Last week, we developed a leak near the main water line. The water pressure regulator was just replaced two years ago, so we knew it wasn’t that. After testing the water pressure with an $11 water gauge, we determined the leak was probably from a worn out Pressure Relief Valve. I went to Home Depot and bought the $10 replacement part. Then I returned home and discovered that we couldn’t fix it ourselves because the previous homeowners were idiots.

Stupid Homeowner Tricks
There are actually several questionable remodeling choices that have been made to our home over the years, but most of them are either things we can live with or things that can wait to be fixed.  But the discovery we made this week just smacks of stupidity, and will likely cost us at least $75 to fix it. At some point, our garage was converted into a master suite, and a carport was added. Decorative stone was installed on the back carport wall. The main line is also on this wall. When installing the stone, they made a cut out behind the hose bib, pressure regulator, and inlet pipe so repairs can be made. However, they didn’t make the cut out around the entire main line setup. They installed the stone behind the pressure relief valve, leaving only a half inch gap between the valve and the wall. There is no way to get a wrench in that space, and because the valve has a downspout, the valve won’t rotate past the wall even if you could get a wrench in there. To make matters worse, the owners installed a concrete pole in front of the relief valve to support a gate.

What Needs to Happen to Fix This
The part is cheap, but the labor will cost a lot because the plumber or handyman either needs to have special tools to fit in that space, or cut out some of the stone to allow regular tools to fit into the space. It’s possible that we would have needed to call a plumber anyway because the valve is so old it’s potentially stripped, or the valve may not actually be the problem, but I would have liked to try to fix it myself first.

What We Learned
I can’t say we learned anything specifically. We already knew the previous owners had done stupid things over the years. All homeowners do. We probably will, too.  However, whenever you do remodeling or additions of any kind, inspect the area carefully to be sure you’re not restricting access to important plumbing or electrical pipes or connectors.

Update: We Really Did Need a Pro
When the plumber came out, he discovered that the home warranty plumber who replaced the pressure regulator two years ago had installed it incorrectly. The regulator was also blown and he found additional leaks.. While he was at our house, he rearranged the main line plumbing so all parts can be accessed without using stone saws and replaced all the leaking parts. It did end up costing $500, but a regulator alone is about $300.  And now we have a fully accessible system.

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