Plumbing leaks caused damage to the kitchen at the Love home in Murrieta, requiring costly repairs. (Photo by Carl Love, contributing photographer)
It started innocently enough when my wife Joanne noticed a few drops of water on our kitchen floor in Murrieta and wiped them up.
“Okay, who spilled the water?” She wondered.
Twenty minutes later the drops came back. Nobody had been in the kitchen.
Joanne's mind immediately went to the worst possible scenario, which in the millions of townhouses in southwest Riverside County that have been built over the last 40 years can only mean the two most feared words – slab leak!
I rejected the idea because I'm an optimist – often for silly reasons – like this time.
The next morning, two days before Christmas, I walked around early, doing my “stair laps” in the dark (another story for another time) and didn’t feel anything wet as I walked through the kitchen.
Maybe we dodged the home repair bullet, I thought.
Joanne was up about 20 minutes later and so much for my hopes. She noticed that the water was back and was now in the hallway. Oh joy.
At 7:30 a.m. a plumber arrived – Joanne had contacted him the night before – and he confirmed the bad news. He said insurance wouldn't cover the cost of plumbing, so more vacation fun.
As Scrooge/Grinch as the moment was, it wasn't surprising either. All four neighbors in the immediate area of our Murrieta neighborhood had leaks caused by aging and cheaper copper pipes that the contractor had used. Now that standard is plastic, which is more durable. Not that it's of any use to us at the moment.
After the leak was fixed, the plumber found another one but had to come back another day. In the meantime, the restorers were here with their wind tunnels, I mean fans. Think about the noise of jet engines in our kitchen, which meant cooking wasn't exactly ideal.
We could have gone out, but we were looking for at least $10,000 to fix the damage and cover our deductible, so it was frozen pizza.
At least we could stay in our house. A neighbor let her loose upstairs and her family had to vacate the house for six months. And as I attended substitute classes in Murrieta schools and shared my holiday news, I kept hearing similar stories.
It's almost like a rite of passage. You're not really a local unless your house is flooded – and I don't mean Murrieta Creek.
Our house was built in 1989, 35 years ago, a long time ago. At the same time, many, many thousands of apartment buildings were being built in southwest Riverside County. We were all lured by the promises of small-town life, wide open spaces, safe streets and good schools. Some of this still applies today.
Record leaks weren't part of the enticing developer brochures. The builders are not necessarily to blame either. After more than three decades, things start to go wrong in every home.
Meanwhile, Joanne was out of the country for another six weeks visiting India (another story for another time), which meant I couldn't touch anything in terms of rebuilding, as all happily married couples know that the wife is in charge has while remodeling a kitchen.
Our kitchen, remodeled a decade ago, has now been torn down. Most of the kitchen drawers were in our living room. Pieces of drywall were gone, exposing the new plastic pipes and allowing water to flow safely again. Another piece of wall on which we had drawn the measurements of our growing children Julia and David in pencil was also gone. Leaking pipes are merciless, memories are damning.
I'm also suffering from nightmares (one of which was that it rained on our ceiling, which meant the ultimate leaks) and mounting bills because we also decided to pay the plumber another $5,000 to redo the entire house pipe and probably prevent this from happening again.
Fingers crossed, checkbook ready.
Reach Carl Love at [email protected]