This morning, I laid in the dark and worried that, in the wake of another 'cold snap' here, we had forgotten to close the trap door on the side of the house and all the bathroom pipes were now vulnerable and freezing. (To update you, we've been here now 18 months and I guess I've come full circle, in my once dormant 'southernness', in my ability to freak out when temps full below 32 degrees. And for you who do not live in the South, there is a reason that it's called a 'cold snap' and that is because, for about 2 seconds, we get to wear boots, like I wore yesterday, instead of flip-flops.)
Yes, you heard me right, we have a trap door with access to the bathroom plumbing (for two bathrooms) on that side of the house. It's about 12 inches square with a steel door on hinges. My new plumber friend who spent a lovely morning with us yesterday, and my neighbor, are both amazed by it. You see, several weeks ago, that same sweet neighbor who sees that side of our house on a daily basis (unlike my family since our garage is on the other side) came over to say he thought we had a slab leak since the concrete 'slab' (which meets the brick) had been wet several times. Apparently, several of the houses on our side of the street have endured similar issues over the years, requiring breaking into the brick wall, and repairing a leaky plumbing joint. Sure, no problem. Can you say cha-ching?
Just after we found the wet on the wall, Mr. Plumber arrived, the first time. On this particular morning, rain poured outside, so he could not see the wet patches himself, as all the wall was wet, obviously. But, luckily, he discovered a valve issue with one of the bathroom toilets leading to water on the floor that the girls thought had been water from the shower. Problem solved, and cheaply, I happily add. Until...... a few days later, when I hiked around again to that side of the house, just to make sure no water was reappearing. The wet water spots were back. Oh no.
A second breakfast date with Mr. Plumber was in order. During this visit, yesterday, he went on and on about the trap door that we have on that side of the house. It allowed him to see exactly where the wet was coming from (a loose bath faucet in the other tub, also a cheap fix). A discussion ensued on how the builder of my house must have been so forward thinking to install such a trap door. Leaving it open for a bit, in this case, allowed a little more air flow so that the internal plumbing guts could be dried out quickly.
Then another overnight cold snap. Then I awoke and I laid here this morning, suddenly wondering if we had closed the trap door in this freeze because we had previously left it open to dry out that hole! Visions of a backhoe and workmen with jackhammers tearing down the side of my house invaded my suddenly-very-wide-awake thoughts. Should I actually get out of bed at 2 a.m. to put on clothes, (or robe at least) open the front door (inevitably inducing a barrage of doggie excitement and nonstop barking) just to scamper around the side of the house and check on the trap door that may, or may not, be open allowing all the icy ventilating air to freeze the pipes, thereby requiring yet another visit from Mr. Plumber? Hmmm, I don't think so. Did I tell you I really love my Tempurpedic?
I found an infinitely better, and more logical, idea would be to lay there and ponder the differences between American plumbing and German plumbing and the fact that Germans, who wrote the book on being a forward-thinking people, plan for such things as leaky pipes. (In case you are new to the blog, we lived in Germany for three years before this tour in the foreign land of Louisiana.) Here's a photo I found of a typical German bathroom with floor-to-ceiling tile and an adjustable shower head.
Typically, bath and shower plumbing is on the OUTSIDE of the tile in a bathroom. In fact, I never saw it any other way, in any hotel or house we visited. Ever. So, simply, if anything happens to the fixture (i.e. a leak or break etc.)- get this- you can actually get to the pipe without breaking the wall!!!! Brilliant! Ever heard of these companies? Kohler, Grohe, Hansgrohe, or Dornbracht? Yep, you guess it. They are all German plumbing fixture companies, making it big over here in America because they are known for their superior quality and forward-thinking engineering. We can learn a lot from German engineering.