100 Plumbing Goofs and Other Scary Stuff
A plumbing problem is no laughing matter, but it is fun to see the problems before they’re solved. Check out our collection of plumbing fails and other scary home stuff. Some are illustrated, some are real-life photos, but all are true stories.
That’s Not PEX
Mystery leak sealant
A Flush to Remember
– Rob Kiesling
What the wall usually sees
Being the dutiful wife, I held on tight! It took him a few seconds to realize what was happening. He had forgotten to unplug the pump. After pulling the plug, he looked at me with a worried expression, but I began laughing hysterically. I was soaked with that disgusting water from head to toe. At least the project turned out as planned— after Sandy, they had no water in their basement. — Jill Gallery. Plus: Check out these insanely smart home improvement hacks you’ll wish you knew sooner.
When Copper and Steel Collide
The Physics of Plumbing
-Dr. Kris Storm
Use Your Head not Your Hammer
– Mari Nelson
Who needs a “Pee”-trap?
“See, this way the city can’t monitor the water going down my drain and I don’t get charged for it. And if I’m not feeling like using the toilet, I can just let loose anywhere in the basement!” Yes, it’s true. In order to work properly, a drain actually has to be connected to something.
Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech
The next morning, I walked outside to get the paper and saw the empty toilet box sitting on my unheated porch. As I shivered in my bare feet, the explanation suddenly hit me. I ran to the bathroom and sure enough, the toilet was sitting flush against the floor and the bolts were completely loose. Turns out the wax ring had been frozen solid.
All employees MUST wash their hands before returning to work!
Genius! With this setup, you can wash your hands and your feet at the same time! A small bathroom requires a certain amount of planning.
Plumber? What plumber?
Wine cork plug
Exploding toilet trick
First I sprayed silicone lube on everything in the tank to help things slide better. Then I leaned over the tank with my lighter, clicked it and…WHOOOOMPP! The aerosol silicone spray I had just shot into the tank exploded. Luckily, I escaped with only singed hair and eyelashes. But now my wife can’t stop telling people about our exploding toilet. — Ron Woodward
The Ever-Flowing Water Heater
P-trap, not mouse trap
Fourth Time’s the Charm
The next day I did the backbreaking 45-minute thing over again and replaced the clutch. Then I reattached the supply hoses, pushed the unit back into place and started it. Oh, man—water began coming out from underneath the washer! I’d forgotten to reattach the drain hose! Once again, I pulled the whole thing out from the wall. Then I reattached the drain hose, pushed the unit back yet again, started it and Hallelujah, it seemed to work fine—no leaks.
The next day my wife discovered hot water coming out during the cold cycle. I’d switched the hot and cold hoses when I reattached them! Which meant I had to….
Two Times the Water Damage
With the main water supply to the house turned off, I installed the shutoff valves. Then I went downstairs to turn on the water supply so I could check the joints for leaks. As I walked back upstairs, fancying myself a master plumber, I heard the sound of gushing water. I had forgotten to turn off the shutoff valves! The bathroom was flooded and the ceiling below was ruined. But my soldering job held up perfectly.
Sump pump smarts
A New Toilet to Go with that Seat
I replaced the toilet, but haven’t had my dad ask me to do anything around the house since. (I guess that means it worked out for the best after all!)
-Martin Todd Dorris
A shower found in Munchkinland
After mom and dad moved out, the toddlers decided to make the bathroom more user-friendly. But when they grow up they’re gonna have to install a new shower.
Lesson Learned the Slimy Way
As I inserted the hose into the drain, my wife asked, “Don’t you think we should cover the other drain?” But it was too late. I’d already flipped on the vacuum, causing stinky, slimy water to shoot out of the other drain and drench us. Next time I’ll let her finish talking before I start working.
Rube Goldberg’s basement
F is for Flub—and Flood
Everything worked perfectly—until I returned to the laundry room and found myself standing in a pool of soapy water. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten to put the drain line back into the laundry tub and an entire washer’s worth of dirty water had poured onto my floor. Talk about washed up!
-William C. Sinclair
Overhead tub spout
I quickly turned off the water supply at the wall and tried to loosen the coupling nut that secures the valve so I could replace the part. It was corroded and wouldn’t budge. I decided to pull the toilet for better access to the stuck nut. I removed the flange nuts and lifted the toilet with all my might…and learned that the caulking bead around the toilet base can be exceptionally strong. The bowl base broke into three pieces and water spilled everywhere.
My wife and I decided that I should quit while I was behind and call a real plumber. The $350 bill was an expensive end to a simple task, but there is no cleaner toilet than a brand new one.
The Rocky Throne
Leaking fill valve repair
‘I Did What You Said, Dad’
My bathroom sink stopped up and I had to take off the trap to pull out a clog of gunk. I removed the trap and caught the water in a bucket—scummy, soapy, toothpaste goobery, hairy water. I then positioned myself under the pipe to look up and make sure that all the gunk was out of the drain. I handed the bucket of water up to my 4-year-old son and asked him to get rid of it. He did what seemed perfectly natural to him—he poured it down the sink! All of the slimy water came right back in my face with a vengeance.
Which problem solver would you choose?
The Plumber’s Solution
Follow the Arrows
A Quick Shower
Well, a couple of weeks later when the job was completed, we decided to take a fishing trip. I went out to the garage to grab my fishing rod that I store in a stud space there. I pulled and pulled, but it wouldn’t budge. Finally I realized that one of those 2-in. nails had found its way dead center into my fishing rod. I was able to pry it loose and salvage it. Now every time I cast, I see light through a small hole in the rod and think not of the fish I’ll catch but of power nailing.
— Norm Holcomb
A soaking surprise
— Michael Totoro
Ladder Extender Part 2
In the Bag
— Rob Kiesling
Santa lost his boot
Breaker Panel Convenience
Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech