Some house projects call for power tools. Some call for getting your hands dirty. And some projects call for being the tiny one in the relationship. This was one of those projects.
And I was super excited!!!
We decided to try our hand at another DIY plumbing project, even though our last attempt at DIY plumbing yielded some pretty shitty results (hah!). But this project was gonna be awesome because it involved wearing a hardhat, army-scooting on my belly, and working in a space where the ceiling was less than a foot high off the floor. I was all up in our attic y’all!
Oh yeah, I was feeling pretty badass.
But before I go on and on about how badass I am (hahhh), I should explain what the problem in our attic was. We have leaks. Three leaks to be exact. Our home is in her 30’s so that means she was built with galvanized pipes, which tend to be the problem child of the piping world. They collect buildups and spurt leaks and all this awesome stuff.
Before we bought the house, our inspector pointed out one leak that he spotted in our attic, so we had a plumber come out later to give us a quote- and he found two more. Luckily they were all slow leaks and had only dampened our insulation a bit- they hadn’t made it to our wood frame at all. Phew! So there was no disaster, but these leaks still needed to be taken care of.
Our plumber gave us a quote to replace the leaky pipes with PEX piping and it was a little more than we wanted to spend (buying a house = you are poor). So Evan and I did some research and found that it didn’t look all that hard or expensive to DIY your own PEX. We’ll talk more about that later, but here’s a peek at PEX so you know what we’re talking about.
Unfortunately, I was a dummy and did not go up into the attic with our plumber during his assessment to see where the other two leaks were. We found leak #1 ourselves, but after crawling around forever up there we still could not spot the other two. So when our plumber had to come by again to rid our guest bathroom of the you-know-what, I asked if he would show me the leaks and give me tips on how to fix them ourselves. Leaks #1 and #2 were on the same pipe and both were pretty accessible. So if we just figured out how to replace one pipe, it would be sort of a two-for-one deal.
Here’s leak #1, the one that our inspector spotted and we were easily able to find:
We laid plastic sheeting leftover from our floor prep underneath it to catch any errant drips while we did further research on PEX-ing things ourselves. Also see in the close up how it looks all corroded and icky? That’s a sign of the leak.
Leak #2 was a little trickier because the corroded part was on the underside of the pipe, which is why we didn’t spot it ourselves. I asked our plumber how he was able to spot that there was a leak there, and he said that when you see mouse poop around a pipe it’s usually because the mice in your attic are gathering around it to drink the drippy water. And actually the thought of mice in our attic didn’t freak me out. I am considering them tiny little pooping leak detectors and I am thankful for the role they’ve played in our home’s water damage prevention plan.
See the mouse poop to the left of where the plastic is? Our mice were getting their drank on. And when I felt the underside of the pipe, lo and behold it was wet. Sneaky leaky! Thank you mice!
Like I said, these two leaks were actually on the same pipe which would make things a little easier for us when it came time to fix them. But leak #3 was not going to be so cooperative. There’s a reason we weren’t able to spot #3 on our own. It’s because it was in the smallest, darkest corner of our attic, right where the sloped roof meets the attic floor.
Sorry for the bad picture. I circled where the leak is, otherwise it would be nearly impossible to spot.
Creepy attic, nails protruding from ceiling, ominous flashlight glow… looks like a scene from a scary movie!
In this part of the attic, there’s only about 10 inches of head space between the floor and ceiling, and really only about 6 inches of space directly above the leak because of the rafter. The plumber said that to replace this pipe, they’d have to cut a hole in the garage ceiling and get to it from there. Womp womp. But then he told me there’s a temporary solution if we’re interested- a clamp!
I was interested. He said he used clamps in his own office (which is an older building with galvanized pipes) and his have been fine since the late 80’s. So if “temporary” means they can last over 20 years, sign me up!
He was nice enough to give me a couple clamps for free and explain how to use them. Here’s the one we ended up using.
You basically just pop the clamp onto the pipe and tighten the bolt til it’s snug. Simple simple. I like simple. But even though it was easy, right after our plumber left I took this little video to remind myself how to do it just in case I forgot later on when it was time to actually use it. Please excuse me while I awkwardly fumble around trying to do it one handed and temporarily forget the word “wrench.”
Evan came home that night and we decided to give it a go! He was my official wrench holder, flashlight shiner, and picture taker. I geared up with mismatched gloves, Evan’s Chevron hardhat from back when he was an intern, and a mask we found in the garage. Super legit.
I think we spent more time taking pictures than actually attaching the clamp. It was that easy. We grabbed a couple extra pink 2×4’s leftover from our DIY attic duct protector bridge and laid them down so I had something to scoot along and lay on. I crawled as far as I could and then had to lay on my belly and ooch along til I could reach the leak. Thank goodness for the hardhat because I was bumping my head on the nails protruding from the ceiling as it got lower and lower, yikes!
Once I got down there, it was a little awkward to maneuver but popping on the clamp wasn’t too bad. I forgot to take a “before” picture, but it basically looked like leak #1 (with the corrosion on top) except a smaller area was corroded. I laid some extra plastic under it, popped on the clamp, used the wrench to tighten the nut on the bolt til it was snug, then looked back at Evan like a crazy person and asked him to take a picture.
I did manage to get a couple close up shots of the clamp on the pipe once I was done. You can see how tiny of a space I was working in!
We have been keeping an eye on this pipe and so far the clamp seems to be working! After a week or so, we went back an checked leaks #1 and #2 and both had a little water in the plastic we left, but leak #3 with the clamp was dry. Success!
So the next project on the plumbing agenda is to replace the pipe with leaks #1 and #2 with PEX piping. Our plastic wrap will only last us so long. We’ve picked up all the necessary materials, done tons of research, and now it’s Evan’s turn to get his plumbing on. Wish us luck!