Another addition to the list of stories I share so you can make fun of me.

Ya’ll know I’m not the most handy guy in the world. I can do some basic, minor repairs around the house. But when it comes to things behind, below, or under walls that involve electricity or plumbing, I recognize my limits and am happy to write a check to get things done. That need for outside help has been aided in recent years by our next door neighbor, who can handle just about any project. In the four years he’s lived next to us, he’s helped repair some exterior wood damage, installed a new garbage disposal, installed new light switches, and put a new part into our boat, along with a series of other minor jobs. I buy him beer, S. prescribes meds when his kids are sick, and it all evens out.

A few weeks ago we decided to finally put a water softener in. All the nice granite and fixtures we put in six years ago were beginning to look awfully dingy from our hard, Indiana water. Our neighbor had installed several softeners over the years and was happy to help. He went shopping with me, helped find all the hardware we would need, and over a couple hours, helped me get in installed. And when I say help I say he did 90% of the work and I handed him the tools he needed.

Our water was soft. Life was good.

A week later, after getting all the girls showers and to bed one night, I heard a bang somewhere in the house. I checked in each girl’s room to see if they had dropped something. Nope.

I walked downstairs and heard water running, like the dishwasher was operating but open. I checked it, but it was not on. The washing machine wasn’t on. Hmmm.

The noise seemed to be coming from the basement so I went to check there. Maybe the toilet was running or a faucet was on somewhere. When I got to the basement the sound got louder. Water wasn’t running out of a faucet, it was gushing somewhere. I ran into our utility room and found water pouring from our main line where we had run Pex line to plug the softener into the system. I waded through the ankle-deep water and turned the main valve off.

As I got the water to begin draining I looked to see what had gone wrong. One of the seals on the supply lines that connects the Pex to the softener had blown open. Cripes!

I called my neighbor to explain what had happened. Unfortunately, he was out of town so we were going to have to go without any water in the house until he returned the following night. Facebook friends may have seen the notes that L. put on each toilet to remind us not to flush.


The next day I ran out and got a replacement supply and some other materials. After school, he and I got to work making repairs. Things seemed to be ok. He went home, I went upstairs to eat dinner.

Midway through dinner I thought I heard water running. I rushed to the basement and found water pouring out again. The replacement supply line had already failed!

We had used the only supply lines that Menard’s carried. My neighbor had never used that brand before. He sent me to Home Depot to get the ones he had used. We got the new supplies hooked in and, knock on a lot of freaking wood, everything has been fine since.

Thank goodness both times the line failed we were home and awake. Had the first failure happened a few hours earlier, when I was at L’s basketball practice, our basement would have likely been full of water by the time we got home. Fortunately both times I was able to turn the main line off before the water spread beyond our utility room.

To say I’m a little paranoid about the whole thing now is an understatement. Anytime I hear a strange noise in the house, I freeze and listen carefully, then go turn on the nearest faucet to make sure we still have water pressure. Tuesday night everyone was having trouble sleeping after the five-day break. I kept imagining I heard noises from the basement. Once, at around 4:00, I was sure I heard water noises. I went down to check and about lost my mind when I heard the sound of water moving through pipes, like when the washing machine is running. Turned out the softener was just going through its regular recharge cycle, which involves pumping new water in and draining some of the old. No leaks, but I still sat around for 15 minutes until the cycle finished to be sure.

Sure, the same thing could have happened if I had hired a plumber. But the odds were lower. It’s good to have a neighbor with a lot of knowledge and a garage full of tools when we need to knock out a project. But sometimes it might still be worth writing that check.