several cats, and she went to let them out, and water was up to her basement steps.

So she called us and I realized that she had a leak.

You could see it leaking out of the windows. Not thinking, I went to open the basement door. I put my foot against it and cracked it, and as soon as I did– WHOOOOOOSSHHHHH! I was soaked head to toe. It was like riding a wave. It knocked me back a few feet.

Her main water line into her house had had a 90-degree fitting joint pop off, and it filled her basement. That was about one inch at 80 PSI– 250 gallons a minute, maybe. And she had just put a little swimming pool that her kids weren't using in the basement, and it was sitting right over the floor drain.

And her cats were floating around on pieces of board, huddled together, licking their paws. It was the craziest thing in the world.

To avoid floods like this, basic maintenance is your best friend. Check your valves– especially your shut-off valves– to make sure they're not weak. Roots can lead to breaks in older pipes, too: they stop up and people don't know it.

Qest pipes have been banned since about 1993. It's a gray flexible tubing, and if you have Qest pipes, replace them. They're very undependable: they bust, they break, the fittings crack, and they fall off. We run into it every day.

The big problem with Qest is in municipal water supplies with chlorine and fluoride that are in the water, since they are both halogens and break the pipes down.

The most dependable pipes are copper, as far as leaks go. Pex, which is a white, flexible tube, is also good. Pex is polyethylene and can handle hot water. It's pretty much impervious to low-PH (acidic) water: acids and alkalis won't hurt it. Iron's still going to build up in it like it does in any other pipe. But the fittings for it are made out of brass, and they are susceptible to low-PH water, which we have a lot of around in this area.

But, still, it's come a long way. They've learned from Qest's mistakes.