Parade of Homes

Go with the flow

All is well again after a bit of unexpected weekend work

The new stem is threaded into the existing one-inch elbow atop the well cap (above left), and tightened to ensure the valve is positioned along the top of the stem. At 10-gallons-per-minute pressure, the well can’t be turned off for parts replacements.

A stress crack that emerged along the bottom of the old ball valve caused the leak.

With an artesian well at 10-gallons-per-minute of pressure, it cannot be turned off for parts replacements.

A new stem made from a series of brass fittings and ball valve was pre-constructed indoors before installation.

PHOTOS BY Marc LaBossiere / Winnipeg Free Press

The decades-old brass ball valve had cracked, allowing the artesian well to spring a leak.

Work weeks of late have been incredibly hectic, with the added stress of managing supply chain issues due to delays at seemingly every turn, while juggling and co-ordinating jobsites accordingly. Never having experienced many weekends to myself as a career musician for over a quarter century, I relish quiet Saturday mornings with a hot coffee in my hand and the dog at my feet. This past weekend, things didn’t remain tranquil for long.

During a regular morning walkabout with my pooch Milo this past Saturday, a shimmer in the distance caught my eye close to my well stack. (For the city folk reading this column, my property’s water is supplied by an artesian well, at a depth of 165 feet with roughly 10-gallons-per-minute pressure — a shimmer by a well in the winter is usually not a good sign.) It appeared as though water was trickling from the well cap. Once Milo had finished his morning routine of sniffing the yard and doing his business, I let him back into the house and walked back over to the well stack to get another look. My serene morning had just taken a turn for the worse.

Having replaced my well cap several years earlier, a local plumbing company was again contacted in hope the issue could be scheduled for repair in a timely manner. Unfortunately, the soonest the company could fit me into their already tight schedule was over a week away, far too late for a well-cap leak in winter. It became evident this would be a DIY task, even though I was fully prepared to hire someone else to do it and it was the last thing I felt like doing on a cold Saturday morning.

As such, another trip to the well stack revealed the true nature of the water breach. The three-quarter inch ball valve that protrudes from a 90-degree elbow fitting through the top of the well cap had cracked, and water was evacuating through the crack at an impressive rate. The ball valve would clearly need to be replaced. However, to do this task efficiently, it was best to rebuild the entire stem from the 90-degree fitting.

Before venturing to the neighbouring town’s hardware store, a quick call confirmed the necessary plumbing elements were indeed on hand. From the one-inch 90-degree fitting, a brass one-inch to three-quarter-inch threaded female coupling would tie a three-quarter-inch male to male two-inch stem to the three-quarter-inch ball valve. A three-quarter-inch garden hose adapter would then be affixed on the opposite end of the valve. To expedite the process outside, the entire series of brass fittings and ball valve were pre-built indoors, using heavy Teflon tape along the threads of every junction. The fittings were initially tightened by hand, as the orientation of the valve itself would depend upon the permanent tightness of each successive fitting.

With the old valve opened (and water allowed to flow freely), the old stem was removed from the one-inch 90-degree fitting atop the well cap. Moments later, the new stem with valve in the open position was quickly threaded into the 90-degree elbow. The first fitting was tightened to a good amount of resistance. The next fitting was also tightened to roughly the same degree. Once the ball valve was tightened, each of the initial fittings was again tightened bit by bit until all the fittings were very taut, all the while maintaining the ball valve along the upright horizontal position of the stem. To test for leaks, the ball valve was closed. With no signs of water breaching the threads of the fittings, the garden hose fitting was affixed to the outer threads of the valve, for convenient and eventual use during the spring and summer months.

Problem solved.

It isn’t that this task was too difficult to handle, nor is it that tasks at home are a deterrent — because similar renovation tasks fill my weekdays — it’s just sometimes nice not to have to address every pressing issue at home, myself. Had the local plumbing company been able to show up later that day to repair my well-cap leak, I would have been more than happy to spend the money while sitting indoors, sipping my coffee and petting my dog. The thought of getting wet in -15 C weather was not all that appealing. Alas, it was not to be. Yet, the job still needed to get done. Fortunately, the entire fix took less than two hours, and I didn’t get nearly as soaked as anxiously anticipated.


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