Leak Lessons: A True Story Firsthand Tips to Avoid Getting Soaked

Leaks happen all the time. American Leak Detection, a nationwide company (unrelated to the Scooter Libby trial), claims to have discovered 1.4 million leaks last year alone—and that's just one company! Common as they are, leaks can cause quite a bit of damage. The drip-drip of a leaky bathtub is literally the sound of money going down the drain—and if the leak is hidden deep in a wall somewhere, the damage can worsen and spread for months before you even know there's a problem.

Recently, I had the misfortune of being dealt some leak issues of my own. I'd like to share with you lessons that I learned—the hard way—so that other apartment owners might avoid having to go through the same ordeal.

An Unwelcome Discovery

We returned home the last week in December 2006 after spending the holidays in Madison, Wisconsin. On the ceiling in our living room, a few feet from the front door, the popcorn paint was damp and sagging toward the floor—it looked like a gray, upside-down bubble on a pizza crust. Obviously, there was a situation in the upstairs bathroom.

"Oh, great," I said to my wife. "We have a leak."

I called the plumber, who was dispatched quickly, and set about shutting off the water, just in case the leak was from the water source. This involved climbing into a closet, unscrewing a piece of plywood, and shining a flashlight into the space beneath the bathtub.

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