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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.
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That’s Not PEX
PHOTO: COURTESY OF STRUCTURE TECH
That’s Not PEX
Here’s a perfect illustration of just about everything that shouldn’t be used for plumbing repair. What do you think? ShooGoo? Regardless, this tops the charts for home inspector nightmares and plumbing fails.
2 / 100
Mystery leak sealant
STRUCTURE TECH
Mystery leak sealant
Maybe it’s silly putty, maybe plumbers putty, maybe epoxy putty, maybe they should have just fixed the leaks to avoid scary stuff like this.
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3 / 100
A Flush to Remember
A Flush to Remember
After removing an old toilet, I did the classic handyman trick of stuffing a bunch of plastic bags into the sewer opening. This kept the stench from seeping into the bathroom while I installed the new toilet over the weekend. After setting and hooking up the new commode, I did a test flush. It was very satisfying to watch the water swirl down and the bowl fill up—and up and up! The toilet gushed water all over the floor. Turns out the other half of that trick is removing the bags from the sewer opening. Really scary stuff. – Rob Kiesling
4 / 100
What the wall usually sees
STRUCTURE TECH
What the wall usually sees
How in the world can a tank get put on backwards? Maybe read the directions the next time you install a new toilet.
5 / 100
Strange brew
PHOTO: COURTESY OF STRUCTURE TECH
Strange brew
This is some scary stuff! Maybe it’s time for a water quality test. Or maybe it’s time to look into water softeners.
6 / 100
Free Facial
FAMILY HANDYMAN
Free Facial
Just days before Hurricane Sandy was to hit New Jersey, I was helping my husband install a “water jet sump pump backup system” in my parents’ basement. In the event of a power outage, it works off the water pressure of the house. My husband asked me to hold on to the PVC pipe so he could cut out a piece with his reciprocating saw. While I held it, he made the first cut. When he made the second cut, nasty brown water started gushing out of the pipe and hit me full in the face. 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.
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P-trap Nirvana
PHOTO: COURTESY OF STRUCTURE TECH
P-trap Nirvana
Now all I have to do is put in a flex pipe at the wall. To make the drain work, you just lift the sink out and tilt it every which way. There are better ways to connect a sink drain.

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8 / 100
When Copper and Steel Collide
COURTESY OF STRUCTURE TECH
When Copper and Steel Collide
And it’s called galvanic corrosion. But it can be prevented if you connect dissimilar pipes the right way.
9 / 100
The Physics of Plumbing
FAMILY HANDYMAN
The Physics of Plumbing
I was replacing our shower fixture, and I couldn’t budge the large brass nut that was holding the two-way mixing valve in place. Using my expert knowledge of physics, I came up with the perfect solution. I packed the valve in ice to make it shrink in diameter. Then I used my blowtorch on the nut so its diameter would expand, thus freeing it. I was feeling really clever until I noticed the smoke filling the shower. It turns out two studs were on fire and the flames were moving up inside the wall! Have you ever tried to extinguish a blazing fire through a 6-in. access hole? I didn’t worry about the physics at that point—I just ran for the fire extinguisher! -Dr. Kris Storm
10 / 100
Use Your Head not Your Hammer
FAMILY HANDYMAN
Use Your Head not Your Hammer
My husband is a novice handyman with a great heart. So when I asked for a new sink in our upstairs bathroom, he got to work. After two weeks of struggle and leaking pipes, it was done. Whew! But when I turned on the hot water, there was water “hammering.” He said he must have loosened a pipe and that it was beating against a stud. He spent the next hour knocking holes in our nice drywall trying to trace the hammering. But he still couldn’t find the problem. I then asked him if the hot water valve below the sink was fully open—problem solved. The contractor did a beautiful job of repairing our drywall…. – Mari Nelson
11 / 100
Who needs a “Pee”-trap?
COURTESY OF STRUCTURE TECH
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.
12 / 100
Don’t fall for this trap
COURTESY OF STRUCTURE TECH
Don’t fall for this trap
Maybe it works-maybe it doesn’t. Is the whole system properly vented or not?
13 / 100
Cold Commode
FAMILY HANDYMAN
Cold Commode
Last winter, I brought home a new toilet. I stored the box outside on my porch along with the new wax ring, flange bolts and new water line until I got around to installing it a few days later. I mounted the wax ring and set the toilet over the flange, but the toilet would not sit flush against the floor. I tried everything I could think of, including tightening the floor bolts at the base of the toilet until I nearly cracked the toilet base, but the toilet just would not sit flush. I gave up in frustration and went to bed. 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. -Mike Koch

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14 / 100
All employees MUST wash their hands before returning to work!
STRUCTURE TECH
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.
15 / 100
Roughing in for a centrally located sink
COURTESY OF STRUCTURE TECH
Roughing in for a centrally located sink
Can’t even come up with a theory on what’s going on here. Perhaps some instructions on how to connect a sink drain would be helpful.
16 / 100
Plumber? What plumber?
FAMILY HANDYMAN
Plumber? What plumber?
In the middle of trying to sell our house, my husband accidentally broke the hot water pipe to the washing machine while trying to unscrew the rusted connection from the wall. Hot water started gushing inside the wall, and I ran for buckets and towels as my husband raced to turn off the water main. Two hours later, as the emergency plumber was cutting into the drywall, the doorbell rang. Our real estate agent was standing outside with potential buyers! As my husband greeted them, I ran around the house and threw the towels, buckets and mops into the garage, pushed the washer back into place, and told the plumber to go wait in his truck, which was prominently sitting in our driveway. The couple toured the house while my husband and I suffered heart palpitations. They ended up buying our house. And luckily they never did ask what the plumber was doing in the driveway… — Kiersten Jarvis
17 / 100
Wine cork plug
COURTESY OF STRUCTURE TECH
COURTESY OF STRUCTURE TECH
Wine cork plug
At least until you get to the store for a new pop-up drain assembly. Or maybe it’s time to install a new vanity sink.
18 / 100
Leaking Faucet
STRUCTURE TECH
Leaking Faucet
That’s the definition of “hard water.” On the plus side, the water spraying out should soon melt the icicle. Might be time for a new faucet and maybe to install a freeze detector in the house.
19 / 100
Exploding toilet trick
FAMILY HANDYMAN
Exploding toilet trick
Our toilet wouldn’t stop running because the float wouldn’t turn the water completely off. I’d fixed the same problem in our old toilet by bending the float arm down a little to increase the pressure on the shutoff valve in the tank. But since our new toilet had a plastic arm, I decided to apply a little heat to soften it so I could bend it. 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

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20 / 100
See-Through Plumbing
PHOTO: COURTESY OF STRUCTURE TECH
See-Through Plumbing
We’ve been through this before. Don’t use those stupid flexible plastic drain lines! If you have this kind of plumbing you better learn to how to clear clogged drains. Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech
21 / 100
So I asked the plumbing guy at the home center….
PHOTO: COURTESY OF STRUCTURE TECH
So I asked the plumbing guy at the home center….
This is a perfect install, if the only use is for flooding your basement. This utdoor sillcock could’ve been thought through a little better.
22 / 100
The Ever-Flowing Water Heater
FAMILY HANDYMAN
The Ever-Flowing Water Heater
When the plumber replaced one of the heating elements in my electric water heater, I watched carefully, knowing that the other element would eventually need replacing too. Sure enough, a year later the other element went. I checked it with an ohmmeter, confirmed my diagnosis and headed to the plumbing supply store. When I returned home, I killed the power supply at the box and at the wall switch. Feeling proud and confident, I dragged the garden hose into the house, connected it to the heater and ran it into the floor drain to empty the heater—just like the plumber had done. Then I sat and waited for the water to stop flowing. After about an hour of a good, steady flow, it occurred to me to SHUT OFF THE WATER SUPPLY! Fifteen minutes later and hundreds of gallons of water poorer, I replaced the element. -Dianna Tucker
23 / 100
P-trap, not mouse trap
PHOTO: COURTESY OF STRUCTURE TECH
P-trap, not mouse trap
Must’ve been something really tasty plugging up that trap! Better get a new one put on before it starts leaking!
24 / 100
Duct Tape Compression Fittings
PHOTO: COURTESY OF STRUCTURE TECH
Duct Tape Compression Fittings
What’s weird about this is that it appears that the drain parts are brand new. Installing drainlines and p-traps under a sink doesn’t normally call for duct tape. Bound to be a few plumbing leaks here.
25 / 100
Fourth Time’s the Charm
FAMILY HANDYMAN
Fourth Time’s the Charm
Our washing machine was on the fritz. It’s a heavy stacked unit (dryer on top) that’s tucked into a tight wall recess, so it’s tough to maneuver. After 45 minutes of pulling and straining, I got it out from the wall and spotted the problem right away—a broken clutch. But because it was too late in the day to get the part and the unit was blocking the hallway to the kitchen, I had to push the whole thing back against the wall. 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…. -Vaughn Williams
26 / 100
Tank top
STRUCTURE TECH
Tank top
Expecting the toilet to grow sideways, Tom planned ahead. Installing a new toilet was far too much work.
27 / 100
Medusa
PHOTO: COURTESY OF STRUCTURE TECH
Medusa
Do NOT look this mess in the eye! You’ll turn to stone! I think these supply lines could be a bit shorter. Plus the water pressure is bound to be affected.
28 / 100
Two Times the Water Damage
FAMILY HANDYMAN
Two Times the Water Damage
The toilet in the upstairs bathroom had been leaking for some time, which had rotted the floor. I removed the toilet, vanity and sink to replace the plywood. Once the new vinyl floor in and the vanity were reinstalled, I left off the sink to make it easier to solder on new shutoff valves. 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. -Glenn McComas
29 / 100
Sump pump smarts
STRUCTURE TECH
Sump pump smarts
It may look smart. But you’re not allowed to run your sump pump discharge into your home’s sewer pipes. This is another example of someone who should study up on the right way to cure a damp basement problem.
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Sock purgatory
PHOTO: COURTESY OF STRUCTURE TECH
Sock purgatory
Well, at least we’ve solved the problem of where those lost socks go. Duct tape alone just wasn’t stopping the leaks.
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A New Toilet to Go with that Seat
FAMILY HANDYMAN
A New Toilet to Go with that Seat
My dad waited until I came home from college to ask me to install the soft-cushion toilet seat he’d just bought. I sprayed the old, rusty toilet seat bolts with a heavy dose of lubricant and then got out the wrench and went to work on them. Unfortunately, the wrench slipped off the lubricated bolt and the handle busted a nice hole in the toilet, sending water all over the floor. With my tail between my legs, I had to tell my dad that he needed a new toilet to go with his new 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
32 / 100
A shower found in Munchkinland
STRUCTURE TECH
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.
33 / 100
Porcelain throne for the uninhibited
STRUCTURE TECH
Porcelain throne for the uninhibited
So much for the one place a guy can be left alone! Delores wanted to make sure that she could give Ron additions to his to-do list at all times. Time to plan out some bathroom walls!
34 / 100
Lesson Learned the Slimy Way
FAMILY HANDYMAN
Lesson Learned the Slimy Way
My wife was complaining about the slow-draining sink in our kitchen, so I put my handyman prowess to work. I planned to use the blow feature on my shop vacuum to push the clog through the drain line. 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. -Steve Fears
35 / 100
Rube Goldberg’s basement
PHOTO: COURTESY OF STRUCTURE TECH
Rube Goldberg’s basement
Jeff decided to make it his goal to use every single 2-in. PVC fitting offered at Lowes. Can you imagine how many trips to the home center this took?
36 / 100
Speed bump
PHOTO: COURTESY OF STRUCTURE TECH
Speed bump
Ahhh…the glow of satisfaction from a job well done. Clearly, plumbing and drain installation isn’t for everyone.
37 / 100
F is for Flub—and Flood
FAMILY HANDYMAN
F is for Flub—and Flood
I couldn’t get the valves that fed my washing machine to stop leaking, so I replaced the entire faucet assembly. The installation went fine. I reconnected the washer hoses, double-checked for leaks and washed my first load of clothes. Satisfied with my leak free connections, I went upstairs. 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
38 / 100
Overhead tub spout
STRUCTURE TECH
Overhead tub spout
Yup. The whirlpool tub fills from the upstairs toilet! Genius!
39 / 100
You’re not fully clean unless you’re Zestfully clean!
COURTESY OF STRUCTURE TECH
You’re not fully clean unless you’re Zestfully clean!
I don’t think this shower would meet the new low-flow requirements. But it’s sure makes a nice set of grab bars.
40 / 100
Toilet Blues
FAMILY HANDYMAN
Toilet Blues
My wife came home with one of those $10 chlorination gadgets for the toilet that “self-cleans” the bowl after flushing. Installation seemed simple enough, but within minutes I had broken the fill valve assembly at the base. 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. -Marcus Cherlin
41 / 100
The Rocky Throne
PHOTO: COURTESY OF STRUCTURE TECH
The Rocky Throne
Does something look unsteady in this photo to you? We thought so too. Here’s how to fix this issue.
42 / 100
Ice cream anyone?
PHOTO: COURTESY OF STRUCTURE TECH
Ice cream anyone?
The cheapest, easiest-to-install, urinal on the planet. And no water supply lines required. But next time maybe you should read up on how to plumb a basement bathroom. Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech
43 / 100
Commode Flambeau
Commode Flambeau
A part from my young son’s plastic potty had somehow gotten stuck in the toilet trap. I couldn’t snake it out, nor could the plumber, who left saying, “Buy a new toilet.” But I had a brilliant idea: I’d burn it out! I pulled the toilet and dragged it outside. There I poured charcoal lighter fluid down the trap and lit it up. Standing back, I basked in the glory of the geyser flames and my phenomenal ingenuity… until the bang. The commode literally cracked from the heat. I bought a new toilet. -Gordy Gladman
44 / 100
Leaking fill valve repair
PHOTO: COURTESY OF STRUCTURE TECH
Leaking fill valve repair
Once Warren caught the recycle/re-use bug, he just couldn’t stop. Even going to the extent of breaking the fill valve on his toilet for a chance to re-use this plastic container. Might be even smarter to replace the fill valve with a new kit. Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech
45 / 100
Plumbing Diverticulosis
PHOTO: COURTESY OF STRUCTURE TECH
Plumbing Diverticulosis
Just because pipes come in all kinds of different shapes doesn’t mean you need to use them all on one job. Photo: Courtesy of Structure Tech
46 / 100
‘I Did What You Said, Dad’
‘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.

47 / 100
Which problem solver would you choose?
STRUCTURE TECH
Which problem solver would you choose?
There are always options when it comes to buying a toilet – some better than others.
48 / 100
Stick shift toilet
STRUCTURE TECH
Stick shift toilet
So, I sit backwards, project my video game on the tank, and use the flusher as a joystick. Might be time to replace this old beauty.
49 / 100
Unplanned Shower
FAMILY HANDYMAN
Unplanned Shower
Last year my fiancée and I started our first home improvement project together, aptly, a shower. We installed a new control valve along with new tile. Although my fiancée was still grouting the tile, I decided it was safe to turn on the main water supply valve because we’d finished the plumbing. A second later, a scream echoed through the house. I ran to the bathroom and saw that the shower was blasting on my fiancée. We’d left the valve in the open position and she couldn’t turn it off because we hadn’t installed the handles. Anyway, a year after this first shower, we’re happily married! -Adam Halverson
50 / 100
The Plumber’s Solution
FAMILY HANDYMAN
The Plumber’s Solution
This is all too common. The carpenters carelessly placed a floor joist directly under a shower that’s clearly marked on the house plans. And then a plumber goes nuts with a reciprocating saw. If you have manufactured I-joists, never, ever cut the top or bottom flanges!

Source: 100 Plumbing Goofs and Other Scary Stuff

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