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Your Washing Machine Hookups - Safe or Not?

Some jobs always stick in your memory. My saddest emergency plumbing job happened a while ago and was caused by a standard washing machine hook-up.

That warm northwest weekend, I was the plumber on-call. I responded to a page from my answering service, and they gave me a California number to call back a homeowner. Her neighbor had been keeping an eye on her home, and thought there was a problem, so the homeowner asked me to meet her neighbor at the house.

When I arrived, the neighbor was waiting in the driveway, and I could see small rivulets of water seeping from under the garage doors and the front door.

“You folks call a plumber?”

“Yes! I worried something might be wrong”.

“Well, I guess so with this water…have you been inside yet?”

“No, I thought I should wait for you. I noticed this water a few days ago. When it didn’t go away I thought we’d better have it checked”.

I unlocked the door and had to push hard to open it, then held it open while a flood of clear, cold water came pouring out.

“Here…please hold the door open while I go shut off the water meter at the street” I said to her, and she complied; speechless. After shutting off the water, we squished our way into the house. The water level was at the top of the carpet, having been flooded for several days. I went further in and found the stairs to the daylight basement. The water was deeper on that level because it couldn’t find as easy a way out. The natural oak parquet flooring, warped and curled up at each end, was floating around like little wooden Dutch-boy shoes in 4-inches of water.

Half the dry wall on the ceiling had become so soaked it had fallen, covering the leather furniture and slate pool table. I could see the entertainment center’s electronic components were submerged and said “We need to turn the power off before wading through that”.

“Oh my” the neighbor said, “What in the world could have caused this?” she asked, finally finding her voice.

“Well, I bet I know even without looking…because odds are it’s one of only a few things. “Let’s go look at the washing machine”. Finding the washer, I leaned over and shined my light on the hot-side hose, and sure enough a big bubble was bulging out the side of the hose, dripping water. I grabbed my channel-locks and removed the hose and held it out to the neighbor.

“Here’s the culprit” I said. “Really?” she replied “It’s such a small bubble to have caused all this…how that could be?”

“Oh, it doesn’t take much with water…give it half a chance and a little time and you can make a Grand Canyon. Anyway, I’d better call the owner”.

The good news was that we found the leak and could fix it in only 10-minutes with $10 in parts; the bad news was three-quarters of the home had been ruined, and would likely take months of major renovations to make it livable again.

When building homes, some contractors choose less expensive solutions for plumbing and mechanical issues, to maximize profits. Back then washing machine hook-ups usually meant a couple of cheaply made $1.95 valves on the hot and cold pipes. Unlike bathroom or kitchen faucets, these cheap valves are not made to be turned on and off very often, and if they are, they often develop small dripping leaks out of the packing nut on the stem to the handle. The same cost-cutting measures sometimes hold true for people selling and/or installing appliances, which in the case of washing machines means basic, black rubber hoses are used to do the hook-up. According to the insurance industry these types of washing machine hook-ups account for most of their water damage claims due to failed plumbing.

The remedy is both easy and simple. Replace the cheap valves with good quality shut-off valves that can be turned on and off without leaking and replace the cheap hoses with good quality ones. The valve we use and recommend has a single lever that turns both the hot and cold on and off at the same time, and it can be operated easily, quickly, and without fear of failing even if it hasn’t been used for many months. The hoses we like are high-end (check the warranty) braided stainless steel hoses. In a ‘Vacation Checklist” blog post I recommend that you shut off the water supply to your washing machine (and other appliances) if you’re leaving town.

On new homes or major remodels we recommend the washing machine be placed in a drain pan, which will catch minor leaks or slow leaks. Note: because the drain must be plumbed to a location outside, it’s often a bit expensive and something of a project to add on existing homes.

If the washing machine has a good quality shut-off and hoses, that are replaced every 5-years, that washing machine and it’s plumbing go from one of the most likely plumbing assemblies to fail in the home, to one of the least likely; and chances are you’ll never return home from a vacation to find your flooring afloat due to a $1.95 part that failed while you were away….

Bruce Davis, Sr.
Licensed Journeyman Plumber
Licensed Electrician, HVAC/R
Electrical Administrator, HVAC/R
Certified WA State C.E.U. Instructor

Bruce Davis Sr is President of Day & Nite Plumbing & Heating, a 69-year-old family owned and operated plumbing and heating business in Lynnwood, Washington.

Bruce can be contacted at: Email: Bruce@dayandnite.net

Day & Nite Plumbing & Heating Inc. 16614 13th Ave. W. Lynnwood, WA 98037
Phone: 800-972-7000

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D. Lee

The technician was great: he knew exactly what the problem was and fixed it quickly and efficiently. Even when a glitch happened in the repair, he was totally prepared to handle the situation. I will definitely contact Day & Nite Plumbing for future problems. Thank you!

D. Thomas

We had a great experience with Day and Nite from start to finish. Chris was great at the no obligation consult. He explained things clearly and covered everything but didn’t waste our time. They also provided lots of options and thoroughly explained them but never tried to push or up-sell us. Installation was fast and very professional. We will definitely be using Day and Nite in the future.

M. Lindell

Collin was our tech and he was very knowledgeable answered our questions and what they charged was very reasonable and we are very happy to have water again. I was really impressed by everyone that we dealt with they all were professional and helpful.

S. Lippold

Outstanding Service! Scheduler was pleasant and receptive. Technician (Collin) communicated well, arrived in the agreed upon time frame, diagnosed the problem and fixed the issue quickly. Previously, we had two other companies misdiagnose the problem and one company stand us up for a scheduled appointment. If we have plumbing issues in the future, Day & Night Plumbing will be our first call !

D. Campbell

Very pleased with the professional technician, Donavan, who came out when our water heater quit working. This was the third major problem with this water heater, so we took his advice and replaced it. Thankfully, he was able to also install the new one right away. I had confidence in his advice and ability to do the job. He was thorough and friendly. It was a five star experience. I highly recommend.

E. Rubio

I had the privilege to meet Zach on two separate occasions within a two week span. He was upfront and honest about the work that needed to be done. He is a hard-working, dedicated, professional employee of Day and Nite Plumbing. He explained what needed to be done. I asked questions and he was patient and explained things further so that I truly understood.

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